Crewe Alexandra recorded their first win in nine games with a winning goal from substitute Chuks Aneke but that didn’t tell the whole story after the gallant Railwaymen had to play most of the first half with ten men after Vadaine Oliver had been sent off for two bookable offences. The first was for leading with his arm just seconds into the second half. The second card was brandished for a supposed dive inside the penalty area. The Crewe forward and crowd thought that referee Adcock had pointed to the penalty spot or for at least a free-kick right on the edge on the box after the forward had been clipped.
With the man advantage, Crawley must have thought they would go on and win their first match in eight games, but Crewe defended superbly and snatched the three points with Aneke stooping at the far post to guide home a Tootle cross with his head.
It was a really hard fought three points and credit to the Alex defence who kept a clean-sheet to help us achieve the victory.
New loan signings, forward Tom Hitchcock and winger Buomesca Tue Na Bangna went straight into Crewe Alexandra’s starting line-up as boss Steve Davis reverted back to 4-4-2 against Crawley Town. Defender Mark Ellis was left-out in the formation reshuffle at the back. AJ Letich-Smith also dropped to the substitutes’ bench for Hitchcock. Youngster Billy Waters was also named on the bench again after making his senior debut against Carlisle United on Tuesday night.
It was a tentative start from both sides and that was no great surprise considering that both have gone so long without a win. There was also a collection of mini-stoppages and the Crawley defender Kyle McFazdean needed some brief treatment but was able to carry on.
Crewe’s loan signings Hitchcock and ‘Mesca’ combined fairly early on after Vadaine Oliver had managed to get a cross back from the by-line. 'Mesca' just had the ball taken from his foot as he was about to shoot after Hitchcock had cleverly nodded the ball back into his path.
Moments later, Moore shot from distance but into the mid-drift of the Crawley goalkeeper Paul Jones.
Crawley began to carve out some openings of their own. Billy Clarke went close with a curling free-kick from 25-yards out after Tootle had been penalised for a trip. Jamie Proctor was then deemed onside after breaking through. He didn’t look it and credit to Harry Davis, who raced back to make a last ditch tackle to concede a corner.
Oliver headed a centre from George Evans into the gloves of the well placed Jones before Hitchcock shot over after another promising passing move involving Moore and Evans.
The visitors continued to have their chances on the counter attack. Crewe nearly gifted them a golden opportunity by overplaying at the back but in the end, the Alex goalkeeper Neil Etheridge managed to get the ball out of his feet and clear into touch after he had to take down a difficult back pass from Adam Dugdale.
A lose header into midfield from Dugdale then had Crewe on the back foot and the skilful Proctor twisted and turned up against the Crewe centre-half before seeing his fierce shot hit the underside of the crossbar and bounce to safety. To his enormous credit, Etheridge did appear to have got fingertips to his effort to keep it out.
Crewe went on to finish the first half strongly and perhaps should have gone in at the interval ahead. Firstly, Oliver elected to head back across goal instead of going direct for goal after being picked out superbly by the advanced Tootle. If the Crewe striker had elected to have gone for goal he would have certainly given Paul Jones something to think about.
Kelvin Mellor then went on a forceful run inside the Crawley penalty area but after a swift change of feet, his shot was deflected and looped up for Jones to collect.
Moore, who was again lively following his superb performance against Port Vale, then cut in from his wide left position and saw his shot deflected wide for a corner. It was a decent effort from the skilful winger.
Mellor perhaps had the best chance of the first half for Crewe but he could only direct his header a yard wide after he had ghosted into the penalty area to reach a cross from Moore. Anything on target would have seen Crewe 1-0 ahead.
In the final minute of the half, more great play from Moore clipped Hitchcock through on goal but his first touch was heavy and it went through to Jones and a good chance was lost.
Oliver was booked within seconds of the second period for jumping with his arm and it would prove to be extremely costly just minutes later when he was strangely adjudged to have dived inside the box. It had looked that he had been caught on the shin and had gone down and Crewe had expected a penalty kick. Instead they had their target man centre forward making his way back to the dressing room.
Before that major incident a slip from Harry Davis allowed Nicky Adams a chance to get a shot off but Neil Etheridge was equal to it. Clarke then shot straight at the Crewe goalkeeper.
Obviously, the extra man gave Crawley an almighty lift and Crewe had to look even more to hit them on the break. They worked their socks off for the cause.
Crawley made a double substitution with Andy Drury and Mike Jones replacing Emile Sinclair and Josh Simpson.
Crewe were understandably angered and disappointing when Proctor went down inside the penalty area, but after not awarding a penalty, he didn’t even speak to the player. It was double standards from the officials and that is what infuriates managers and supporters.
Under pressure, Crewe put their bodies on the line for the cause. Mellor blocked a shot from Proctor and Evans did likewise to send a shot from substitute Drury over the bar. Adam Dugdale produced a superb block that saved a goal at the far post after Adams had clipped a perfect cross across the box. It was outstanding.
Crawley, with their frustration growing had Mark Connolly and substitute James Hurst booked for fouls on the excellent Moore before Aneke came on to be a real handful. Hitchcock made way.
Aneke was straight into the act flicking a Tootle cross just wide before he scored the all-important goal on 81 minutes. Moore and Tootle combined again and the full-back’s clipped cross was inch perfect. It seemed to go in slow motion and but Aneke had read it perfectly to dive and head past a helpless Jones.
The on-loan Arsenal starlet delayed his celebration to make sure he was on side but once the goal was confirmed the stadium erupted in joy and relief.
Aneke was a monster. He twisted and turned and nearly scored a second goal before his shot was cleared from the line.
Crewe had to see the rest of the closing minutes out and dug in superbly well. He kept clearing our lines and Etheridge punched high balls and dived on a cross when Hurst reached the by-line.
Crawley did have a chance to snatch an equaliser but Drury couldn’t keep his header down and it cleared Etheridge’s crossbar.