What the press made of the lively Boxing Day draw
Crewe Alex halted their losing run with a vastly-improved display against promotion-chasing Carlisle United at Gresty Road on Boxing Day.
The Railwaymen had lost three on the spin and slipped down League Two, but produced arguably their best performance of the season on Monday.
Shaun Miller gave the visitors the lead but George Cooper’s sixth of the season levelled just before the break.
The hosts went desperately close to forcing a winner on a number of occasions after the restart, but some magnificent United defending kept them at bay.
And when the referee missed a clear handball in the Carlisle box in the final minutes, and waved away pleas for a penalty, Crewe had run out of time.
They will be buoyed by the display but frustrated that they still did not take all three points, as they stayed in 16th position.
Carlisle News & Star
Crewe Alexandra 1 Carlisle United 1: A hotly-debated refereeing decision and some gutsy late goalkeeping prevented Carlisle United from coming off track in this railway town. A lively draw at Crewe saw Keith Curle’s team seriously stretched at times, but it remains one defeat from 22 in this League Two campaign.
The sides of this stadium not filled with travelling Cumbrians erupted in protest when a Tom Miller clearance appeared to strike his own arm. Ref Rob Lewis declined the home appeals in the 90th minute and United reached their destination with a point.
To get there, they also needed Mark Gillespie to be at his bravest when the ball was ricocheting around Carlisle’s box. One late double-save saw the keeper seriously earn his corn, and a pat on the back from Curle after the final whistle.
Had the game lasted another five minutes, Crewe might have joined Newport on the very small list of clubs to beat United in 2016/17, such was the pressure they were applying. But it and they did not, and while the gap to the play-offs was trimmed to five points, these away days are not always going to be a picnic for the Blues.
Sometimes getting out unscathed will have to do. There were times at the Alexandra Stadium when United seemed to miss Mike Jones and Danny Grainger’s know-how in what proved a demanding encounter, but coping without those two for the short-term is an obligation for this stretched squad.
So far they have done so twice, and kept enough momentum to think they can finish 2016 in reasonable spirits at Notts County, before going full-tilt at promotion in the new year.
Shaun Miller, who scored against his old club and celebrated with abandon in front of a huge travelling support, will be key to that aim. The only shame here was that United were unable to convert his clinical first-half finish into victory. George Cooper’s well-flighted free-kick pegged them back before the break and gave Crewe a little cheer in a testing time.