Wintle turns home a Pickering cross in stoppage time to seal a dramatic comeback
The Alex fans were back at the Alexandra Stadium for the first time in 281 days and they were treated to a dramatic stoppage time winner from midfielder Ryan Wintle. The Railwaymen thoroughly deserved the three points after having to come from behind after conceding a sloppy goal in the opening minutes.
Wintle’s first goal of the season in the fourth minute of injury-time sealed a fantastic comeback in front of the returning 2,000. A well worked goal involving Charlie Kirk and Harry Pickering down the left hand side allowed the captain to present a teasing low cross and after Oli Finney had cleverly allowed the ball to run through, there was Wintle to slot the ball home to seal a 2-1 win.
Crewe had fallen behind in the 3rd minute after switching off at a free-kick. We allowed an alert Sam Hoskins to run behind and his low cross was turned home by Ricky Holmes from close range.
Owen Dale with his third goal in three league games on 53 minutes drew the Alex level and then it was question of if and when that winner was going to come. Crewe had numerous chances during a dominant second half with Charlie Kirk and Oli Finney both hitting the woodwork, Kirk also had one off the line and Tom Lowery being denied by Steve Arnold.
The Alex deserve enormous credit for continuing to keep themselves going and we eventually broke down a stubborn Northampton defence, who had made matters even harder for themselves after full-back, Joe Martin was sent-off for a second bookable offence with 20 minutes left. He had been booked after 25 minutes for time wasting.
David Artell made three changes to the Crewe Alexandra side that drew 0-0 with Burton Albion in the club’s last league outing. Charlie Kirk, Ollie Lancashire and Oli Finney all returned to the starting XI with Daniel Powell, Luke Murphy and Travis Johnson all dropping to the bench. Perry Ng continued his six-match suspension, so Harry Pickering once again captained the side.
Chris Porter was not named in the squad of 18 for personal reasons, so Offrande Zanzala and Powell were the attacking options.
Supporters were permitted to attend a live game at the Alexandra Stadium for the first time since our League Two fixture with Stevenage on 3rd March. It was a welcome return for 2,000 Alex fans and hopefully there will be an improvement on that number going into 2021. The fans never stopped, like the players.
The fans were superb throughout and marked the occasion by applauding the taking of the knee.
The away side started the brighter and they were rewarded with a third minute opener. Crewe had set up, expecting the ball to the placed into our penalty area and Northampton used the opportunity to take a quick one and run in behind. Nicky Adams spotted the run of Sam Hoskins and before Crewe had time to regroup, Ricky Holmes stole into the six yard to volley home from close range. It was the worst possible start. It gave Keith Curle’s side even more to defend and they began to defend their box well. Curle's side are always robust and difficult to break down.
After that slow start, Crewe began to dominant the possession. A longer ball from Omar Beckles found the run of Owen Dale and after the ball was poked away for a corner, Mandron headed over from Lowery’s cross.
As Crewe began to take firm control, a clever flick from Pickering found Wintle and he combined with Kirk down the left hand side before Finney’s low cross into the six yard was hooked clear. Cian Bogler was booked for catching Finney and the referee should have allowed the advantage as Kirk had a clear passage into the box. From the free-kick, both midfielders, Wintle and Lowery had shots blocked. It was something we had to get used to.
Finney spun and shot wide on the volley before Martin went into the book for time wasting at a free-kick. It became a trait of Northampton’s game and would come back to haunt them in stoppage time. The cheap card would certainly haunt Martin too.
Dale got in twice but his crosses were just too close to Arnold. Crewe also had a let off when Harry Smith won his header inside the Crewe box and centre-half, Fraser Horshall volleyed wide. It was close and would have beaten Jaaskelainen if had been on target.
Crewe were getting joy with the triangle of Wintle, Pickering and Kirk and Wintle shot wide as we went in at the break 1-0 down.
After the lively Dale had an early shot blocked, he struck a decisive equaliser on 53 minutes after he tucked home a cross from Kirk to leave Arnold absolute static. His shot into the floor to totally decisive the Northampton goalkeeper for 1-1 and Dale is in a rich vein of goalscoring form. That's 5 for the season for the right winger.
Now Crewe were level and looking the more likely side to go on and win it. The chances began to arrive on a regular basis. A tidy touch from Mandron gave Finney the time and space to take a touch but he shot over the bar from a really good position. You would have backed him to have at least hit the target.
That prompted a double change from Curle with Caleb Chukwuemeka and Ryan Watson replacing Holmes and Adams. Max Dyce, the son of Burnley boss Sean, also replaced Chris Missilou soon after.
Curle’s tactics would be greatly affected when Martin received a second yellow card for a lunging tackle at Offord on 70 minutes.
Crewe now with a man advantage went for the jugular. A cross-shot from Kirk hit the foot of the post and somehow evaded the onrushing Finney for a tap in.
On 73 minutes, Kirk then produced a fantastic piece of skill, to flick the ball close to the byline and lob it towards the far post. It was dipping in and needed a superb headed clearance to prevent an unbelievable goal from the winger. It was a wonderful effort.
Two minutes later, Mandron’s clever touch again sent Lowery through on goal but Arnold pulled off a superb one handed side to deny him. Was it going to be one of those days?
Northampton were camped inside their own half and Crewe kept going. The Alex kept knocking on the door. Wintle shot just wide after being set up by Pickering and then Finney hit the top of the crossbar with a header from Dale’s excellent cross. Kirk shot wide with the follow up.
David Artell introduced the fresher legs of Powell for Dale with 10 minutes remaining and the pressure continued to mount. Powell’s first involvement saw him win a corner before a cross from Lowery was headed down by Lancashire and was cleared just before the line!
on 83 minutes, Pickering was booked for checking Chukwuemeka as Northampton threatened to mount a rare attack.
Luke Murphy came on with a couple of minutes to spare and he shot from 20 yards straight at Arnold, as did Kirk as we entered five minutes of stoppage time. It was coming and you felt it with the fans behind us.
Crewe had dominated the second half with Jaaskelainen and his back four hardly troubled and we thoroughly deserved our goal at the death. Beckles found Kirk and he yet again released Pickering and his excellent low cross was dummied by Finney and Wintle came in to side-foot home a wonderful winner. It marked a memorable day all round and the win moves the Alex up to 11th in the table.