Crewe: Garratt, Turton, Davis, Guthrie, Bakayogo, Jones, Bingham, Cooper, Kiwomya (Udoh, 81), Kirk (Ainley, 66), Dagnall
Unused Subs: Richards, Ray, Nugent, Saunders, Hollands
Attendance: 3,471 (157)
Crewe Alexandra ended 2016 with a home defeat to John Coleman’s Accrington Stanley. Striker Billy Kee headed the only goal of the game a couple of minutes before the half-time interval to condemn Crewe Alexandra to a disappointing loss.
Crewe made a mess of the winning goal too with goalkeeper Ben Garratt and George Cooper seemingly leaving it to each other and then not reacting effectively and the ball somehow crossed the line at the foot of the post. It was an awful goal to concede and summed up a game that sadly never hit the heights of our performance against Carlisle on Boxing Day.
Crewe did have enough chances to have picked up something from the game but Chris Dagnall and George Cooper couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities.
Captain Ryan Lowe still was unable to return to action due a hamstring strain, Crewe remained unchanged for the visit of Accrington Stanley.
Youngster Charlie Kirk retained his place after his fine performance in a free role against Carlisle United on Boxing Day. Kirk operated behind Chris Dagnall with George Cooper and Alex Kiwomya playing in the wide areas.
Billy Bingham kept his place in central midfield ahead of the more experienced Danny Hollands. Callum Saunders returned to the squad of 18 ahead of fellow youngster Tom Lowery.
Clearly boosted by our Boxing Day display against Carlisle, Crewe Alexandra started confidently and settled into a fluent passing game that saw Bingham fire over early on and then have a shot blocked.
Crewe’s clearest opportunity in the early exchanges saw Turton provide a tempting cross across the six yard box but the rushing Dagnall could just not provide a sufficient touch to give us an early lead.
A John Coleman side is always well organised, well drilled and hard-working and that work ethic and pressing placed the Crewe players under great pressure when on the ball. They were working hard to contain us and it became a midfield battle for supremacy.
In response, Accrington Stanley nearly take full advantage of a slip from Garratt but Seamus McCarten could only slide his shot into the side netting. Crewe also needed a fine clearance from Jones close to the line as the visitors began to impose themselves in the game.
A busy McCarten then volleyed one over the top from a left hand corner before Zak Vyner headed another set-piece onto the top of the netting. Kee also went close with a free header after he found some room at the near post.
The diligent Dagnall snatched at a shot after a mistake in the Accrington back line before Garratt was forced into a fingertip save after a well struck free kick from McCarten had taken a deflection in front of the Crewe goalkeeper.
Crewe continued to press forward and became eager to provide crosses into the opposition penalty area, but nothing was quite dropping in our favour for that decisive break through.
The on-loan Kiwomya went close after racing onto a fine pass from Kirk but after being forced wide by the onrushing Accrington goalkeeper Aaron Chapman, he couldn’t quite slide his shot home. To be fair it was from a very acute angle.
Cooper, who netted a free-kick against Carlisle on Boxing Day had another opportunity from a set play after Janoi Donacien was cautioned for wrestling Dagnall. On this occasion, Cooper struck the stubborn Accrington wall. Cooper also produced some magic close to the by-line and it needed a superb clearance from Vyner to deny us the opener.
From the resulting corner, captain Davis found some room inside the box but he couldn’t direct his header on target.
Accrington always looked a threat from corners and they made that tell in the 43rd minute to take the lead, but the Alex goalkeeper Ben Garratt will be bitterly disappointed to have allowed Kee’s tame header slip away from him. Kee did well again to use his body strength to get his head to the corner but his effort was not particularly powerful and it seemed as though Garratt and Cooper, stood on the post, both left it to each other and by the time he had reacted, the Crewe goalkeeper had not set himself properly and he seemed to fumble it over the line.
It could have been even worse for Crewe as the first half entered stoppage time but captain Seamus Conneely saw his fierce shot took a necessary deflection to take it wide. If it hadn’t, it would have been asking another question of Garratt.
The second period started with the lively Kee trying to wriggle free inside the penalty box but he was crowded out and Guthrie was able to clear.
Crewe did get themselves into some good positions but Kiwomya just went over the by-line after a promising run and then Cooper’s delivery wasn’t quite right after he found some space down the left hand side of the pitch. It was crying out for some quality.
Dagnall became more isolated and Accrington were contend to kill time and turn it into an aerial midfield battle.
Crewe did have an excellent chance to draw level when a superb pass from Turton found Cooper in behind the Accrington back line but he shot against the legs of Chapman.
Steve Davis made a change with Kirk making way for Ainley and the youngster started brightly, chasing down his own header after he had won it but Chapman rushed out to deny him.
At the other end, Jon O’Sullivan stoke in behind Zoumana Bakayogo but he couldn’t direct his header on target when he should have.
Crewe continued to press looking for an equaliser and Cooper again had a chance to draw us level. A fine move saw Dagnall find Ainley and after his shot was pushed away by Chapman, Cooper could only steer the rebound into the side netting.
Kee dragged a shot wide of the mark as the visitors looked to seal the points before Udoh replaced Kiwoyma for the closing stages but he never had a chance in front of goal.
Crewe huffed and puffed but couldn’t conjure up that real genuine chance again and the final points of the year were lost.
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