Two late goals from Rotherham United salvaged a point for Steve Evans’ side as Crewe threw away a 3-1 lead on the opening day of the 2013/14 season. A superb strike from Lee Frecklington in stoppage time sealed a remarkable comeback for the Millers after he reacted quickest inside a crowded penalty area to fire into the roof of Alan Martin’s net in injury time, following a clever knock down from Alex Revell.
Crewe had been 2-0 up inside the opening ten minutes of play thanks to new signing Anthony Grant and a real poachers’ finish from Max Clayton after he and his strike partner AJ Leitch-Smith had combined superbly. Rotherham hit back almost immediately though with a fine shot from midfielder Frecklington for his opening goal of a topsy-turvy affair at Gresty Road.
Centre-half Harry Davis had restored Crewe’s two-goal advantage via the penalty spot after the skill of Ryan Colclough had invited a foul from Richard Brindley, but a spirited Rotherham side, to their credit kept going and after Ben Pringle had curled one home in the 86th minute.Frecklington's talent secured them an unlikely point in stoppage time despite the efforts of George Ray trying to close down his shot and Grant's gallant effort on the line.
Crewe Alexandra made a fantastic start to their Sky Bet League One campaign with summer signing Anthony Grant scoring after just two minutes of play. A lively Max Clayton did well in the build-up and after the ball broke out of the box, Grant tried his luck from 25-yards out and his accurate shot took a deflection off of Michael O'Connor's boot to whizz past Scott Shearer in the Rotherham goal.
Just seven minutes later, a wonderful cross field pass from Ryan Colclough found AJ Leitch-Smith in a wide area and his near post cross was tucked home superbly by a sharp Clayton. The young forward did brilliantly to get across the centre-half to reach the half chance first to side foot past a surprised Shearer.
After taking a 2-0 lead, Crewe switched off within 60 seconds to let Rotherham back into the game too easily. A loose header was thrived upon by Frecklington and his snap shot into the ground from the edge of the penalty area gave Martin no chance.
In an attempt to draw level, Frecklington curled one wide after he had combined with David Worrall before Kelvin Mellor headed a Colclough corner straight at a well-placed Shearer.
It was a pulsating game, with both teams taking turns to attack and create chances. The passing was genuinely good and the forwards were always a handful for the defenders. More good play by Clayton and Moore should have seen the winger get a shot off but the Alex winger slipped at the crucial moment.
Another good delivery from our former player O’Connor nearly saw the ball drop to Kari Arnason but Alan Martin just about did enough to put him off from underneath his crossbar.
Revell’s physique was causing us problems and after he had wrestled with skipper Osman, the supportive Frecklington fired over. The Rotherham number 9 then showed great technique to get a low shot off but it just cleared Martin’s right hand post.
With Rotherham pressing and looking for an equaliser before the break, George Ray did well to block a shot from Arnason and Moore had to race back and cover to flick the ball away from Revell after the Millers looked to hit Crewe on the break from our own corner. Saying that the Alex felt hard done by because they felt that Mellor had been impeded as he tried to reach the corner first. He certainly had a case.
A spot kick did duly arrive though barely a minute into the second half. Colclough was tripped inside the penalty area by Brindley and a confident Davis dispatched the shot past Shearer. The third goal for the Alex resulted in a double change from Steve Evans with Kieran Agard and Matt Tubbs replacing Claude Davis and David Worrall.
Although trailing, Rotherham began to dominate the possession with Revell smashing the crossbar with a splendid volley and the same player should really have scored when he missed a free header at the far post. It was one almighty let off for Crewe, who had left Revell completely unmarked.
As the pressure began to tell in the Crewe back line, the newly introduced Tubbs snatched at a chance and didn’t connect right with his half volley. O’Connor also hit a poor free-kick into the Crewe wall from the edge of the box.
At the other end, the dangerous Colclough dragged a shot into the mid-drift of Shearer before the returning Chuks Aneke replaced the hard working Leitch-Smith. His first touch nearly saw him release Clayton in behind the Rotherham defence.
Anthony Grant threw himself at a powerful shot from Tubbs and Ray made a superb last ditch tackle to prevent Tubbs from getting a goal. The Millers complained that they should have a penalty of their own as Ray had come from behind Tubbs to make the tackle, but the referee waved away their appeals.
The Rotherham substitutes' had certainly made a difference to the proceedings and they deserve great credit for believing they could salvage something from a thrilling encounter. With time running out for them Revell fired into Martin’s gloves and Chuks Aneke did likewise for Crewe after getting the ball out of his feet.
The unlikely comeback started with a tidy finish from Ben Pringle. He collected a clever back heal from Frecklington before curling it beyond Martin. It was game on again.
Moore dragged a shot wide after Colclough had drifted past a challenge before he made way for Ollie Turton and Vadaine Oliver was handed a debut for Clayton.
Rotherham nearly snatched an equaliser but an advanced full-back Richard Brindley just couldn’t poke it in at the far post after a cross from Agard had missed almost everyone. That was a let off but in injury time, Crewe failed to clear another long throw into the box and man-of-the-match Frecklington finished superbly to give the Millers a share of the points.
Crewe: Martin, Tootle, Mellor, Ray, Davis, Osman, Grant, Moore (Turton), Colclough, Clayton (Oliver), Leitch-Smith (Aneke)
Subs not used: Phillips, Ellis, Audel, West
Rotherham: Shearer, Brindley, Skaraz, Arnason, Davis (Agard), Worrall (Tubbs), Frecklington, Revell, O'Connor, Pringle, Morgan
Subs Not used: Couin, Bradley, Milsom. Noble Tidser
Attendace: 5, 296