Tom Hitchcock’s second goal in successive matches wasn’t quite enough to give Crewe Alexandra their fourth home win of the season against Shrewsbury, but the Railwaymen did extend their mini unbeaten run to three matches with a hard fought point. It was a trio of loan players that led to Hitchcock’s poacher like finish after 'Mesca' had picked out Chuks Aneke at the far post. Aneke intelligently headed it back across goal and Hitchock stooped to head past Chris Weale in the Shrewsbury goal. It followed the QPR's striker's goal against Coventry at the Sixfields Stadium last weekend.
The Shrews hit back in the 56th minute when Crewe didn’t deal with a long punt up the pitch and somehow a collision between the retreating Matt Tootle and Harry Davis saw both the Crewe defenders grounded and Shrewsbury’s winger Jon Taylor left standing to fire past Ben Garratt for the equaliser.
Crewe’s best chance fell to the outstanding Aneke but he shot a yard wide on both occasions and Shrewsbury striker Tom Eaves nearly stole the points at the death after he had stolen a march on Mark Ellis but he didn’t connect right with his shot and it rolled through to Garratt.
Steve Davis named an unchanged side for the visit of Graham Turner’s Shrewsbury Town with the unfortunate Vadaine Oliver having to settle for a place on the bench following his short suspension for his red card against Crawley Town. Young goalkeeper Ben Garratt also started again after getting the nod against Coventry last week.
Crewe Alexandra were forced into an early change in the game when Adam Dugdale was knocked unconscious after he bravely cleared the ball when retreating from a corner. Dugdale needed oxygen and was stretched off. The play was delayed for five minutes as the medical staff took no chances and Mark Ellis replaced Dugdale in the centre of the Crewe defence.
When play resumed following that lengthy delay, Adam Reach sent over a dangerous looking cross that had to be cleared by an alert Harry Davis. Despite losing Dugdale, it didn’t take Crewe long to register the opening goal on 19 minutes. Aneke had an original shot blocked from the edge of the box but in the second phase of play, he cleverly nodded down a clipped cross from Mesca and Hitchock was on hand to stoop and head past Weale.
Crewe had deservedly taken the lead and were threatening to add more. Mesca shot wide when off balance and he didn’t catch another effort with any purpose after an encouraging run. Harry Davis clipped a free-kick over the top of the crossbar.
The Shrewsbury midfielder Luke Summerfield was always a threat from the edge of the box. He shot wide from 25 yards and Eaves was always a physical threat. A sloppy pass from Moore sent Reach through on our own goal, but Ellis responded brilliantly to make a last ditch block and deny him a probable goal.
Young Garratt was also called on to deny Summerfield again and then Taylor with his outstretched leg after he had got something onto a punch from a Reach cross. It was a fine double save from the Crewe teenager as the visitors enjoyed their best spell of the first half.
Summerfield also fired a deflected effort through to the gloves of Garratt. With seven minutes of stoppage time Moore shot over after an Evans corner had dropped invitingly to him on the edge on the penalty area and Hitchcock went close again with a near post header from another corner routine. It was cleared from the line after appearing to beat Weale.
The second half started with Garratt collecting a difficult looking cross before Evans forced Weale into a smart save, pushing it away for a corner. Davis headed the delivery a yard over.
Crewe had started the second half reasonably well but found themselves on level terms after a defensive mix-up on 56 minutes. The ball travelled a long distance to enter our penalty area, stemming from a long clearance from goalkeeper Weale, and as Tootle and Davis went to oppose Taylor, they lost their footing and the winger nipped in to lift it over Garratt from a tight angle.
In response, Osman tried his luck with an effort from long range but Weale was equal to it before Eaves didn’t connect right with a far post header.
It became a fairly even affair with both sides having spells to try and grab a decisive third goal. Dave Winfield was booked for a lunging tackle on Aneke before Moore was the next to leave the pitch with a head injury after he was sent crashing into an advertising hoarding by full-back Ryan Woods. The Crewe winger was unable to continue and had to be replaced by Brad Inman.
Crewe’s best two chances fell to the influential Aneke but he curled both efforts a yard wide. His second from Inman’s cross was a brilliant side-foot that went just wide of the target. He had adjusted his feet superbly well to get the shot off.
Tootle was also excellent and showed some real battling skills to win possession close to the by-line and Hitchcock was a little unlucky not to apply a decisive touch inside the six-yard when stretching trying to reach it.
At the other end, Summerfield had a spin a shot that bounced just wide but perhaps he should have released Taylor in space to his right.
Crewe boss Steve Davis made a change with AJ Leitch-Smith replacing Hitchcock but he didn’t really get a chance to grab a late winner. Gozie Ugwu shot straight at Garratt before he was replaced by Tom Bradshaw.
Late on, Aneke just couldn’t find Leitch-Smith or Mesca on a couple of occasions and following a probing run from the on-loan Fulham winger Mesca, the on-loan Arsenal forward curled a shot wide. it was one of those afternoon's when a draw was probably a fair reflection on how the game had gone.
In stoppage time, Tootle then saw a deflected effort really test the agility of Weale but the Shrewsbury goalkeeper did well to judge it and push it away to safety.
Shrewsbury had a late chance to sneak the point after the ball skipped beyond Ellis and through to Eaves but he didn’t get anything on his shot and it was simple for Garratt to collect at his near post.