Crewe: Garratt, Walker, Raynes, Nolan, Ng, Cooper (Bowery, 81), Grant (Bakayogo, 18), Wintle, Ainley (Dale, 67), Dagnall, Porter
Unused Subs: Richards, Kirk, Stubbs, Pickering
Attendance: 4,066 (221 Crewe)
Crewe Alexandra slipped to their first league defeat of the season at Blundell Park. The only goal of the game was headed home by Mitch Rose following a short corner in the 37th minute and although The Railwaymen had chances to salvage something from the contest we couldn’t find the net for the first time this season.
Crewe felt aggrieved early on when George Cooper appeared to have been tripped inside the penalty area, only for the referee to caution the Crewe player for a supposed dive.
Our best chance to find an equaliser in the second half, saw our leading marksman Chris Porter have two attempts to finish after he had been played in superbly by Nolan but he was twice denied. Substitutes Jordan Bowery and Owen Dale combined late on but Bowery was forced wide by the onrushing James McKeown and he couldn’t find Dale or Brad Walker with his pass.
David Artell made two changes from the side that were victorious at Vale Park last weekend with a fit-again Michael Raines returning to the starting line-up. Zoumana Bakayogo was the unfortunate one to drop out.
Tom Lowery suffered a neck injury in training yesterday, so he wasn’t risked at Blundell Park. That opened the door quicker than expected for new loan signing Conor Grant. The Everton midfielder made his debut for the club after signing until January on Wednesday.
Striker Chris Porter was deemed fit enough after missing Tuesday’s defeat in the Checkatrade Trophy with a knee injury. He led the front line whilst being flanked by Chris Dagnall and Callum Ainley. Following his impressive impact as a substitute against Newcastle United U-21s, Academy graduate Owen Dale was again named on the bench.
Crewe started brightly and after Perry Ng had pressurised Martin Woolford into surrendering possession to him, our right wing-back was tripped 25 yards from goal. George Cooper guided his free-kick a yard over James McKeown’s crossbar.
The lively Sikiri Dembele troubled Crewe down the left hand side but Raines came across to divert it behind for an early corner for the home side.
After good work from Ainley, Porter registered the first real effort on goal in the 7th minute but his cross shot was gathered confidently by McKeown.
Cooper was outrageously booked for going down inside the box. In truth, the entire stadium thought that referee Sarginson was going to point to the penalty spot after Cooper had cleverly nipped it beyond Clarke to invite the challenge, but he cautioned Cooper instead! To say the Crewe players and staff were perplexed is an understatement.
Moments later, Crewe lost debutant Grant after we was knocked unconscious after colliding with a shoulder as he turned swiftly close to the half way line. There was understandably a lengthy stoppage due to the seriousness of the injury. Conor was replaced by Bakayogo and Cooper switched over to the right hand side. Walker moved into central midfield.
Raynes was booked for a rash taking out of James Berrett as Grimsby threatened to hit us on the counter-attack. He had no complaints.
The nasty injury to Grant did alter the tempo and flow of the game for a while and genuine chances were limited until Mitch Rose had two good efforts blocked for the Mariners. Russell Slade’s side were enjoying their best spell of the game and Ng did brilliantly to prevent Woolford from having a tap-in after he was so nearly picked out by JJ Hooper.
From the resultant corner on 37 minutes, Grimsby took the lead. Following a short corner, Dembele created the opportunity for the attack-minded Rose to head home inside a crowded box. It was a disappointing goal to concede as Crewe had set themselves for the delivery coming in and it was central to our goal.
Crewe continued to be neat and tidy in the build-up, but we were just lacking that final moment of quality to really expose the Grimsby back-line. There were also too many offside calls, although one played through by Cooper for the run of Porter looked perfectly timed. He would have been free on goal.
Due to the injury to Grant there was a stoppage of six minutes. Following an encouraging run from Dagnall he shot straight at McKeown. Winger Woolford also blazed over after he had managed to wriggle free of Wintle’s challenge.
Dembele became the third player to enter the referee’s book for a foul on Cooper in the opening minutes of the second half.
Scott Vernon had an early sight of the Crewe goal but the recovering Bakayogo did superbly well to get across and block his low drive. Moments later JJ Hooper beat the Crewe offside trap but appeared to use his arm to eventually control the ball in his path, but with Bakayogo and Nolan in pursuit he fired into the side netting.
Encouraging play from the Alex, saw a lively Dagnall react quickest inside the Grimsby box. The Crewe forward read the situation to nip in front of the Grimsby goalkeeper and his intentional lob back into the danger zone had to be cleared from inside the six-yard box by Clarke. In the follow up, Walker just couldn’t acquire the space to get a shot off.
Rose soon followed Dembele in the book for a lunge at Nolan. The Irish defender was soon up to block a cross from the tricky Dembele. On the hour mark, Garratt had to watch a cross from Zak Mills very closely as it dipped to hit his crossbar on the way down. At the other end, Ainley volleyed wide with an ambitious but well struck effort.
Crewe began to enjoy their best period of possession and Artell introduced young Owen Dale for Ainley on 68 minutes. It was Dale’s league debut for the club following his cameo performance on Tuesday against Newcastle United’s Under-21s.
Grimsby also made a change with Jamille Matt and Diallang Jaiyesimi replacing Vernon and Woolford.
More skill from Dembele allowed him to provide a cross for Hooper but he couldn’t keep his header down to test Garratt.
The game was evenly poised entering the final quarter. From another corner, Crewe were lucky to survive after allowing centre-half Clarke to get a run at his header. It cleared the crossbar. Dembele was replaced by Ben Davies with 10 minutes remaining.
Cooper was also replaced by Bowery, as Crewe decided to try and get some more joy by going more direct.
On 82 minutes, Nolan produced a wonderful driven pass in behind for Porter and he had two bites at the cherry but was denied by McKeown and then on line by the cover. It was our clearest chance of the game.
At the other end, Bakayogo did exceedingly well to poke the ball away from Hooper as he was about to shoot and Jaiyesimi shot straight at Garratt in follow up. It was turning into an open affair, with the Alex looking to salvage something.
A great break from Dale saw him create a three-on-three opportunity and he calmly slid Bowery in behind. The onrushing Grimsby goalkeeper did well to force him wide and Bowery couldn’t pick out Dale or Walker with his pass and the chance was lost.
Crewe had a late corner, that created a melee but Grimsby managed to clear the danger at the second attempt. The Alex huffed and puffed but couldn’t conjure up a real genuine chance to perhaps grab a point.