A long sequence of 58 matches without a goalless draw finally ended today as this tight affair against Tranmere Rovers ended in stalemate. It was certainly defences on top but both sides had a few chances to nick all three points. Saying that Crewe had goalkeeper Alan Martin to thank for preserving a point with a fine one-on-one save from Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro with 15 minutes left. Martin stood tall to save with his feet.
Sadly, the match and the point gained was overshadowed by the serious knee injury to Harry Bunn. Everyone wishes the on-loan Manchester City youngster a speedy recovery.
Crewe named Max Clayton in their starting line-up despite his hour for England Under-19s against Germany on Thursday night. Clayton played 70 minutes today before being replaced by Matt Tootle. New loan signing Chuks Aneke, from Arsenal, was named on the substitutes bench.
A tight opening sprung into life with a couple of efforts on goal from the two main strikers. Firstly, Tranmere’s Wales Under-21 International Jake Cassidy fired just wide of Alan Martin’s right hand post before Max Clayton tested the concentration levels of the former Crewe goalkeeper Owain fon Williams.
There were a few tasty tackles going in and intriguing battles all over the pitch with Abdul Osman catching James Wallace and then Crewe’s Harry Bunn needing treatment on the palm of his hands after he landed close to the advertising hoardings.
Crewe were struggling to find their front two with any real consistency and it was certainly defences on top. Mark Ellis was probably the pick of the bunch at the back for Crewe and showed good strength up against Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro.
After 16 minutes a free-kick from Bunn picked out the advanced Mellor inside the Tranmere penalty area but he couldn’t direct his flicked headed beyond a well-paced fon Williams.
Moments later a patient build-up presented Byron Moore with enough space to deliver a cross and a lively Clayton flicked his header just wide of the far post.
Chances were few and far between at both ends with neither goalkeeper called into serious action. After Osman had tripped Wallace, Andy Robinson curled a good effort onto the roof of the netting.
A smart turn from Clayton from a pass from Moore on 26 minutes then saw him shoot over the top of the Tranmere crossbar. He also saw another powerful edge blocked on the edge of the penalty area by a diving Ben Gibson.
Robinson was a threat up against Mellor and after he drifted off the wing he dragged a shot wide of the mark after a smart turn and Wallace whipped over a really dangerous cross that only needed a touch from Cassidy or Akpa-Akpro.
Cassidy headed onto the roof of the Crewe net as the visitors looked to snatch the lead as the half-time whistle approached. Crewe had a late scare when a loose pass from Osman found Akpa Akpro, but he had his instant shot charged down by an alert Ellis.
At the other end, a tidy turn and collect from Bunn created some space but he too saw his shot blocked by the bravery of Gibson.
The second half started with a stoppage due to an injury to Osman, but after treatment he sprung on and got on with it. He was relishing the physical battle.
Sadly, barely ten minutes into the second half, Crewe lost Bunn with a serious knee injury. The on-loan Manchester City youngster raced onto a throughball from Murphy and was only denied by the onrushing fon Williams, but he landed really awkwardly and twisted his knee. He was in real agony and physio Nick Oakley instantly signalled for the stretcher. He was replaced by Aneke.
After Crewe were awarded a debatable handball some 30 yards from goal, full-back Gregor Robertson whipped a free kick into the gloves of fon Williams.
The game went a bit scrappy and was littered with free-kicks. The strong Aneke was soon involved holding off a couple of challenges to feed Murphy and the Alex captain shot over.
The hard working Clayton was withdrawn after 69 minutes for Tootle with Aneke moving up to play behind AJ Leitch-Smith. Tranmere also made a switch with Adam McGurk replacing Bell-Baggie.
Aneke latched onto a loose ball but couldn’t direct his shot goalwards before Tranmere created their best chance of the afternoon on 74 minutes. Robinson played in Akpa Akpro on goal, but Alan Martin did superbly to rush out and save with his feet.
Moments later Akpro flicked a cross over but Cassidy couldn’t keep his header down. In the closing stages, Steve Davis replaced a tiring AJ Leitch-Smith with Brendan Daniels.
Daniels created a good opening after being played in behind by Aneke and the forward’s low cross just needed a touch from the onrushing Tootle at the far post.
Murphy was booked for pulling back McGurk close to the touchline and Wallace for a late trip on Moore. Daniels sent the free-kick over the top of the bar and it ended goalless.A fair result over all.