Alex suffer late heartbreak as Ellis own goal denies us three points
Crewe Alexandra’s match winner of the season, Chuks Aneke looked to have done it again at the Banks’s Stadium with his 15thgoal of the season, but we were to suffer late heartbreak as centre-half headed a last minute cross from Ben Purkiss into his own net. It was harsh on Crewe, who had defended solidly for so long.
Walsall certainly gave it a real go in stoppage time and the Alex had a really late scare when a fantastic shot from substitute Milan Lalkovic hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced out. It was heart in the mouth time but the assistant referee had his flag up and it wouldn’t have counted.
After overcoming the hip injury that kept him out of the weekend trip to Peterborough, Bradden Inman returned to the Crewe Alexandra starting line-up for the short trip to Walsall. Youngster Billy Waters dropped out of the squad and didn’t travel after featuring for the Under-21s against Leeds United last night.
Both sides quickly tried to get the ball down and play in the opening exchanges and Chuks Aneke had an early half chance but couldn’t quite get a firm touch on the ball in front of Richard O’Donnell’s goal. Walsall certainly shaded the possession in the opening ten minutes but genuine efforts on goal were few and far between.
A forceful burst from Anthony Grant won Crewe a free-kick in a promising position but Cameron Park uncharacteristically over hit his cross beyond the far post. Moments later George Evans did likewise from the other side of the pitch. Both sides were lacking that real quality with the final ball into the opposition penalty area.
After 20 minutes, Febian Brandy wriggled his way past full back Jon Guthrie but the covering Grant was there to apply a timely block and deflect it behind for the first corner of the game.
Crewe’s best move of the early passages saw Grant poke the ball through to Aneke and his quick reverse pass sent Inman clear down the left. Inman tried to select the run of Mathias Pogba but his low cross was intercepted by James Chambers from the verge of the six yard box.
More good play from the Alex pass from back to front, with Grant finding Aneke with a tidy pass into space and he released Park. The on-loan Middlesborough winger had his powerful shot blocked on the edge of the box and on the counter-attack; Grant was cautioned for tripping Brandy.
Just before the half an hour mark, Walsall went closest to taking the lead when their captain Andy Butler rose highest to head just over Ben Garratt’s crossbar.
Aneke and Pogba were combining with more fluency and more good approach play around the Walsall penalty area allowed Grant to get a shot off, but it wasn’t troubling O’Donnell on this occasion.
Inamn joined Grant in the book for a late challenge on Ben Purkiss moments after Crewe understandably felt aggrieved after Brandy had seemingly ran the ball out of play.
Brandy continued to be a threat with his pace but Crewe were crowding him out with cover and it was an intriguing contest with him and Guthrie and Purkiss and Inman down the left hand side.
During the first half, Crewe looked a threat on the break but just lacked that final cross or pass of real quality. It was much the same from Walsall also.
With the first 45 minutes drawing to a close there was a flash of the Aneke brilliance. A drop of the shoulder allowed him a yard of space but his shot from 20 yards was straight at O’Donnell. In the final minute, Brandy tricked a dangerous free-kick from Guthrie but Grant was there again to head Andy Taylor’s free-kick out of the six-yard box.
Walsall made a change at the break with Milan Lalkovic replacing Troy Hewitt. Crewe quickly forced a corner but couldn’t make anything of it and Pogba tried to bulldoze his way through from the edge of the box.
At the other of the end, Brandy showed his speed again to charge down a clearance from Guthrie but the well placed Craig Westcarr could only scoop his effort over the Crewe crossbar.
goal of the season.thSix minutes into the second half Crewe broke the deadlock. Aneke was involved in the initial build up and after playing a one-two with Grant, the on-loan Arsenal starlet released the overlapping Matt Tootle. The captain played a tempting low cross that Park went for and as the ball went loose, Crewe were grateful that it fell to the in-form Aneke, who calmly side footed it past O’Donnell for his 15
After taking the lead, O’Donnell then did well to come and punch a cross before Pogba could apply a deft touch with his head. Garratt did likewise at the other end but needed Tootle to complete the clearance.
Walsall stepped up a gear and forced a number of corners, but Crewe were defending our box with a real determination. A superb break from the Railwaymen then saw the influential Aneke play a one-two with Park and then have the vision to back heal possession into Grant, but his powerful shot was blocked.
To try and give Crewe something to content with Dean Smith introduced Michael Agoo for Sawyers with 25 minutes remaining. It nearly worked a treat with the towering striker immediately in the action. He showed good feet inside the box but elected to shoot near post rather than far and from a tight angle struck the post.
A sublime piece of skill from Tootle saw him take a difficult pass from Ellis on his chest and skip past three challenges before his pass was deflected into the path of Park. The ‘Boro winger produced a decent low cross but Pogba, under pressure didn’t get a good enough connection on it to trouble O’Donnell.
Inman then showed great pace to carry the ball the entire length of the pitch but Butler did exceedingly well to stand up and apply a block.
With just over 15 minutes left, Steve Davis introduced the fresh legs of Byron Moore and Vadaine Oliver for Moore and Pogba. Walsall also made their final change with James McQuilkin replacing Nicky Featherstone.
Crewe were holding firm and restricting Walsall to either try and play through or perhaps force home an equalizer via a corner. The substitute McQuilkin went close though with a well struck shot from 25 yards out and if it had been on target, Garratt may well have been struggling to get across. Following the shot, Tootle was booked for dissent.
Crewe had defended so far but suffered late heartbreak when Mark Ellis, who had been excellent in the back four headed a last minute cross into his own net. That late equalizer seem to ignite Walsall who finished strongly and we survived a late scare when Lalkovic’s powerful shot hit the bar. The assistant referee had his flag up and Crewe held on for a point.