Crewe Alexandra started the second half of the season with a 2-1 defeat to rivals Shrewsbury Town. Shaun Whalley curled home a 90th minute winner for the Shrews after Crewe failed to clear their lines properly from a free-kick.
It was a harsh conclusion for the Railwaymen who were left to rue a host of missed chances in the second half. Adam King hit the Shrewsbury goalkeeper Mark Halstead from close range in what was arguably our best chance of the second half. Ryan Lowe also shot wide after running in behind and Halstead made a fine save to deny Man-of-the-match Colclough and then another superbly to tip around a free-kick from Lowe.
Colclough had originally drawn Crewe level after 26 minutes after being found by Lowe and tucking it calmly into the bottom corner. Shrewsbury had taken an 11th minute lead with Larnell Cole hitting a deflected shot past Ben Garratt.
Steve Davis made one change to the side that drew 1-1 with Fleetwood Town prior to Christmas with Adam King coming in for Billy Bingham in midfield. Bingham was named on the substitutes’ bench alongside the fit-again goalkeeper David Richards and Bradden Inman.
Shrewsbury Town manager Micky Mellon selected our former player Junior Brown in his starting line-up at full-back but our former captain Matt Tootle wasn’t named in the 18-man squad.
David Fox was named as captain instead of full-back Ollie Turton after the midfielder has returned to fitness.
The bank holiday fixture started at a frantic pace with both sides struggling to get the ball down and play too much football. The encounter was more of an aerial battle but after one of their better attacks, Shrewsbury took the lead after just 11 minutes. The ball travelled from right to left to winger Larnell Cole. The former Manchester United youngster shifted the ball out his feet and from the edge of the penalty area; his low shot took a deflection off Turton to spin beyond Ben Garratt.
Crewe’s almost immediate response saw Haber flick on for Lowe and his pass into King saw his shot take a deflection off the boot of Brown and loop into the gloves of Mark Halstead.
Moments later, the Crewe front two combined again and a mass scramble in front of the Shrewsbury goalkeeper only needed a touch from James Jones to make it awkward for him. Ryan Colclough’s first real involvement saw him drift off the wing and have a low shot deflected behind for a corner off of Zak Whitbread.
Crewe were growing into the game and deservedly equalised on 26 minutes, with Lowe again the creator. He found room to slide winger Colclough in and he took a touch before calmly slotting it into the bottom corner for his 7th goal of the season.
Colclough then won a free kick just outside the Shrewsbury penalty area and after taking it himself he harmlessly drilled it low into the opposition wall.
At the other end of the pitch, James Collins beat our offside trap but dragged his snap shot wastefully wide of the Ben Garratt’s left hand post. The visitors did have a golden opportunity to re-take the lead on 34 minutes after winger Shaun Whalley had skipped past Jon Guthrie and whipped in a cross to the far post where Cole should have tucked home his second goal of the game, but he got over it and sent it over the crossbar.
With the game having a good flow to it, Collins shot straight at Garratt from distance after we had granted him too much time and space some 25 yards from our goal.
A fairly even first period, ended with Adam King shooting into the side netting after Jones had nodded possession down to him. In hindsight he may have played in the overlapping Turton but having a sight at goal, King had a right to try his luck.
The second half began with Semi Ajayi making a fine recovery tackle to deny Collins a clear run at goal before Haber was booked for jumping into Ian Black. It caused a bit of a melee between the players but a caution was the right judgement.
Shrewsbury’s first real attack of the second half saw it well worked out to Abu Agogo but his low drive was wide of the mark.
After Haber had flicked possession into the direction of King, the midfielder quickly found Colclough and his powerful shot was pushed over by Halstead.
Anthony Gerrard was booked for a rash tackle on Jones on the edge of the box and from the resultant free-kick, Lowe’s curling effort was superbly tipped away by the busier Halstead. It was a wonderful save.
From the corner, Fox found Colclough and his low drive was blocked by Whitbread.
Crewe continued to be positive and looked the more likely side to score again. King should have given us the lead when the ball found him inside the box but he shot against Halstead instead of guiding it home. Colclough followed up with a back heal that was blocked and King again shot against the Shrewsbury goalkeeper. It was an opportunity missed and King son made way for Inman.
Shrewsbury made a change of their own with Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro coming on for Collins and his first real contribution saw his deflected shot hit the post and Crewe had to rely on Ben Nugent to make a goal saving challenge to prevent two Shrewsbury players to have a tap in close to the goal line. It was a fantastic intervention from the Alex centre-half.
Chances for both sides continued to arrive with Garratt punching clear ahead of Scott Vernon and then Guthrie being beaten to a tap in at the far post by the covering Dom Smith.
A well worked move from the Alex then saw Colclough slip Lowe in behind Gerrard and Whitbread and his well struck shot looked odds on to find the back of the net by in the end drifted inches wide of the far post. It looked like being one of those days.
Fox hit a well struck volley that bounced a yard wide before Akpro shot a yard wide.
The game looked like heading towards a 1-1 draw until Crewe didn’t clear their lines well enough from our own free-kick deep in the right hand corner. Garratt’s clearance was headed back by an unmarked Ian Black and the ball eventually found winger Shaun Whalley and he curled his shot superbly past Garratt for a heart breaking winner for the visitors.