John Sheridan’s arrival at Oldham has certainly made the Latics harder to beat and another 1-0 win saw our North West rivals safeguard their League One status for next season – but the result summed up our season perfectly because the home side’s goalkeeper Joel Coleman was their star performer on the day.
The busier Oldham stopper had to tip over a header from Marcus Haber and he also had to deny the big Canadian from close range after Zoumana Bakayogo’s low cross had found him.
Coleman also denied the recalled Callum Saunders in a one-v-one situation just minutes before the interval and he pulled off the save of the afternoon to deny the Alex substitute Brad Inman.
Crewe were left to rue missed chances again as Jonathan Forte’s hooked shot hit both posts to beat Ben Garratt just before the hour mark. How Crewe didn't end up with anything from the game is anyone's guess, as we were the better side for large parts of it - but its goals which count.
Steve Davis made two changes to the side that forced the late draw against Colchester United on Tuesday evening. Callum Saunders, whose late header against the U’s salvaged a point for the Alex, was rewarded with a start at Boundary Park.
The other change saw Billy Bingham return to the starting line-up in midfield with Ben Nugent and Callum Ainley dropping back down to the bench. Zoumana Bakayogo returned to the left back berth with Jon Guthrie back at centre-half to compensate for Nugent. Brad Inman returned to the Crewe squad after overcoming his recent ankle injury.
A bright start from the Alex saw the overlapping Bakayogo force a corner on the left hand side after his cross was cut out by Anthony Gerrard. James Jones’ accurate delivery found the head of Marcus Haber, whose downward header bounced just wide of Joel Coleman’s right hand post.
Oldham’s first opportunity arrived just after the fifth minute mark but Timothee Dieng’s curling shot from outside of the box was comfortably collected by Ben Garratt.
A lovely pirouette in the centre of the pitch from Billy Bingham took him in between two opponents but his eventual shot from distance lacked the power to trouble Coleman. Crewe continued to pass the ball with real purpose and conviction. Another flowing passing move saw Charlie Kirk feed Bakayogo and his low cross into the six yard box was side-footed on goal by Haber, but the alert Coleman was right on top of him to make a fine save.
Almost immediately, some fine wing play from Jonathan Forte allowed him to pass George Ray and clip a tempting cross to the far post. It was a tricky position for striker Curtis Main to volley goalwards and understandably from an acute angle, he couldn’t direct it to trouble Garratt.
From another well worked corner, taken by Jones, Haber stole a yard on Gerrard to meet it firmly with his head but the busy Coleman did exceedingly well to tip it over his crossbar. Haber was proving an immense handful to the Oldham back line, most notably at set-pieces.
Although Crewe were comfortably on top, possession wise, a loose pass off Haber did put Crewe on the back foot and the experienced Lee Croft battered his shot against Guthrie from 20 yards. Ray was also booked for a collision with Forte as Oldham aimed to hit Crewe on the break through Croft and then Main.
Saunders was presented with a gift to give Crewe the lead on 40 minutes. A loose back header from Brian Wilson didn’t have enough on it to take it through to his goalkeeper and Saunders read it perfectly to race in behind. The Wales Under-21 striker composed himself and looked to slide it past Coleman but the Oldham goalkeeper spread himself to save with an outstretched foot.
Oldham’s best chance of the first half saw their captain Liam Kelly drive a shot just past Garratt’s right hand post. That late effort seemed to spur the home side into a late finale and in stoppage time, the Crewe number one was called upon to make his first meaningful save when saving from Main, who caught a flick on from Kelly fully on the volley.
Saunders won an instant corner from Wilson and with Oldham failing to clear Bingham’s delivery from the left hand side, a melee occurred in front of goalkeeper Coleman before he punched clear ahead of Haber. Some more good play from Jones and Fox freed Kirk in the centre of the pitch but the youngster couldn’t keep his shot from 30 yards down enough.
Gerrard also did well to beat Haber in the air after Kirk had provided a cheeky chip to the far post and his defensive partner Kelly had to react to cut out a dangerous looking cross from Saunders aimed for the Canadian striker.
At the beginning of the second half, Crewe still looked the most likely side to score the opening goal and after a clever pass from Fox, Jones thumped his shot into the side netting.
As has happened so many times this season, our failure to convert a chance would eventually see us fall behind on 59 minutes. Dieng provided the cross from the Crewe right hand side and a slight slip from Ray allowed Forte to hook a shot goalwards. His shot struck the post and seemed to take an age before it crossed the line after hitting the opposite post.
Two minutes later and it was nearly 2-0 with Main’s effort clipping the Crewe woodwork. Garratt may have applied a decisive touch to divert it over.
Croft limped off on 68 minutes after picking up a knock whilst tracking Bingham into the Oldham penalty area and he had to be replaced by Carl Winchester. Crewe also made a change with Inman replacing Saunders. Inman produced a stunning curling shot from the edge of the box that drew a fantastic one handed save from the impressive Coleman.
Another double substitution from both managers saw Dominic Poleman replace goal scorer Forte for the Latics and Callum Ainley come on for Bingham. Turton was booked for a trip on Holmes-Dennis.
A probing run from Guthrie saw him feed Inman inside the box again and his sharp turn allowed him to get a shot off but it was just wide of the target.
Crewe kept going to the final whistle and Inman was again denied by Coleman late on. Then in stoppage time, Garratt produced an outstanding save to deny Poleon with a fabulous tip over the bar.