Crewe Alexandra held the current League leaders Burton Albion to a 1-1 draw with a hard working performance at the Alexandra Stadium but the Railwaymen need some victories at this stage of the season.
Marcus Haber gave us an early lead when being in the right place at the right time to convert a dangerous looking cross from Zoumana Bakayogo.
Nigel Clough’s side hit back though when winger Lucas Akins shot on the turn to beat Ben Garratt on 35 minutes.
Burton certainly looked the more likely side to go on and win the game in the second half but it would have been harsh on the Railwaymen as they worked hard to restrict the visitors to only a few half chances to snatch the points.
With Captain David Fox unable to shake off the troublesome calf strain he picked up towards the end of our mid-week draw with Southend, Steve Davis had to reshuffle his pack. Utility man Ollie Turton moved in central midfield to partner fellow Academy graduate James Jones as the Crewe Alexandra handed a full debut to Perry NG. The Liverpool-born NG, 19, was selected at right-back after previously making five substitute appearances this season.
With Fox ruled out with injury, Turton regained the captain’s armband for the visit of the current league leaders. Club captain Harry Davis, Billy Bingham and George Ray were named in the 18-man squad after overcoming their injuries.
Crewe Alexandra goalkeeper Ben Garratt made his 100th appearance for the club in all competitions.
In windy conditions at the Alexandra Stadium there was a tentative start to the game with both sides struggling to get a real foothold on the game. Crewe had a scare when defender Ben Nugent fell awkwardly on his back after an aerial challenge with the Burton Albion striker Mason Bennett. After some brief treatment the masked man was able to continue.
With the game fairly congested in the centre of the park, the game really did burst into life with the opening goal on 14 minutes. It was a superb passing move from the Alex with full debutant Perry Ng involved early on when the found Brad Inman in a pocket of space.
Inman quickly shifted the ball to the supportive full-back Zoumana Bakayogo and his immediate low cross caused mayhem inside the six yard box. It would have been an own goal by John Mousinho if it wasn’t for the reactions of his goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin but his save deflected back off the rushing Marcus Haber to give him no chance. It was Haber’s 7th goal of the season and arguably one of his easiest.
Nigel Clough’s Brewers also hit back immediately when the powerful Akins raced clear but Garratt read the situation perfectly to leave his line and smother the ball at his feet.
Barely two minutes after Haber’s opening goal, a sloppy pass across midfield from Burton allowed Inman to attack the back four. He glided past Mousinho and forced a smart save from McLaughlin, who had to push it behind for a corner.
From a James Jones free-kick, Tom Hitchcock just couldn’t quite connect properly with a shot on the turn before the visitors began to get move of a foot hold in the game. Robbie Weir continuously found Akins up against youngster NG and on the other side the on-line Mark Duffy was catching the eye with his forward running.
A low cross from Akins only needed a touch at the far post from Bennett before the visitors equalised ten minutes before the half time interval. Nugent flew into a tackle to concede a free-kick and before we really had time to regroup, the free-kick was hastily taken to find Duffy. The winger made good inroads into the last third and he found Akins who had run across NG. The winger shot on the turn and his shot seemed to squeeze past Garratt. The Crewe goalkeeper would have been disappointed not to have done better on his 100th appearance but in fairness, the bodies in front of him may have unsighted him. Either way it was an avoidable goal to concede.
With five minutes to go before the break, a fantastic long ball from Jones found the run of Hitchcock on the edge of the Burton box. The on-loan forward from the MK Dons produced a lovely touch to take it down and away from Mousinho but he fired his shot over the top of the crossbar.
Burton upped it a gear in the second half and Crewe had to survive an early melee inside the box before there was a foul on George Cooper. The pressure did continue on the Crewe goal but with Guthrie assured at the back again and NG impressing on his debut, Burton were finding it difficult to break us down.
Nugent did well to turn away a dangerous looking cross from danger man Duffy before youngster Charlie Kirk replaced Hitchcock. Inman pushed forward to play up with Haber and the switch nearly paid off instantly. From a Jones free-kick, Haber nodded down to Inman but his firm shot was deflected behind for a corner.
Burton made their first switch with Stuart Beavon for Callum Reilly. Duffy continued to the main threat and he forced Garratt into a smart save after cutting across the box and Calum Butcher headed straight at the Crewe goalkeeper from a good position.
Jones was booked for Crewe for on full-back on Phil Edwards and Nugent for kicking the ball away.
A promising move from Crewe down the left hand side ended when Bakayogo over-hit a cross before there was a long delay when Guthrie suffered a head injury after throwing himself into an aerial challenge with Beavon. It would result in an extra 11 minutes of stoppage time. Guthrie was stretched off and had to be replaced by the returning Harry Davis.
With the time running out, Turton, who would claim the sponsors Man-of-the-Match award, pinched the ball off of Duffy’s foot.
Young Kirk was lively and he went close with an controlled shot from the edge of the box. Cooper also nearly sent Inman through but Mousinho read the threat to make an interception.
Burton pressed for a winner and forced a succession of late corners but their genuine chances were limited. Their best chance fell to their late substitute Hamza Choudhury, who moments after replacing Butcher, shot a yard wide after Crewe had failed to clear their lines properly.