Crewe 1-1 Carlisle
Crewe: Garratt, Turton, Davis, Guthrie, Bakayogo, Jones, Bingham, Kiwomya, Cooper, Kirk, Dagnall
Unused Subs: Richards, Ray, Nugent, Hollands, Udoh, Ainley, Lowery
Goals: Cooper (45)
Crewe Alexandra played their first Boxing Day game at home for seven seasons and serv3ed up a really top performance against high-flying Carlisle.
Crewe more than matched the in-form Cumbrians this afternoon and were rather unfortunate not to have collected all three points after key decisions went against us.
Somewhat against the run of play, our former striker Shaun Miller gave the visitors the lead on 35 minutes after he tucked home in the far corner but Crewe were incensed that the assistant’s flag was not raised after he had strayed offside.
Crewe Alexandra deservedly hit back on the stroke of half-time when George Cooper curled home his sixth goal of the season via a free-kick.
The Railwaymen pressed for a winner in the second half and were left aggrieved when a late shout for a penalty was turned down after a blatant handball at the far post from Tom Miller. The referee and his assistant failed to spot what the entire Stadium has seen.
With Club captain Ryan Lowe ruled out with a tight hamstring, there was a recall for young forward Charlie Kirk.
The Academy graduate was handed his first start since featuring away at Luton Town back in early October. Normally a winger, Kirk was played in a more advanced role in behind the main striker Chris Dagnall.
With Lowe ruled out, defender Harry Davis took the captain’s armband.
The other change for our Boxing Day encounter, saw midfielder Billy Bingham return to the starting line-up following his impressive display as a substitute at the Abbey Stadium. Bingham last started at home to Yeovil Town back in October. Danny Hollands dropped to the substitute’s bench.
Our visitors named our former striker Shaun Miller in their starting line-up and defender Mark Ellis was named in the 18-man squad.
Crewe Alexandra’s first venture forward resulted in a free-kick but Kirk just couldn’t quite get it under control.
Keith Curle’s Carlisle side came into the festive fixture on a run of only one League defeat all season and you could sense their confidence in the early passages of play. The in-form Cumbrians created a chance with Miller shooting straight at his former team-mate Garratt.
The Crewe goalkeeper was also called upon to deny Jason Kennedy with his arm as the Carlisle midfielder tried to lift it over him. The Crewe goalkeeper was soon upon him to deflect it behind for a corner.
Bingham and Jones were soon settling into the rhythm of the game and the Londoner tried to impose himself in possession and get Crewe Alexandra going. Charlie Kirk produce a timely tackle to halt a Carlisle attack to free Dagnall and his pass into Bingham saw Mark Gillespie make his first real save of the game.
Another deft touch from Kirk then send Cooper rampaging down the left hand side and although he had other options, he elected to shoot and his fairness his low drive was just inches clear of the far post.
Crewe were certainly on top in the game but we couldn’t find the goal that our all round play probably deserved. Another delivery from Cooper saw Dagnall fly into a diving header but he couldn’t quite direct it goalwards. Then a dangerous looking cross from Kirk had to be flicked away before it reached Dagnall at the far post.
Carlisle were containing Crewe rather than the other way round but a low free-kick from Macauley Gillesphey was well held by Garratt and it seems to inspire the visitors into their best spell of the half.
Crewe failed to score when on top in the game and Carlisle did, although there was a doubt whether Miller had remained onside. Crewe failed to clear their lines efficiently and Nicky Adams played in Miller, who kept his composure to slot past Garratt. The striker ran the line of the Carlisle supporters and was booked for entering the crowd.
Crewe tried to hit back almost immediately, but Kiwomya’s low cross was just cut out before it reached Dagnall inside the six-yard box. In the follow up, Jones shot straight at the Gillespie in the Carlisle goal.
Garratt also showed great agility to tip over a header from their leading scorer Charlie Wyke.
As the half drew to a close, another clever passing move from the Railwaymen saw Jones slip in Kiwomya and after he gave it back to him, his low shot was blocked and then Bingham who thumped his follow up effort against a Carlisle defender.
In the final minute of the first half, Crewe deservedly equalised through a stunning free-kick from Cooper. Dagnall was fouled some 25 yards from goal and after Jones had ran to the left, Cooper’s curling effort defeated Gillespie and the Alex went in all square after a really positive first period. It was Cooper’s 6th goal of the season in all competitions.
Some early pressure from Carlisle forced some early corners but the Crewe centre-halves stood firm.
An early break from Dagnall then saw him lose his footing as he broke on the back four. It was a chance lost.
Another superb cross from Cooper was then just hooked away by Gillesphey before a positive boost from Bakayogo saw him lift his final shot just wide. Kirk, who was growing with confidence then tricked his way past a couple of challenges before lifting his effort over.
It was good stuff from the Alex and a free-kick from Cooper caused mayhem inside the box but both Kiwomya and Dagnall saw their shots blocked in the scramble.
Miller was a threat though and he shot at Garratt before his strike partner Wyke made way for Jamie Devitt.
Guthrie was booked for a foul that didn’t warrant a t award rather than yellow card. Kiwomya then created an opening for Jones but his shot was wide.
At the other end, Gillesphy fired a fine shot at the Crewe goalkeeper before Reggie Lambe was booked for a trip on Cooper.
Keith Curle made a double change with Ibehre and Wright replacing Shaun Miller and Lambe.
Crewe continued to look the more likely side to snatch the points though and another great passing move saw Dagnall run in behind and lay off to Jones but his shot floated just wide of the target.
A late effort then saw Cooper and Dagnall have shot blocked by the Carlisle rear guard as we pressed for the winner.
In the dying minutes, Crewe had a large shout for a penalty when Tom Miller appeared to head a deep cross onto his own arm as Jones threatened to put him under pressure at the far post. It looked a penalty but referee Lewis waved away the strong appeals.
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