It was a tale of three penalties at the New Den this afternoon, as Crewe Alexandra collected their third successive point following a hard fought 1-1 draw but Steve Davis and his players were incensed by the award of the Millwall penalty that drew them level and then the one awarded for an apparent handball by Ollie Turton, that was subsequently missed by Lee Gregory.
Crewe were awarded their spot kick just before the hour mark after the impressive George Cooper had been clipped by the onrushing Millwall goalkeeper Jordan Archer after a ball from midfield had invitingly spun into his path. With Archer retreating and then coming forward again, Cooper got there first and was clearly fouled. Brad Inman stepped up to fire into the roof of the net.
The Lions hit back though less than five minutes later but Crewe were clearly unhappy with the award of the spot kick after Byron Webster had gone inside the box from a corner. Ben Garratt left his line to get a strong hand on the cross and no-one could quite believe it when referee Christopher Kavanagh pointed to the penalty spot. Lee Gregory sent Ben Garratt the wrong way to even things up in London.
In the wake of Ryan Colclough’s transfer to Wigan Athletic, Crewe Alexandra boss Steve Davis was forced into one change for the trip to the New Den. Zoumana Bakayogo was handed his first start for the club following his late introduction as a late substitute against Bury on Tuesday evening.
The former Leicester and Tranmere man was used in a more advanced role in front of Jon Guthrie. George Cooper occupied the right hand side as Crewe switched back to a 4-4-2 formation with Brad Inman playing off Marcus Haber.
The club’s new loan signing Ryan Seager was named on the substitutes’ bench after joining up at the team hotel. Forward Seager, 19, has signed on a one-month deal from Southampton and has been handed the number 33 shirt.
A bright start from the Alex saw Marcus Haber win an early header from just outside the Millwall six yard box but George Cooper was just beaten to the knockdown by the Millwall goalkeeper Jordan Archer. Both players picked themselves up after a hefty collision.
The home side’s first sniff of our goal came in the 5th minute of play but Lee Gregory didn’t release his shot in time before he was crowded out by a cluster of Crewe defenders. Two minutes later, a floated ball into Jed Wallace nearly gave him an opportunity to test Ben Garratt but the covering Semi Ajayi had read the situation perfectly to cut the pass out and he was able to complete the clearance.
Crewe then enjoyed a good period of possession football with Fox and Jones looking to get on the ball as much as possible. We were patient with our build up play but we just needed that final ball into the Millwall penalty area to possess more quality.
Millwall did have longer efforts from distance, first from midfielder Jimmy Abdou and then from Shaun Williams but Garratt was well placed to collect with relative ease. The Crewe goalkeeper was called into serious action on 15 minutes when a deft touch from Aiden O’Brien onto his chest took him past Ollie Turton but Garratt rushed out well to block his shot with his body.
With Millwall beginning to press more forcefully, Jon Guthrie did superbly well to get to a cross from Shane Ferguson ahead of the lively Gregory. It was a timely touch from the Alex left-back that denied Gregory a clear touch in front of Garratt. The crosses into our box continued with Gregory heading over the bar and then Nugent blocking a shot from the same player from the edge of the penalty area.
A super move from the Alex on 33 minutes saw us unlock the Millwall back line. A really patient build up saw Fox, Jones and Turton all get a touch before Inman spun away 25 yards out and he instantly fed Cooper, who curled his shot just over from the edge of the box. Even better was to come from the Railwaymen just two minutes later with Cooper and Bakayogo combining on the left hand side.
Bakayogo’s accurate low cross found Inman and although his touch was a little heavy, the ball squirmed out to the supportive James Jones and from 25 yards out, his driven shot forced Archer into his first meaningful save of the afternoon. It was a tremendous shot from the Alex midfielder and then equally fine save from the Millwall goalkeeper. From the resultant corner, Haber so nearly met Cooper’s delivery ahead of Archer.
Crewe continued to finish the first half trying to get on the front foot, forcing a succession of corners and looking to link up play with Cooper and Inman picking up good positions in the pockets. From one our corners though, the home side broke with real purpose and as we tried to retreat, Gregory rolled the ball over the box to an unmarked Wallace but on the stretch he could only fire wide.
Just before the half time interval, the Millwall captain Steve Morison was presented with the perfect chance to give the Lions the lead, but he was again foiled by an alert Garratt, who rushed from his line to narrow his angle to slide it beyond him.
The second half started with the personal duel between Gregory and Garratt continuing but again the Alex stopper was perfectly placed to save his shot from distance.
Crewe began to get back on the ball though and they continued to pass and look to probe open a stringent Millwall defence. Cooper was lively and Haber continued his good work on from Tuesday night at Gigg Lane to get Crewe up the pitch when he could use his physicality or height.
A strong run from winger Wallace on 56 minutes saw him drift past a couple of Alex bodies but he couldn’t control his final shot and it whistled well wide of Garratt’s right hand post.
Three minutes later, Crewe were awarded a penalty when Cooper raced cleared onto a spinning ball before he was tripped by the out rushing Archer. The Millwall goalkeeper was booked for the offence and in fairness there were covering defenders. Bradden Inman confidently stepped up to smash the ball high into the roof of the net.
Millwall tried to hit back almost instantly, but Morison couldn’t keep his far post header down to test Garratt. Nugent was booked for a foul on Gregory close to the by-line and for his first real offence it was harsh.
On 65 minutes, the home side did equalise and the award of their penalty was shrouded in controversy. Ben Garratt seemed to come out and get a hand onto a cross going into our box but Byron Webster, in an attempt to challenge the Crewe Alexandra ended up in a heap inside the six-yard box and referee Christopher Kavanagh pointed to the spot. It appeared extremely harsh, unless the official had spotted a sly push on Webster but the Millwall players didn’t appeal too much! The Crewe players were livid, as was the coaching staff, in the technical area. After the protest had subsided, Gregory slotted home to equalise.
Crewe pressed forward trying to re-take the lead and Bakayogo was unfortunate not to connect more cleanly with a deep cross at the far post. From the second phase of play, Cooper drilled an effort into the side netting from an acute angle.
Morison laid on a good chance for Wallace with a cleverly weighted pass but the winger couldn’t keep his shot down and it flashed over the crossbar before Crewe introduced their new loan signing Ryan Seager with just over ten minutes left. Seager partnered Haber through the middle with Inman shifting over to the left hand side to replace the hard working Bakayogo.
Seager was soon involved, bustling his way past Shaun Cummings before combining with Inman. The passage of play ended with Cooper’s powerful shot from 20 yards deflecting behind for a corner.
With the final minutes ticking away, Ajayi was booked for a foul on Gregory and from the resultant free-kick, the Lions were awarded their second penalty of the afternoon under more dubious circumstances. The covering Turton seemed to use his mid-drift to control the cross before clearing up field, but the assistant referee waved his flag to indicate that he had willingly used his hand to control the ball. The Alex players were just as incensed and crowded around both officials because it looked harsh. Maybe justice prevailed because Gregory smacked the post and Crewe survived to pick up a deserved point.