It ended goalless at the Alexandra Stadium, but as goalless draws go, this was a thoroughly entertaining one. After an thrilling 90 minutes of end-to-end football, a share of the spoils was probably fair, as both teams ended the game with ten men as Jake Stephens and Crewe’s Alan Tate were sent off.
The game, although never really ill-tempered, also saw seven bookings imposed by referee Graham Salisbury. In truth it was never that sort of game with only Raphael Rossi-Branco’s late challenge on Greg Leigh, the one that was really with intent.
With the bookings totting up throughout the game, it was no great surprise though when a red card was shown late on for two bookings. Stephens was booked for lashing the ball out of the stadium after the referee had blown for a foul.
Tate was cautioned for a push and a shove inside the Swindon penalty area as both teams waited for a corner to come in. His second came deep into stoppage time for catching Nathan Byrne, as he tried to spin away from him.
It was a good point for the Alex but it was one of those encounters that could have seen one team nick all three points by taking a half chance.
Steve Davis made two changes to the side that lost away at Barnsley last weekend with Greg Leigh returning to the starting line-up at left wing-back. Young James Ballie dropped back down to the starting line-up.
With the club’s number one goalkeeper Ben Garratt out with a broken bone in his leg, new goalkeeper Paul Rachubka made his full debut for the club after replacing the injured Garratt at Oakwell last weekend.
Crewe made a really bright start to the proceedings with the former Swindon forward Nicky Ajose having an early half chance pinched off his toes as he tried to get the ball back onto his right foot.
Jamie Ness was influencial for Crewe during that early pressure but slowly but surely, the visitors began to impose themselves on the match. A really forceful run from Andy Williams saw him carry the ball deep into the Crewe half and it needed a timely challenge from defender George Ray to halt him inside the penalty area.
Another promising break from Swindon then saw the well positioned Alan Tate block a shot from Louis Thompson and Leigh did likewise to deny Michael Smith. Winger Ben Gladwin also shot a yard wide after a bouncing ball dropped to him on the edge of the box.
On 15 minutes, a superb break from wing-back Turton saw him collect a pass from Marcus Haber but under pressure from two retreating defenders and a little off balance, he could only screw his final shot wide of the mark. Turton also tricked his way brilliantly past Louis Thompson to reach the by-line but he applied too much pace on his final cross.
Turton was getting a real taste for going forward and after collecting a clever little pass from Tate, he was just denied by the diving Wes Foderingham, who needed two attempts to get it fully in his grasp.
At the other end, Ray did superbly again to read a one-two involving dangerman Williams before Michael Smith shot wide of the mark from close range. Smith also drilled a deflected effort into Rachubka’s side netting.
It was a frantic encounter but both defences were restricting genuine chances on goal. Grant hit a half volley wide but Foderingham had it covered on this occasion.
Just after the half an hour mark, Crewe had a strong shout for a penalty when Ray appeared to be held in a head lock by Branco as he tried to head back across from a Ness free-kick. The referee didn’t see it and in the follow up, Tate had a shot blocked before Leigh saw his low drive saved by the Swindon keeper.
Five minutes later, Rachubka had an escape when he couldn’t grasp a shot from Gladwin and Turnbull turned in the rebound close to the goal line but the assistant had his flag up for offside.
Ajose just couldn’t collect a pass from Ness and James Jones hit the Swindon wall from a well-placed free-kick.
The first half ended with Ray at his best at the back again. He made a double block inside the box to deny Gladwin virtually from off the goal line and he then headed away another effort from the lanky winger.
The second half saw an early flurry of yellow cards that only led to the frustration of the players and the crowd. It was never an ill-tempered game and players were acting on a tightrope due to the rashness’ of the bookings.
Anthony Grant played the overlapping Leigh and his second effort had to blocked on the line as Crewe threatened to take the lead. Tate was then booked for something off the ball that the referee could not have seen.
Ness again played Ajose into space and after some neat footwork, he shifted the ball onto his stronger right foot but he couldn’t keep down his final shot. It was arguably his best effort of the game.
At the other end, Tate was a little casual in possession and the loose ball was smuggled out to Byrne, but he shot wide of Rachubka’s right hand post.
On 65 minutes, Grant produced arguably the best shot of the game as he whistled a shot just wide. It took a deflection on the way through, as well to give Crewe a corner. It was a tremendous strike.
Grant was also involved in the tackle or foul, that led to Louis Thompson being stretched off with a dislocated shoulder. Grant had appeared to be fouled but again the referee waved away the appeals and Rachubka had to push a shot from Byrne around the post. Thompson was replaced by Yaser Kassim.
The influential Australian Massimo Luongo grew stronger and after shooting over the bar, he also forced the Crewe goalkeeper into a really good save.
Crewe lost Leigh through concussion and Jon Guthrie came on. The bookings continued to flow and would come back to haunt Tate and Stephens late on.
Swindon’s substitute John Obika forced Rachubka into another stunning save before Stephens was booked for a second time for kicking the ball away.
Tate followed deep into stoppage time for catching Byrne as he looked to spin away from him.
The final ten minutes, including those eight minutes of stoppage time due to Thompson's injured was played out at a hectic pace with both sides not settling for a point.
Crewe pressed late on hoping for something to drop and it nearly paid off with a late Ness free-kick so close to dropping at the feet of substitute Anthony Stewart, but it was just about smuggled away by the visitors.