Porter brace means it is seven unbeaten for flying Alex
Chris Porter returned to the Crewe starting line-up with a match winning brace against a well drilled Crawley Town side. Once again the Railwaymen left it late with Porter heading in a 90th minute winner from close range after a wonderful cross from substitute Owen Dale.
Porter had given Crewe a deserved lead with 18 minutes left from the penalty spot after Jamie Sendles-White had tripped substitute Callum Ainley but the veteran striker then gave away a soft penalty at the other end with six minutes left and Crawley substitute Nathan Ferguson calmly slotted home his spot-kick.
This Crewe Alexandra side play right until the final minute and it paid off again with our leading scorer, stooping to head home his 12th goal of the season.
With Chuma Anene missing through injury, Chris Porter made his first start since our FA Cup replay against Eastleigh back in December.
Daniel Powell was not fit enough to put himself on contention but midfielder Tom Lowery was named on the substitutes’ bench.
A confident Crewe Alexandra aimed to quickly get on the front foot. The on-loan Stephen Walker drove forward early on but shot wide and then a good move involving James Jones and Walker provided Kirk with his first sight at the Crawley goal but he also failed to hit the target on this occasion.
It was a bright start and lifted the crowd on a winter’s night at Gresty Road.
Crawley were mostly defending in their own half but with the towering Ollie Palmer a threat with his presence he had to be constantly watched. Luke Offord made a timely challenge on the edge of the box to prevent him entering the penalty area and then Michael Nottingham made a solid block on one of his shots.
That was pretty much it as an attacking sense in the first half and Crewe continued to force the visitors back.
Kirk had a shot deflected over the top of the crossbar but to be fair, the Crawley goalkeeper Glenn Morris had observed his flight and watched it over for a corner. Kirk also had a rebound chalked off for offside after James Jones had forced Morris to push his powerful effort out. Kirk had just strayed offside before he tapped home into an unguarded net and the assistant had her flag up instantly.
It was all Crewe in an attacking sense. Jones, who was impressive in the middle of the park, eager to get on the ball and get us going, whistled one inches over the top of the bar after Kirk had touched the ball off to him. The Scotland Youth International also screwed a difficult chance wide after Morris pushed an effort out from the advancing Pickering. It was tricky to get his leg round and guide it goalwards.
Crewe kept pressing and probing and we just lacked that final ball behind the final Crawley defender to really expose them.
After Jones cleared one out of our own box as it bounced around threating to go anywhere, Crewe created their best chance of the first half in stoppage time. Pickering once again ventured forward and after he had played a one-two with Finney, he must have thought he had scored when he connected wonderfully from about 10 yards out but Morris somehow produced a fine reflex save to somehow push it over the crossbar. It was a fantastic save.
Crawley who had got away with a few reckless tackles in the first half, had Tarryn Allarakhia booked for sliding into Kirk close to the touchline and he was quickly joined by Dannie Bulman and Reece Grego-Cox.
From the free-kick, the busier Morris made another very good save to deny Walker. Kirk also forced Morris into a save at his near post after being slipped in behind by Finney. It was a tight angle.
From a corner from the left hand side, Offord headed straight at Morris from a good position and you began to wonder if it was going to be one of those nights.
Finney also had a shot blocked on the turn before he was replaced by Ainley. He was instantly involved, playing a one-two with Kirk and the final cross was just too short for Porter to reach it.
Ainley’s impact told again. With 18 minutes left on the clock, Sendles-White recklessly slid into Ainley and the referee instantly pointed to the spot. Porter stepped up to finally beat Morris.
Crewe had the lead but the goal forced Crawley to come out. The Red Devils enjoyed their best period of possession and Jaaskelainen had to produce a stunning save to deny George Francomb. It was a rare involvement for the young Finn and his concentration was fantastic.
Dale replaced Walker and it looked as though we were going to see the game out and claim the points but then Porter bundled into Sendles-White and again the referee pointed to the spot. It looked soft but after giving us one, it evened things up. Ferguson kept his cool to equalise.
Crewe kept going though and the winner duly came, yet again. A really patient build-up saw Jones feed Dale and his accurate cross to the far post landed plant on Porter’s head to seal a deserved three points.