Port Vale won the first derby encounter of the season thanks to a tap-in at the far post from winger Jennison Myrie-Williams with eight minutes left. The Valiants completed a spirited comeback after George Evans had given the Railwaymen the lead after 35 minutes with a side-footed half volley that dipped over Vale goalkeeper Chris Neal.
Crewe, who had dominated most of the play in the opening half, couldn’t hold onto that lead with Robert Taylor smuggling home a shot over the line after Port Vale had finished the first half strongly.
It was an improvement in performance from the Alex, who also hit the post through George Evans and conjured up some chances that fell to the impressive Byron Moore, Mark Ellis, early on with this head and Kelvin Mellor.
Steve Davis made five changes to the side that exited the FA Cup on Tuesday evening to Wycombe Wanderers. Out of the side went young goalkeeper Ben Garratt, Jon Guthrie, Anthony Grant and the injured Max Clayton to be replaced by the new loan signing Neil Etheridge in goal for his debut for the club, a fit-again Matt Tootle, Adam Dugdale and Vadaine Oliver.
Crewe went with three at the back with Tootle and Kelvin Mellor given licence to push forward as wing backs.
Defender Mark Ellis had a really good chance to give Crewe the ideal start after just three minutes but he couldn’t direct his close range header on target from a corner. It was a fine chance and an early let off for the visitors.
It was a typical derby encounter with the ball spending a lot of time in the air and some tasty challenges going in from Osman and Anthony Grifith. The Alex were pressurising the ball in the first half and took control. Evans had another shot blocked and he robust Anthony Griffith did likewise to throw himself in front of a shot from AJ Leitch-Smith.
Moore was at his vibrant best and was causing problems with his pace and forcefulness to run at the Vale defence. One cross from Moore was just ahead of Leitch-Smith before Evans went close to giving us the lead on 20 minutes. Leitch-Smith and Moore were involved in the thick of it again and set it up perfectly for Evans on the edge of the box and his cultured placement was unfortunate to hit the foot of the post.
The derby encounter soon ignited even more when Ellis went down after clashing with our former player Tom Pope. The Vale striker was accused of throwing an arm back into the face of the Crewe defender and it led to a heated discussion in the technical areas. The referee spoke to both players but took no action.
Crewe’s dominance continued with Vadaine Oliver and Leitch-Smith nodding play into the direction of winger Moore but he couldn’t control his shot and it sailed over the top. Leitch-Smith had another shot blocked and Moore forced a save from Neal at the foot of the post.
The pressure finally told in the 35th minute. Again, Moore and Leitch-Smith were involved in and around the Vale box and after a Moore cross was cleared to the edge of the box, Evans returned it with real interest. The midfielder, on loan from Manchester City, controlled his shot to give Neal little chance, as it dipped at the crucial moment to nestle in the top corner.
The opening goal was no more than Crewe had deserved for their effort and endeavour. It was much better and the attitude was first class.
To their great credit, the goal did spur a lift in Port Vale as well. They stepped up their performance to finish the half strongly. Crewe’s new goalkeeper Neil Etheridge did well to save a shot from Myrie-Williams and he came and collected a couple of deep crosses.
The Vale were a threat from corners and long throw-ins from Robertson and Evans had to poke one dangerous looking corner away before Vale equalised with two minutes of the half remaining. Leitch-Smith conceded a free-kick and with Crewe unable to clear, a shot from Rob Taylor took a double deflection and it spun wickedly over the line. The assistant referee raised his flag to signal goal and it was at level at the break.
Crewe stared the second half on top again with Osman having a shot blocked by our former full-back Adam Yates and there were also a half chance for Evans. After a flowing move involving both wing-backs Mellor and Tootle, Moore curled one wide of the mark. It looked encouraging but the game was always littered with free-kicks and in periods got a bit scrappy. The referee also made some strange decisions for both sides.
Port Vale made a switch with Ben Williamson replacing the young Jordan Hugill and that seemed to see the game swing more in their favour. Etheridge punched clear before Taylor tried to lift the ball back but Adam Dugdale had read the situation accordingly to cover the vacant goal line.
Etheridge showed his real potential with a tremendous save to deny Doug Loft and as the ball spun away in our favour, Moore just couldn’t find Oliver on the counter attack.
Myrie-Williams shot over the top of the crossbar as the visitors began to take control of the game in the second half of the second period.
Crewe had their moments though with Osman heading over from a good position at a corner and the personal battles continued all over the pitch. Dugdale stopped Myrie-Williams as he tried to make his way into the box before Colclough was introduced for Leitch-Smith.
Yates was the first to be booked for a late challenge on Colclough before Aneke replaced the tiring Oliver.
With eight minutes left Vale grabbed the winning goal in the derby. They had dominated the possession for the previous 15 minutes and the pressure told when Pope’s cross was tapped home by the supporting Myrie-Williams. Thr excellent Rob Taylor nearly sealed the three points after a fantastic run past Harry Davis, but Etheridge did well again to stand firm and make the save.
Crewe tried to rally in the closing stages abut that genuine chance never arrived. A bouncing ball wouldn’t quite drop for Evans and Osman shot wide from the edge of the box.
The last throw of the dice saw Thierry Audel replace Dugdale and he went up front to add some extra height but that chance never arrived