Ainley on as a sub scores twice to give Crewe a fantastic win at Field Mill.
Crewe: Garratt, Ng (c), Hunt, Nolan, Taylor-Sinclair, Wintle, Green, Jones (Ainley, 63), Finney (Lowery, 81), Porter, Bowery (Miller, 81)
Unused Subs: Jaaskelainen, Dale, Kirk, Nicholls
Goals: Ainley (71, 84)
Attendance: 4,675 (247 Crewe)
Callum Ainley came off the substitutes’ bench this afternoon to score a finely taken brace and in the process derail Mansfield’s automatic promotion hopes. Ainley finished off two Crewe moves to see us really build on our emphatic 6-1 win over Crawley Town last weekend. Mansfield, who were third at the start of the day, set up a grandstand finish with Krystian Pearce forcing an injury time corner home.
David Artell had dubbed the game a ‘big one’ for both clubs and his game plan was executed in perfect fashion by his well-organised and hard working Crewe side. Ainley was the match winner with his two goals but centre-halves, Nicky Hunt and Eddie Nolan were excellent and helped us limit Mansfield’s genuine chances in the game until that injury time lifeline.
David Artell made two changes from the side that emphatically won 6-1 at home to Crawley Town last weekend. The on-loan Aaron Taylor Sinclair made his first start for the club at left-back ahead of Harry Pickering, who has been struggling with a groin problem.
Midfielder James Jones was also recalled after he was only a second half substitute against Crawley. Jones retuned to the team ahead of Charlie Kirk.
There was a change on the substitutes’ bench with young goalkeeper Will Jaaskelanien coming in for the injured Dave Richards, who is set to undergo a shoulder operation next week.
Perry Ng once again captained the Railwaymen in the absence of the suspended George Ray.
The former Crewe Alexandra loanee striker Nicky Ajose started on the bench for the promotion hunting Stags.
Both sides quickly got in their stride of wanting to pass the ball and it was pleasing on the eye. Crewe lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with Jones on the right and Finney on the left to compensate for the willingness of the Mansfield full-backs to break forward. Crewe did a fine containment job in the opening 10 minutes of play. Genuine chances were limited and neither goalkeeper had much to do.
Ng broke forward in the 12th minute and his deep cross was tempting but neither Porter nor Finney could quite make enough ground to turn it into an opening. Ng also had a driven shot from the edge of the box, blocked by Jacob Mellis.
In reply, Bishop nodded a straight forward corner into the well placed Garratt inside his own six-yard box. From one of the following corners on 23 minutes, Mansfield’s Matt Preston caught his shot at the far post superbly on the volley. His powerful drive hit Paul Green, who was guarding the post and deflected behind for a corner. The Mansfield players overly protested that it hit Green’s hand but the well placed referee waved away the appeals.
Crewe conjured up a fine move just after the half an hour mark with Jones playing one around the corner to find Porter. Although Jones had been fouled in the initial contact, the referee let he game flow and Porter’s deft touch found Bowery but he curled his shot straight at Jordan Smith in the Mansfield goal.
The game continued to be disrupted by petty and soft fouls but Crewe’s game plan was working well. Ng was booked though for a deliberate foul on Mellis as Mansfield threatened to break on the counter-attack.
A swift break from the home side saw Tyler Walker find CJ Hamilton in space down the Crewe left hand side but his return ball across the box was just too far for the-form striker. Almost immediately, Crewe again opened up the Mansfield defence with Bowery and Green exchanging passes to get beyond Preston but Green’s low drive aimed for the far post drifted just wide. It was a good move and a good chance.
With the game opening up a little, Ben Garratt then had to rely on his captain Perry Ng to produce a goalline clearance after his goalkeeper had advanced from his goal to come and punch clear. He was under pressure and didn’t get enough on it and Ng had to hook Mellis’ shot on target away from danger.
Crewe had to survive an injury time corner to make sure we went in level at the break and Garratt did well to push clear under severe pressure.
Our former forward Ajose was introduced at half time for Gethin Jones. That prompted a change with CJ Hamilton moving to the right wing back position. Ajose had almost immediately introduced to a decent chance after Walker broke down the Crewe left hand side to cross to the far post, but the forward made a mess of his diving header and it flew past him without him making a connection Knowing Ajose as we do, it was a surprise that Ajose didn’t get something on it to test Garratt.
Out of nowhere there was a flare up between Paul Green and Bishop and after an ugly confrontation both players were booked. It hadn’t been that saw of game at all but Green was clearly aggrieved with Bishop’s reaction in falling to the floor.
Preston soon joined them after going through the back of Porter. He got the player rather than the ball and I was the correct decision. He was also right to book Eddie Nolan after he pulled Taylor to the floor as he threatened to take advantage of a deflection falling into his path. Benning bend the resultant free-kick wide of Garratt’s left hand post.
Krystian Pearce became the next player to be booked for fouling Bowery after he had skipped past him.
Just after the hour mark, a great passing move saw Finney slip Bowery in behind but he couldn’t bring back his curling effort and it sailed wide of the far post. There were still chances in the game.
Ainley replaced Jones for Crewe and McDonald came on for Grant. Jones had done a sterling job in a wider role this afternoon.
The lively Ajose then raced into space behind the Crewe back line and it looked as though his ambitious shot was tipped over by Garratt but the referee didn’t award it. He did spot a necessary flick from Hunt on the next cross going into our box.
Taylor-Sinclair was booked for catching Ajose after he had controlled it and skipped away from him.
With 19 minutes to go, Crewe finally broke the deadlock. Bowery put the burners on down the left wing to burst past Bishop and Preston and he found the supportive Taylor-Sinclair. He kept position well to find Green infield and the ball was played into a crowded box. Finney got a touch before it fell to Ainley. The ball seemed to be trapped under his feet but he was persistent enough to get it out and drill it past Smith. The substitute had made the perfect impact and now Mansfield were really chasing the game.
The Stags had a good opportunity to draw level soon after but Mellis lost his footing as he shot and it sailed harmlessly over the crossbar. David Flitcroft’s last change saw Otis Kahn replaced Benning.
With 10 minutes remaining, Artell introduced the fresh legs of Miller and Lowery for Bowery and Finney.
The fresh impetus worked a treat, Lowery nipped the ball off an indecisive Pearce and raced towards the Mansfield penalty area. He waited to release the perfect ball to the supporting Ainley and he drilled home his second goal of the afternoon with seven minutes remaining.
Crewe played keep ball really well for a while before Mansfield gave themselves a lifeline at a corner. After Bishop’s shot was deflected for a corner, they literally bundled the ball home through their captain Pearce at the foot of the post.
Crewe saw the remaining time left out really well.