Alex boss Steve Davis would have been really pleased with his side’s character, resolve and attacking play at Bramall Lane this evening, but would still have left Bramall Lane wondering ‘what if’ if his usually so reliable defence had defended set-pieces better. Crewe made another slow start a game with guess who Shaun Miller scoring after just three minutes via a corner. That advantage was doubled by the half an hour mark after Harry Maguire was given the freedom of Sheffield to run onto a Nick Blackman corner to head home a second.
In between those two goals, Crewe’s play had been bright and inventive, and influential captain Luke Murphy pulled us back into the game when his wonderful shot from distance hit the crossbar, and an alert Mark Ellis was able to head into an empty net.
Crewe’s confidence continued to grow and we deservedly went into the half time interval level when Murphy’s free-kick became loose and Mathias Pogba spun to tap into an empty net.
Another remarkable comeback was completed barely a few minutes into the second half, when a well placed Chuks Aneke slotted home his fourth goal of the season after Lauri Dalla Valle and Gregor Robertson had done well in the build up.
A topsy-turvy affair probably ended fairly at 3-3 when the impressive Nick Blackman reacted quickest to a rebound when Miller’s shot had hit the foot of a post. Crewe played some really good football and continued to look a potent threat on the attack. Although we had to cope with a nervy ending to the game, a hard working display saw us deservedly pick up a point.
Steve Davis named an unchanged starting line-up for the trip to Sheffield, but he had the luxury of welcoming back a fit again Ryan Colclough amongst his squad. Colclough recently made his return from a fractured jaw to feature for the club’s Under-18s and the Under-21s at Leeds yesterday.
Danny Wilson named our former forward Shaun Miller in his starting line-up after his brace on his full debut for the Blades on Saturday. Miller certainly repaid that faith in him with the opening goal of the evening after just three minutes.
Miller’s initial shot had deflected behind for an early corner and after failing to clear Nick Blackman’s returned delivery into a crowded box; Miller turned sharply and fired a deflected effort into the top right hand corner of Alan Martin’s net. As has happened on too many occasions this season, it was another slow start from the Railwaymen. To his credit, Miller did not celebrate his goal.
Despite conceding so early, again, the Crewe players reacted really positively and began to enjoy some possession. Lauri Dalla Valle and Mathias Pogba nearly combined inside the Sheffield penalty area before a promising break away from Chuks Aneke resulted in club captain Luke Murphy having a firm shot deflected behind for a corner. Pogba was also unlucky not to get more of a connection to a deep cross from Murphy. Both Aneke and Moore also hit shots from distance into the Sheffield supporters behind George Long’s goal.
Sheffield United also attacked with the confidence of a side that have made such a consistent start to the new season and Miller’s strike partner on the night, Chris Porter perhaps should have kept his shot down after the ball fell to him invitingly in the centre of the goal. He probably didn’t realise he had as much time and space as he did.
Crewe continued to play some bright football, with Pogba looking lively in possession and Aneke intelligently finding space. The Railwaymen’s pressure saw us register six corners in the opening half an hour.
Sheffield United’s third corner of the night resulted in their second goal and it was far too easy for them. Centre-half Harry Maguire was given far too much room to run onto Blackman’s delivery and simply powered a header past a helpless Martin. It was such a sloppy goal to concede from a Crewe perspective.
The Alex defence continued to be troubled by Blackman’s quality from set-pieces and Osman had to be well placed to halt a mass scramble in front of Martin.
With Crewe 2-0 down, it needed an inspiration moment from Murphy to get us back into the game. From a corner, Murphy did brilliantly to drop his shoulder and unleash a wonderful effort that crashed off of the crossbar and the advanced Mark Ellis had the awareness to head the rebound over Long.
Despite conceding those two goals, Crewe had really equipped themselves well and had played some really good football. Murphy was the driving force and he provided another piece of quality to create a deserved equaliser on the stroke of half-time. The Sheffield United goalkeeper Long came and didn’t collect his free-kick and with the goal at his mercy, Pobga spun and tapped into an unguarded goal for his eighth goal of the season. Crewe had fought back and deservedly so.
It got even better for the travelling Alex fans just two minutes into the second half, when a fine passing move involving full-back Gregor Robertson allowed Dalle Valle to hit the by-line and pull back a perfect ball for Aneke to slide home from close range.
Murphy then put Dalla Valle into a foot race with the onrushing George Long. The on-loan youngster won the block tackle with the Blades goalkeeper, pulled himself back up quickly, but he could only lift his shot over the bar. It was a chance to make 4-2.
As can happen, the miss almost immediately came back to haunt us. Miller twisted and turned past Ellis and was unlucky to see his shot strike the foot of the post, but Blackman reacted quickest to guide the rebound in via Martin’s glove. The game was thoroughly entertaining, but must have been something of a nightmare for the two managers on the touchline, who must have been frustrated in seeing goals fly into the net!
It really was end-to-end stuff that made it such an entertaining view. A low cross from Pogba nearly reached Aneke and moments later, the on-loan Arsenal youngster sent a shot over the crossbar. Murphy, who was excellent throughout, was also close with a shot from 25 yards out.
Another swift break from the Alex saw Moore play in Robertson and his accurate cross into Dalla Valle saw him steer it just a yard wide. It was close but from a quickly taken goal kick, Blackman broke away, cut inside and fired a shot straight at Martin. It was that sort of game.
Blackman then beat Robertson and his dangerous cross just evaded the flying Porter at the far post. The Sheffield United striker then headed into the gloves of Martin, as the home side began to apply some concerted pressure. There was also a strong appeal for a penalty when Robertson produced a last ditch challenge to halt Blackwell. The referee was well positioned and quickly said no.
At the other end, after Moore had put Long under pressure at a high ball, the loose ball fell to Dalla Valle and his instant shot from a tight angle was blocked and sent behind for a corner.
With 18 minutes remaining, Max Clayton replaced Aneke. He was soon involved down the left flank and his ball back to Moore allowed him to deliver attempting ball to the back post that saw Pogba draw a save from Long. From the resultant corner, it was Crewe’s turn to appeal for a penalty when Clayton’s prodded shot appeared to hit a hand. The Alex players certainly thought so. Again the referee waved away the protests.
As the minutes ticked away, Crewe were forced back into their own penalty area but the Blades never really created a late chance to win it, although a covering Matt Tootle did superbly to deny substitute Davis McAllister at the death with a very timely interception.
In the final minute and with late substitutes Ollie Turton and Adam Dugdale on to add some freshness, Martin saved a low shot from Blackman and Crewe had their point.