Crewe: Richards (Garratt, 72), Nolan, Raynes, Walker, Bakayogo, Green, Wintle, Ainley, Kirk (Pickering, 81), Bowery, McKirdy (Miller, 69)
Unused Subs: Ray, Lowery, Barlaser, Rei
In another topsy-turvy encounter at the County Ground, Crewe Alexandra let a deserved 3-1 lead slip to end up with nothing to show for our efforts.
Crewe couldn’t see out the later stages of the game after having full-back Zoumana Bakayogo red carded for two bookable offences and Swindon’s on-loan striker Marc Richards scored an 89th minute winner to condemn us to our third straight defeat. It was hard to take again after Crewe had played so well to put ourselves in the driving seat but we conceded four more goals following three last week.
The impressive Callum Ainley had inspired Crewe Alexandra to a well-deserved half time lead. The Academy graduate scored two first half goals to cancel out Richards’ early opener for the home side and he was then involved in Ryan Wintle’s third goal on 52 minutes.
Ainley found Jordan Bowery inside the Swindon penalty area and after his shot was palmed out by the Swindon goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook, the supporting Wintle tapped home from close range. It was going so smoothly, with Crewe looking a real threat in attack but another collapse occurred.
The home side hit back with a stunning strike of their own from their fit-again substitute Timi Elsnik on 66 minutes. Crewe then lost the recalled Dave Richards with 20 minutes left through injury but to his credit, Ben Garratt made two fine saves to deny Swindon substitute Luke Norris but the pressure finally told.
Bakayogo was booked for a second time following Swindon’s equalising goal that was tucked home by the game-changer Elsnik and we couldn’t see out the remaining minutes with Richards tucking home his second goal of the afternoon at the near post.
The Crewe Alexandra boss David Artell made three changes to the side that narrowly lost 3-2 to Wycombe Wanderers last weekend. Artell recalled Welshman David Richards in goal after Ben Garratt had played nine successive matches since his own recall in December.
After scoring on his debut as a substitute last weekend, the on-loan Harry McKirdy was handed his first start at the County Ground. McKirdy was used in a front three alongside Charlie Kirk and the other change, Jordan Bowery. Going out of the team in attacking positions were the injured Chris Porter and youngster Lewis Reilly.
Crewe’s other loan signings, Daniel Barlaser and Shaun Miller started on a much stronger looking Cree bench.
Swindon Town included their new loan signing and our former loanee striker Marc Richards in their starting line-up. The former Port Vale forward took the place of Swindon’s leading scorer Luke Norris for the visit of the Alex.
Some persistence play from Callum Ainley in the opening minute of the game saw him win a corner. From the second phase of play, Ainley’s cross was met by the head of Michael Raynes but it wouldn’t quite fall for Jordan Bowery inside the Swindon penalty area.
The home side then duly scored with their first meaningful attack on just three minutes. The ball was manipulated down the Crewe right hand side and Ellis Landolo’s low cross was tucked home with relative ease by Richards past his namesake. It was the worst possible start with Crewe again conceding so early against David Flitcroft’s side.
Five minutes later, a purposeful run from Swindon midfielder Keshi Anderson saw him glide past two challenges before his low drive was blocked by the boot of Zoumana Bakayogo. The Crewe goalkeeper Richards was then called into swift action on 10 minutes when he fisted away a powerful drive from Kaiyne Woolery.
Crewe had found it difficult to cope with Swindon’s fast start to the game but Ainley was lively and he had a low cross, destined for Kirk, deflected into the gloves of the Swindon goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook.
Ainley’s early form in the game paid off after 15 minutes when he produced a stunning strike to level things up. Some patient build up play from the Railwaymen saw Green sweep the ball out to the right hand side and after Bowery’s cross was only headed up into the air, Ainley’s volleyed it wonderfully past a helpless Charles-Cook for his fourth goal of the season. The Crewe youngster had shown tremendous technique to control his shot and direct it into the opposite corner of the net. It was a timely equaliser to say the least.
The excellent Ainley continued to be a constant threat and he so nearly caught Swindon out with a clever corner that whipped into the near post. It was inches away from being another wonderful goal. He also slipped Bowery through but he couldn’t quite collect it in his stride to trouble the Swindon goalkeeper.
The hard working McKirdy was harshly booked for blocking a clearance from the Swindon goalkeeper as he tried to play the ball out. In fairness, the Crewe striker had every right to close him down and try to block him playing it up field. Referee Graham Sailsbury thought not and booked the Crewe striker.
