Goals from Williams and Powell see Crewe beaten on the road at Northampton.
Crewe: Garratt, Whelan (Nolan, 45), Ng, Ray (c), Pickering, Wintle, Finney, Kirk (Nicholls, 74), Ainley, Bowery (Porter, 45), Miller
Unused Subs: Richards, Raynes, O'Connor, Hunt
Attendance: 5,041 (309 Crewe)
Crewe Alexandra suffered their second defeat in a week after goals in each half from Andy Williams and impact substitute Danny Powell kept Northampton Town's revival under Keith Curle going. The Cobblers are on a good run of five wins out of six in all competitions, while Crewe's mini-run on the road ended this afternoon as we failed to produce the level of performance we showed at Yeovil in our last outing.
The closest we came to finding a goal came when Callum Ainley's effort just after Powell had made it 2-0 struck the underside of the bar.
Crewe, although vastly improving with a more positive second half display, didn't create enough real, genuine chances to perhaps alter the destination of the points. We will also be annoyed with the goals conceded at the Sixfields Stadium, as our own mistakes were punished.
David Artell, was forced into one change from the side that lost 3-0 to Mansfield Town on Tuesday evening. Midfielder James Jones was ruled out with a slight hamstring injury, so Oli Finney was handed his first league start of the season. The Staffordshire-born midfielder’s only previous start was against Manchester City Under-21s in the Checkatrade Trophy.
There was a recall in the travelling squad for defender Eddie Nolan, who successfully came through 90 minutes for the club’s Under-23s at Sheffield United earlier in the week. Nolan had been ruled out since injuring his calf muscle against Cheshire rivals Macclesfield Town.
The former Academy graduate Billy Waters started on the substitutes’ bench for Keith Curle’s side.
Ahead of the kick-off at the Sixfields Stadium there was an impeccably held one minute of silence to remember the fallen servicemen and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in conflict.
Football also united to remember the loss of life at the King Power Stadium, Leicester, last Saturday night.
The match needed a spell to settle down into any sort of rhythm and quality with both sides aiming to expose mistakes rather than crafting out a moment of real invention in the final third.
Ng cut out an early cross from Sam Hoskins and Ben Garratt collected an early looping lob without any drama.
Shaun Miller had Crewe’s first sight at David Cornell’s goal but he flashed his shot wide of the mark from a really tight angle. It was a difficult opportunity that would have needed some execution to have found the back of the net.
From a well worked corner routine, taken by Kirk on the right, he sent it in low to find Ng but he couldn’t quite keep it down enough to register an effort on target.
Northampton’s most promising break of the early exchanges saw Kevin Van Veen lift a cross to the far post but the jumping Hoskins could only head over and wide of Garratt’s left hand post.
The wind wasn’t exactly helping the game as a spectacle and Crewe needed to get the ball down as much as possible to start having a significant impact on the game in an attacking sense. Saying that the playing surface looked a bit bobbly and was contributing to the mistakes in possession for both sides.
Northampton opened the scoring on 18 minutes and from a Crewe point of view it was a really scrappy one to concede. Under pressure Finney played a blind pass across the midfield and after Ray had gone to ground in an attempt to win the ball back, Kevin Van Veen was allowed to race through the heart of the Crewe defence and he beat the onrushing Garratt to the ball and by getting their first, he rounded him and found his partner Andy Williams in space inside the box.
Williams certainly didn’t catch his shot sweetly and instead sort of scuffed at it but he made enough of a connection to take it towards the goal. Ng did his best to get back but after hitting the foot of the post, it took it over the line. The assistant referee certainly thought so and raced back to the half-way line. The Crewe players were not as much in agreement that it had fully crossed the line.
The goal was only given after the referee went over to consult the fourth official, who we can only assume had seen an infringement on Finney in the build-up to the mistake-ridden goal. David Artell was clearly incensed indicating that the official had seen the foul on Finney. The referee spoke with his assistant but still awarded the goal. If the official saw a foul and raised it then how can the goal still stand? It was messy and will need clarity.
Crewe tried to hit back quickly with Ng striking a powerful free-kick into a Northampton head before unleashing another effort on target from distance but Cornell was right behind it.
Williams flicked a header towards goal that Garratt adjusted over to make a straight forward save before Matt Crooks was halted in his tracks by a combination of Ray and Ng as he threatened to race between them. He injured himself in the process after landing heavily but he was able to shake it off and continue.
After the shortish stoppage for Crooks, his team-mate Shaun McWilliams went awfully close to making it 2-0 with a splendid effort that rocked the Crewe crossbar. It was a superb shot that had Crewe worried but it smacked the woodwork and rebounded to safety.
Before the half time interval, Crooks was eventually forced off with the injury he sustained earlier and was replaced by our former player Billy Waters. He won an early free-kick after being tugged back and from the resultant set-play, Hoskins firm drive from 25 yards was blocked.
David Artell made a double change at the break with Chris Porter replacing Jordan Bowery and Nolan making his return to the team for Corey Whelan. Ng switched to right-back to accommodate Nolan in the centre.
Virtually from kick off the Northampton captain David Buchanan was lucky to escape a yellow card after a late lunging tackle on Ainley. Almost immediately, Ray was fouled right on the edge of the box, but Pickering’s effort hit the wall.
There was certainly more urgency in Crewe’s play from the restart. The Railwaymen were beginning to get some joy off the presence of Porter and began to play more in the Northampton half of the pitch.
As Crewe’s pressure grew, Shaun McWilliams was booked for a foul on Ray and from the resultant free-kick, Finney registered a shot on target. It was well struck from 25 yards but too close to Cornell. It was much more positive from Crewe.
The home side then saw Williams pull off to the far post at a corner but after the second phase fell to him, he couldn’t keep his shot down enough to trouble Garratt and it sailed harmlessly over. It spurred the Cobblers more into life and a thunderous effort from full-back Hakeem Odoffin hit the mid-drift of Garratt before he was able to gather at the second attempt.
Crewe had two injury scares, firstly with Kirk and then with Porter as he tried to get on the end of a wicked looking free-kick into the box. After treatment they dusted themselves down and continued.
A smart turn from Waters saw him play in Williams but captain Ray positioned himself superbly well to cut out the cross.
Northampton hit the woodwork again on 70 minutes when a courageous header from John Joe-Tootle struck the post. Garratt was beaten after coming for the cross and was mightily relieved to see it rebound off his post.
Almost immediately, Cornell did well to race from his goal and clear from Ainley as he threatened to go through on goal.
On 73 minutes there was a great reception from the home support for their former striker Alex Nicholls. Nicholls of course had broken his leg against Port Vale when serving the Cobblers. He replaced Charlie Kirk and was presented with a half chance at the far post but it would have been some header to have directed it in from an acute angle.
Hoskins, who was lively on the day, lifted a shot over the crossbar before goalscorer Williams was replaced by Daniel Powell.
With ten minutes left on the clock the Northampton sub, Powell, scored a really decisive second goal. He stuck to his task to nip possession away from Finney, before drilling it low into the bottom corner of the net. Garratt had no chance and now Crewe had to find two goals to salvage something.
Ainley almost gave us an instant response when his wonderful shot hit the underside of the crossbar and away from a crowd of white shirts inside the box. It just about summed up our afternoon.
In stoppagr time, there was a late flash point when Van Veen flung his elbow out at Ng. It incensed the Crewe bench who clearly saw the off the ball incident in front of their technical area. Ng was okay but was fuming as the whistle sounded.