Unbelievable finish from Kirk gives Alex 97th minute winner
Charlie Kirk danced his way through three late challenges before calmly slotting home a dramatic winner in the seventh minute of stoppage time. It was an unbelievable finish from the Alex winger and gave Crewe a thoroughly deserved three points against a dogged Oldham Athletic side. It was his 8th goal of the campaign and came literally with about 10 seconds remaining. The Alexandra Stadium absolutely erupted.
The Alex had to do it the hard way again though, being forced to fight from a goal down against after Jonny Smith had fired the visitors in front just two minutes into the second half. This Crewe team just keep on going though and in the end that pressure paid off.
Crewe hit back on 55 minutes with James Jones creating enough space inside the box to get a shot off and the Oldham goalkeeper Zeus de la Paz allowed the ball to squirm off his arm and into the net before substitute Callum Ainley made a telling contribution again to launch another late attack and the dancing Kirk did the rest with his composed finish at the near post leaving la Paz routed to the spot.
David Artell had the luxury of naming an unchanged side for the visit of Oldham Athletic. Luke Offord made his third successive start for the first-team despite Nicky Hunt being fit enough to take his place on the substitutes’ bench. Offord again partnered loanee Michael Nottingham in the centre of the defence.
Crewe were dealt a blow in the warm up with Daniel Powell ruled out after the warm-up. Loanee striker Stephen Walker was named in the starting line-up for his Crewe debut.
The early exchanges panned out with Crewe having more of the possession but finding a Blue wall of bodies to try and get through. The Latics were well organised under the Tunisian Dino Maamria and were quickly back in their shape. Their new forward Danny Rowe was given a thankless task as the lone front man but it was difficult for Crewe to penetrate their defence.
It took 15 minutes before the first half chance was created with Oli Finney bravely flicking a header onto Charlie Kirk, who took a touch and then attempted to lob it on target but his fine effort landed on the roof of the net.
From a short corner routine, Kirk laid it off quickly to Pickering and his low cross was side footed wide by Chuma Anene, after he had pulled off Carl Piergianni. The Alex striker wanted a corner from a deflection off his shot but didn’t get one.
Kirk, who looked our best threat fired over the top of Zeus de la Paz’s crossbar before a quick fire pass into Ryan Wintle invited him forward and his drilled shot took a deflection and spun out for a corner.
Crewe continued to press and probe with debutant Walker looking lively and after he and Kirk combined, Ng had a half volley that looked goal bound blocked by the competitive Zak Mills.
Oldham were aiming to hit us on the counter attack and on one occasion that they did so, Tom Hamer whistled one just wide of the right hand post from 25 yards out. Jonny Smith also saw a shot from distance simply collected by Will Jaaskelainen.
A fantastic break from Walker on the half an hour mark, reflected his quick feet in and around the box and he was unfortunate that it didn’t quite break for him or the supportive James Jones and the Latics wall of defence were able to clear.
Moments later, a tempting low cross from Finney nearly saw the flying Anene reach it with his head but to his great credit Carl Piergianni go their first to head clear. It was a superb defensive header.
Zeus De La Paz dropped down with an injury on 36 minutes but was able to continue after a period of treatment and the break lifted the visitors. They came into the game more as an attacking sense and forced a few long throws that Crewe had to deal with as they were aimed into our box.
Finney arguably the best chance of the first half after he broke in down the left hand side but he poked wide of the target with his right foot when a pull back to the well placed Charlie Kirk was probably the better option.
Oldham went ahead two minutes into the second half with literally their own real attack in the 90 plus seven minutes. Crewe thought that Missilou had pulled a crossfield pass down with the use of his arm but it looked high and perhaps struck his shoulder. Expecting a free-kick, Crewe didn’t react quickly enough and after Missilou got in behind Kirk and his low cross was tucked home from close range from Smith.
Crewe had to come from behind yet again and got on the front foot again pretty quick. A cross from Pickering just missed Anene at the far post before Jones struck a crucial equaliser on 55 minutes.
The Alex pressurised the Oldham box and kept the ball alive and from inside the box, Jones skipped past a challenge from Wheater and his shot appeared to go in off La Paz who had made a right mess of it. Crewe didn’t care one jot and were level.
Moments later, with Anene down with injury, the Alex fans gave a fantastic ovation to the recently passed Dale Jasper on 56 minutes. It was a wonderful send off.
Anene was forced off with injury with Porter coming on against his former club.
Crewe continued to dominate the possession with Pickering firing over the top of the crossbar before Stephen Walker’s final contribution saw him fire straight at La Paz. Walker was given a deserved ovation as he was replaced by Owen Dale.
A short free kick saw Pickering release Kirk and his cross was headed wide by Porter. A long cross from Kirk was also just too high for Dale.
With time ticking away, Ainley replaced Finney and he certainly gave us another lift in the final third. He was excellent and he, Kirk and Pickering continued to torment the Oldham right hand side. Ainley forced la Paz into another uncomfortable save that he just about managed to push behind for a corner.
Offord and Nottingham were superb and kept things tight at the back and that gave us the platform to continue to push for that late, late winner.
Oldham had tried to kill time for much of the second half and it came back to haunt them with the officials showing seven minutes of stoppage time.
It was there for the taking. Another Porter header was hard to generate enough power to trouble la Paz but there was that late one chance and only Kirk could have produced a moment like that. We kept on knocking, Kirk waltzed past two challenges and slotted it calmly for an unbelievable finale. Three desrved and fantastic points.