Crewe: Richards, Ng, Nolan, Walker, Pickering, Grant, Ainley, Cooper, Porter, Dagnall, Bowery
Unused Subs: Garratt, Stubbs, Bakayogo, Finney, Lundstram, Kirk, Reilly
Goals: Porter (14), Bowery (55)
Attendance: 2,221 (413)
On the club’s first ever trip to the New Lawn ended in a stoppage time defeat as Forest Green Roves kept up their recent run of good form after Alex Iacovitti turned home a 92nd minute corner. Crewe had twice led in the game thanks to goals from Chris Porter and Jordan Bowery but we couldn’t hold onto the advantage and credit must go to Mark Cooper’s side who showed a great spirit to go and snatch the three points.
How David Artell lifts his Alex players from another late defeat is anyone’s guess but he won’t be happy that the winner came from a set-play with less than 60 seconds remaining.
Crewe Alexandra travelled to the New Lawn without injured centre-half Michael Raynes and midfielder Tommy Lowery. Raynes was ruled out with a groin problem, while Lowery aggravated his hamstring in training during the week.
David Artell recalled Eddie Nolan and Chris Porter and reshuffled his tactics to see the Railwaymen line-up in a 4-3-3 formation with Callum Ainley playing in a more central midfield position alongside George Cooper and Conor Grant.
Despite the soaking conditions at kick-off, it was evident that both sides were eager to get the ball down and pass the ball. Both had periods of possession without penetrating too much in the early exchanges.
George Cooper was presented with an early half chance in the fifth minute but it turned into more of a block tackle and rebound off the Crewe youngster more than anything.
Forest Green Rovers had an early free-kick after Eddie Nolan was adjusted to have fouled some 30 yards from the Crewe goal but Keanu Marsh-Brown’s ambitious effort didn’t pass the Crewe wall and after the ricochet had entered the penalty area it was cleared from danger.
There wasn’t much in the game until Crewe opened the scoring after 14 minutes. Perry Ng’s initial cross was cut out but the ball found its way back out to Cooper and he whipped over a delicious cross for Porter to head home his 7th goal of the season - his first in 15 games. It was a wonderfully crafted ball from Cooper and Porter bravely put his head on it to flash it past Bradley Collins in the Forest Green Rovers goal.
Despite going behind, Mark Cooper’s side didn’t alter their style of play and they continued to pass and move all over the pitch – but a lot of what they were doing was in front of the Crewe back-line and our holding midfield players.
Crewe continued to work hard to restrict Forest Green as an attacking force with everyone putting a shift in. Crewe’s shape was excellent.
Captain Chris Dagnall set the example, often deployed deeper behind the other three Crewe forward thinking players, but he was marshalling their link-man Drissa Traore extremely well. When we pinched possession back, we were quick to look to hit them on the counter attack.
Crewe managed to get in behind twice with both Porter and then full-back Pickering providing dangerous crosses but they just evaded a red shirt.
On the half an hour mark, Dagnall went awfully close to making it 2-0 following another superb cross from Cooper. On this occasion, Collins did well to get a glove on it to divert it away from the Crewe forward and frustratingly there was no-one following up for the inviting rebound.
From a Forest Green free-kick, the ball dropped invitingly to Marsh-Brown at the far post but Ng read the situation and got across to make a substantial block on it.
On 35 minutes, Crewe were presented with an opportunity from a central position but Cooper’s effort struck the wall and hit Bowery before spinning behind for a goal kick.
Traore did get free a few minutes later but his well struck shot from 25 yards was seen and well held by Richards. Some more good play from the home side then saw full-back Dale Bennett feed the ball into Marsh-Brown to curl his first time shot over the top of the Crewe crossbar.
Crewe looked to be heading into the interval ahead but in the 44th minute, the home side produced a cross from the right from Bennett and after Scott Laird’s shot was wayward, it fell for Christian Doidge, who lashed his shot into the roof of the net. The Alex players were quick to protest over a potential offside that never came and we went in at the break all square.
The second half started in a similar pattern of play with Forest Green Rovers enjoying the possession but Crewe looking more of a threat going forward. Cooper clipped another tempting cross into the box and it enticed Collins from his line. Porter was always favourite to get his head on it and with the Forest Green Rovers goalkeeper completely out of the equation, Porter was unlucky to see his flick clear the post.
At the other end, the wet surface played havoc with footing and Marsh-Brown complained about being fouled but it was quite clear he had slipped.
Ten minutes into the second half, Crewe’s early pressure paid off. Cooper was again involved, and his deep cross to the far post was headed back by Ng and Bowery was in there to turn it home past Collins and a couple of defenders close to the line. Cue a mass celebration behind that particular goal after the hosts had kindly opened part of the stand for the Crewe supporters, so they could escape the incessant showers.
The first change of the afternoon was from the home with Laird making way for Dan Wilshart. Moments later there was a flair up between Dagnall and Marsh-Brown that threatened to spill over but the referee, to his credit, calmed the situation down and both players escaped punishment.
Great play between Cooper and Ng saw the full-back slip in behind and he did everything right as he reached the by-line. His low cross only needed a touch to cause real danger.
Traore was cautioned for a trip on Grant and from the resultant free-kick, Walker thumped one straight down the middle and it had to be well held by Collins. As the keeper tried to rush his clearance, he was impeded by Dagnall and the Crewe captain was booked.
Forest Green enjoyed some good pressure and we had a let off on 69 minutes when a wayward header fell to Marsh-Brown but his low shot was blocked and deflected behind for a corner.
The home side made their second change with Marsh-Brown with Omar Bugiel replacing him. A shot from Reece Brown was wide but if the substitute Bugiel had managed to apply a touch then he could have diverted it goalwards. Richards also did well to dive on a low cross as it flashed across his six-yard box.
Forest Green’s final change saw Manny Monthe replace the excellent Traore. Monthe’s first real contribution saw him ping a powerful cross over that Doidge did well to stretch to reach and turn against the post. In the second phase of play, Brown put the ball back across the box and Doidge had reacted first to turn it home from close range. There were seven minutes remaining on the clock.
The game was on a real knife edge and Crewe were a bit fortunate to see Doidge direct a header through to Richards as they pressed for a late winner. As the game entered stoppage time, Crewe had to stand firm at a corner but after a mass melee in front of Richards, the ball rebounded off the post again and there was Iacovitti to turn it home for a late, dramatic winner. It was heart breaking for Crewe Alexandra again. The defeat leaves us third from bottom.