Crewe Alexandra’s unbeaten run came to an end at Chesterfield but the 3-1 scoreline didn’t reflect the full story of an open affair at the Proact Stadium because in truth, the game really could have gone either way.
Crewe were on top for large periods of the contest but only had Zoumana Bakayogo’s first goal for almost three years to show for our efforts.
Although the Railwaymen had actually started the game in a promising fashion, we again found ourselves 2-0 down too early on with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Lee Novak scoring inside the opening 12 minutes of play.
Bakayogo pulled one back before half-time after he tucked home a cross from Brad Inman but Danny Wilson’s side regained their two goal advantage on 55 minutes with Connor Dimaio racing on to a pass from Ebanks-Blake to finish past Garratt.
Although we had chances in the second period, Crewe tried in vain to get that second goal and stage a grandstand finish and although the performance had been relatively positive, the result against one of our relegation rivals was disappointing.
With Ryan Seager unfortunately returning to his parent club Southampton due to serious injury, there was a start for the club’s Welsh Youth International Callum Saunders.
The striker was handed his chance to impress again in a partnership with Marcus Haber as boss Steve Davis stuck with his recently successful 4-4-2 formation. Saunders, 20, has handed his opportunity ahead of Charlie Kirk, who was among an Academy based bench.
Defender Joe Kearns, Callum Ainley and Ollie Finney were given a squad number to take their place on the bench alongside Perry Ng, Joe Howell and reserve goalkeeper Dave Richards.
Defender Semi Ajayi made his final appearance for the club with his emergency loan expiring this week.
Zoumana Bakayogo had an early opportunity to run at the Chesterfield defence after Brad Inman had rolled possession into his path but he elected to shoot first time from 20 yards out instead of carrying the ball into the visitors’ box and he screwed his effort well wide.
Bakayogo’s second burst forward saw him glide through a couple of challenges before he was fouled on the edge of the box. Captain David Fox curled his effort over the wall and just over Tommy Lee’s crossbar.
After a bright start from the Railwaymen, it was Chesterfield taking the lead on just seven minutes. Ben Nugent conceded an avoidable corner on the left hand. We coped well with the first corner to clear to the other side and we were subsequently punished by the delivery coming in from the left hand side.
After a clever flick on, the ball fell invitingly to the experienced Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and his touch clipped the foot of the post and spun across the line for the opening goal. Ben Garratt was inches away from getting a positive glove on the shot but the trajectory of the ball took it behind him and went the wrong side of the line from a Crewe perspective.
Crewe almost hit back immediately from a corner of their own. James Jones took it from the right hand and Marcus Haber used his presence at the far post to force Tommy Lee into a really smart save. The reflexes of the Chesterfield goalkeeper saw him push the ball into the air and his defenders managed to scramble the ball away from danger.
Chesterfield doubled their lead on 12 minutes. Their wide man Gboly Ariyibi produced a stunning step over to wrong foot the Crewe defender Guthrie, and in doing so, he reached the by-line before cutting it back perfectly for Lee Novak to tap home from close range.
Crewe had actually been very much in the game but we found ourselves 2-0 down again early on.
Just before the half hour mark, Danny Wilson’s side were forced into an early change with midfielder Chris Herd forced off with an injury. Jay O’Shea replaced him.
Alex midfielder James Jones let his early frustration get the better of him and he was booked for dissent after he was penalised for a soft handball in the centre of the pitch.
On 25 minutes, a flowing move from the Alex unlocked the Chesterfield defence. Fox and Inman combined in the centre of the pitch before Inman slipped the willing runner Saunders in behind. He timed his run to perfection but from a tight angle could only pull it past the far post.
Crewe were on top, especially in the possession stakes, and we deserved to half the deficit just two minutes after Saunders’ chance. Inman did superbly well again to force a save from Lee and he reacted with a real purpose to regain possession when the goalkeeper could only palm his effort into the air.
A really determined Inman got to the ball first and forced his way to the by-line. His excellent cross was only touched out of the six yards and the well placed Bakayago gleefully drilled home his first goal for the club. Crewe were back in it and deservedly so. It was the former Ivory Coast Youth International’s first goal, since he scored a brace in a 3-1 win over Stevenage for his previous club Tranmere Rovers back in March 2013. He thoroughly deserved it as well for being our major threat throughout the game.
Somewhat against the run of play, Chesterfield were presented with another half chance when a cross from Ariyibi missed everyone inside a crowded penalty area before falling into the path of Connor Dimaio but his powerful shot was blocked by Ollie Turton.
Chesterfield did begin to get more of a grip on the possession and applied some concerted pressure without really conjuring up too many chances of merit as an entertaining first half drew to a close.
Bakayogo carried on at the beginning of the second half, as he had in the first. He was a constant menace to the Chesterfield full back Drew Talbot. He had an early shot blocked by the over worked defender and Lee did well to prevent it going behind for a corner and he then headed a good free-kick delivery from Jones over the crossbar.
Crewe were soon into their passing stride and continued to look to probe an opening. There was a really good tempo to our play, but Chesterfield were holding firm and that paid dividends as they regained their two goal advantage on 55 minutes.
In truth, it was Chesterfield’s first meaningful attack of the second period. The ball was played up to the robust Ebanks-Blake just inside our box and before we could steal possession from him, he rolled the ball into the path of the midfield runner Connor Dimaio. He had timed his run to perfection to get free and break the offside trap and he made no mistake with his assured finish, drilling into the far corner for 3-1.
Moments later a dangerous cross from Ariyibi only needed a touch inside the six yard box before Saunders made way for Kirk just before the hour mark. Crewe switched their formation with three operating behind Haber.
Ollie Banks tried his luck with an ambitious effort from 40 yards but Garratt read the situation superbly well to back track and make a relatively comfortable save.
The tiring Bakayogo was replaced by Callum Ainley on 65 minutes. He had run himself in the ground and was arguably Crewe’s best performer on the day.
A good passing move from Crewe ended with Haber teeing up Turton but he couldn’t keep his shot down enough to trouble Lee. The same sort of move occurred again just minutes later but this time Inman got over his shot.
More Crewe pressure saw Turton burst forward and slip Haber in and his low shot had to be turned around by Lee. The two Crewe subs then combined fantastically well to carve out another half chance. Kirk touched the ball off to Ainley and his forceful run saw him reach the by-line and he hit a really tempting cross across the face of the goal and it literally needed any touch to really trouble Chesterfield.
Chesterfield made their second change with Mani Dieseruvwe replacing goalscorer Ebanks-Blake.
Crewe desperately needed the next goal and Turton nearly provided it when he raced onto a clipped pass from Fox. The Chesterfield goalkeeper rushed off quickly to narrow his angle and Turton could only shoot against his legs and in the follow up, Kirk’s half volley bounced through to the Chesterfield stopper.
Ainley produced another promising run and cross that just evaded the head of Haber at the far post. The Alex players certainly felt that Haber had been impeded as he attempted to reach it.
Inman just couldn’t quite take down a pass from the excellent Turton to go one on one with Lee but it was Crewe now doing all the pressing.
As we entered the final ten minutes of the game, Guthrie was booked for a foul on Talbot.
Haber had a very late chance to make it interesting in stoppage time but he headed just wide from a good position.