A terrific free-kick from Chuks Aneke and a first goal since September from AJ Leitch-Smith gave Crewe Alexandra their second win of 2014 and moved the club out of the bottom four. In tricky weather conditions, the Alex had to dig deep at times to contain an MK Dons side who continuously try and open up the opposition with their passing and movement.
A hard fought 2-0 win didn’t tell the complete story with Karl Robinson’s side hitting the crossbar and seeing young goalkeeper Ben Garratt save a penalty from Shaun Williams. The Alex youngster went the right way to push his second half penalty away for a corner.
Crewe defended their box well, with Mark Ellis and Harry Davis getting their heads on most things and Chuks Aneke was at his creative best. He sent Byron Moore clear at 1-0 but the winger shot straight at David Martin in the MK Dons goal.
The on-loan Manchester City midfielder George Evans returned to the Crewe Alexandra starting line-up for tonight’s clash with the MK Dons. Evans had lost his place due to suspension but was recalled for his first start in four games at the expense of Abdul Osman. The club captain had to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench and the armband was handed to full-back Matt Tootle.
New loan signing Uche Ikepeazu didn’t pass a late fitness test and missed out after rolling his ankle against Leyton Orient on Saturday.
In appalling conditions at the Alexandra Stadium, the MK Dons arguably made the brighter start in slippery conditions. Crewe had to survive an early scare but Ben Garratt reacted quickly enough to get a glove on an early cross.
Crewe’s first real effort came after eight minutes. Anthony Grant patiently waited for AJ Leitch-Smith to make a clever run and his instant release found Brad Inman inside the penalty area. Inman shot straight at Dave Martin.
The MK Dons youngster Dele Alli showed glimpses of his potential. He thrived on a loose ball in and around the Alex penalty area to get a shot off, but on this occasion it was a couple of yards wide of Ben Garratt’s left hand post.
The confident visitors were certainly looking the more threatening and more likely to take the lead. They couldn’t have gone any closer than Samir Carruthers smacking the Crewe crossbar with a splendid effort. Moments later Carruthers shot directly at a well-placed Garratt. The young goalkeeper did well to hold on in the conditions.
MK Dons continued to control much of the possession with their neat passing but they do give you chances. Chuks Aneke headed straight at Martin after a forceful run from Mellor down the right.
Despite the difficult conditions, both sides tried to play some entertaining football and the game became a tale of two free-kicks. From the edge of the box, Williams struck his effort into the Crewe wall before Crewe eventually took the lead. Aneke, who impressed all night, got on a run, rode a couple of challenges before being tripped on the edge of the box by Stephen Gleeson. Aneke took the responsibility and bend a shot over the wall and into the net for his eighth goal of the campaign. It was a wonderful free-kick but arguably it came against the run of the play.
The MK Dons didn’t change their passing style. Alli poked one wide of the mark just before the end of the first half and he was surprisingly substituted in the second half for Dean Bowditch. He must have been carrying an injury.
Kelvin Mellor was booked early on in the second period before the MK Dons were given a passage back into the game via a penalty kick. A corner was initially flicked on before dropping sharply and striking Tootle on the hand. It was hardly deliberate but referee Clark pointed to the spot. Williams stepped up confidently but saw his well struck penalty pushed away by the agile Garratt. It would prove to be a decisive turning point.
MK Dons made a change with the giant Daniel Powell replacing Chris Long before Crewe should have gone 2-0 up. More splendid creativity from Aneke, sent Moore through on goal but he struck his tame shot straight at Martin. It was a golden chance that would have given the Alex a cushion. Moments later, Harry Davis had a powerful shot blocked from a corner.
The visitors introduced Luke Chadwick for Carruthers and the introduction of the former Manchester United winger certainly injected some zest in the final third of the pitch. He shot into the side netting before Powell twisted and turned but had his shot blocked.
After riding a bit of a storm that crucial second goal did arrive with 22 minutes left. Grant, who worked tirelessly throughout played Leitch-Smith through and the striker tucked it away with the confidence of the old AJ. It ended a barren run of games for the local lad going back until September and our home game against Peterborough United at the Alexandra Stadium. He had thoroughly deserved it as well after putting quite a shift in up front.
Crewe had chances to extend that lead and make it even more comfortable as well. Another headed form Aneke was well saved by Martin and an alert Davis just couldn’t poke home the rebound.
More good work from Grant saw him find Aneke but his shot inside the box was blocked by the covering Anthony Kay.
At the other end of the pitch, Bowditch shot at Garratt under pressure from Ellis. Potter was booked for sliding into Inman.
In the closing stages and Crewe trying to keep the MK Dons at bay. Gleeson had an effort deflected wide before Chadwick fired over late on. The fresh legs of Osman and Pogba certainly helped and George Ray was introduced to head things out of our box, not that the MK Dons ever sent high balls into our box.
Good work from Pogba created a late chance for Aneke but his shot was well saved by the onrushing Martin.
Garratt, deservedly kept the clean-sheet with another late save to deny Ben Reeves. A solid performance and two good finishes from Aneke and Leitch-Smith move Crewe into 19th place in League One.