Second round tie ends in draw after spirited Eastleigh fight back after scrappy own goal opener for the Alex.
Crewe Alexandra and Eastleigh will have to do it all over again at Gresty Road after a Marcus Barnes goal five minutes from the end cancelled out his own goalkeeper’s scrappy own goal from a corner in the first half. Owen Dale had applied the pressure in front of him and the keeper seemed to punch it into his own net.
Crewe had chances to have put the game to bed with Chris Porter, Dale and Powell all having chances to make sure that a replay wasn’t needed but a spirited Eastleigh raised their game in the second half and deserved the late equaliser. It was Crewe wanting the final whistle at the end, especially when they were presented with a free-kick on the edge of our box deep into stoppage time but Charlie Seaman made a real mess of it. Thankfully.
David Artell was forced into just one change for the Emirates FA Cup second round tie at Eastleigh.
Christian Mbulu returned to the side ahead of Nicky Hunt, who had been forced off on Tuesday night against Forest Green Rovers with a slight muscle strain. The vastly experienced defender was fit enough to offer defensive cover from the substitutes’ bench if needed.
The former Crewe Alexandra midfielder Danny Hollands was named in the Eastleigh starting line-up. Hollands who spend a season with us at Gresty Road captained the Spitfires.
Crewe Alexandra settled into their passing groove quickly and it could have resulted in the opening goal after only two minutes. Perry Ng started the attack by gliding forward and finding Tom Lowery on the edge of the box. It was played out to Charlie Kirk on the left after he stole a yard on Sam Smart and his clever pull back found Harry Pickering. His instant shot across goal was blocked by Max Stryjek in the Eastleigh goal and was eventually cleared to touch.
Crewe would then presented with a half chance after just six minutes. Again Ng was involved and as the ball was swung over from the right flank by Lowery, Porter just didn’t make enough of a decisive touch in front of the Eastleigh goalkeeper. If he had it well could have been the opening goal in this cup tie.
As you would expect from the hosts they pressurised Crewe when in possession whenever they could and snapped into tackles.
Crewe continued to be on the front foot though and a fantastic volleyed pass from Paul Green out to the right wing, saw Dale run at the Eastleigh defence and after cleverly using the overlapping Ng as a decoy he forced Stryjek into a smart save at his near post.
Dale had an unbelievable chance to put Crewe ahead in the 12th minute and the youngster really should of scored after Kirk had found him inside the six yard box. It looked a certain goal but Dale headed down and over the crossbar from close range and no-one could quite believe that he had missed it.
Eastleigh tried to hit the Alex on the break when they had the ball and winger Smart got a sniff at the Crewe goal before the retreating Wintle did everything right to crowd him out and even won a goal kick from him.
The home side conjured up a great chance of their own on 22 minutes. The lively Smart was quick to get the ball out of his feet and whip over a low cross and it was that man Hollands stealing in behind the Crewe centre-halves, but he sent his diving header wide of the target. It was a wonderful chance for the Spitfires and Hollands has been in good goalscoring form this season with eight goals. The veteran knew it had been a Crewe chance.
Moment later, the towering Tyrone Barnett rose highest inside a crowded penalty area but the former Port Vale forward couldn’t keep his header down to trouble Will Jaaskelainen.
Those two chances certainly settled Eastleigh down after a slow start and they began to pose a threat from wide areas. It was Crewe’s turn to do some defending as the tie swung back more in favour of the home side. From a corner, Andrew Boyce reached the cross first but it was comfortably collected by the Crewe number one, who had a crowd of bodies in front of him.
Crewe’s next venture up the pitch on 35 minutes saw the Alex take the lead from our own corner.
Lowery’s cross from the left caused mass confusion in front of Stryjek and Dale seemed to put the Eastleigh goalkeeper enough for him to get a touch and force it over the line. It was a scrappy opener but Crewe didn’t care one jot. Dale claimed the goal and was congratulated, but it looked as though the goalkeeper had produced the final touch for it to go down as an own goal.
