Crewe Alexandra picked up a valuable point and a clean sheet on the road as a solid display saw us keep Burton Albion at bay.
Crewe grew into the game the longer it went on and we could have nicked it when a loose back pass from Phil Edwards allowed Brad Inman to go close but his toe-poked effort was blocked by the onrushing goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin.
Burton arguably shaded the better of the opportunities on the night with their best effort arriving in stoppage time but Mark Duffy’s free-kick clipped the outside of the Crewe post.
Alex defender George Ray was given the all clear to play with his fitted mask to protect his fractured cheek. With Stephen Kingsley ruled out with a foot injury, Jon Guthrie switched back to left-back.
Steve Davis made two changes to his forward line. Marcus Haber returned to the starting line-up after coming off the bench in the second half against Gillingham at the weekend. The on-loan Harry Wilson made his full senior debut following his three appearances as a substitute this season.
The injured Lauri Dalla Valle (back) and Ryan Colclough were the ones to miss out. Colclough was named on the bench alongside George Cooper and youngsters Callum Saunders and Callum Ainley.
Burton Albion were forced into a late change with Stuart Beavon withdrawing after the warm-up and his place was taken by Timmy Thiele. Matty Palmer was the late inclusion to the Brewers bench.
After conceding a soft free-kick within the first 60 seconds, Burton’s Tom Naylor registered the first shot on target after Brad Inman had tracked a run to the far post to head out of the box. Naylor’s tame shot was straight at Ben Garratt. Winger Mark Duffy then shot wide after the home side broke quickly down the Crewe right hand side.
Burton continued to press looking for an early opener and Garratt had to be alert to push away a long range effort from Robbie Weir. It travelled through a lot of bodies ahead of the Crewe number one and he had to adjust to shuffle along to get firm hands on it.
On 16 minutes, a promising build up down the Crewe right was intercepted by full-back Damien McCrory and his forceful run created an opening for the lively Duffy but he couldn’t keep his shot from the edge of the penalty area to test Garratt. Duffy was also denied a clear strike at goal by the covering Adam King, who got enough on the ball to take it through to the diving Garratt.
Crewe certainly found it difficult to get a foothold in the Burton last third of the pitch and a couple of crosses were too close to the Brewers goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin.
After weathering an early storm though, Crewe did settle more into their passing game and began to utilise the pace of Inman and Wilson down the flanks more. Their endeavour earned a couple of corners and throw-ins further up the pitch but we were just lacking that final quality delivery or pass going into the Burton box. MClaughlin had to punch a better cross coming in from Ollie Turton and David Fox saw his well struck drive from 30 yards blocked by Shane Cansdell-Sherriff.
Ben Nugent also found himself in an advanced position but he couldn’t quite bring the ball down as he would have liked and the chance was lost but the Alex centre-half was on side and would have been through on goal but in his defence it came at him at an awkward height to take it comfortably.
Lucas Akins whistled over a dangerous looking cross that zipped from left-to-right before the Burton number 10 then curled one a couple of yards wide as he seemed to slip in the motion of his shot.
The best chance of the first half fell to the home side on 43 minutes. Nasser El Khayati tricked his way to by-line before he poked a perfect ball into the six yard box and Akins stuck out his leg to divert it goalwards but the well positioned Garratt was there to stop it close to his line. El Khayati began to have more of an influence in the contest and after more close control his low shot had to deflect behind for a late corner.
The second half started with Burton Albion on the front foot and midfielder Chris Atkinson made a magnificent block to deny El Khayati a clear shot at goal. He threw himself in front of his shot just outside the six yard box. Winger El Khayati continued to pose a threat with his pace and skill and he was foiled again by the agile Garratt close to his near post.
Steve Davis made his first change 10 minutes into the second half with James Jones replacing Atkinson.
A corner from the Railwaymen then saw Jon Guthrie stoop inside the six yard box but he couldn’t quite direct his header goalwards to really call McLaughlin into action. Substitute Jones then thumped a shot from distance against a Burton body but it was a better approach from the Alex.
The second change from Crewe saw Colclough replace young Wilson on 63 minutes. Burton made a change of their own with Jerome Binnom-Williams replacing Akins.
Guthrie did superbly to deny Duffy a clear run on goal when he read the situation perfectly to get ahead of the Burton forward before a short back pass from Edwards allowed Inman to get to it but his toe poke was blocked by the onrushing McLaughlin.
The game was really beginning to open up and a burst from captain Fox nearly saw him through on the Burton goal but the covering John Mousinho did superbly to halt his run with a last ditch tackle.
McCrory became the first player to be booked for a foul on Colclough.
With 15 minutes remaining, Colclough drifted off the right wing and across the box but he couldn’t keep his effort down enough.
Khayati was replaced by Zeli Ismail and the hard working Tiele made way for Aurelien Joachim.
A clever knock down from Nugent nearly found Haber before a forceful run from Guthrie found King in space and his well struck shot was just over.
With time running out, Callum Saunders replaced Haber as Crewe aimed to nick the three points in the dying minutes.
In the final minute, Duffy went awfully close to winning the points for the Brewers when his well struck free-kick from the right of the box, seemed to clip the outside of the post. Garratt appeared to get his fingers on it as well but the combination did enough to somehow keep it out of our net.
The Alex had to survive another free-kick from Duffy but on this occasion he thumped his effort harmlessly into a stubborn Alex wall.