Crewe Alexandra’s disappointing season ended in a 2-0 defeat at Fleetwood Town this afternoon - a result that saw Steven Pressley’s side safeguard their League One status. They looked after their side of the bargain with Blackpool’s defeat at Peterborough not really mattering in the end.
After making a reasonable start to the final game of the campaign, Crewe were blown away in a five-minute spell in the first half which saw Bobby Grant unleash a spectacular opener on 20 minutes that nestled in the Crewe net after being struck beautifully from 25 yards. Devante Cole doubled the advantage on 25 minutes when he was in the right place at the right time to guide home a cross from David Ball.
Crewe’s genuine chances were limited throughout the 90 minute but defenders Ollie Turton and Zoumana Bakayogo both had good efforts which could have increased the anxiety on the Fleetwood terraces. Substitute Daniel Udoh was denied his first goal for the club late on when he was denied superbly by Chris Maxwell, who turned his goal bound effort behind for a corner.
Steve Davis made three changes for the final game of the season at Fleetwood’s Highbury Stadium. Charlie Kirk returned to the starting line-up and the fit-again Bradden Inman started following his impact as a late substitute against Doncaster Rovers last weekend when he scored the third goal in a 3-1 win. The other change saw George Ray partner Jon Guthrie in central defence due to Harry Davis’ knee injury.
Ollie Turton flew into an early tackle on winger Stefan Scougall which resulted in him being cautioned after just two of minutes of play. From the resultant free-kick, the ball was worked out to wide man Bobby Grant and his deep cross was headed over the Crewe crossbar by Devante Cole.
After a lovely piece of skill from young Ainley the Fleetwood midfielder Eggert Jonsson became the second player to be booked for pulling him back. Crewe made good use of the free-kick with Kirk’s floating cross, tempting the advance Guthrie to challenge the Fleetwood goalkeeper Chris Maxwell. There was just enough of a touch from his glove to divert it behind for a corner.
Moments later, Nathan Pond showed great strength to hold off the intentions of Marcus Haber after he was slipped through on goal by the impressing Ainley. Pond applied enough pressure to ease Haber away from the ball and it travelled through to Maxwell.
On 15 minutes, Fleetwood created their best chance of the opening period with Grant drilling a low shot that was cleared superbly well by the covering Ray. The shot appeared to have beaten Garratt so Ray’s timely intervention saved a certain goal. Grant also curled a free-kick straight at Garratt after Guthrie had given away a soft free-kick some 25 yards from our goal.
Grant was emerging as the main threat to Crewe and he duly opened the scoring on 20 minutes with a thunderbolt of a strike. Garratt cleared an initial corner with a strong punch but Grant collected possession on Crewe’s right hand side of the pitch and he looked up before unleashing a swerving shot that struck the underside of the bar before nestling in the Crewe net. It was some strike and it almost instantly increased the confidence in the home side.
It really have should 2-0 just moments later but Cole somehow failed to convert David Ball’s low cross at the far post. The son of the former Newcastle and Manchester United striker, Andy Cole, couldn’t believe that he didn’t apply a decisive touch to tap into an empty net.
To his great credit, Cole was in the right place again on 25 minutes though to guide another cross from Ball into the Crewe net. He was perfectly placed to just guide it beyond a helpless Garratt and any nerves Fleetwood were feeling with the news that Blackpool had taken the lead at Peterborough were quickly beginning to subside. Crewe, who had started reasonably well had faced a whirlwind of pressure and conceded twice in a frantic five minute spell.
A bizarre deflection off of Inman nearly caught out Maxwell as the Railwaymen tried to get themselves back into the contest before Ainley saw a powerful drive deflected over for a corner. From the corner, Haber found some adequate space at the far post but didn’t approach it with enough conviction to make it into a really genuine opportunity. It was if he was caught in two minds whether to head it or wait for it to drop.
On 36 minutes, Zoumana Bakayogo produced a powerful run from left-back but he elected to shoot at Maxwell rather than look to pick someone out inside the box. A minute later, Grant’s probing run saw him draw a save from Garratt and before the Crewe defence had time to react, Ball had poked the rebound just wide of the unguarded net.
Just before half time, a really good move from the Alex saw Ainley clip a ball to the far post and Haber did exceedingly well to head it with direction towards Inman. He was only foiled by a superb challenge by Pond, who threw himself in front of the shot.
In the opening minute of the second half, a twist and turn from Ball gave him a yard of space inside the Crewe box but he miss-hit his shot behind under pressure from Ray.
In reply, some really tenacious play from Turton saw him win possession in the corner of the Fleetwood box before he thumped a shot a yard side of the target.
Just before the hour mark, both managers made a change with Callum Saunders replacing Haber and Danny Andrew coming on for Ball for the home side.
Cole had a golden opportunity to put the game completely to bed after he was slipped in behind Ray thanks to an excellent run and pass from Scougall. Cole slipped the ball past Garratt but just wide of the far post.
Bobby Grant was replaced by Victor Nirrenhold before Steve Davis introduced Daniel Udoh for Ainley.
Following a searching pass from Bingham, a loose header from Pond fell to Bakayogo, who with his outside of his foot curled his effort around Maxwell but just wide. It was a tremendous effort and was arguably as close as we had been all afternoon to scoring.
Fleetwood’s final change on the afternoon saw young Ashley Hunter replace Cole. That was soon followed by George Cooper replacing Kirk. Cooper’s first involvement saw him escape Jonsson in the centre of the pitch and his trip on the Crewe youngster really should have resulted in a second booking. Jonsson was extremely lucky to be let off by referee Adcock.
With Blackpool losing their grip on their League One status away at Peterborough, the final quarter of the game was seen out in a real carnival atmosphere for the home side. Crewe continued to press forward looking for a late consolation goal but other than a stunning save from Maxwell to deny Udoh his first goal for the club, it never arrived.