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Walsall 1-2 Crewe Alexandra

1 February 2020

Alex fightback in the second half again to seal all three points thanks to goals from Powell and Finney.

Crewe Alexandra once again had to come from behind to collect all three points on the road, this time at Walsall. The Saddlers led 1-0 at the break after the Railwaymen conceded an avoidable goal after only 15 minutes. Michael Nottingham failed to beat Caolan Lavery to a low cross and he poked the Saddlers ahead - but David Artell’s side responded superbly again to come out looking like a different side in the second half.

A Perry Ng header from a corner laid on a tap-in for Daniel Powell just five minutes after the restart and a wonderfully taken finish from Oli Finney wrapped up the points after Charlie Kirk had headed down a fantastic pass from Ryan Wintle into his path. Finney didn’t break stride before drilling it into the far corner.

The three points were no more than the Railwaymen deserved for their transformation in the second half. It's now 22 points from losing positions and the win sees up to 2nd aftr Swindon beat Exeter in the top of the table clash.

Walsall couldn’t get as close to us in the second half as they did in the first and Crewe’s passing and attacking intent paid off.

Kirk was excellent and always looked like creating danger. He had some chances himself too and it arguably should have been even more comfortable than it was with the likes of the hard working Chuma Anene, Ryan Wintle and James Jones all having decent chances to make the game safe.

Crewe Alexandra boss David Artell made one change from the side that recorded a hard fought 2-0 win over Leyton Orient on Tuesday evening. Midfielder James Jones, who came on as a substitute in mid-week started ahead of Paul Green. Tom Lowery was not included in the matchday squad after struggling with a slight injury over the last few games.

Leading scorer, Chris Porter, returned to the eighteen for the first time since aggravating his hamstring in the FA Cup replay against Eastleigh. New loan signing Stephen Walker was also included on the substitutes’ bench after completing his deadline move from Middlesbrough.

After a fairly tentative beginning to the game, Crewe conjured up the first half chance inside the first five minutes. An accurate searching ball forward from Harry Pickering was headed down intelligently by Chuma Anene to the recalled James Jones just outside the penalty area, but his controlled shot was just a touch too high to trouble Liam Roberts in the Walsall goal.

Walsall’s first chance duly arrived a couple of minutes later after a fine passing move had slipped full-back Shay Facey in behind Pickering, but he elected not to shoot across goal and Will Jaaskelainen stood firm at his near post to make a good stop.

Moments later, Kirk got in behind Facey himself after breaking the offside trap that Walsall had set but he shot wide of the target from a decent position. The in-form winger would have been disappointed not to have at least hit the target and test Roberts.

Walsall continued to try and turn our centre-halves but Nottingham was dominant in the air and youngster Luke Offord continued to read the game like he was a senior professional not someone playing his first away game - but the Saddlers took the lead in the 15th minute. It was avoidable.

Crewe really should have dealt with the danger with Jaaskelainen and Nottingham looked to be in complete charge of the situation. As the ball entered our box from the left hand side, Nottingham appeared as though as he was just going to poke the ball away from the pursuing Caolan Lavery but the Walsall striker showed a real determination to get  their first and duly got a decisive touch that passed the onrushing Crewe goalkeeper for the opening goal.

Out of nowhere the Alex were trailing at the Bescot Stadium. It was a really soft goal to concede in a game that had very little between the two sides.

It nearly got doubly worse for the Railwaymen when the lively Wes McDonald took Pickering on down the outside and his cross to the far post was just ahead of the diving Lavery. If he had reached it and made contact, Jaaskelainen would have struggled to have kept it out.

Walsall were on top and looking a real threat. After Offord had conceded a needless free-kick in the left channel, Finney’s hurried clearance fell straight to Nathan Sheron and he failed to hit the target when he really should have done. It was an almighty let off for the Alex.

Crewe really needed to stamp some real authority on the game and get a grip on the possession once again. Josh Gordon also blasted over as the Saddlers aimed to hit us on the counter attack.

Thankfully, it remained 1-0 and we were still in the contest. Crewe were looking too long and giving Anene too many ‘challenge balls’ up against Dan Scarr and skipper Mat Sadler. It was tough for him.

From a set piece corner, Pickering lofted a ball outside of the box that was perfect for Jones to hit on the volley. The midfielders’ connection was technically very good but he couldn’t quite keep it down enough to register an effort on target. Crewe began to lift their performance.

Pickering went down in the box under a challenge from Rory Holden but it looked a timely sliding tackle from the Walsall man and Crewe had to settle for a corner rather than the penalty that we requested from referee, Lee Swabey.

Walsall’s eager press and quickness in transition forced Nottingham into a solid and necessary block to deny McDonald a shot on target and then Ng did likewise with the follow up effort from Josh Gordon. Pickering also did superbly to clear at the far post as another dangerous delivery from McDonald threatened our goal.

Crewe were wanting the half-time whistle to regroup at the break. We went in trailing 1-0 and with the chances created in the first 45 minutes we would have probably taken that.

The interval had the desired effect because Crewe came out and tried to get on the front foot qucikly. There was a better intensity to our play and a real intent to attack the home side at pace.

We forced a couple of corners and the second one duly paid off. Five minutes in, Pickering whipped over a cross that his captain forcefully headed goalwards and Powell was there to apply the final touch close to the line to make absolutely sure.

Crewe had come out with a real purpose and Powell was congratulated on his 9th goal of the season. The 860 Alex fans who had dominated the noise all afternoon got even louder as they sensed another comeback. The tribute to the recently passed, Dale Jasper on 56 minutes was unbelievably loud.

The passing was more fluent and accurate. A sharp turn on the edge of the box from Jones created a chance for Kirk but his curling effort just drifted past the right hand corner. Kinsella was also booked for a lunge at Kirk, who was Crewe’s most influential player in the game.

On 65 minutes, a wonderfully delivered cross from Kirk picked out Anene superbly, but his diving downward header missed the far post and the stretching Jones couldn’t reach it either. It was a gilt edge chance for the Norwegian.

The pressure from the Alex finally told and what a goal it was. A long searching pass from Ryan Wintle found Kirk and he cleverly headed it into the path of Finney and he struck it brilliantly into the opposite corner. It was a wonderful strike and Finney caught it perfectly to register his 6th goal of the season. It was no more than a resurgent Crewe had deserved.

It was Finney’s final touch, as what looked like a muscle pull forced him off and Ainley replaced him. Ainley’s first involvement saw him break onto a lay off from Anene and he found the excellent Kirk, and his shot was palmed out by the busier Roberts and unfortunately there was no one following up in a gold shirt for a tap in.

Following a flick from Pickering, another probing run from Kirk created an opening for Wintle but his placed effort was held by Roberts. He laid on another half chance for Jones but he fired just over.

Crewe were in control and looking the more likely to score again. That killer third would have made it a more comfortable final 10 minutes. With the one goal in it, Crewe had to close the back door.

A burst from Ainley with five minutes remaining presented Anene with a sight at the Walsall goal but he didn’t connect as sweetly as he would have wanted with his finish.

Walsall, who were tiring, didn’t conjure up a genuine chance to challenge our dominance in the second half.


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