Chesterfield also hit the woodwork on two occasions through Jay O’Shea and certainly had enough opportunities to put the game beyond a spirited Alex, who had worked hard to remain in the contest.
The Alex had chances of their own in the first period, with Uche Ikpeazu spinning and shooting a yard wide after a good run from Brad Inman and Lauri Dalla Valle acrobatically firing wide of the target just before the decisive goal arrived.
Anthony Grant’s tenth booking of the season against Crawley on Good Friday ruled him out for two matches, thus resulting in a recall for James Jones. The Crewe Alexandra youngster recently returned from International duty with the Scotland Under-19s over in Austria and was an unused substitute in Friday’s goalless draw. Another of Crewe’s Internationals, Marcus Haber, was once again on the bench after returning from Canada.
The other change from Steve Davis saw Brad Inman recalled to the starting line-up in place of Nicky Ajose. The club’s leading scorer with 9 goals was named on the substitutes’ bench alongside fellow attackers Haber and Ryan Colclough.
The home side forced the first corner within the first 60 seconds after Sam Clucas had originally broken the offside trap down the Crewe left hand side. The Chesterfield captain Sam Morsy found Drew Talbot with a splendid pass out to the opposite side of the pitch and the ball was worked back to Gary Roberts, but his dangerous looking ball into a crowded box was headed behind by a stretching Alan Tate. Nothing came of Roberts’ corner from the right. Moments later a powerful run from Gboly Ariyibi eventually saw him lift his shot over Paul Rachubka’s cross bar.
Two encouraging breaks from Crewe into Chesterfield final third found Inman but down the left hand side but the Railwaymen couldn’t work the ball into the penalty area to trouble Tommy Lee.
On 10 minutes, Crewe had a left off when a searching ball to the far post missed out Turton to fall at the feet of Ariybi. The lively winger couldn’t adjust his feet quickly enough and that allowed Rachubka to rush from his line, narrow the angle and prevent his shot with his legs. The danger didn’t subside there though and in the follow up, Roberts struck a superb volley that hit a body in front of the goal.
Three minutes later, Crewe finally had some joy down the left hand side. The ball was worked out to Leigh in space and his low cross just evaded the run of Ness. The ball broke out invitingly to Inman but he couldn’t control his shot and it cleared the bar by a distance.
On 20 minutes, Ikpeazu showed his strength and power to carry the ball deep into the Chesterfield half of the pitch. The on-loan Watford striker spun superbly on the half way line and was prepared to take on the experienced Ian Evatt. He reached the penalty area before turning back and firing against the legs of the grounded Lee. Ness couldn’t re-find him with the loose ball after it had spun away from the penalty area. Moments later the Chesterfield goalkeeper was called into action again to dive at the feet of Dalla Valle after Ikpeazu had tried to slip him in. The Finnish striker also went close with an acrobatic effort from a corner. It was a lot more encouraging from the Railwaymen.
Therefore, it was a touch against the run of play when Chesterfield took the lead on 26 minutes. It certainly came after Crewe’s most potent attacks. Chesterfield worked the ball out from a throw-in to Roberts and he clipped an inch perfect cross to the far post where the advanced full-back Tendayi Darikwa out jumped Inman and looped a header past Rachubka for the breakthrough.
On 34 minutes, James Jones was bustled out of possession in close to the centre circle and the threat of Clucas saw him carry the ball into our box but eventually shoot straight at Rachubka.
Four minutes later, Chesterfield should have doubled their advantage. Possession was pinched back by Chesterfield and the quick awareness of Clucas released Roberts through on goal but the former Crewe loanee seemed to not connect as well as he would have liked and it spun away from the far post. The retreating Turton managed to get a touch on it to make it absolutely certain of not going in via the post.
Jay O’Shea then shot straight at Rachubka before Crewe conjured up a decent chance to draw level. A superb run from Inman saw him head for the box and he intelligently found Ikpeazu, who spun and shot just wide of the mark.
Ness became the first player to be caution after he had scrambled for possession with Jimmy Ryan. It was a bit harsh and Crewe were nearly doubly punished after not switching on at the free-kick. Roberts threaded a pass into O'Shea but up against Atkinson, he couldn’t keep his shot on target.
Another forceful run from Inman before the break saw Dalla Valle try his luck from 25 yards but Tommy Lee was right behind it to make a comfortable save.
Crewe had to survive a late corner and were rather fortunate to escape going in two goals down. O’Shea’s delivery from the right hand side evaded Rachubka and the unmarked Drew Talbot stole in behind him but couldn’t control his volley. The inquest into who was marking him would have continued in the dressing room.
Chesterfield began the second half with another corner, this time after 25 seconds and after the initial effort was cleared, O’Shea clipped the post with a cross, thankfully it didn’t drop to another Chesterfield player and it was cleared from the danger zone. The early pressure continued by Tate did well to guide the ball out of play after Roberts had tried to release Sam Hird through on goal. Rachubka also had to alert to dive on to a low cross from Ariyibi.
With Crewe struggling to get out of our half of the pitch, Jones was booked for holding down Jimmy Ryan as he threatened to launch a counter attack.
On the break, the lively Inman forced Lee to rush out to deny him a one-on-one situation as he so nearly reached a through pass from Dalla Valle. More good pressure from Crewe and Inman in particular saw him use Leigh as a decoy and have a shot deflected behind for a corner.
On 65 minutes, Crewe introduced Ryan Colclough for James Jones. Inman moved across into a more central position.
Five minutes later, Drew Talbot broke into space down the Crewe right hand side and cleverly found Roberts but his low drive was blocked by the well positioned Tate and the ball ran through to the Crewe goalkeeper.
Colclough’s first real involvement saw him skip away from Darikwa to set himself up for a shot but he dragged his effort wide of the mark, but the Crewe fans behind that goal appreciated his confidence and boldness.
Ikpeazu was then withdrawn for Ajose whilst Chesterfield’s first change of the afternoon saw winger Ariyibi make way for Dan Gardner.
With 15 minutes remaining on the clock, Chesterfield went as close as you can to scoring a second goal but O’Shea’s effort smacked the Crewe post after he had been found by sub Gardner inside the box.
O’Shea was also presented with another chance to secure the points after a loose pass out of defence from Rachubka let to the striker going one-one-one but from an acute angle he shot wide of the far post.
Clucas also went awfully close after a purposeful run across our box but his final effort rose over the crossbar. Harry Davis also did extraordinary well to get a Roberts cross over his own crossbar from really close range. Davis also did superbly to block a volley from Roberts as the pressure increased.
Crewe were having to hang in the game and needed a genuine chance to fall for one of the four players we had on the pitch. Our best bet was on the counter attack as Chesterfield continued to enjoy the better of the possession.
Chesterfield pressed looking for a killer second goal and Morsy had a long range effort deflected behind for a corner. A late surge from Colclough into the box couldn’t quite see him pick out Dalla Valle as Ryan read the situation brilliantly to halt the danger.
With the minutes ticking away, Haber replaced Inman to add some extra height up front and the vastly experienced Ritchie Humphreys replaced Roberts.
Crewe’s only real chance in the dying minutes, saw Tate volley over but it was asking a lot for the defender to score from that sort of range and late on Ajose just couldn’t escape the clutches of Darikwa to go through on goal.