It really was a game of two halves at the Abax Stadium with Crewe Alexandra having the better of the first period and Peterborough the second. Crewe conjured up a host of decent chances in the first 45 minutes after being presented with a dream start with a well taken finish from Lauri Dalla Valle after just three minutes. The Finn scored for the second successive game when pulling down a chipped pass from Nicky Ajose to finish in style.
Crewe also had other opportunities through wing-backs Ollie Turton and Greg Leigh and Ajose also went in search of a goal against one of his former clubs.
The Railwaymen really didn’t want the half time whistle to come and the break certainly saw an improvement in the Posh. They certainly upped their game in the second 45 minutes and drew level through Conor Washington after Paul Rachubka had saved Marcus Madison’s initial effort.
Steve Davis was forced into a couple of chances for the trip to the Abax Stadium due to some untimely injuries. Both Jamie Ness and Ryan Colclough failed to shake off the minor injuries they sustained against Leyton Orient on Saturday. Chris Atkinson was also ruled out with a foot injury, so there was recalls for centre half George Ray and strikers Marcus Haber and Nicky Ajose.
Crewe Alexandra, with Ray back in the side, reverted back to the wing-back system with Anthony Grant also back in midfield after he served his two-match suspension. Brad Inman dropped back to the substitute’ bench, alongside George Cooper and the returning skipper Matt Tootle.
Lauri Dalla Valle for the second successive game provided a dream start with an early goal after just three minutes. After dealing with an early corner from the home side, Crewe made inroads into the Peterborough half of the field and won a throw out on the left hand side.
From Leigh’s throw into Haber, the ball was quickly worked into the feet of Ajose some 20 yards from goal and the former Peterborough man was given too much space and he promptly chipped the ball into the box and Dalle Valle confidently pulled it down and lashed it past a helpless Ben Alnwick.
Crewe’s really confident start to the proceedings then saw James Jones win a free-kick on the edge of the box in the 5th minute. Ajose struck his effort into the wall but the move was kept alive by defender Harry Davis, who clipped in a cross from the left hand side. It was only cleared out of the penalty area to Ollie Turton and he whistled a well struck effort just wide.
More flowing football from the Railwaymen then saw Ajose pick out Leigh will an excellent cross field pass and his accurate cross was met by Haber, but his header was too central and Alnwick made the save.
Danger man Marcus Madison tried his luck from 25 yards out that just cleared Paul Rachubka’s crossbar, but in truth the Alex goalkeeper would have had it covered had it had dropped at the crucial moment.
Another superb break from Crewe on 17 minutes nearly resulted in a second goal. Ajose did fantastically well to chase down a long pass from Grant and he held the ball up for Dalla Valle to join him and get another shot off. It was blocked but ran handily into the path of the supportive Turton and under pressure he drilled a shot into the gloves of Alnwick.
Michael Bostwick and Anthony Grant were quickly booked within 60 seconds for fouls before Madison once again demonstrated his ability with a run and shot that Rachubka grasped at the second attempt. Moments later, Madison dragged another shot wide of the far post.
Peterborough slowly but surely began to have better periods of possession but Crewe were compact and organised in defence with only Madison looking likely to force an equaliser with his runs from deep.
Crewe were still a threat in the final third though. It was much brighter with Dalla Valle and Ajose again combining to present the overlapping left back Leigh with a chance to get a shot on target but Alnwick was well positioned to make a fairly comfortable save.
On the half an hour, Crewe sadly lost Alan Tate through injury. He had stretched a muscle making an interception and was unable to continue. Jon Guthrie replaced him. Amazingly, seconds later, Peterborough were also forced into a change after their captain Jack Payne was forced off with what looked like a shoulder or arm injury. He was replaced by David Norris.
Greg Leigh followed Grant into the referee’s notebook for a challenge where he actually looked to have touched the ball first.
Dalla Valle and Ajose again combined fantastically well on the edge of the penalty area but Ajose’s powerful shot was blocked by Gabriel Zakuani. Dalla Valle was also booked for dragging Joe Newell back as he threatened to progress down the touchline.
As the first half drew to a close, Peterborough’s tricky midfield schemer Erhun Oztumer struck a vicious shot that ended on the top of the Crewe netting. It was a decent effort.
Crewe had to deal with an early free-kick straight from the kick off but it struck a solid Crewe wall and looped harmlessly into the arms of Rachubka. Michael Bostwick then tried his luck from distance but the Crewe goalkeeper was equal to it. The Posh then had the ball in the net through Conor Washington but the assistant referee had lifted his flag to award offside.
On 53 minutes, Washington then flashed a volley just wide of the target after Oztumer had clipped the ball into the box. The covering Ray had applied enough pressure to put him off on execution. It was certainly a different approach from Peterborough at the beginning of the second half.
The pressure continued with the busier Crewe goalkeeper called into action to push away a well struck shot from Bostwick from 25 yards out.
A fine break from Haber nearly saw him roll over the perfect cross to Ajose but it was just cut out from within the six yard box.
Peterborough equalised on 65 minutes and in truth it was deserved for the way they have started the second half. Madison was again the man involved as his thumping shot from outside of the penalty area was pushed out by Rachubka and Washington converted the rebound.
Two minutes later, Ray did superbly to halt Washington in his tracks inside the penalty area. The defender had to time his challenge to perfection to avoid conceding a penalty and a probable red card. He got a large chunk of the ball to send it backwards and into the clutches of Rachubka and although the Posh crowd complained, Washington didn’t too much.
Madison then looked offside but was allowed to go on and he shot inches wide of the far post. As the pressure increased on the Crewe goal, Rachubka was then forced to save with his legs, as the lively Washington tried to poke it beyond him.
Crewe were finding it increasingly difficult to retain possession and make progress into the Peterborough half of the pitch. Haber though headed a free-kick straight at the Posh goalkeeper.
On 76 minutes, Uche Ikpeazu was introduced for Haber but it was still the home side looking the more likely to score again. The more influential Oztumer shot across the goal inside a crowded penalty area.
Guthrie and Norris were booked for a melee on the floor, as both sets of players rushed in to separate them. Norris was soon up and having a shot blocked by Davis. Leigh also did well to prevent Oztumer from having a tap in at the far post.
At the other end of the pitch and with six minutes left on the clock, Dalla Valle had a snap shot that deflected through to Alnwick.
Oztumer made way with four minutes left for the giant of a man Ricardo Santos. Cooper also came on for Ajose.
Crewe had to see out the dying minutes with Madison drilling a shot way over the crossbar and Zakani headed straight at the Alex keeper from an injury-time corner.