Thrilling enounter in tough conditions at Sixfields
ollowing the thigh injury to the on-loan Neil Etheridge, youngster Ben Garratt was given the nod in goal ahead of Alan Martin. It was the England youth International’s second start of the season following his appearance against Wycombe Wanderers in the FA Cup replay. F
Chuks Aneke scored Crewe Alexandra's first equalising goal of the season to give us a well deserved point against Coventry City. Aneke's second goal in successive matches saw Crewe fight back after Franck Moussa in the first half and a penalty from Callum Wilson in the second had cancelled out Tom Hitchock's superbly taken opener in the 13th minute. Hitchcock took a trademark pass from Aneke to slot his effort past Murphy before he returned the favour to create Aneke's equalising goal.
The Alex had to put bodies on the line at times, but defended reasonably well and had chances to have collected all three points with sub Brad Inman only being denied a late winner thanks to a timely challenge from full-back Christie.
With striker Vadaine Oliver suspended due to his unfair dismissal against Crawley, the other vacant position went to the match winner in that particular game, Chuks Aneke. The on-loan Arsenal youngster played off Tom Hitchcock. Other loanee Mesca also started at the Sixfields Stadium.
Crewe forced two early corners and Harry Davis was presented with half a chance from a low cross but he couldn’t quite get enough on it to send it across the six yard box and give Joe Murphy in the Coventry City goal something to think about.
Steven Pressley’s side were certainly enjoying the lions’ share of the possession, but were not troubling a solid Crewe back line and young Garratt in goal. In fact, it was Crewe looking the more likely to open the scoring. Following a trip on Abdul Osman, Davis sent an ambitious free kick onto the top of the netting. It wasn’t that far off testing Murphy for the first time.
A promising burst from full back Kelvin Mellor presented Aneke with a sight at the Coventry City goal but his powerful drive was blocked.
Aneke’s next contribution led to the opening goal after 13 minutes. The on-loan Arsenal youngster used his vision and ability to play those defensive splitting passes and he released Hitchcock perfectly in the right channel of the box and he drew Murphy before calmly sliding it past him. It was a composed finish from the QPR youngster and his first of his loan deal.
Moments later, Aneke could have possibly made it 2-0 from another dangerous corner from Evans but he couldn’t quite get totally over his header and it drifted away to safety.
Coventry were given a bit of good fortune when a clearance from Matt Tootle hit Chris Dagnall inside the penalty area, but Crewe’s centre-halves quickly surrounded the City striker to prevent him from getting a clean shot off and Garratt jumped on the loose ball.
More good approach play from the Railwaymen then saw Aneke, Hitchcock and ‘Mesca’ combine but the on-loan Fulham winger shot straight at Murphy from a rather acute angle.
Just before the half an hour mark, George Evans really whipped in a dangerous looking corner and Murphy had to be alert to flick it away from underneath his crossbar. The strong wind was really playing havoc and Murphy did well to claw it away for another corner. It nearly paid off again when a cross-come-shot from Tootle just missed the far post.
Coventry had not registered a shot on target before they forced home an equaliser on 36 minutes. A dangerous corner from Maguire from our right dropped invitingly for Franck Moussa inside the six half post and his touch from close range gave Garratt little chance.
Just before the interval, Davis was booked for diving in on Callum Wilson close to the sideline and Garratt did well to punch clear the free-kick. Davis made up for it though with a superb intervention to deny Wilson a shot at goal and Dugdale knocked it behind for a corner.
Crewe were in the need of the half time whistle and only an assistant’s flag prevented us from going in behind. Garratt could only parry a shot from full-back Cyrus Christie and Dagnall was there to lift it over him and into the empty net, but he had strayed offside before converting.
Saying that though our captain Abdul Osman had a great chance to put us back ahead with a diving header after Harry Davis had found him with his excellent far post free-kick, but the midfielder couldn’t direct it on target.
The second half kicked off with a referee taking over duties and Coventry were quickly on the front foot, forcing an early corner and the wind playing havoc in front of Garratt. Tootle smuggled it away from just in front of the line.
The game had been evenly balanced but Coventry was given the chance to retake the lead after Garratt had raced from his line and caught the rapid Wilson. The Crewe defenders were incensed believing that the young Crewe goalkeeper had got a slight touch on the ball but the substitute referee didn’t hesitate to award the spot kick. After a slight delay because the ball wouldn’t settle in the wind, Wilson kept his cool to place it down the middle of the goal.
The game developed into a midfield battle with genuine chances not as frequent as they had been throughout. There were a few stoppages for niggling fouls and the windy conditions made for a tough afternoon for both sets of players to play fluent football.
On 67 minutes though, the busy Hitchcock did wonderfully well to pinch possession, race away and lay on a perfect pass for Aneke to slot home his fourth goal of the season. Aneke was coolness personified to guide his shot away from Murphy but credit to Hitchcock who had created the opening from nothing. Amazingly, it was Crewe’s first equalising goal of the season.
Pressley quickly made his first change with the fit-again Leon Clarke replacing Dagnall. Clarke’s first real involvement saw him create a volleyed shot for Maguire but Mellor did exceedingly well to cover and divert it behind for a corner.
With 12 minutes remaining, the hard working Hitchcock made way for Bradden Inman. The change saw Mesca move into a central position. Inman quickly won a free kick but Davis sent it straight into the gloves of Murphy.
Carl Baker replaced Moussa with just under ten minutes on the clock. A surge and intelligent pass from Aneke then found Inman but his shot was blocked on the edge of the box.
With the minutes ticking away and Crewe lookijg threatening on the break, John Fleck was booked for a rather reckless challenge on Mellor close to the touchline.
A late chance saw Mesca get away and threaten to nick the points and his deflected effort found Inman but he was denied a glorious winner by a superb challenge from Christie. Evans did likewise at the other end to preserve our point with an excellent block on a shot from Clarke.