Clayton opener cancelled out by Petrov penalty.
A well-taken goal finish from Max Clayton gave Crewe Alexandra the lead against Championship side Bolton Wanderers this afternoon but Owen Coyle’s side hit back with the Bulgarian International Martin Petrov dispatching a penalty after 26 minutes. Crewe’s new summer signing Mathias Pogba was adjudged to be handled inside the penalty area from a low struck corner from Chung Yong-Lee.
Crewe’s unbeaten run in pre-season continues and it was certainly a more difficult test against a strong Bolton side, who certainly kept possession well in the second half. Coyle named captain Kevin Davis, Darren Pratley, Petrov, Mark Davies and the fit-again Yong-Lee in his starting eleven.
Steve Davis also selected arguably his strongest side, with only the injured Steve Phillips, Kelvin Mellor, Luke Murphy and Matt Tootle not involved in front of nearly 2,500 inside the Alexandra Stadium.
Crewe played some outstanding football in the opening 25 minutes, with the passing and movement incisive and quick. Pogba partnered Leitch-Smith up front with young Max Clayton lively in the early stages out on the right. The three of them and Byron Moore were combining well and moving the Bolton back line around.
The opening goal duly arrived after just 11 minutes with Moore and Osman involved in the build-up. The ball found its way to Clayton and after he had adjusted his feet, he drilled an unstoppable shot past the former Crewe loanee goalkeeper Adam Bogdan. The quickness of his feet seemed to wrong foot the Hungarian.
Almost immediately, Mark Ellis did exceedingly well to clear from the robust Kevin Davis before Leitch-Smith unleashed a half volley just wide after he latched onto a flick-on from Pogba.
Pogba should have made it 2-0 after more intelligent play from Clayton. He slipped the big man in but the summer signing from Wrexham, on this occasion, dragged his shot just wide of Bogdan’s far post.
Bolton lost Zat Knight early through injury and replaced him with Joe Riley and the substitute was rather fortunate to get away with a strong penalty appeal after he appeared to nudge Leitch-Smith in the back after Ash Westwood had clipped him in.
With Crewe on top, Marcos Alonso was called upon to block another effort from Leitch-Smith before move fluent football from the Alex saw Westwood shoot straight at Bogdan.
Bolton slowly but surely began to impose their passing style on the game and through Petrov, they possessed a major threat with his pace and directness. He unleashed a shot from 25 yards that Alan Martin did well to push away and the Alex goalkeeper was called upon again to push another Petrov effort away after he had tricked his way past Harry Davis and Moore.
The Championship side equalised on 26 minutes after Pogba had been adjudged to have handled inside the box after a corner had bounced awkwardly in front of a crowd of players. The Crewe players protested but Pogba not so much. Petrov confidently put away the spot kick.
Petrov continued to ask questions with his pace and another dangerous cross just eluded Davis at the far post as Coyle’s men looked to go in at the break ahead.
Crewe continued to play some good possession football with Westwood influential and Osman enjoying a physical battle with the Eire International Keith Andrews. It was an entertaining game for a pre-season friendly with both sides eager to attack.
Leitch-Smith’s movement was good and Clayton was a menace to them coming in from his wide position. Pogba showed glimpses of his strength and ability in the air, but will be disappointed with his build-up play today.
The half ended with another fine effort from the impressive Petrov, that Martin again did well to hold.
Bolton began the second period on top and Crewe were finding more difficult to get on the ball. The substitute striker Michael O’Halloran nearly made left-back Gregor Robertson pay at the far post after he stole in front of him, but he seemed to lose his footing at the last moment and could only screw his shot wide.
A superb ball from Pratley was then chested down by Davis but Dugdale stood firm to clear the danger.
The changes began to flow from both managers with Coyle electing to take off some of his more established players like Davies, Prately and Petrov. One of their introductions, Josh Vela whipped over a splendid cross that only needed a touch inside the Crewe six-yard box and Andrews drew another save from the alert Martin.
Crewe introduced Michael West for Leitch-Smith and thus allowed Clayton to operate more centrally and recent capture Osman was given a rest for Oliver Turton.
A good move involving Westwood and West had Pogba on one of his forceful runs, but his eventual shot went straight through to the Bolton replacement goalkeeper Andy Lonergan.
More changes followed with Andy White and Brendon Daniels replacing Robertson and Moore. From a Westwood free-kick, Ellis was unlucky not to direct his header on goal and after Clayton had stolen possession back for the Alex, Pogba’s attempted chip was just too high.
Bolton had a late chance to win this pre-season friendly but Pratley couldn’t quite direct his header on target moments before he was replaced by Tom Eaves.
A 1-1 draw was a fair reflection of an even match with both sides enjoying good possession.