Crewe Alexandra have started 2013 with a hard fought victory over a spirited Carlisle United side thanks to a well taken headed goal from the on-loan Lauri Dalle Valle. The youngster, with us from Fulham placed a headed over the Carlisle United goalkeeper Mark Gillespie and the retreating Chris Chantler on the line two minutes before the break. It was a fine finish that takes his personal tally to five goals for the season and the 1-0 win takes Crewe into the top half of the table.
It was another grinding second half performance from the Alex with Carlisle captain Danny Livesey missing the visitors’ best chance after a corner.
Crewe Alexandra’s manager Steve Davis changed the club’s line-up for the first time in five matches, operating in an attack-minded 4-2-3-1 system. Centre half Adam Dugdale was the unfortunate one to drop out, to allow Byron Moore to return to the starting line-up. Goalkeeper Alan Martin returned from illness to re-take his place on the substitutes’ bench, with Steve Phillips retaining his place.
A confident Crewe were quickly on the front foot and certainly enjoyed the majority of the possession. The home side were quick to pressurise and tried to get the ball moving forward as quickly as possible with some neat football. Although we dominated the early possession, the Railwaymen were finding it difficult to penetrate a well organised Carlisle defence.
Brad Inman did have an early half chance blocked inside the penalty area and Lauri Dalla Valle was unlucky to see the ball bounce up under his feet as he tried to launch a swift counter attack.
Carlisle were a threat on the break a times and Mark Ellis did well to cut out a dangerous looking cross from Brad Potts before full-back Matt Robson dragged a shot wide of the mark after a flowing move had found him in space. Greg Abbott’s side were also a threat from corners and we managed to smuggle one away from under Steve Phillips’ crossbar.
The game did go into a bit of a lull, became scrappy and Crewe needed to lift the tempo again. When Crewe did increase the pressure, they regained dominance in the opposition’s half of the pitch. Mathias Pogba fired one over from 20 yards out after some neat footwork before Moore sent a low cross just behind the onrushing Lauri Dalle Valle.
Moore did test the reflexes of Mark Gillespie for the first time with a superb half volley from the edge of the box that he did well to push behind for a corner.
Carlisle could and perhaps should have taken the lead. A good move from the visitors saw Robson overlap down the Crewe right and pull the perfect ball back for Jon Paul McGovern to test the concentration levels of Phillips. The Crewe keeper stood firm to get two gloves behind his powerful shot from close range and keep it out. That was the danger for Crewe and it was important that we kept the back door closed.
The final third had to be better from us, with a succession of long crosses picked out by Gillespie. A better move saw Osman cross from the by-line but Dalla Valle just couldn’t keep his header down enough.
There was also a couple of first half bookings with Potts for Carlisle evened out by a yellow card for Osman for what looked a very good tackle.
The decisive break through came two minutes before the half time break. Pogba superbly won a flick on and Inman and Dalle Valle took the game and didn’t give it up. Inman forced a fine save from Gillespie by hitting his arm but Dalle Valle reacted quickly to loop a header up and over into the net. It was a fine finish.
The second half started with Phillips producing another smart save and credit to Carlisle who certainly upped their attacks and put more pressure on the Crewe back four. The Railwaymen stood firm with the full-backs Mellor and Tootle excellent and Harry Davis surely a contender for the man-of-the-match award along with the winner Abdul Osman.
Early on Inman fed Pogba who tried his luck with a good effort from 25 yards out before Frank Simek was booked for a foul on Moore. Murphy sent his free-kick too close to Gillespie.
Carlisle began to impose themselves more on the game and began to create some decent chances of their own. Potts had a deflected effort wide before the lively substitute Rory Loy forced Phillips into another save from distance.
The Cumbrians best chance fell to their captain Danny Livesey after a scramble from a corner. He failed to keep his effort down to force an equaliser. He should have hit the target and if he had it would have been level.
Crewe had to start grinding out a result, but Inman did get a shot in on the turn. He didn’t really connect like he would have wanted to.
Carlisle began to try their luck from distance but Chantler and Loy shot straight down the throat of Phillips.
To add some fresh legs, youngsters Max Clayton and Ryan Colclough replaced Dalle Valle and the tiring Inman and to shore things up a bit for the closing stages Robertson for Pogba. Clayton had an early shot blocked, dragged another wide of the mark and Colclough was unlucky with a header from a Murphy free-kick. He just sent it over.
Carlisle may have had the late pressure, but they couldn’t find a way past the back four to test Phillips and Crewe held on for three great points.