Crewe Alexandra’s second appearance in a month at the impressive Ricoh Arena ended in a another terrific win. The Railwaymen had to come from behind after Leon Clarke had fired the Sky Blues into a 12th minute lead. The response was almost instant with Mark Ellis volleying home a Gregor Robertson corner.
Substitute Max Clayton grabbed the winner with 12 minutes left on the clock, when lobbing a shot perfectly over the stranded Joe Murphy, after he had been found superbly by Byron Moore.
Crewe versus Coventry City part IV for the season saw another entertaining match between two sides, trying their utmost to make a late run-in for the play-off positions. The Sky Blues took an early lead when Clarke chested and hit an unstoppable shot past Steve Phillips, but Crewe gathered momentum to hit back just minutes later when Mark Ellis reacted quickest at a set-piece corner to powerfully volley a Gregor Robertson corner past Joe Murphy.
Both sides had chances to go ahead again with Phillips making two top class saves again to deny Steve Jennings and Stephen Elliott hit a post early in the second half. Mathias Pogba and Byron Moore also tested Joe Murphy before young substitute Max Clayton sprung into action to score with his first touch on 78 minutes. It was a clever little lob over Joe Murphy that gave the City goalkeeper no chance and Clayton a confidence boosting winner.
Steve Davis, the Crewe Alexandra manager, as he hinted towards yesterday made changes to his starting eleven for our latest meetings with the Sky Blues. The Railwaymen switched to a 3-3-2 formation with Harry Davis recalled to the starting line-up to operate alongside Adam Dugdale and Mark Ellis.
Wednesday’s Man-of-the-Match Gregor Robertson retained his place, with Matt Tootle not quite ready to resume a place on the substitutes’ bench. To freshen things up in attack, Byron Moore returned to the starting line-up to partner Mathias Pogba.
The home side carved out the first opening within the first 60 seconds. Steve Phillips initially did well to punch a cross from Carl Baker away, but the loose ball was collected by Gary McShreffrey at the far post and after he had cut in past Gregor Robertson, his low shot that looked destined for the bottom corner, was blocked by Dugdale.
Coventry continued to feed their wide men at any opportunity and McShreffrey did well again to twist and turn past Kelvin Mellor and deliver a dangerous cross that a well placed Leon Clarke couldn’t keep down with his head.
Crewe soon settled down though and Byron Moore should have made more after breaking the offside trap. His pace should have seen him away and in the opposition penalty area, but some hesitation allowed Cyrus Christie to retreat and recover. Moore did much better with his next run into the right channel but Pogba hadn’t followed him and it was easy collected by Joe Murphy.
McShreffrey continued to provide crosses into the Crewe penalty area and another good delivery saw it drop invitingly to Baker, but his low drive was pushed away by Phillips and Davis was able to clear up field.
Crewe, who had been too open at the back in the opening period, conceded after 12 minutes. It was alarmingly simple with Christie clipping a ball forward for Clarke to take down on his chest and powerfully hit past a helpless Phillips. Crewe’s three had not been organised enough to deal with the longer ball through the middle.
The reply was almost instant with Brad Inman doing splendidly well to roll the ball into the overlapping left wing back Robertson. The Scot struck an instant shot that drew a superb one handed tip over from the agile Murphy. From the resulting first corner, Robertson swung it over and a positive Ellis came through a crowd to volley past Murphy. It was the perfect response.
The entertainment continued with Robertson doing well again to head a dangerous looking cross from McShreffrey away and a free-kick from a dangerous area on the edge of the box thankfully came to nothing.
On 21 minutes, the Crewe captain Luke Murphy and Coventry full-back Carl Dickinson were both booked after a short spat after both players had tussled for possession. Crewe also had a shout for a penalty after Pogba went down inside the penalty area under a challenge from Dickinson, but in fairness, the Alex forward didn’t appeal greatly.
Just after the half an hour mark, Crewe again asked questions of the Coventry defence via a Robertson corner. Dugdale showed good strength to head downwards and the bounce caused Murphy to push clear of Ellis. The ball dropped to Davis and his drilled cross from the by-line was blocked again by the busy Coventry goalkeeper.
At the other end some good hold up play from Clarke allowed him to wait for the supportive Dickinson but his drilled missed out everyone inside the box. Both Coventry full-backs were booked in the first half after Christie had tripped Inman some 35 yards from goal.
Coventry should have be going in at the interval ahead but in the final minute our former midfielder James Bailey could only guide his low shot wide of Phillips’ right hand post. There was still enough stoppage time for Pogba to force Murphy into a smart save.
The second half started with a Crewe corner in the opening seconds and an injury to the Coventry City centre-half William Edjenguele after he and Pogba had flown themselves towards a cross from Moore.
Coventry went awfully close to regaining the lead just six minutes after the restart. Crewe were not tight enough from a throw-in and after some clever interchanging of passing involving McSheffrey, Stephen Elliott thudded the Crewe post. Steve Phillips would have had it covered but it was a warning sign.
Two minutes later and a forceful run and shot from Jennings drew another save from Phillips. The Alex goalkeeper reacted well to tip it round for a corner.
Crewe had started slowly to the second half and had their goalkeeper to thank again when Jennings again tested him with an excellent shot. Phillips was again equal to it, applying a strong hand on the shot to get it over his crossbar and behind for yet another corner.
Dugdale was rather fortunate that a loose ball didn’t result in a better shot at our goal from the Sky Blues captain Baker. A little off balance he could only drive his shot well over the bar.
Coventry were on top of the proceedings, with Crewe unable to keep the ball for long periods and on occasions hitting it longer to try and move into the opposition half of the pitch.
Crewe did get some respite after Mellor was fouled close to the Coventry by-line but David couldn’t get his far post header on target from Murphy’s cross. At the other end, Ellis did superbly well to deny Nathan Cameron a clean shot at goal from a Sky Blue free-kick.
With 20 minutes remaining, Crewe’s nearly delivered a sucker punch. Pogba was tidy with his touch and quickly released Moore through the middle. The Alex forward was favourite to reach it and applied a touch but the advancing Joe Murphy had read the situation well enough to get something on it himself and divert it away from him. Moments later, Inman dragged a shot off balance wide of the mark.
Robertson then saved Mellor with a superb headed clearance from the line after a quick corner. Mellor had initially given it away cheaply with a piece of miss-control and Baker’s shot looked destined for the top corner, but Robertson got his head to it.
Steve Davis made his first change after 73 minutes and it was a tactical one at that. Harry Davis, a defender made way for Chuks Aneke, a forward and a system change went to 4-4-2. Coventry made a change of their own with Elliott making way for Moussa to try and even things up in the central area.
A few minutes later, another Alex change saw Max Clayton replace Pogba. It paid off almost immediately, with Moore putting Clayton in and his clever lob over Joe Murphy dropped in perfectly to put the Railwaymen ahead with his first touch. It was Clayton’s first goal since his header against Bradford City in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Lee Carsley made an instant change with John Fleck replacing McSheffrey. Callum Wilson also came on for Jennings. Crewe also made a late change with Ollie Turton on for the hard working Inman.
Crewe continued to stand firm, with Ellis applying a crucial touch as Clarke looked to race clear and Abdul Osman doing likewise to stop Wilson inside the box. Coventry huffed and puffed but never really carved out that genuine chance to grab a share of the point, although the lively Wilson did flash a stoppage time header wide.