Crewe fourth after points shared at Gresty Road.
Crewe Alexandra had to settle for a point against a spirited Mansfield Town side this afternoon. The Stags had to fight back after falling behind to a Chuma Anene goal after just seven minutes after another assist from Charlie Kirk.
Crewe didn't make their control in the first half an hour count and Mansfield hit back by Andy Cook.
Crewe boss David Artell was left fuming with the goal we conceded but it was no more than Mansfield deserved and on another day, if Nicky Maynard had his shooting boots on we could well have lost the game. He had two one on ones that were well saved by Will Jaaskelainen and he also hit the post with a diving header.
Crewe could have won it too with Charlie Kirk’s curling effort thumping the post. It was a game we could have won or indeed lost and in the end a point was a fair reflection.
Crewe Alexandra boss David Artell made two changes to the side that defeated Eastleigh in the FA Cup on Tuesday evening. One was enforced because Chris Porter was not deemed fit enough to retain his place after he picked up a tight hamstring in mid-week. Chuma Anene who scored a brace in the 3-1 win over the Spitfires replaced the club’s leading scorer.
The other change in the forward positions saw Daniel Powell replace Owen Dale on the right wing.
Mansfield had our former centre-forward Nicky Maynard in their starting XI.
A confident Crewe started brightly and after just five minutes, Oli Finney, whistled one right across the six box and his low shot come cross just cleared the far post.
Maynard threatened to make inroads into the Crewe box but he was well marshalled by the covering Ryan Wintle and he edged him off it.
His next chance in the 7th minute should have resulted in the opening goal for the visitors. Will Jaaskelainen’s underhit clearance in midfield and Neal Bishop returned it back and into Maynard. He was granted too much space and Jaaskelainen redeemed himself superbly well by pushing his well struck effort away. With Maynard’s quality, it was a big chance missed.
They were left to rue that missed chance even more when Chuma Anene finished off a splendid move for Crewe to take the lead. Tommy Lowery found Kirk with a lifted pass over full-back James Clarke and with Kirk’s accurate low cross, Anene had the simple task of tapping home for his third goal in a week.
Crewe then dominated much of the possession and were in control of the game but not really threatening Bobby Olejink’s goal as much as we would have wanted. Another cross coming in from Powell saw Ryan Sweeney just beat Anene to it.
At the other end, Andy Cook met a cross from Alex MacDonald but it was fairly comfortable save for the Alex goalkeeper. Finney also did brilliantly to track CJ Hamilton as he threatened to go through on the break.
Crewe continued to press looking for a second goal. Lowery had a shot from distance that was spilled by Olejink but the goalkeeper reacted well to drop on the loose ball.
Mansfield offered a threat with Maynard’s agility though and Crewe had to keep that back door shut. Connor Shaughnessy shot wide after Mal Benning and Hamilton had combined down the Crewe hand side.
A forceful run from Powell ended in a dangerous enough cross but there wasn’t enough red and white shirts in the opposition box to make the most of it.
Crewe didn’t look under much threat but on 27 minutes, we conceded an awful equaliser from our point of view. A long punt up the pitch out of the hands from the Mansfield goalkeeper was headed into the air by the retreating Nolan and Cook read it. He took one touch before lifting it over the advancing Crewe goalkeeper. It was route one to say the least but it saw the Stags level.
The Alex tried to respond and Anene nearly just a stronger touch to a Kirk cross before Lowery fired just over after good work from Pickering and Powell.
Mansfield always seemed to have a chance in them and Cook wasted a header at the far post when stealing in behind Ng.
Crewe pressed to retake the lead before the break. A sublime pass from Wintle on the side volley found Kirk and he cleverly waited for an overlap from Pickering. His lifted cross just missed out Finney in the centre of the goal and Bishop did well up against the physical Powell at the far post to divert it for a corner.
Wintle, who was growing into more of an influence in the game then raced 40 yards before whizzing one just wide.
Cook got free just before the break on the edge of the Crewe box but Pickering did well to get out and make a block.
Crewe could have retaken the lead when another splendid move involving Kirk and Pickering down the left found Finney in a great position but he couldn’t keep his shot down. It was a good opening for the Alex youngster.
In first half stoppage time, Maynard went through once again, with Nolan in his wake and he was only denied a goal on his return to Gresty Road by the excellent Jaaskelainen.
Lowery started the second half but was forced off early on after being caught on the ankle by Bishop just before half time. James Jones replaced him.
That man again Maynard had another great chance to score after Hamilton got in behind Ng and pulled it back for the Mansfield hitman but he uncharacteristically lifted it over the top. If he had bought his shooting boots, we would have been in trouble this afternoon.
Kirk and Pickering continued to have joy when combining and Finney was unfortunate to see his well struck effort cleared off the line. It was a good effort and a very good clearance from Benning.
Jones’ first real contribution saw his well struck free kick pushed away before Maynard stopped to head against the post from MacDonald’s cross. The visitors certainly came more into it second half but Kirk was always a major threat and after gliding past Clarke, his curling shot thumped the Stags post.
Ainley replaced Finney and was excellent and a Crewe winner looked to be coming from him or man of the match Kirk. Ainley got close to the by line but couldn’t pick anyone out. Jones turned and shot at the Mansfield keeper and Maynard did likewise before he was replaced late. Danny Rose is always a menace but thankfully a chance never dropped to him.
Crewe looked the more likely to grab the winner but we didn’t conjured up that one genuine chance and in truth Mansfield had it with substitute Omari Sterling James sliced a really good chance well wide of the chance.