Crewe Alexandra and neighbours Port Vale shared the spoils after the first game of the season and overall Crewe would take a point after a resolute display.
It ended goalless at the Alexandra Stadium with defences on top and although there wasn’t many clear cut chances for either side, arguably the best two chances fell to Vale striker Louis Dodds. Ben Garratt and the two defenders George Ray and Ben Nugent in front of him stood firm throughout though to make sure we didn’t start the season with a defeat.
Crewe’s best chance fell to Billy Bingham and then Lauri Dalla Valle in the follow-up but the Vale defenders blocked the two efforts.
Manager Steve Davis named four debutants in his starting line-up for the opening game of the season with defender Ben Nugent partnering George Ray in the centre of the Crewe defence. New midfielders David Fox, Adam King and Billy Bingham lined-up for the Railwaymen with Fox given the captain’s armband as he deputises for the injured Harry Davis (knee).
Brad Inman was given the start ahead of George Cooper and after signing his new contract on Friday, Ryan Colclough was named on the substitutes’ bench alongside Cooper and the emerging Ryan Wintle.
Port Vale boss Rob Page named six debutants in his side, including former Crewe players Uche Ikpeazu, Anthony Grant and Byron Moore. Forward Ajay Leitch-Smith was named on the bench as he returned to Gresty Road.
As you would expect from a local derby, the match kicked off at a frantic pace and George Ray and Ben Nugent had to deal with early aerial pressure. It was a real physical battle between our former forward Ikpeazu and the Crewe centre-halves.
A dangerous early cross from Bingham was cut out before Guthrie did likewise at the other end to halt a delivery from the Vale skipper Carl Dickinson.
Moore, who was a threat with his pace and ability to glide past opponents showed some great skill to thrash an effort over the top of Ben Garratt’s crossbar.
On 15 minutes, Louis Dodds fired straight at Garratt from a good position after Ikpeazu had latched onto a long through ball to cut the ball back for his strike partner. Dodds didn't hit it with any real conviction.
Moments later, Nugent produced a super header to deny Ikpeazu a clear header at goal after Duffy had again sent Dickinson down the Crewe right hand side. It was a fantastic clearance from the Crewe debutant with the towering Ikpeazu waiting to apply a decisive touch.
After those early scares, Crewe’s best chance of the first half saw Brad Inman drive a low shot inside a crowded penalty area but it was blocked and Grant was well placed to block a follow up effort from Lauri Dalla Valle.
Grant shot loosely into the crowd after a back header from King fell into his path before Ikpeazu was rather fortunate to escape a booking for persistent fouling. Grant also escaped a yellow card as well after clattering into Ollie Tuton close to the touchline.
Port Vale finished the first period with another couple of half chances with Dodds firing a good chance at the legs of Garratt and then Sam Foley volleyed straight at the Crewe goalkeeper after a deft touch from Sam Kelly.
Uche Ikpeazu thought he had broken the deadlock minutes into the second half after lashing into the net but the ‘goal’ was rightly disallowed as the ball had already crossed the by-line.
The excellent Nugent and Ray continued to defend resolutely and the experienced Fox certainly helped them operating as the holding midfield man.
Steve Davis made an early change with Colclough replacing Inman after 55 minutes. Crewe needed to try and get the ball down and play through midfield more and the introduction of Colclough certainly gave us a lift.
Colclough soon curled a shot wide of the mark after cutting in from the wing before Ray made a superb block to prevent a firm shot from Kelly testing Garratt again.
The introduction of the lively Vale striker Enoch Andoh also gave the visitors a lift with his pace and directness. Cooper also replaced Haber as Crewe went with Lauri Dalla Valle through the middle, so he could run in behind more.
Following a free-kick from Billy Bingham that struck the top of the Port Vale wall, a bouncing ball dropped to Colclough but he couldn’t keep his shot down to test Jak Alnwick.
A real genuine chance never really fell to either side as both back fours stood firm. The best opportunity to win the game did fall to the visitors after a slight melee inside the Crewe penalty area. After another forceful run from Andoh caused trouble inside the box and after the ball hit the heel of Ray, the ball broke invitingly to Ikpeazu but he was foiled by Garratt. It was no surprise that the busier Crewe goalkeeper was voted the sponsors Man of the Match award.
With time ticking away, Leitch-Smith replaced Ikpeazu and Bingham was surprisingly the first player to be booked for a trip on Moore.
Atkinson was also a late substitute for King but those chances failed to materialise with Moore firing over the top with just minutes remaining.
Crewe: Garratt, Turton, Guthrie, Ray, Nugent, Fox, Bingham, King (Atkinson), Inman (Colclough), Haber (Cooper), Dalla Valle.
Subs not used: Richards, Saunders, Baillie, Wintle
Port Vale: Alnwick, Purkiss, Dickinson, Streete, Duffy, Ikpeazu (Leitch-Smith), Dodds, Foley (Brown), Kelly (Andoh), Moore, Grant
Subs not used: Johnson, Birchall, Daniel, Inniss