Oldham Athletic second half substitute Conor Wilkinson scored a priceless winner for the visitors as Crewe went down to their first home defeat in five games.
Crewe’s impressive home record of late came to an abrupt end with Wilkinson slotting the only goal of the game after the Latics had kept the ball in and around our penalty area before Paul Rachubka had saved Danny Philliskirk’s first effort. Jonathan Forte kept the move alive and Wilkinson’s was on hand to score the decisive goal.
On a frustrating afternoon at the Alexandra Stadium, Crewe just lacked the penetration to create enough chances to trouble Oldham Athletics’ teenage goalkeeper Joel Coleman. The best chance fell to Nicky Ajose, who lifted his lob onto the top of the net in the opening 15 minutes.
Steve Davis made two changes from the side that lost 3-0 to league leaders Bristol City on Tuesday night. Greg Leigh returned from a shin injury to return at left wing back with the injured George Ray (rib) unable to shake it off ahead of the visitors of the Latics.
Uche Ikpeazu, who started his first game on his return to Crewe at Ashton Gate, dropped back to the substitutes’ bench with leading scorer Nicky Ajose returning to the starting line-up.
With an impressive home record, Crewe Alexandra started the game on the front foot and Marcus Haber couldn’t control an early header to get it on target after Jamie Ness had found him at the far post with a free-kick.
A splendid pass from Alan Tate found the run of Nicky Ajose behind the Oldham back line and as the young goalkeeper Joel Coleman came out to oppose him, the Alex striker attempted to lob him. His effort just wouldn’t drop in time nestled on the top of the goal netting. It was Crewe’s best chance of the entire game.
Ajose also had a shot deflected behind after being found Jamie Ness on the edge of the Oldham penalty area before Rhys Turner headed a Mike Jones free-kick over the crossbar.
The teenage goalkeeper Coleman was beaten in the air by Jon Guthrie on 25 minutes and he was a little unlucky to see Adam Lockwood clear the effort over the crossbar.
The game then became a bit of a scarp with periods of head tennis in the middle of the park and the flow of it was interrupted by numerous fouls, mostly for over physicality in aerial challenges. Haber was penalised numerous times in his tussles with Anthony Gerrard. The new loan signing was excellent.
Full-back Connor Brown was booked for blocking Grant before the danger man Forte was just through on goal but offside. His second effort hit the foot of the post.
The first half ended with a potential penalty shout when James Jones appeared to be felled just side the box. The referee waved away the appeals.
Oldham applied some early pressure in the second half, forcing a succession of early corners. Haber did well to put Gerrard off at the far post on one and Tate did well likewise with another.
At the other end of the pitch, Jones drilled a shot into a collection of Oldham bodies after Ajose came off the flank to find him.
Jon Guthrie produced a superb recovery challenge to prevent the pacey Forte from latching onto a loose pass from Tate.
Haber did brilliantly to win a header at the far post to find Grant and his instant shot bought out Coleman’s most outstanding save of the afternoon. He showed great agility to tip the effort over. He needed a period of treatment but was able to continue.
The eventual match winner Wilkinson replaced Turner and Ikpeazu came on for Haber. Just before the Canada striker was withdrawn, he created a good chance for Ness when winning a header against Gerrard. The midfielder was a little unlucky that it dropped down to him quickly and he couldn’t adjust his feet in time to get a clean connection.
The decisive moment arrived on 74 minutes with Oldham keeping the ball well in and around our box. Crewe couldn’t get close enough to their opposite numbers and after Rachubka pushed away a shot from Philliskirk, the ball was kept alive and Wilkinson slotted the winner past the helpless Crewe goalkeeper.
A game that looked petering into a drab 0-0 suddenly became a very anxious last 15 minutes.
Carl Winchester drove a shot way over the crossbar before Steve Davis introduced the attack minded Lauri Dalla Valle and George Cooper for Tate and full-back Leigh. Dalla Valle instantly headed a Jones corner over.
Ikpeazu tried to battle his way through and made it to the edge of the Oldham box before Ajose made a loud appeal after it appeared that his shot had been blocked by a stray hand.
Crewe had a stoppage time corner that was cleared and a late opportunity would have fallen to Cooper at the far post, but Dalla Valle was penalised for a foul and the points slipped away.