Crewe: Garratt, Nolan, Raynes, Walker, Bakayogo, Green, Lowery (Finney, 83), Ainley (Kirk, 78), Cooper, Bowery (Reilly, 83), Dagnall
Unused Subs: Richards, Pickering, Wintle, Lundstram,
Attendance: 4,467 (301 Crewe)
A second half Sam Cosgrove header proved enough for Carlisle United to condemn Crewe Alex to a 1-0 defeat at Brunton Park in a nip & tuck game.
In an otherwise even encounter with few goal scoring chances, it was the hosts who ground out the victory to leave the Alex six points above the League Two drop zone at the close of play.
Dave Artell made three changes from the side that won on New Years’ Day against Grimsby, all enforced.
Paul Green came in to debut after signing on loan from Oldham to replace Conor Grant who returned to Everton following the expiration of his loan deal. Eddie Nolan replaced the suspended Perry Ng, with Jordan Bowery coming in for the injured Chris Porter.
Crewe began the game the fresher side after the two week break, Bowery having the best chance of the half in just the fifth minute. Callum Ainley & George Cooper exchanged neat interplay to drive forward, with Bowery being sent in one-on-one, rounding goalkeeper Jack Bonham but sliding his shot against the post – with Bonham pouncing on the rebound.
All of Crewe’s significant first half openings fell Bowery’s way in fact, with his second sighting on ten minutes flashing wide, with not a telling enough connection on Nolan’s low right-wing cross.
Continuing to capitalise on the early dominance, Bowery had his third attempt saved down low by Bonham on 19 minutes after he steamed in goalwards following a wayward defensive header from Tom Parkes. Heading away from goal & under pressure, he got a good shot away that required the GK to get down well.
Carlisle took more of a grip of the game from the half hour mark, Green fortunately getting away with a strong penalty claim by United’s James Brown after a heavy challenge, before striker Sam Cosgrove twice went close at the near post.
Brown was involved again eight minutes shy of the break when he whacked an opportunist 25-yard half volley first time on the angle. Garratt was beaten but the ball flew inches wide.
Crewe ended the half in the ascendency, but couldn't carve out a clear chance.
A mix-up in the Carlisle defence gifted George Cooper the first opening on the second period, just after the hour mark when Parkes & Danny Grainger got in each others way to allow George an attempted lob over Bonham that landed on the roof of the net.
In a cagey second period with chances few and far between, it was Cosgrove who provided the moment that mattered, planting his downward header in at the back post after Parkes' cross took a wicked deflection to reach him.
That moment came in the 76th minute, with only a half chance for Ainley coming before that suckerpunch.
Dave Artell made three substitutions in a bid to break Carlisle down & salvage something from the game, but the only real shot to test Bonham came in the last attack of the game.
Green’s long diagonal was brought down by Lewis Reilly for Cooper who thrashed a ferocious effort that Bonham did well to beat away.
The referee’s whistle blew soon after with the Alex succumbing to a narrow defeat on the road.