Thrilling game ends in draw
Full debutant Uche Ikpeazu scored a superb brace at Valley Parade to put Crewe Alexandra 2-0 up before two goals in two minutes from the home side turned this exciting game on its head. Ikpeazu gave the Alex an early lead after just 12 minutes when his inch perfect lob defeated the onrushing Jon McLaughlin. He would demonstrate his poach skills ten minutes into the second half when he reacted quickest to turn home a loose ball after McLaughlin had got down to save from Chuks Aneke.
Bradford, who had certainly started the second half with a greater urgency hit back quickly though through a tap-in from danger man James Hanson and a thunderbolt from their captain Gary Jones that gave young Ben Garratt no chance.
In a match of high quality goals, Mathias Pogba fired Crewe back into the lead with 11 minutes left after instantly striking a pass from Chuks Aneke across goal and into the top corner.
Great credit to the spirited Bradford though who hit back once again with just five minutes remaining with an almost carbon copy of his first goal. Their inspirational skipper Jones shot low into the bottom corner.
A brilliant game then saw Aneke go close in the closing minutes and Garratt save superbly to deny James Hanson a late winner.
Crewe Alexandra’s on-loan forward Uche Ikpeazu made his senior debut in professional football after getting the nod ahead of AJ Leitch-Smith. Harry Davis shook off a knock on his knee to continue his partnership at the back with Mark Ellis.
Ikpeazu’s first involvement so nearly saw him create an early chance for the in-form Chuks Aneke but his low pull back just evaded the on-loan Arsenal youngster.
On just five minutes, Crewe were pinned back inside their own penalty area as Stephen Darby launched a long throw aimed at James Hanson. After the Bradford target man had provided an initial flick on, George Evans’ clearance only reached Matthew Dolan and his follow up shot was blocked by Jon Guthrie and deflected behind for a corner.
Another encouraging break from the Railwaymen then had Mathias Pogba and Ikpeazu and Aneke involved again but on his occasion Aneke couldn’t direct his header on target.
In a fairly open 10 minutes, the Bradford City captain Gary Jones saw his low drive deflected off Matt Tootle and loop just wide of Ben Garratt’s right hand post.
As there had been half chances at both ends, it was no surprise when Crewe took the lead after just 12 minutes of play. The alert and pacey Ikpeazu raced onto a long ball up the pitch and the Bradford defence couldn’t catch him. The on-loan Watford youngster waited for the perfect moment to lift his shot over the advanced Jon McLaughlin for a goal on his full debut. He raced over to the boss to celebrate with him and the substitutes before embarking on some dance moves in front of the dugout.
Crewe were certainly flowing in the forward areas and after some good hold up play from Pogba inside the Bradford penalty area, he created a chance for Harry Davis to drive a shot a yard wide. Aneke also should have made a better connection with his head after being picked out at a corner by Evans.
On 26 minutes, a collision between Ellis and Hanson saw the home side presented with a dangerous free-kick on the edge of the Crewe penalty area. Anthony Grant rushed out to block superbly from Jones. Hanson also tried his upmost to get a boot onto a low cross from wide man Reach. From the opposite flank, the tricky Kyle Bennett rode a challenge from Guthrie to shoot wide.
With the first half drawing to a close, the home side were certainly having the better of the possession but Grant continued to lead by example with his tenacious tackling and covering in midfield.
Pogba showed great strength to hold off the intentions of Jones to try his luck from 35 yards and although he struck it well enough, McLaughlin did have it covered if it had been on target. At the other end, Reach did likewise with a snap shot on the turn that cleared Garratt’s crossbar.
The second half started with Ellis rising highest to head a cross from Dolan away from Reach. Moments later, Carl McHugh produced an excellent cross to give Hanson a run and jump on Ellis but his powerful header was pushed away brilliantly by Garratt.
Bradford had certainly gone up a level since the interval and only a brave block from Davis prevented Hanson and then Dolan from tapping home after a melee in front of Garratt. Crewe had survived two early scares and needed to get back on the ball. The early pressure had increased the volume inside Valley Parade, as the rain began to come down harder.
Bodies were on the line again as Grant threw himself at a shot from Jones before Hanson screwed his shot wide of the target.
After riding an early storm, Crewe hit Bradford on the counter-attack to double the lead. Ten minutes into the half, Inman showed great pace to carry the ball into the City half of the pitch and his clever pass gave Aneke just enough space to adjust his feet and get a shot off that McLaughlin could only parry out and there was the long leg of Ikpeazu to guide home the rebound for his second goal of the afternoon.
The Bantams went close to a lifeline when centre-half Andrew Davies headed just over from a corner, but they got it just a couple of minutes later when McLean reached the by-line ahead of Harry Davis to pull back a cross for Hanson to gratefully score from close range.
Before Crewe had even had time to draw breath, the home side were level and there was little Garratt or anyone else could really do about it as Gary Jones produced a splendid shot from the edge of the box. The Bantams captain caught it sweet to see it fly past Crewe’s England youth goalkeeper. Two goals in a two minute spell had seen the Bantams fight back in dramatic fashion.
Mid way through the second half, Crewe made their fist substitution with two-goal hero Ikpeazu replaced by Moore. Pogba moved into a more central position. Evans wasted a free-kick in a good position by hitting the Bradford goalkeeper before McHugh had to produce a timely block to stop Aneke in full stride.
Hanson should have scored after tricking a way through on goal but he fired harmlessly over the top of the bar. The target man should have hit the target.
Pogba certainly hit the target with 11 minutes remaining though. Aneke, with his quick feet created what can only be described as a half chance but Pogba unleashed a cross shot that arrowed into the opposite top corner. After such a long time off with injury, it was a wonderful goal to savour, especially as it came at the end where the Crewe contingent were seated. It was his first goal since MK Dons at Gresty Road last March and arguably his finest strike to date in a Crewe shirt.
Moments later, more powerful play from the confident Pogba saw him scoop out a pass towards Moore at the far post but Matthew Bates did well to get there first.
Aneke headed a yard over before he collected a pass from Inman and fired low and was denied a winner by a splendid save from McLaughlin. Crewe introduced Osman for Evans as the minutes ticked away.
Neither side deserved to lose such a wonderful game and Crewe had their young goalkeeper Ben Garratt to thank for producing an outstanding save to deny Hanson with his head once again. His first one had been good, this one was exceptional.
Both sides continued to try and win the game and Crewe had to survive a corner in stoppage time as it was aimed towards Hanson but Crewe arguably had the best chance to snatch it but Pogba just over hit his pass into the supportive Moore.