A third goal in three starts from the on-loan Brad Inman was not enough for Crewe Alexandra as Tranmere Rovers hit back with two second half goals from Adam McGurk and Max Power.Inman had given Crewe a 12th minute lead after running onto a loose ball inside the Tranmere penalty area to fire past our former goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams.
Ronnie Moore’s side came out in the second period, determined to get back into the contest and were level by the hour mark with McGurk heading home a cross from Andy Robinson.
Power then duly scored a wonderfully struck second goal five minutes later to inflict a first defeat in five matches in npower League One.
Crewe Alexandra travelled to Prenton Park without their first choice goalkeeper Alan Martin, who has been suffering with illness over the last few days. Martin would have missed Saturday’s home game against Bournemouth and that presented Steve Phillips with another opportunity to re-stake his claim for more regular inclusion.
There was also a recall for midfielder Abdul Osman who has successfully returned from a twisted knee. He took the place of Chuks Aneke, who was named on a strong looking Crewe bench alongside the likes of Byron Moore, Max Clayton and Ryan Colclough.
After a 5-0 drubbing at Swindon Town on the Friday night prior to Christmas, it was no surprise that a side managed by Ronnie Moore would be fired up and prepared to take the game to Crewe in the opening minutes of this game. The home side were quick out of the blocks, but on a tricky surface Adam Dugdale intercepted an early through ball destined towards the run of Michael O’Halloran.
Mark Ellis also ended a mazy and direct run from Jake Cassidy, as Crewe tried to stem an early flow of pressure. The first shot of the afternoon saw full-back Zounana Bakayogo lash a shot waywardly wide of the target.
Crewe survived an initial flurry and quite literally opened the scoring with our first meaningful attack after 12 minutes. The supporting Gregor Robertson aimed a cross for Lauri Dalla Valle and as he tried to get the high ball under control, a slight deflection off of the Tranmere defender Liam Palmer invitingly fell for Brad Inman and the in-form midfielder ran onto the loose ball for score his third goal for the club in just three starts in League One. Inman’s instant and powerful shot gave the former Crewe Academy goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams no chance of saving it.
Crewe thought they have doubled their advantage just five minutes later when Dalle Valle stole in behind the Tranmere defence and his low cross was tapped home by Mathias Pogba, only for the referee to disallow it for a previous handball offence in the build up. It appeared harsh and his assistant referee certainly didn’t flag either. The Crewe players raised their protests because the referee must have been unsighted as Dalla Valle slid on the surface with Palmer.
Tranmere trailing and for a spell, second best, tried to hit back with Andy Robinson driving a cross come shot that was difficult to collect for Phillips but Bakayogo couldn’t take advantage of the rebound. The advanced defender couldn’t adjust his feet and dragged his shot wide.
Crewe’s back three continued to be organised and Tootle was keeping an eye on Robinson. As an attacking force, Crewe were struggling to create genuine chances of our own with Dalla Valle a willing runner and Pogba dropping off to try and hold up play.
It became an interesting midfield battle with chances few and far between. The recalled Osman was at his athletic and competitive self.
The first half ended with Tranmere in and around our box but finding it difficult to get shots off. Cassidy curled an effort wide, which Phillips had covered and the Crewe goalkeeper rushed from him line to smother at the feet of O’Halloran.
At the beginning of the second half, Tranmere again came out forcefully but the Crewe captain Luke Murphy did well to half Robinson in his tracks, but he did concede a corner. Harry Davis determinedly cleared the danger and Bakayogo could only head into the air and it was collected by Phillips.
Phillips was called into more decisive action just seven minutes into the half when Tranmere’s main goal threat of the afternoon, Bakayogo got in behind the Crewe defence and onto a through ball from Max Power, but the Alex goalkeeper stood tall and got two hands onto his powerful drive.
Tranmere equalised just before the hour mark after a loose lay off from Pogba cheaply presented the home side with the ball back in our half of the pitch. It was worked out to Robinson on the right and his deep cross was headed home at the far post by Adam McGurk.
Certainly buoyed by their goal, Rovers then hit the foot of the Crewe post. A forceful run from Power took him into the Crewe box and the young midfielder was unlucky to see his low drive beat Phillips but not the woodwork. O’Halloran had been anticipating a tap-in but it rebounded safely into the gloves of Phillips.
Crewe tried to respond with Pogba having a powerful shot blocked from 25 yards out and Dalle Valle shooting into the side-netting after he had been slipped in by Pogba.
The home side’s comeback was completed on 65 minutes when Max Power produced a strike of the highest calibre. The ball had travelled to the far post via a corner for Power to collect and with the Alex defence slow to get out to him the midfielder curled a fantastic shot into Phillips’ top corner. The Alex goalkeeper didn’t move and would have been helpless even he had attempted to.
In an advanced position up the pitch, Harry Davis curled one well wide of Fon Williams’ left hand post. Osman also had a shot blocked on the edge of the Tranmere box.
Steve Davis then made a double substitution with Pogba and Dalla Valle making way for Moore and Clayton.
Moments later Tranmere so nearly increased their lead when a free-kick from Robinson was somehow kept alive by Ash Taylor and that allowed Palmer to get his shot off, but a slight deflection off of Ellis took it over for a corner. Robinson fired in another shot that was again blocked before Taylor headed just wide at the far post.
At the other end, a good cross from Tootle was just a fraction ahead of the diving Clayton.
With 10 minutes remaining, our final substitution saw Aneke come on for Osman, as Crewe went for broke. Aneke was soon trying to threat those telling through balls through for the pace of Moore and Clayton.
Tranmere took off the influential and experienced Robinson for Joe Thompson. Crewe's last real chance to grab a point saw skipper Luke Murphy force Fon Williams into a smart save and from the resulting corner, Harry Davis was booked for dissent after being penalised for a foul.