Nicholls on target as final pre-season game ends in draw.
Crewe Alexandra completed their pre-season programme with a deserved 1-1 draw with League One Blackpool At Gresty Road. Summer signing Alex Nicholls netted his first goal of pre-season on his ‘home debut’ to cancel out Chris Taylor’s early opener for Blackpool.
Nicholls also went closest to winning our final pre-season friendly when his header struck the underside of the Blackpool crossbar in the second half.
With the opening game against Morecambe coming next week, as expected David Artell named a strong looking side in readiness for the seasonal opener.
Goalkeeper Dave Richards played the 90 minutes for Crewe Alexandra as David Artell prepares to nail his mast for the number one spot next week.
With midfielder James Jones struggling with a hamstring injury and unable to train for a part of the week, he started on the substitutes’ bench.
Forward Shaun Miller is currently ruled out with a knee injury, but it is still hoped he could yet be involved next week against the Shrimps. In his absence, Jordan Bowery partnered Alex Nicholls up front.
Gary Bowyer’s Blackpool side included our former player Ollie Turton starting and Max Clayton in reserve.
The visitors settled quickly and after Harry Pritchard shot a yard wide of the target, they took the lead after just eight minutes. The robust striker, Joe Dodoo, did well in the initial build up to find Chris Taylor and he bend a superb shot into Richards’ top corner. It was a terrific shot that gave the Crewe stopper no chance.
Blackpool continued to be on the front foot and the lively Pritchard had another shot blocked by Ng as they threatened to extend their lead early on.
Richards was then forced into a smart save to deny Dodoo after the forward had cut in from the right hand side. The Alex goalkeeper got down well to turn it around for a corner. From the resultant corner, Michael Nottingham literally grew in the air and his towering header was eventually forced away.
After a slow start to the proceedings, Crewe grew more into the half. Jordan Bowery headed at Mark Howard after he was picked our wonderfully well by Harry Pickering from the left hand side.
Bowery then took one under control and cut back to leave his man in his wake. His low shot was saved by Howard and then both Ainley and Nicholls were denied by blocks. It was clearly our best opening of the half and really should have resulted in the equaliser.
Nicholls and Bowery continued to put a shift in to occupy the three man Blackpool back line and Nicholls had a smart turn and shot that deserved better.
Our best moment of football in the half, saw Ng venture forward down the Blackpool left. Ainley produced a deft little flick that eventually found its way to Bowery but his curling effort was always rising to clear the crossbar. It was a fantastic move from Crewe that drew warm applause from the supporters.
Nolan did well to get his head onto a dangerous cross and divert it over the bar. At the other end, Ng had a fierce drive blocked at a corner before Ainley was presented with a clear chance after being slipped in fantastically well by Nicholls. Ainley chose to pass across to an offside Kirk rather than shoot himself and the assistant referee’s flag ended our hopes of levelling up before the interval.
We didn’t have to wait long though for the equaliser. It arrived on 51 minutes. Some good football involving Kirk, Pickering and Wintle led to Kirk lobbing the ball behind the Blackpool back line and after Nick Anderton sliced his clearance into the air, Nicholls took full advantage to nip in and slide the ball past Howard for his first goal for his new club. He had read the situation well to finish calmly.
Captain George Ray made a timely interception to deny the Blackpool sub Nathan Delfonso a clear run at our goal before it was hearts in mouth time as Turton caught the back of Pickering’s ankle but he was fine to continue after running it off.
After Delfonso had evaded a challenge from Nolan, he raced through on goal and attempted to lift it over the onrushing Richards but the Crewe goalkeeper had it read his intentions and he spread himself to make another decent save to keep it 1-1.
To their credit, both sides tried to win it. Nicholls fed Bowery through on goal and his powerful drive hit Howard and from the rebound Ng couldn’t keep his effort down.
Crewe came closest to winning the game when Ainley produced the cross of the match to find Nicholls and he did wonderfully well to direct his header on target only to see it strike the underside of the crossbar. Howard may have got a touch on it as it bounced down behind him and it was eventually hooked away from danger.
There were run outs for Lowery, Porter and Jones for Kirk, Green and Bowery, as Artell freshened things up in the closing stages.
With time running out Turton did well again to deny Pickering a possible run on goal after a clever pass from Ainley and Blackpool’s best chance late on fell to sub Armand Gnanduillet but he dragged his shot wastefully wide of the mark.
Crewe: Richards, Ng, Pickering, Ray, Nolan, Green (Jones), Kirk (Lowery) Ainley, Wintle, Nicholls, Bowery (Porter)