Both sides hit woodwork in stalemate.
In a fairly even encounter at Brunton Park both sides hit the woodwork in the second half but couldn’t find that decisive breakthrough to seal all three points. AJ Leitch-Smith struck the underside of the Carlisle crossbar and watched it bounce down and to safety, just before Joe Garner hit a post when diverting a cross onto a Crewe post.
Both sides had openings to possibly win the game with Byron Moore forcing a good save from Mark Gillespie and Martin doing likewise to deny the lively Danny Cadmarteri.
As expected the one change to the Crewe Alexandra starting line-up saw Matt Tootle make his first start of the season in place of the suspended Chuks Aneke. Tootle played on the right hand side of midfield ahead of Kelvin Mellor.
Crewe made a really bright start to the game, passing with confidence and accuracy. After only five minutes of play, a splendid cross field pass from captain Luke Murphy found Tootle out on the right and after he had negotiated his way past Chris Chantler, he was into the Carlisle penalty area.
Perhaps if he had an instinct as a goalscorer, Tootle may have shot himself across goal but instead he elected to pass to Max Clayton. A little behind him, the young Alex forward could only screw his shot wide of Mark Gillespie’s left hand post.
Crewe’s promising start continued with a free-kick from Murphy that placed Gillespie under pressure from the advanced Mark Ellis. With the Carlisle goalkeeper not confidently grasping the high ball, he had his defender Danny Livesey to thank for clearing for a corner with Kelvin Mellor about to tap into an empty net. From the resulting corner, Abdul Osman then headed over after Ellis had again won the first header.
At the other end of the field, Martin confidently collected a looping cross from underneath his bar and both Davis and Ellis were dealing confidently with crosses going into our box.
On 15 minutes, another flowing move from the Railwaymen saw winger Tootle again turn provider, this time for opposite winger Moore. Tootle did exceedingly well to pull a low cross back from the by-line and the coming-onto-it Moore placed his shot inches wide of the post. It was another chance for the Alex to take the lead at Brunton Park.
The much involved Tootle then smashed a shot against the head of Livesey. AJ Leitch-Smith was intelligently dropping off to play as a number 10 and link the midfield to attack and Crewe were getting a lot of joy with his movement and cleverness to create space in the final third of the pitch.
The home side began to get more into the game and Ellis had to be on hand to clear from Paul Thirlwell after a corner had dropped rather invitingly at his feet at the far post.
More promising breaks from Tootle and Murphy so nearly saw them play in Max Clayton, but the passes were just a little over hit.
On 36 minutes, a flash of invention from full-back Frank Simek saw him spin and curl a shot wide of Alan Martin’s right hand post. It was a good effort that probably deserved to force the Crewe goalkeeper into his first meaningful save of the evening.
Moments later, Bradley Potts certainly forced Martin into the outstanding save of the night when he caught a 25 yard shot on the volley. Martin watched the drive perfectly to push it away from danger. It was a superb piece of football from both players.
With the half time whistle approaching, Crewe were conceding far too many free-kicks away and that gave the home side an extra impetus to try and take the lead in the first half. After a really promising opening, it was arguably Crewe needing the break to regroup.
At the beginning of the second half, Carlisle boss Greg Abbott made the first change with the on-loan Joe Garner replacing Jake Jervis. Almost immediately, Ellis was in the right place at the right time to block a shot from Jon-Paul McGovern.
They was a short stoppage after Osman took a stud on his hand, but he was able to continue.
It was Carlisle more on the front foot and Crewe having to be organised and resilient in their defending.
Nine minutes into the second period, a break from Crewe’s front two, saw Leitch-Smith beat the offside trap and re-find Clayton but there was no real conviction with his shot and he scooped it rather harmlessly by his high standards into the hands of Gillespie.
A sublime piece of skill from Potts left a couple of Crewe players in his wake, before he slipped in Danny Cadamarteri, but the former Everton youngster could only shoot straight at Martin. Carlisle’s captain Thirlwell became the first player booked for catching Ellis late as he cleared up field.
Potts then screwed a shot wide of Martin’s left hand post after a really good run and cross from McGovern. With the game beginning to open up, Clayton played in Moore and after a nifty twist and turn inside the box, his firm shot was blocked by the rushing Gillespie.
The lively Cadamarteri then drifted past Mellor to cut in and force another smart save from Martin low down to his right.
With 20 minutes remaining, Crewe’s real outstanding performer on the night was so unlucky not the break the deadlock. The local lad spun and struck a shot that had Gillespie beaten but it hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced cleared. It was a tremendous effort that deserved better.
Amazingly just two minutes later, it was Carlisle’s turn to strike the woodwork when Garner got a slight touch to a superb delivery into the Crewe six-yard box and Martin was a relived man to see it hit the post and rebound to safety.
With 15 minutes remaining, Olly Turton replaced the hard working Tootle. Carlisle also made a change of their own with McGovern making way for David Symington. Cadamarteri headed straight at Martin from Simek’s cross as the game entered a nervy final ten minutes.
Neither side were capable of conjuring up that real chance and it ended goalless after Murphy dragged a late effort wide.