Crewe were on now well on top and threatened the Swindon goal again on 25 minutes. Green was involved again to find Kirk on the edge of the box and he quickly found Bowery. The striker got the ball out of his feet and aimed his curler to the far corner but it was blocked for a corner. From the resulting corner captain Michael Raynes was awfully unlucky to see his header cleared off the line by James Dunne. It was again, inches away from another Crewe goal.
The Alex pressure continued in earnest and a fantastic run from McKirdy saw him burst into the Swindon box and present Kirk with a chance but again his shot was blocked by some last ditch defending. Kirk then forced the Swindon into another save with a controlled volley before he turned creator for a thoroughly deserved second goal for Crewe.
On 29 minutes, Kirk produced a really tempting cross into the box and Ainley’s slight touch was enough to take it past Charles-Cook. It was no more than the Railwaymen had deserved after a terrific response following that early Richards goal.
Swindon conjured up another genuine chance for their new boy Richards but Brad Walker did superbly well to throw himself in front of the shot and force it to rise over the crossbar.
Flitcroft made a substitution before half time, introducing Norris for Woolery, who had in fairness been decent in the opening 40 minutes. It was purely tactical to improve Swindon’s goal threat with two bigger strikers up there.
Crewe deservedly led at the half-time break and in truth had been a bit unlucky that it had not been more than the one goal.
Flitcroft made a further two substitutions at half-time with Timi Elsnik and Matt Taylor replacing Ellis Landolo and James Dunne.
Richards was called into an early save after the sub Elsnik drilled in a shot from 25 yards. The ball dropped out into the six yard box but the grounded Crewe goalkeeper did well enough to prevent Norris from squeezing the rebound home. Moments later, Zoumana Bakayogo headed over the bar as Swindon tried to hit back early on.
Crewe broke away on 52 minutes though to double our advantage. Walker initially did superbly in our own box to cut out a cross and on the counter-attack led by Ainley, Bowery adjusted his feet to get a shot off. The Swindon Town goalkeeper made the save but McKirdy didn’t give up the ghost and made a nuisance of himself to try and keep the rebound alive. He did well enough to keep it alive and the supportive Ryan Wintle gleefully tapped home for only his second senior goal.
Swindon tried to respond quickly with Ollie Banks whistling one over Richards’ crossbar and the home side also applied some good pressure from a corner but the Crewe goalkeeper made a comfortable save in the end.
Kirk was also bizarrely booked for dissent after the referee didn’t award a free-kick against a fair challenge from Wintle but then change his mind after the crowd moaned loud enough. Bakayogo was also booked for what must have been time wasting with half an hour left!
On 66 minutes, the Swindon Town substitute Timi Elsnik, who had threatened the goal since his arrival at half-time produced a stunning shot into Richards’ top right corner. The Crewe goalkeeper had no chance of keeping it out.
With the Robins making it 3-2, Artell decided to freshen things up in attack with Shaun Miller replacing the hard working McKirdy. The Alex boss was also forced into a change on 70 minutes with Richards unable to continue in goal after being clattered earlier.
Garratt was almost immediately called into action after entering the fray and the goalkeeper did fantastically well to deny Norris in a one-on-one situation. He stood up to make a vital stop. He was there again just a couple of minutes later to tip over a header from Norris as it threatened to dip under his crossbar.
The Crewe goalkeeper was helpless though with 10 minutes left after Swindon broke down the left hand side. Bakayogo threw himself into a challenge and was left exposed and as the ball entered the Crewe box, the impressive Elsnik guided home his shot at the far post for 3-3. The talented substitute changed the game.
Referee Sailsbury, who had been booking Crewe players for fun all afternoon then went over and showed Bakayogo his second yellow of the afternoon and we were down to ten men for the closing stages. Understandably, Artell quickly made a change with Harry Pickering replacing Kirk to fill the void at left-back. Crewe, a man down, now had to dig deep to hold on.
As the minutes ticked by, Garratt was booked for time wasting. Miller got away from Matt Preston and he was rightly booked for an obvious shirt pull. From the free-kick, a wonderful delivery from Ainley only needed a touch in front of Reice Charles-Cook.
Crewe tried to see out the time but Swindon’s pressure told with Richards scoring his second goal of the game and the winner in the 89th minute. Our former loanee striker reached a near post cross first to give Garratt little chance and we were on the receiving end of another 4-3 defeat at the County Ground.