The boost of the goal saw Crewe get back into their stride and Lowery drilled in a shot that had to be well held by Stryjek or Porter would have helped himself to a simple tap in. Porter did have the ball in the net after a fabulous interchange of passing from Pickering and Kirk down the left hand side - but the club’s leading scorer had strayed offside.
The half that Crewe had certainly enjoyed the better of, saw good possession around the Eastleigh box and both Kirk and Lowery had good attempts blocked.
Eastleigh forced a corner early on the second half and after a deep delivery, the ball was bundled home but the referee John Busby had already blown for an infringement on the Crewe goalkeeper. It looked a foul.
Five minutes after the restart, Crewe carved out a fantastic opening down our left hand side. Kirk was played in by Lowery and his intelligent cut back found Porter, who had cleverly pulled off, but a combination of a bad bobble on the surface and the forward getting under it, sent his shot high over the crossbar.
The Alex fans were in fine voice all evening long, but their rendition of Dave Artell’s Red and white army was unbelievably good.
Kirk so nearly raced clear onto a longer through ball. Eastleigh thought he was offside but the assistant kept his flag down and Stryjek raced from his line to smother the ball at his feet.
Crewe had to defend a long throw being launched in from the right hand side and we didn’t looked comfortable defending it as the ball bounced around. Moments later, Will Jaaskelainen had to bravely punch clear from the head of Scott Rendell.
To their credit, Eastleigh were giving it everything they had and they were being forced to defend their box more often as a succession of crosses reined in. Hollands flicked one of those wide of the far post. Jack Payne also shot from distance straight at Jaaskelainen, as Crewe had to weather a bit of a storm.
Kirk then stole possession to race at the Eastleigh defence with real pace and his dinked cross just had to be a little higher to pick out Porter. Boyce did well to recover and head clear first.
A fantastic passing move from the Railwaymen then so nearly unlocked the home defence. The interchange of one and two touches was sublime in and around the penalty area but Kirk couldn’t quite pick out a gold shirt to round it off.
The first change saw Daniel Powell replace Owen Dale for the Alex on 70 minutes.
Eastleigh kept plugging away it and Barnett dragged a shot that was well claimed by the diving Alex stopper before Hollands was booked for a robust challenge on Ng on the edge of the box. The Alex skipper was booked soon after for a tackle from behind on Rob Atkinson. From the free-kick, Payne’s whipped over delivery only needed a touch from Barnett but he didn’t connect properly.
Powell’s first real involvement saw him make the by-line and his low cross aimed for Porter the far post had to be intercepted well by Atkinson.
Eastleigh’s first change saw Michael Green replace Smart. Moments later, Nolan performed a superb clearance from inside the box as the ball was destined for Rendell from Green’s low cross. With the pressure mounting from the home side, Barnett stretched again but couldn’t quite get his boot on another dangerous cross flashing across our box.
He did reach a Green cross on 81 minutes, but Jaaskelainen made a fine one hand save to push it behind for a corner. The home side made a second change with Marcus Barnes coming on for Cav Miley.
Green, who had done well since coming on then forced the Crewe keeper into an even better save when his drilled shot looked destined to hit the bottom corner.
Those high balls and crosses continued to arrive in the Crewe box and with four minutes remaining the home side deservedly so it must be said, the Spitfires drew level. Rendell won the header and as it bounced towards the unguarded goal, Barnes raced in to make sure it was level. It had been coming but there may have been a slight doubt that the sub had wandered offside.
Following the equaliser, Eastleigh smelt blood and a place in that third round, and a deflected effort from Barnett looped up and into the grasp of the Alex keeper. Thankfully the deflection took the sting out of it.
Powell had a chance to win it after he raced into the box. He chopped back and was unfortunate to hit the goalkeeper and the foot of the post and the scrambling keeper somehow touched it behind for a corner.
In stoppage time, the home side had a great chance to win it after Mbulu tripped Barnett on the edge of the box but Charlie Seaman sent his shot well over the bar and Crewe had held out for a replay.