Crewe: Garratt, Ng, Davis, Guthrie, Bakayogo (Nugent, 55), Hollands, Jones, Cooper, Ainley (Lowery, 71), Kiwomya, Udoh (Saunders, 81)
Unused Subs: Richards, Kirk, Wintle, Finney
Goals: Kiwomya (16)
Crewe Alexandra slipped to their second home defeat of the season, as league leaders Plymouth Argyle fought back from 1-0 down to claim the three points at the Alexandra Stadium.
Crewe were certainly the better side in the first half and deservedly took the lead after just 16 minutes when winger Alex Kiwoyma fired us into the lead after he was found in behind the Plymouth defence by a splendid pass from midfielder James Jones.
George Cooper had the chance to double our advantage before half-time but Luke McCormick saved his spot kick. It was our second successive penalty miss after Chris Dagnall had his saved away at Grimsby.
That prompted a response from the Pilgrims and they drew level four minutes before the break when Craig Tanner was granted too much space to powerful drive a shot past Ben Garratt.
Crewe were caught out on 74 minutes when the lively substitute Jake Jervis broke away from the Crewe left hand side and his cross to the far post was tucked home at the far post by Graham Carey.
It was hash on the Railwaymen who did enough in the game to have enjoyed a share of the spoils against a side that have now extended their unbeaten run in League Two to 14 games.
With his first choice strike force, Ryan Lowe and Chris Dagnall missing through injury, Steve Davis elected to change the system for the visit of the league leaders.
Crewe lined-up in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Daniel Udoh retained his place as the lone forward with the likes of Callum Ainley, George Cooper and Alex Kiwomya operating behind him. Midfielder James Jones returned from International duty with the Scotland Under-21s in Slovakia to partner Danny Hollands.
Ollie Turton was not quite fit enough to return at right-back, so youngster Perry NG again deputised. With Lowe ruled out with an ankle injury, Harry Davis captained the Crewe side.
Our former captain David Fox lined-up for the visitors this afternoon on his first return to Gresty Road since his departure from us in the summer.
After both sets of supporters impeccably observed a one minute of silence to remember those who have fallen in conflict, the Railwaymen certainly settled the quickest of the two sides.
Some sharp passing from Crewe Alexandra saw NG and James Jones combine down the right hand side to send Cooper free and his firmly struck cross was turned behind for an early corner.
Crewe’s wide men Kiwomya and Cooper began to have more of an influence on the proceedings, but Derek Adams’ side were well drilled and early chances were few and far between.
On the counter attack, Plymouth’s danger man Graham Carey played Ryan Donaldson in behind the Crewe back line and Ben Garratt rushed out to push the ball away from the winger’s boot. If Donaldson’s touch had been better he could well have had a better chance to give the Pilgrims an early lead but he presented Garratt with the chance to leave his line.
Crewe continued to control the better of the first half and the influential Jones nearly slotted Udoh in behind but the wet surface just saw it run beyond him.
A fluent Crewe performance was rewarded with the opening goal on 16 minutes. Some really patient play found James Jones in space and the midfielder hit a wonderful pass with the outside of his boot to find Kiwoyma. The on-loan Chelsea winger cut back before dispatching a terrific shot past Luke McCormick. It was Kiwoyma’s sixth goal of a productive loan spell.
Plymouth tried to hit back but a confident Garratt came to grab a cross from Carey and we continued to defend our penalty area with great conviction.
The visitors were finding it difficult to track our players, who were floating into good pockets of space and turning on their last line of defence and with Udoh working hard up front, it was a really positive performance from the Railwaymen. Donaldson’s frustration got the better of him and he was booked for catching Cooper.
Our former captain Fox did superbly to deny Ainley a clear run on goal with a last ditch tackle that took the ball through to goalkeeper McCormick.
Slew was a threat with his pace and power up against NG and he forced a fingertip save from Garratt with a shot from the edge of the box but there was some debate whether it should have been a corner or not.
An impressive Crewe looked the more likely side to score again and we were presented with a golden opportunity on 36 minutes when Fox tripped Jones inside the penalty area. The referee pointed to the penalty spot, but without the injured Lowe and Dagnall, Cooper stepped forward to take it. Cooper side footed it centrally and McCormick made the save to keep the Pilgrims just the one goal behind.
Cooper didn’t allow the miss to effect him too much and just 60 seconds later, he struck the top of the crossbar after a wonderful solo run from deep. He was extremely unlucky not to make amends almost straight away.
You sensed that the penalty miss would come back to haunt us and so it proved on 41 minutes when Craig Tanner unleashed a powerful drive past Garratt from the edge of the box after Crewe didn’t quite get close enough to them as they kept possession in and around our penalty area.
Plymouth improved in the second half and Carey grew in confidence. He shot just wide of the mark early on and Tanner had volley deflected wide for a corner. From the resultant set play, Cooper had to be on hand to clear Tanner’s well struck shot away from the line.
Zoumana Bakayogo was forced off with a hamstring injury and that saw Ben Nugent come on and Jon Guthrie move to left-back.
Carey continued to be a menace to the Crewe defence and his low cross only needed a touch from James Spencer but he was put off by the presence of Davis.
Cooper tried to get us going and a forceful run saw him win a free-kick on the edge of the Plymouth box. He struck his free-kick against the first man and from the resulting corner, McCormick came to punch clear.
Plymouth introduced substitute Jake Jervis for Slew and the visitors pressed forward looking to go ahead. Fox drilled a shot just wide of the before a half chance wouldn’t quite drop for Ainley to strike after Udoh had nodded down a Kiwomya cross.
The final ball was just lacking at time from the Alex and we over-hit far too many crosses or were to close to McCormick.
The decisive goal came on 74 minutes when the pacy Jervis was granted far too much space down our left hand side and his final cross evaded everyone until it reached Carey at the far post and he made no mistake. It was a disappointing goal to concede from a Crewe point of view because both full-backs were out of the equation and Nugent was forced into a wide area to try and cut out the cross.
In a quest to get back into a really entertaining game, Cooper fired against the legs of the Plymouth goalkeeper before the fresh legs of Lowery and Saunders were introduced for Ainley and Udoh.
The Crewe management pushed Nugent forward and used his height effectively. He won a header to nearly find Saunders through on goal and Cooper fired a free-kick just over the crossbar as we chased a point. Kiwomya also had shot blocked after more good work between Nugent and Saunders.
Plymouth on the break were a real threat though and Donaldson whistled one just wide of the target and sub David Goodwillie fired over in stoppage time, although he did appear offside when he received possession some 30 yards from goal.