Unlucky Crewe Alexandra suffered a 92nd minute sucker punch as Justin Edinburgh’s Gillingham side nicked all three points at the Alexandra Stadium this afternoon thanks to the only goal of the game from the in-form Rory Donnelly.
It was harsh on the hard working Alex, who had the better of the first half and a point apiece would have been fair after Gillingham upped their display in the second 45 minutes.
Donnelly pounced on a late mistake down the Crewe right hand side to curl a shot in via the post to win the game that really should have ended goalless. It was a moment of quality from Donnelly, who came into the game in great form having scored five goals in his last three games.
The result was extremely harsh on the Alex who had the better of the first half and had created some good chances in that period through midfielders Chris Atkinson and Adam King.
Steve Davis made one change to the side that won 2-1 at Barnsley last weekend with Stephen Kingsley returning to the starting line-up ahead of James Baillie. Kingsley missed last week’s win at Oakwell as he was on International duty for Scotland Under-21s.
Marcus Haber returned from International duty with Canada but had to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench. James Jones was also included in the squad following his return to action for the club’s Under-21s against Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday.
Crewe Alexandra made a really bright start to the game and had the pull in the net early on after David Fox had found the run of Brad Inman. The Alex forward took the ball in his stride with his arm and the official had spotted the infringement before he rolled the ball into the net. Inman knew he had committed the offence and didn’t protest.
On 14 minutes another good move from the Alex unlocked the Gillingham defence with Inman again involved. He found Colclough on the other side and after he avoided a couple of challenges, the supportive Chris Atkinson just couldn’t keep his shot down from just inside the 18-yard box.
King then shot straight at the Gills goalkeeper Stuart Nelson after some good possession play from the influential Inman and full-back Kingsley.
Gillingham’s attacks were rare in the first half an hour with midfielder Jake Hessenthaler flicking a header wide of the target before they lost Luke Norris through injury. The forward landed awkwardly on his ankle after jumping with Jon Guthrie and he had to be replaced by the experienced Cody McDonald.
McDonald’s introduction saw him head into the gloves of Garratt following a cross from Bradley Garmston and the Gills captain John Egan forced the Crewe goalkeeper into his first meaningful save when he was forced to push his well struck shot away.
Crewe then suffered an injury loss of their own when Lauri Dalla Valle was forced off with a back injury. George Cooper replaced him.
Gills danger man Bradley Dack curled one a couple of yards wide of the target before Crewe conjured up the best opportunity of the first half a minute before the interval. Inman was the creator again, robbing possession close to the by-line, and getting a powerful shot off. Nelson did well to push it out and the supportive King must have thought he was going to give us the lead only to be put under some pressure from Garmston and he couldn’t keep his shot down. He knew he should have kept his shot on target.
There was still time for Josh Wright to shoot wide from 25-yards and Harry Lennon was booked for a foul on Colclough.
Gillingham certainly upped their performance in the second half and began to apply some concerted pressure on the Crewe defence. Donnelly headed an early Garmston cross wide of the mark before McDonald went close from a Jermaine McGlashan corner with an acrobatic effort.
The visitors’ best effort then saw the lively McDonald hit the foot of the post after Garratt had done remarkably well to save his initial effort. It was a let off for the Alex but we were still very much in the game and still offered a threat mainly due to the lively Inman.
Crewe defender Ben Nugent made a fantastic block to deny Dack a certain goal that looked destined for the top corner before Crewe boss Steve Davis made a change with Haber replacing Atkinson.
Haber won an instant free-kick with his first aerial challenge but Colclough thumped his shot into the Gillingham wall. He reacted quickly though to gather the rebound and after evading a challenge made it into the box and clipped a pass to Cooper. The Crewe youngster had a decent first touch but he couldn’t keep his shot down to test Nelson.
Crewe then lost full-back Kingsley through injury after he was caught late by winger McGlashan. The on-loan Swansea City full-back had to be stretched off after being caught on the ankle.
With the time running out and a goalless draw appearing to be the most likely outcome, the excellent Nugent read a pass superbly to intercept a pass through to McDonald.
Colclough fired a late free-kick into the wall again before Gillingham nicked the three points instead of one point in stoppage time. Crewe were sloppy clearing their lines down the right hand side and Donnelly snatched his opportunity, bending a shot off the post and past Garratt for a dagger through the heart moment at a stunned Gresty Road.