Nick Powell's injury-time strike throgh a crowd of players gave Crewe a well deserved point at Torquay United this afternoon and extended our unbeaten run to 15 matches. Powell's timely, timely shot cancelled out Danny Stevens' 55th minute opener and now means Crewe need a point on the final day of the season against Aldershot to make sure of a play-off spot.
Crewe Alexandra welcomed back their leading goal scorer Powell from illness for the trip to Devon with Shaun Miller dropping down to the substitutes' bench. Crewe Alexandra were without their experienced captain David Artell though after he sustained a hamstring injury whilst celebrating the winning goal against Cheltenham Town last week. Kelvin Mellor came into the side at right-back with Harry Davis partnering Adam Dugdale at the heart of the Alex defence. In Artell's absence, Ashley Westwood captained the side.
Powell made a run in the opening minute and after some neat footwork, chipped an inviting cross aimed for Luke Murphy at the far post, but his header back into the six-yard was quickly gathered up by Torquay's goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik before AJ Leitch-Smith could react.
The home side's robust forward Rene Howe forced an early corner and from Kevin Nicholson's delivery, the towering defender Brian Saah could only head into the gloves of Steve Phillips.
The match began with a fairly open feel to it. After five minutes, the covering Torquay defender Joe Oastler did get something onto Ashley Westwood's wicked cross before Byron Moore could take full advantage from just outside the six-yard box.
The Railwaymen settled down into their passing game pretty quickly and it was just that final ball of quality that was lacking to expose the Torquay defence. Powell was at his best running from deep and Saah was fortunate to escape an early yellow card after catching the teenager. A couple of long balls from deep were just too long for the runs of Leitch-Smith. On another occasion Powell was halted in his tracks by a timely tackle from Mark Ellis on the edge of the Torquay box.
Torquay, in their search for an automatic promotion spot, were confident in their attacking play also and Danny Stevens and Ian Morris both forced Steve Phillips into smart saves before Harry Davis became the first player to be booked for a tug of the shirt.
After 21 minutes, Powell, the offender and his team-mates felt aggrieved when a free-kick was rewarded some 25 yards from our goal and Phillips had to produce another super save to push away Nicholson's fine curling effort.
Crewe got to the by-line twice and only timely interceptions prevented both Leitch-Smith and then Moore from finding their intended targets inside a crowded box. An advanced Tootle also nearly picked put Bodin at the far post. The right-back did pick out Powell on the half an hour mark and his acrobatic effort only just cleared the Torquay crossbar.
Four minutes later, the former Torquay loanee Bodin must have thought he had opened the scoring when he stooped to head Moore's cross goalwards at the far post, only for Olejnik to push it out. It was comfortably the best chance of the opening half an hour.
60 seconds later, Torquay could have taken the lead themselves when Howe was presented with a great chance in front of Phillips' goal but Tootle recovered superbly to deny him a clean shot at goal.
On 37 minutes, Crewe lost Ashley Westwood through injury and for the second game running he was replaced by Lee Bell.
After some encouraging possession play involving Bodin and Leitch-Smith, Powell was presented with a sight of the Torquay goal but he couldn't keep his shot down to really trouble Olejnik. With a player of Powell's ability in that situation, it was a chance missed.
It was much the same at the other end though with Howe not producing a clean connection to a clever knock down and the ball bounced harmlessly into Phillips.
The second half began with an early corner for the Gulls but Ellis couldn't keep his far post header down from Nicholson's excellent delivery.
Crewe's first attack of the second period, saw Powell twist and turn to release Leitch-Smith and his instant pass provided Bodin with a chance to get a shot off but he hesitated and was Saah was able to recover and outmuscle him.
Phillips stood firm to take a shot from Eunan O'Kane direct in the face and Dugdale was able to complete the clearance. At the other end, substitute Bell clipped a chip just wide after some promising wing play from Bodin. The half had begun at a rapid pace again.
Ellis had stayed up from a corner to head another cross onto the top of the netting as Crewe struggled to clear their lines. The crosses were continuing to drop into the Crewe penalty area and after Tootle had cleared only to the feet of Stevens, he made no mistake with an instant shot to put Torquay ahead on 55 minutes.
The opening goal certainly gave the home side an almighty lift and Phillips had to win a block tackle to deny Stevens his second goal of the game as Martin Ling's side quickly went in search of a second goal. In response Leitch-Smith shot over after Powell's shot had hit the back of Murphy and had dropped to the Crewe striker.
Howe then chipped an effort just over the bar after he had spotted Phillips slightly off his line. Bell was then called upon to head a dangerous looking cross from Howe behind for a corner. O'Kane also shot over from the edge of the box.
After winning a free-kick himself, Powell dusted himself off to take himself and his dipping shot forced Olejnik into an agile tip over. Steve Davis made a change with Max Clayton replacing Bodin.
The youngster was nearly on the end of a swift move involving Powell, Moore and AJ Leitch-Smith but Ellis just got there to apply an important touch and the ball was eventually cleared for touch.
Dugdale was booked for tussling with Howe but O'Kane smacked the free-kick straight into the face of Bell.
A flowing move from the Alex gave us a passage back into the game with 16 minutes remaining. Clayton did superbly to win a flick on and set Leitch-Smith free and his superbly timed pass found Powell on the run. The striker took it in his stride inside the box but as he was able to unleash a shot he was felled by the sliding tackle of Ellis. It was a dead cert penalty and Ellis was cautioned. Harry Davis stepped up confidently but saw his effort saved by Olejnik.
Howe continued to be a handful to the Alex defence and after being played in behind Davis he drilled a shot a yard wide of Phillips' right hand post. Howe then forced another smart save from Phillips after Crewe had tried to catch him in their offside trap.
Torquay made a change with their goalscorer Stevens making way for Rowe-Turner.
The Alex continued to push forward looking for an equaliserand Mellor came within inches of doing so when his firm header thudded the Torquay bar from a corner. Moments later, Powell dragged a shot wide.
With the minutes ticking away, Ian Morris made way for Ryan Jarvis for the home side but it continued to be Crewe with the majority of the possession. Howe did have the ball in the net but the assistant's flag had been raised well before.He was soon replaced by Taiwo Atieno. Howe was booked for taking too much time walking off.
Jarvis had a late chance to make it 2-0 after he nearly connected with Rowe-Turner's low cross but Crewe's hopes of getting something lived on.
With time running out, Powell curled a cross into the hands of Olejnik. Murphy smacked a half volley straight into Ellis as the home side continued to stand up to our late onslaught.
The Alex kept going though and their desire and determination finally paid off in the third minute of stoppage time. Following a short goalmouth scramble, Mellor kept the move alive at the far post and there was Powell to drill a priceless shot past a crowd of players and goalkeeper Olejnik for his 15th goal of the season.