Another late goal, this time from Finney seals third straight 2-1 win in League One.
Oli Finney tucked home another stoppage time winner at Plough Lane to record a third straight 2-1 win for the Alex. The midfielder showed his finishing instincts to finish a superb header down from Chris Porter to score a dramatic winner barely 90 seconds after the Dons had cancelled out Mikael Mandron’s opener on the hour. It looked as though, a late surge from Wimbledon was going to see them salvage a point - but Christmas came a touch early for all Alex fans with Finney’s memorable winner.
In a game of limited chances, Crewe shaded them and certainly had more of the ball with Owen Dale twice going close in the first half and Finney volleying over our best chance.
Crewe also had their stand-in captain, Harry Pickering, for making a miraculous clearance off the line to deny Steve Seddon in the second half. Iy was worth a goal.
David Artell was forced into one change for the trip to AFC Wimbledon with Tom Lowery ruled out. The midfielder hadn’t trained in the later part of the week and was replaced in the starting line-up by Luke Murphy.
There was also a change on the substitutes’ bench with Regan Griffiths replacing Eddie Nolan to offer more midfield options.
An early burst from Charlie Kirk nearly saw him create the game’s first chance for Mikael Mandron but his low cross was cut out for a corner by the sliding Will Nightingale.
Crewe soon settled into a passing groove, with the home side prepared to drop off in numbers and make passing through the lines more difficult. A longer ball from Harry Pickering soon dropped invitingly for Mandron and he unselfishly rolled it on to Owen Dale. The winger took a touch and checked back before seeing his shot from the edge of the box blocked by Steve Seddon.
The Railwaymen were dominating the early possession with Glyn Hodges’ side hoping to spring a counter-attack if the ball ever became loose in midfield. It rarely did.
Olly Lancashire and Omar Beckles continued from where they left off on Tuesday evening against Plymouth Argyle and chances for the Dons were limited in our final third of the pitch.
Some really neat combination play involving Offord and Murphy saw the experienced midfielder cleverly shield and lay the ball off to Dale on the edge of the box and after he had glided past one challenge, he dragged his shot a yard wide of Connal Trueman’s near post. Mandron also attempted an ambitious flick at goal after Finney had pulled the ball back towards him.
At the other end, Crewe had to be careful after Callum Reilly had battled for possession with Offord and was able to whip over a dangerous looking cross. To Crewe’s relief, no-one in blue had gambled on the delivery coming over. Lancashire also did well to jump with Joe Pigott and the Wimbledon man couldn’t direct his rising header on target.
Wimbledon began to impose themselves more on the game as the home side, but in truth Will Jaaskelainen was not called upon to make a meaningful save in the opening half an hour. Crewe best chance in that period saw Pickering deliver an almost perfect centre to the unmarked Finney, but he couldn’t keep his volley down and it cleared Trueman’s crossbar.
Alex Woodyard was the first player to receive a yellow card but it hadn’t been that sort of opening at all. In fact, there were few free-kicks and stoppages and it seemed that Crewe just needed to up the tempo and move the ball a touch quicker in the final third, but it was difficult with the number of Wimbledon players behind the ball. It was no great surprise that the Crewe centre-half’s had the lion’s share of the ball.
On 35 minutes, a much more incisive move from the Alex saw Dale find Wintle on the edge of the box and his deflected effort just about dropped over the bar for another Crewe corner. A couple of minutes later, a cushioned header from Kirk found Pickering and the captain’s instant cross found Dale at the far post, but he uncharacteristically of late, snatched at the half chance and fired harmlessly wide of the post. With the form he is in, it was a genuine opportunity in a tight affair.
Trueman did really well to adjust to a back header from his own defender, Terrell Thomas, to make his claim with one hand look relatively easy. The flick was travelling some after Pickering’s delivery and Trueman did well to keep his eye on the situation as for a moment it looked as though the pace on it might evade him as he rushed from his goalline.
As the first half drew to a close, a cross from Pickering was deflected high into the air by Nightingale and Mandron battled for possession on the bounce and Wintle fired over in the follow-up. A goalless first half ended with Callum Reilly becoming the second Dons player to be cautioned for a combination of a foul and dissent.
Crewe’s first chance of the second period arrived quickly, with Wintle’s through ball releasing Mandron and the target man was able to get his shot off from just inside the Wimbledon penalty area but Trueman dived to save.
Almost immediately, the Dons registered their first shot on target with Jack Rudoni shooting straight at Jaaskelainen after a strong run from Reilly had seen him carry possession to the edge of our box.
Beckles was immense with his decision making, stepping out with the ball and winning all his headers. Lancashire was not far behind him either with his performance.
Crewe’s play finally told on the hour mark and the opener stemmed from the left hand side. Murphy and Wintle hustled in midfield to get the ball out to Kirk and Pickering and after they combined yet again, the captain’s excellent delivery was touched home from close range by Mandron. The striker got a telling touch to take his personal tally for the season to eight.
It proved to be the Frenchman’s last touch of the game as he replaced by Chris Porter before the game resumed. Hodges’ also made his first substitutions with Ollie Palmer replacing Pigott and Ethan Chislett on for Rudoni.
Now chasing the game, Wimbledon had to come out more but they found a solid wall in Beckles. Ryan Longman had a shot blocked by the former Shrewsbury defender and a well-placed Finney completed the clearance.
Another Dons change saw Thomas make way for Anthony Hartigan.
Pickering led by example, especially second half, and his forceful runs down the left flank certainly made Crewe more of a threat. The Railwaymen were in control with the last segment of the match to go.
With 14 minutes remaining, there was a strong appeal for a penalty after Dale raced clear and after he checked back to evade the sliding Shane McCloughan, the ball appeared to strike his hand. That was Dale’s last main involvement as Artell introduced the fresh legs of Powell. The home side also replaced Woodyard with Chey Alexander.
Wimbledon’s best chance to draw level came with five minutes left. After Longman’s original effort was blocked it dropped invitingly for Seddon no more than eight yards out and he looked destined to score with Jaaskelainen out of the equation, but his captain had covered the line to somehow get his foot on it and sent it over for a corner. It as an unbelievable clearance from Pickering and it was no wonder he was congratulated by his team-mates.
Wimbledon certainly began to throw everything at Crewe. The ball began to be loaded into our box, forcing Beckles and Lancashire to continue heading them out and Jaaskelainen had to come and punch the ball clear on a few occasions too.
That increasing pressure on the Crewe goal finally told on 89 minutes and it was a fine finish from Ryan Longman. His accurate finish into the far corner gave Jaaskelainen little chance of preventing it.
Crewe reacted magnificently well and hit back within 90 seconds. Porter played a key contribution claiming highest to direct his header from Pickering’s cross into the path of Finney and he made no mistake for a wonderfully deserved winner. It was the midfielder’s fourth of the season and means Crewe have recorded three straight wins in League One all by the same 2-1 scoreline.