Excellent Alex record first away win since October with Ray heading home.
Crewe Alexandra captain George Ray headed home his first goal since February 2015 to boost our survival hopes and dent Portsmouth’s hopes of securing an automatic promotion spot. Ray rose fantastically well to bury his header past David Forde after Callum Cooke had whipped over an accurate cross to the far post. The all-important goal came with 13 minutes left on the clock and secured Crewe’s first away win since October and that 2-0 win at fellow strugglers Leyton Orient.
The Railwaymen were organised all afternoon and had arguably created the better of the opportunities with Jordan Bowery denied an opening goal within a minute and Ben Nugent also having a header cleared from line in the final minute of the first half.
Portsmouth’s best chance came fairly early too with Eoin Doyle heading a cross from Enda Stevens over the top of the crossbar.
Crewe Alexandra manager David Artell made a tactical change to the side that lost at Hartlepool United on Tuesday evening. The surprise omission from the starting line-up was George Cooper, as Crewe reverted to a formation 4-4-2 to keep things more narrow in the middle of the pitch. Ryan Wintle returned to the team to strength our bodies in midfield against the promotion hunting Pompey. Alex Kiwoyma operated off Jordan Bowery.
The Portsmouth starting XI contained our former loanee Gary Roberts and former Academy trainee Gareth Evans.
With Paul Cook’s side coming into the game on the back of a five game unbeaten run and pressing their claim for an automatic promotion place, Crewe had to cope with an upbeat crowd at Fratton Park early on and we nearly did even better than that with Jordan Bowery forcing a very good save from David Forde within 60 seconds. The Portsmouth goalkeeper had to get down and smartly to push out Bowery’s downward header.
The home side’s first opportunity came after Kal Naismith was fouled just outside the Crewe box but the Alex defence stood firm to clear Roberts’ delivery away from the danger zone.
In the ninth minute, Crewe survived an almighty scare after left-back Enda Stevens was allowed to burst forward. His excellent cross found Eoin Doyle but he couldn’t direct his header goalwards and it thankfully cleared Forde’s crossbar. Moments later, Doyle couldn’t quite reach a dangerous looking delivery from Naismith.
As the pressure grew on the Crewe goal, the home side were presented with another opportunity via a free-kick. On this occasion, Roberts lifted it inches over Garratt’s crossbar and a section of the Portsmouth fan base thought it had dropped under and in.
Crewe continued to keep possession when we could and some super skill from Kiwomya should have resulted in a corner for the Railwaymen but the officials wrongly awarded a goal kick.
A hard working Crewe side were well organised and enjoyed some good spells of possession but we were just lacking that real quality in the final third of the pitch. At the other end, our shape was good and the defensive partnership of Ray and Nugent was standing strong up against Doyle and the supporting Roberts and Bennett.
As the first half drew to a close, Bennett played the ball into Naismith but he could only lift his effort over Garratt’s crossbar. A couple of minutes later, Naismith was a bit fortunate to emerge with the ball after a tussle with Turton, but his wicked cross evaded everyone and the ensuing danger passed.
A well drilled Crewe side deservedly went in at the break on level terms and we could even had gone in ahead after a late James Jones free-kick caused unrest inside the Portsmouth box. Ray initially challenged Christian Burgess and the forthcoming goalkeeper Forde and the ball travelled in the air to Nugent, who was denied his first goal of the season when his header was cleared from the line. Crewe had conjured up arguably the best two chances of the half, occurring in the first and final minute.
From an early free-kick, that was won by Kiwomya as he skipped away from Burgess, Turton struck his shot just wide of Forde’s right-hand post after it was shifted to him in the centre of the pitch. From another free-kick taken by Jones, there was a strong appeal for a handball offence after Wintle had flicked on at the near post but referee Busby was uninterested and only awarded a corner.
That promising start to the second half from the Alex, prompted Cook into the first change with Conor Chaplin replacing Amine Linganzi. Turton was soon called upon to clear a cross from our former youngster Evans, after the full-back made a promising run up the Crewe left hand side.
Jones was the first player booked after he stopped a Portsmouth counter-attack in the semi-circle before the home side made their second change with Carl Baker replacing Bennett on 63 minutes.
Crewe were remaining compact and solid but were a little sloppy in conceding free-kicks. Evans became the second player to be booked for tripping Bowery as he threatened to break into the Pompey half of the field.
A flowing move from Crewe saw Bingham clip Kiwoyma up the line and his clever pass into Cooke, saw the on-loan Boro man shoot into the side netting from a tight angle.
On 75 minutes, Crewe broke with real purpose after Turton had headed Robert’s corner up field. Kiwoyma’s pace saw him carry it and his pass found Cooke and his ball into the box was deflected just wide of the post by Stevens. From the resultant corner, Ray won a header before Bingham saw his shot from close range blocked.
It was good stuff from the Alex and we eventually broke the deadlock on 77 minutes following the second phase from the corner. Cooke was the provider with a splendid cross from the left and Ray rose fantastically well to head into the far corner for his first goal of the season for the newly appointed captain.
Portsmouth made a change with Noel Hunt replacing Roberts and Crewe’s first change saw Cooke replaced by Cooper. He nearly scored with one of his first touches after being found by Bowery but it wouldn’t quite drop smoothly for him.
Crewe had to see the final minutes out and after Nugent had conceded a needless foul some 20 yards from our goal, the wall stood firm to block Naismith’s shot.It was backs against the wall for the last few minutes but Crewe stood firm with every one of them taking on the challenge of defending Garratt's goal. Pompey had a late shout for a penalty but again referee Busby waved away the appeals and Crewe had the points in the bag.