Brett Pitman came back to haunt Crewe Alexandra again just two and half weeks after his hat-trick at Dean Court gave them a 3-1 win. On that occasion Pitman’s treble included two controversial penalties. This evening his brace sealed a 2-1 win as Bournemouth hit top spot in npower League One, but once again Crewe were left debating a penalty that changed the course of the game in the second half.
Mathias Pogba was adjusted to have touched Matt Ritchie inside the box but it looked awfully harsh from our perspective. Pitman thumped the penalty home; it proved just too powerful for Steve Phillips who got a strong hand onto it.
Crewe who certainly deserved something for their efforts on the night, hit back through a Mathias Pogba header following a well worked move involving Mark Ellis and Kelvin Mellor, but Pitman (once again) pounced on a lapse of concentration to grab a winner six minutes from time.
Crewe Alexandra boss Steve Davis made two changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Notts County at the weekend. One change was forced upon him after full-back Matt Tootle injured his ankle in training. His place at left back went to Gregor Robertson with Kelvin Mellor operating at right-back to keep an eye on Bournemouth’s new signing Matt Ritchie.
The club’s leading scorer Mathias Pogba was recalled to the starting line-up ahead of Byron Moore who had to settle for a place on the bench. Harry Davis recovered from his toe injury to join the squad and there was a late change after young Jon Guthrie was injured in the warm-up. His place taken by George Ray.
Crewe made a bright start to the proceedings with Pogba skipping past Eunan O’Kane to centre for Luke Murphy and the Alex captain forced the Bournemouth goalkeeper Shwan Jalal into the first save of the night. Moments later, the advanced Kelvin Mellor took up a position on the edge of the penalty area, but shot tamely at Jalal.
Bournemouth couldn’t find a way past the bravery of Mark Ellis. He cleared twice in front of the anticipating Brett Pitman and he took a free-kick straight in the head from the same player after Pogba was adjusted to have tripped Ritchie.
Pogba excelled in the first half, using his strength and power to torment Ritchie and get him back defending on occasions. He combined wonderfully well to release Mellor with a chipped pass in behind. Mellor raced into the box and pulled a perfect pass back for the well-placed Chuks Aneke but he shot straight at Jalal when he should have scored. Either side and the Bournemouth goalkeeper would have struggled to have kept out his close range effort.
More good interchanging from Brad Inman and Aneke saw him lay off a pass for the advanced Ellis and he was rather unlucky to see his drilled shot just wide of the left-hand post. Crewe were certainly looking the more likely side to take the lead. Inman was booked for kicking the ball away and Ritchie for pulling Pogba down.
The Cherries began to impose themselves on the match in an attacking sense and midfielder Harry Arter had a long distance shot deflected onto the roof the netting. Moment later he shot straight at Phillips through a crowd of players from 25 yards out.
Crewe continued to press forward though and after another patient build up, Inman had a shot blocked on the edge of the Bournemouth box.
The first half ended in a bit of lull with Crewe having to survive a late corner after Robertson did well to deny the pacy Lewis Grabban a run at our goal. Phillips also reacted well to head a long ball from Richie away from danger after Grabban looked like getting onto the end of it through the middle.
Crewe began the second period like they did the first with AJ Leitch-Smith forcing the busier Jalal into another smart save. Bournemouth also made a change at the break with Wes Fogden replacing Josh McQuoid.
After Inman was tripped some 20-yards from goal, Murphy was extremely unlucky to see his free-kick strike the underside of the crossbar. There was quite a melee in front of Jalal but his defenders helped him out to clear the danger.
It was end to end to stuff, with Bournemouth going close themselves, striking the post through the impressive Arter.
Inman also had another shot blocked before Pogba sent a shot into the side netting after he was brilliantly found by the influential Murphy. To be fair it was from an acute angle.
The penalty that changed the complexion of the game came just before the hour mark. Both Ritchie and Pogba challenged for the ball inside the box, and as Ritchie went to try and hook the ball away from the Crewe forward, he just appeared to lose his balance and go down. It was soft. The Crewe players couldn’t believe it when referee Clark pointed to the spot. In truth the Bournemouth players didn’t appeal too much either. Pitman blasted a forceful spot-kick past the unlucky Phillips.
The set-back and the dubious decision did unsettle the Alex for a period. Arter curled one wide and Dugdale did well to block a shot from Grabban after Bournemouth broke in numbers after Osman had had his shot blocked on the edge of the box.
Crewe did settle back into their stride though with a Murphy free-kick just too high for Aneke before Colclough and Moore replaced Aneke and Leitch-Smith.
Phillips was called upon to make an excellent save from a Grabban header and the follow up was cleared by Ellis as Fogden tried to make the most of the loose ball.
Crewe deservedly drew level on 79 minutes with Man-of-the-Match Ellis involved in the build-up. He stepped out at the back to find Mellor with a superb pass out wide and his accurate cross was headed home by Pogba, for his 12th goal of the season. It was no more than the Railwaymen deserved.
A draw would probably have been a fair result but hit-man Pitman would have the last word again. The Alex defence, who had played well all evening just switched off at the crucial moment with Mellor leaving the Bournemouth striker unattended and his fine finish into the bottom corner gave Phillips no chance. The Alex players felt aggrieved in the build-up to that goal as well, as the throw-in should have been given our way after Ellis had clearly played the ball off of a Bournemouth boot. The referee had agreed but decided to go with his assistant.
A last throw of the dice saw Max Clayton replace Inman and a bouncing ball late on just wouldn’t quite sit right for the young forward.