Crewe Alexandra secured their League One status by their skin of their teeth on the day but over 46 games we just about managed to be over that white line on 52 points.
During a rollercoaster of emotion on the day, Crewe had to rely on results going in our favour as Crawley, Notts County and Leyton Orient joined Yeovil on the final day.
Crewe needed those results to go our way as a fine finish from Billy Clarke separated the two sides at Gresty Road. Phil Parkinson’s side showed they wanted to finish their own season on a high and they leapfrogged over Rochdale to finish 7th. Clarke tucked home a bouncing ball on the turn after Crewe failed to clear a free-kick to seal the three points and only increase the anxiety around the Alexandra Stadium. The Alex fans spent the last ten minutes or so praying for results to go our way elsewhere and thankfully they did.
Steve Davis named an unchanged side but they did welcome back a fit-again Jamie Ness on the bench. George Cooper was also recalled to the 18 ahead of Brad Inman.
Bradford City named our former goalkeeper Ben Williams in their starting line-up and he would leave Gresty Road with his clean-sheet after not making too many saves over the 90 minutes.
The Bantams created some early half chances with Clarke shooting over the top of the crossbar fairly early on and then Jon Stead shot over after trying to execute a difficult shot on the return.
Williams came and punched an early free kick from Anthony Grant away from a crowded box and Crewe best’s hope of a goal looked to come from the feet of Ryan Colclough. The winger was always prepared to take on his Stephen Darby whenever he had the opportunity. Crewe were finding it difficult to create too many clear cut openings.
Stead flicked an Andrew Davies header down onto the roof of the net before Colclough drilled a decent cross over the six yard box but Rory MCardle stood firm up against Marcus Haber.
Chris Routis then whistled a long range wide of the target before Clarke opened the scoring on 23 minutes. Crewe failed to clear their lines at a free-kick and when the ball dropped to Clarke, he dispatched it confidently into the bottom corner of Paul Rachubka’s net. The anxiety went up a notch and everyone started casting eyes on results elsewhere.
Lauri Dalla Valle shot into the side netting as Crewe tried to find a quick equaliser and the lively Colclough pulled a shot wide of the mark after cutting in from the by-line.
Haber then had a shot blocked by the impressive McArdle after being found by Grant. Arguably Crewe’s best chance saw Dalle Valle race clear and go one-on-one with Williams but a super recovery tackle from McArdle prevented him from getting a shot off at the crucial moment.
Bradford’s Hanson missed a golden chance on 33 minutes after more good work from Stead. Hanson fired over from close range when you would have backed him to score.
The first half ended with James Jones curling a free-kick into the gloves of Williams.
Crewe needed a goal to ease our nerves but genuine chances were few and far between. Unsung hero Guthrie had a good chance but couldn’t quite get a clean contact in front of Williams and when Ray found Dalle Valle, the assistant referee quickly put his flag up.
Colclough then called Williams into action close to his near post after he had played a tidy one-two with Turton. James Meredith was handily placed to complete the clearance.
Hanson, who is always a handful, lashed a volley just over. The crowd were reacting to results going against us elsewhere but the Alex fans kept with the team and let them know what was occurring at other grounds.
The introduction of Jamie Ness for Guthrie made a difference with his passing ability. Steve Davis switched to a back four and Crewe continued to try and open up the Bradford back line.
Grant carried the ball forward and shot straight at Williams before James Jones was replaced by Nicky Ajose. Ness quickly found a run of Ajose but he was beaten to the long pass through the middle by the advancing Williams.
Bradford conjured up a great chance to seal the win on 70 minutes after Grant got a Clarke cross caught up under his feet. The ball popped out to Stead and his goal bound effort had to be pushed over the bar by the agile Rachubka. It was a superb save that kept Crewe in the contest.
A cross from Ajose was too high for Dalle Valle to make a connection before Tony McMahon was booked for a foul on Grant. Stead was also cautioned for kicking the ball away as the minutes ticked away.
Crewe boss Steve Davis threw on Uche Ikpeazu for Haber in the closing stages but he didn’t have a chance to be the hero for us. He offered a physical presence.
With result going against us and then dramatically for us, Crewe needed a goal and a well worked short corner taken by Ness and Colclough saw the on-loan Stoke midfield whistle a shot over.
In the dying seconds, Crewe should have been awarded a late penalty when Colclough was tripped inside the box. The assistant referee didn’t put his flag up and the Alexandra Stadium erupted in pure frustration.
It was now a question of looking for results elsewhere and thankfully for the Alex goals went in against Crawley and Notts County to secure our League One status.