A well guided header from Chuks Aneke gave Crewe Alexandra a 1-0 win over Accrington Stanley in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy this evening. The on-loan Aneke was in the right place at the right time to head home an accurate cross from Matt Tootle with 11 minutes left on the clock to make sure the holders are in the hat for round two.
Experienced goalkeeper Steve Phillips started his first game of the season in place of the injured Alan Martin, who aggravated his hip in the defeat to Swindon Town on Saturday. It was Phillips’ first start since a 1-0 win over Sheffield United back in April.
There was also a change at full-back with Gregor Robertson also recalled at left-back, with Matt Tootle moving over to the right hand side in place of Kelvin Mellor.
Crewe made a rather tentative start to the game and it was James Beattie’s Accrington side creating the first half chance of the game after six minutes but Mark Ellis applied a block on a shot from Seamus McCartan.
The League Two were working very hard to pressurise the Crewe players when in possession and it was difficult to find time and space to really expose their back line. Accrington deserved credit for their work ethic and it took Crewe a little time to get into their stride. So much so that Phillips had to perform an acrobatic tip over to deny the Stanley captain Luke Joyce from 20 yards.
Crewe’s first glimpse at the Accrington Stanley goal saw Chuks Aneke play Ryan Colclough in behind but after he had produced a trademark turn, he slipped on the grass at the crucial moment and the chance was lost.
Accrington were looking to hit Crewe on the counter attack and Michael Richardson reached a cross from full-back Michael Little but didn’t test Phillips. A better effort from McCartan just cleared the top of the crossbar.
Crewe were passing the ball well enough but were just lacking that final ball in and around the Accrington box. Anthony Grant tried to get us going with some encouraging bursts from midfield and he was unlucky not to reach a long ball from Aneke ahead of the Accrington goalkeeper Ben Wilson.
Some promising one touch football from Crewe forced a corner. Colclough’s deep delivery found Ellis and his climbing header found Aneke and the Arsenal youngster was a little unlucky not to get his shot on target from close range.
Aneke was having more of an influence and he again found Colclough in space but the winger delayed his shot too long and the danger was snuffed out.
Crewe Alexandra began the second half with a better tempo with Max Clayton heading against the post but he was adjudged offside by the assistant referee and the effort wouldn’t have counted. A livelier Clayton then nearly reached a through ball from Colclough but the on-rushing Wilson read the situation and smothered possession.
Colclough and Clayton combined again and the young striker slid his shot the wrong side of the post. It was more promising from Crewe but Accrington were proving to be a tough side to break down. Therefore, it was a pity that Colclough had to leave the pitch through injury and was replaced by AJ Leitch-Smith.
Crewe had to keep their concentration and be wary of the counter-attack. Ellis did well to block a shot from Richardson from the edge of the penalty area before Conor Mahoney replaced McCartan for Beattie’s young side.
Leitch-Smith’s first real involvement saw him link up with Aneke but his deft touch didn’t have enough on it to defeat an impressive Tom Alfred.
A cross from right back Tootle saw Wilson rush from his line to try and collect it, but he couldn’t get a true grip on the ball and Clayton and Aneke tried to turn in the loose ball as it bounced around the box.
The former Accrington Stanley player Lee Molyneux replaced Grant and Accrington changed Danny Webber for Will Hatfield.
Crewe were looking the better side in the closing stages and the more likely to break the deadlock. Brad Inman had an encouraging run inside a crowded box but his shot lacked the power to test Wilson before Steve Davis used his last hand with Vadaine Oliver replacing Clayton.
The break through deservedly came through on 79 minutes. Molyneux found Tootle in the right channel and his excellent cross invited Aneke to leap and guide home the winner.
With the Accrington full-back Michael Liddle limping off, Accrington were forced to play the closing stages with ten men. Crewe played some really good possession football with Aneke involved in a deeper role and our goal wasn’t tested.
AJ Leitch-Smith nearly finished the night off in style when he latched on to a clipped past from Molyneux but his powerful volley just cleared the far post.