Crewe Alexandra were left cursing after a slow start away at Wolverhampton Wanderers saw Kenny Jackett’s side score in the opening two minutes through a Michael Jacobs header and despite both sides having chances to add to the score line that is the way it stayed until stoppage time of a fairly open affair. Jacobs powered home a wonderful cross from full-back Scott Golbourne in the second minute and later in the second half, Danny Batth struck the foot of the post when he should have scored. Wolverhampton Wanderers Leigh Griffiths made the points safe with a fine finish after cutting back on his left foot to smash a shot past Ben Garratt in the 92nd minute.
Crewe’s best chance of the half should have seen Mark Ellis head Crewe level from a cross from Byron Moore and forwards Tom Hitchcock and substitute AJ Leitch-Smith also had good chances to have completely changed the complexion of the game.
Adam Dugdale’s head injury sustained against Shrewsbury Town before Christmas forced the defender to miss the Boxing Day fixture at Molineux. Dugdale underwent a brain scan last week after being out cold for several minutes against the Shrews and although he is fine, he was not permitted to play so soon after. His place went to Mark Ellis.
The home side made the perfect start to this Boxing Day encounter after just two minutes. After both Harry Davis and Jake Cassidy had gone to challenge for possession on the edge of the box, the ball was played out to the advanced full-back Scott Golbourne on the left hand side and with the Crewe right hand side not tracking their runners well enough, his cross to the far post was met powerfully by the well placed Michael Jacobs.
Crewe tried to instantly hit back as the smallest man on the field, Boumesca Tue Na Bangna met a free-kick delivery from Harry Davis. The far post header from winger ‘Mesca’ was straight at Carl Ikeme in the Wolves goal. Moments later, a dangerous looking cross from Byron Moore just evaded Tom Hitchcock inside the visitors’ penalty area.
Similarly at the other, the threatening Golbourne produced another wonderful cross but it just wouldn’t fall kindly for Cassidy and he could only run it out of play.
Despite the very early set-back due to Jacob’s header, Crewe settled quickly and began to keep possession and compete in midfield. George Evans was on the ball trying to orchestrate things and find Chuks Aneke and the runs of Hitchcock. Captain Abdul Osman also got over a corner from Evans and couldn’t direct his header on target.
On 25 minutes, Jake Price unleashed an ambitious effort from 30 yards out that sailed over Garratt’s crossbar. A minute later, another good delivery from Evans from a corner found Aneke and his downward header was collected by a well positioned Ikeme.
It could and should have been 2-0 just before the half an hour mark when a rebound fell invitingly to Danny Batth no more than five yards out but he could only side-foot it again the post. Mellor did superbly well to get out and block the follow up shot from Golbourne. Batth understandably held his head in his hands in disappointment.
The game was fairly open and Crewe were carving out some decent chances to draw level. A low cross from winger Mesca just failed to reach Hitchock before Aneke tested the reflexes of Ikeme with a drilled shot from 20 yards. Moore put the rebound over the bar but was always ruled offside.
Wolves continued to be a threat from set plays but both Moore and Mesca continued to carry the ball up the pitch. Jacobs was the first player booked for bringing down Moore and from the resultant free-kick, Crewe should have been level. A short free-kick allowed Moore to deliver and the unmarked Ellis should have planted his header past Ikeme, but didn’t get anything of merit on it. As the ball travelled through to the far post, Mesca’s shot hit his captain Osman and sent the ball spinning over. Like Batth at one end, Ellis couldn’t believe he had missed such an opening.
Before the half time interval, Evans joined Jacobs in the referee’s notebook and the Alex had to survive a stoppage time corner.
The second half started with a well worked short corner with Evans finding the impressive Matt Tootle and his whipped in cross seemed to hit Osman in the mid-drift and it was cleared. Hitchcock was given the chance he had been crying out for all afternoon on 52 minutes. Aneke found him beyond the Wolves back-line and his run saw him one-on-one with Ikeme but on this occasion, the on-loan Queens Park Rangers forward couldn’t get enough elevation on his attempt and the Wolves goalkeeper made a smart save.
Crewe were defending reasonably well with Davis marshalling Cassidy out of play and blocking a cross from Dave Edwards before Kenny Jackett was forced into his first change with the injured Golbourne making way for Ethan-Ebanks-Landell.
Not long afterwards, the home side made their second change with Leigh Griffiths coming on for Edwards. Cassidy then tested the concentration levels of Garratt with a low drive from 25 yards but the young goalkeeper was right behind it.
The Wolves substitute Ebanks-Landell then broke forward into the Crewe penalty area and his lifted effort cleared the advancing Garratt, but dropped onto the top of the netting. Garratt then produced the save of the afternoon to tip round a well struck shot from Jacobs.
Wolves upped their performance and Garratt arguably produced an even better save to deny Griffiths at the far post. The former Hibs striker met a cross from James Henry perfectly but Garratt pushed his effort up and against the woodwork to keep Crewe in it.
Crewe made a double substitution with Grant and Inman replacing Evans and Hitchcock. Soon after the substitution, Crewe had a great position from a free-kick after Moore had been tripped but Davis clipped his effort wide of the mark.
With the minutes ticking away, Grant recovered to stop Griffiths on the edge of the Crewe penalty area, as the home side looked to hit us on the break from our corner.
AJ Leitch-Smith replaced Moore with five minutes remaining as Crewe tried to salvage a point. He could have certainly made it interesting when he collected a pass from Aneke but he dragged his shot wide. It was a decent chance for the Crewe-born striker but he couldn’t get it on target to test Ikeme.
Wolves secured the three points in the 92nd minute and for their performance in the second half, they deserved it too, with Griffiths cutting back onto his left foot to smash it past a helpless Garratt.