Sub AJ coverts penalty rebound to seal three hard fought points
Substitute AJ Leitch-Smith sprung from the bench to be in the right place at the right time to convert Luke Murphy’s saved penalty to score the only goal of the game. With 15 minutes remaining, Murphy's spot kick struck the foot of the post and the poacher Leitch-Smith reacted quickest to guide the rebound home. It has been awarded by referee Malone for a Tom Newey push on Byron Moore.
Crewe had to ride a Scunthorpe storm, especially at the start of the second half with their new signing Akpo Sodje and Karl Hawley missing some very good chances. They will rue those missed chances but a clean-sheet and Leitch-Smith first goal since September sees Crewe on 43 points.
Matt Tootle returned from illness to regain his place at left-back. Last weekend’s debutant Jon Guthrie missed out and wasn’t included in the Crewe Alexandra squad after Gregor Robertson declared him free of an abductor injury. The Scot was named on the substitutes' bench alongside a fit again Alan Martin.
Brian Laws’ Scunthorpe United side went close after four minutes when Andy Barcham got the better of Kelvin Mellor and hit the outside of the post. Moments later their deadline day signing Akpo Sodje flashed a shot wide of the target but Crewe had successfully appealed for offside in the build-up.
Crewe finally got on the front foot and conjured up a chance for Brad Inman. There did appear to be a handball from Mathias Pogba in the initial build up, but his accurate pass found Inman and he curled his shot a yard or so wide of Sam Slocombe’s left hand post.
Some more combination play involving Byron Moore and Pogba saw the Alex winger have a shot from 20 yards blocked. Crewe had their captain Luke Murphy booked for a foul from behind on Tom Newey.
Murphy then found a fine run in behind from Max Clayton and the young striker found the supportive Inman but his curling shot was wide again. It was better from Crewe.
At the other end, a touch from the physical Sodje brushed a touch off Adam Dugdale that spun away for a corner.
Scunthorpe were working hard, pressurising high up the pitch and forcing Crewe to either go a bit longer looking for Pogba or back to Steve Phillips to clear with his feet. Their work ethic was commendable.
Murphy was trying to get Crewe going and he slipped the overlapping Tootle in and his low shot had to be held by Slocombe.
There was a heart in the mouth moment when a deflection off of the boot of Harry Davis, looked like deflecting the ball past Phillips, but the Crewe Alexandra goalkeeper reacted superbly well to keep it out with some fast reflexes. It was comfortably the save of the half.
Scunthorpe did have the ball in the back of net but that was only after bundling Phillips and the ball into it after the Crewe goalkeeper had caught the high ball! Mark Duffy then tested Phillips from distance but again the experienced stopper was right behind it.
Pogba then nearly found another quick and clever run from Clayton but there was just too much on it for the young striker to collect it in his stride.
In first half stoppage time there was still time for Moore to send a shot over the Scunthorpe crossbar and Sodje, with a free header from a corner, unable to get it on target. It was a wasted opportunity.
The visitors came out in the second period and certainly imposed some pressure on our goal. They would rue some waste chances that is for certain and will be wondering how they have left South Cheshire with nothing.
Before Crewe found it hard to pass our way out of our own half of the pitch, an excellent cross from Murphy just missed the head of Clayton before Inman had another half chance taken away from his toes.
Crewe thought they had taken the lead when a forceful run from Clayton saw him reach the by-line and Pogba tapped home from close range after it had rebounded off of a grounded Slocombe.
The assistant referee had raised his flag to indicate offside but it must have been a tight one as Clayton had seemed to have pulled the ball backwards.
Philips was alert again to come out and smother a through ball destined for Hawley. The superb Tootle was then called upon to put Hawley off in front of goal after a wayward pass from Mellor had put us on the back foot.
At this stage, Scunthorpe were on top with Sodje flicking another header just wide of the mark and Hawley shooting a yard wide. Harry Davis limped off with a knock to be replaced by Mark Ellis.
A trio of wasted chances from Sodje was completed when he lifted a close range effort over Phillips’ bar.
Crewe were finding it difficult to muster a succession of passes together and the balls from the back were not good enough to find the midfielders or strikers. Scunthorpe did not take advantage and Crewe slowly but surely took control again.
A fine passing move involving the impressive Murphy found Tootle and his deep cross was met by the advanced Mellor on the other side. He slid it to meet it full on and force Slocombe into a save on his line.
To try and ignite more of a threat, Steve Davis introduced two new forwards with Leitch-Smith and Ryan Colclough replacing Clayton and Pogba.
Minutes later the two substitutes combined to find Abdul Osman on the edge of the penalty area and his deep cross was aimed for Moore. The winger looked favourite to reach it but seemed to be nudged in the back by Newey and the referee pointed to the spot.
Murphy stepped up confidently, but his low drive was pushed onto the post but an alert Leitch-Smith reacted quickest to tuck home the rebound for his first goal since being injured. Leitch-Smith now has 5 goals for the season.
Leitch-Smith was on the ball again to find Moore and he shot straight at the Scunthorpe goalkeeper as Crewe tried to double their advantage.
Scunthorpe switched their forwards with Sodje making way for Mike Grella. Moments later Michael Collins was booked for a trip on Inman and Colclough for continuing playing when the whistle had gone.
In the dying minutes, a promising run from Grella saw him unsettle Mellor but his cross was collected by Phillips.
With a couple of minutes left on the clock, Murphy, who grew in stature throughout the afternoon drilled a shot at Slocombe and Mellor also had an effort saved after a handy twist and turn on the edge of the box.