Ng strike gives Crewe three points against promotion rivals
Crewe Alexandra’s captain Perry Ng struck a left-footed winner with just over 20 minutes remaining to send the Railwaymen back into the promotion places. Crewe shaded this clash between third and fourth with our greater intent to score in the second half paying off with Ng’s low struck shot past Owen Evans.
There was not much between the two sides with Cheltenham Town having two good opportunities in the first half. Ng erased his red card at Whaddon Road earlier in the season.
It was Ng’s first goal since April 2018 away at Crawley in a 2-1 win. He could not have timed this one any better as it was always going to be a tight encounter against one of our main promotion rivals.
Michael Nottingham made his full debut for the club after signing on loan from Blackpool. The 30-year-old defender went straight into the Crewe starting line-up to partner Nicky Hunt. Hunt overcame the hip injury that forced him off against Swindon Town last weekend.
The arrival of Nottingham signalled a chance of position for the versatile Ryan Wintle, who moved back into midfield in place of Callum Ainley.
The former Crewe midfielder Chris Clements started for the visitors but although he recently retured to training, Luke Varney was not risked.
Cheltenham’s goal against column has been impressive this season and an intriguing tactical encounter led to a tight affair in the early stages. There wasn’t much in terms of shots on target. Michael Duff’s side were well organised with the wing-back system and looking to get their lively forwards, Alex Addai and Alfie May in behind.
Addai got a shot off that was straight at Will Jaaskelainen before May did get in behind the Crewe centre-halves to race onto a superb ball from Chris Hussey but the on-loan forward from Doncaster Rovers couldn’t get enough of a lift on his shot and it was comfortable for the Crewe goalkeeper. It was a good chance if May had managed to get his touch fully right.
Crewe’s first real effort came as a result of a short corner that was played into Tom Lowery and his well drilled shot was collected by Owen Evans in the Cheltenham goalkeeper. From another Harry Pickering corner, a near post run from Chuma Anene get a slight touch on it and Paul Green was just beaten to the loose ball by Charlie Raglan and he managed to get it over his own crossbar for another corner.
Green continued to work hard and try and burst from midfield. A clever pass round the corner from the experienced midfielder almost sent Anene clear too.
Cheltenham were a tough nut to crack though and they were presented with another great chance after Hunt misjudged a long pass up the pitch by goalkeeper Evans. He failed to get his head of it and that allowed the sprightly May to get in behind. He could have shot himself but elected to try and find Addai across the box. His pass was slightly elevated and Addai didn’t connect right.
Crewe had a shout for a free-kick right on the edge of the penalty area when his back foot was clipped by Max Sheaf after he had been found by Kirk. Play was allowed to continue though and Daniel Powell fired into the side netting.
A wonderful crossfield pass from Wintle found Kirk and he hit a really dangerous low cross that only needed a touch by a red shirt. It was better by Crewe.
Cheltenham still threatened to take the lead and Conor Thomas again fired from distance that forced the Alex goalkeeper into a comfortable save.
Crewe’s passing was sloppy at times in the first period but we continued to stick at it and our best chance of the half came in the final minute. Kirk was again the provider and Lowery thought he had scored when he took a touch to get the ball out of his feet and get an instant shot off but Evans produced a stunning save to somehow keep it out. It was a top drawer save.
May went close to connecting to a Addai cross in the opening minutes of the second half but from then on Crewe really began to control the proceedings.
Anene showed great strength to turn away from Raglan and race towards the box. He slid Powell in down the right hand side of the box and his low cross was touched away by the diving Evans with a host of Crewe players looking for a tap in.
Kirk had the ball in the net but that rightly chalked off for offside after he strayed just offside. Crewe certainly had the majority of the possession in the second half and after Powell had once again provided a chance, this time for Lowery, his shot was deflected through to Evans. There were openings there for Crewe with Cheltenham more content to try and hit us on the break.
Duff made the first change by introducing the fresh legs of George Lloyd for Addai.
It was still Crewe looking the more likely with Anene not quite connecting with a brilliant through ball from Lowery. If he had he could be levelling Porter on ten goals.
The decisive breakthrough came 69 minutes. Skipper Ng had been eager to get forward for much of the afternoon and after he found himself in space, he didn’t hesitate to unleash a low drive that Evans couldn’t get down and close enough to get a hand on it. Crewe had the advantage and 20 minutes to protect it.
The opening goal prompted an instant change from Duff with Tahvon Campbell replacing Sheaf. Campbell curled one just over the top of the crossbar.
Crewe continued to press forward looking for a killer second goal and Artell replaced Kirk with Dale, who worked his socks off too.
Cheltenham had a shout for a penalty when a shot from Thomas struck Lowery and then appealed for handball but the referee was well placed and waved them rightly away. He was awfully close to him.
Dale made a fantastic block at a corner and Crewe had to survive a late long throw from Tozer and a corner that Jaaskelainen did superbly to punch clear.