Sub Ainley tucks home 95th leveller for the Alex in local derby.
Substitute Callum Ainley grabbed a dramatic equaliser as Crewe Alexandra fought back to salvage a point at the Moss Rose this evening. The Alex had trailed in the game after Paul Green had turned a cross into his own goal a minute before half time, but a much improved performance in the second half saw Crewe snatch a point. Ainley was there to tuck home a 95th minute corner and send the travelling 1,220 fans into raptures behind that goal.
It was no more than Crewe deserved for their positive second half performance after dominating possession and creating a number of good chances.
Crewe upped the stakes in the second half and dominated the possession but couldn’t find that equaliser until Ainley’s late heroics. You have to credit, Macclesfield for the way they defended their goal in the second half with the likes of Chuma Anene, Perry Ng and Michael Nottingham all having opportunities to score.
Substitute Oli Finney, who replaced Green minutes into the second half, certainly gave Crewe a lift in the second period and he should have been rewarded with a penalty after he was shoved at the crucial moment as he attempted to get on the end of a Perry Ng cross. Referee Pollard ignored the strong appeals.
Crewe kept going though and Ainley’s close range finish from our 17th corner levelled things up to give us a point from the derby.
David Artell had the luxury of naming an unchanged side for the relatively short trip to Macclesfield for what was our rearranged fixture that was originally postponed in early December.
Artell understandably kept the same starting XI that overcame Cheltenham Town in a tight affair on Saturday. New loan signing, Michael Nottingham, retained his place following his impressive debut at Gresty Road.
Macclesfield named their two new signings in their starting line-up. The on-loan Derby goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell and Salford midfielder Danny Whitehead started for Mark Kennedy’s side after they completed their moves in time to face the Railwaymen.
A really positive start from Artell’s visitors saw Chuma Anene impose his strength to hold the ball up and find Ryan Wintle. The midfielder swept out a terrific cross field pass over to the right hand side and Daniel Powell, who quickly won a corner off full-back David Fitzpatrick. Crewe wasted their first set-piece opportunity by playing it short and losing possession.
The confident Alex were soon retaining possession though and looking to impose themselves on this Cheshire derby. The game started a really god tempo and Crewe continued to try and find Powell out on the right and square him up against Fitzpatrick. It was certainly an early trend of the contest. Some diagonal passes came off. Some didn’t.
Before ten minutes had elapsed the home side conjured up their most promising move. Jak McCourt released Corey O’Keefe down the Crewe left hand side and his whipped over cross missed all the blue shirts, including Arthur Gnahoua racing in at the far post. With a bit more accuracy with the final ball and Will Jaaskelainen would have been faced with his first save of the evening.
Although Crewe made a fairly bright start, Macclesfield began to grow into the game and enjoy more of the ball. Gnahoua shot into the gloves of the Crewe goalkeeper from 25 yards after coming off the left wing but it was fairly comfortable. That half chance came just moments after Tom Lowery broke into the Macclesfield penalty area before having the ball pinched off his toes before he could unleash a shot or look to play Charlie Kirk in.
Kirk’s first real glimpse of the Macclesfield goal saw him bend one into the gloves of Mitchell from just under 30 yards but it was obvious from that that the home side would look to double up whether our game changer had the ball at his feet.
Macclesfield were forced into a change after just 25 minutes. McCourt was forced off after unsuccessfully failing to shake off an earlier injury. He had to be replaced by Ben Stephens.
Jaaskelainen was forced into a fine save just after the half an hour mark. An initial free-kick from the left flank was only cleared out as far as Conor Kirby. His forceful strike from the edge of the box went through a crowd of players and seemed to move awkwardly, but the young Finn reacted well to get both fists onto the ball and move it away from danger. It was the best chance in a game that was crying out for some quality.
Kirk spun a fantastic pass into the path of Powell but his cross couldn’t pick out Anene as Crewe tried to take the game more to the home side.
The minutes ticked away to half time with neither team really looking like they would create that genuine chance but with just over 90 seconds remaining, Crewe got themselves in a mess at the back.
The pacey winger Arthur Gnahoua got in behind Ng for the first time and his low cross was not dealt with. It surpassed a number of bodies to reach the far post and although Green had beaten Theo Archibald to it, he made too good a contact on his side footed back pass and it crazily went in. It somehow summed up our sloppiness in a disappointing first half showing on what was not a good playing surface to try and play football on.
Crewe needed to get on the front foot at the start of the second half and after good approach play from Anene, he found Powell inside the Macclesfield penalty area. He didn’t hesitate to get at Fitzpatrick but his firm drive was blocked and rebounded to safety. At least it showed some greater intent.
Just minutes into the second half, Artell made his first change of the evening with Oli Finney replacing Green.
Just after the Crewe substitution, a well-crafted free-kick from Macclesfield crated some space for Archibald to hit a shot that needed to be deflected by Wintle and away for a corner. In the second phase, Nottingham did well to whip the ball away from Stephens as he threatened to get in behind.
Crewe were struggling to create chances against a stubborn Macc defence but a burst and pass from Finney found Powell and his attempted cross took a wicked deflection and Mitchell had to adjust his feet to tip it over. It very nearly dropped in under his crossbar.
That half chance was bettered just moments later as Crewe loaded the penalty area and a real chance fell to the inform Anene in front of goal. He pulled the trigger and looked destined to hit his 10th goal of the season, but the Macc defenders put their bodies on the line to get enough on his shot and spin it wide.
More intense Crewe pressure saw Ng and then Nottingham also attempt to get efforts on target. The introduction of Finney had certainly had the desired effect. It was much improved as an attacking force.
Crewe had to keep the back door firmly closed though and a fantastic ball from Kirby was just ahead of Ironside. He perhaps should have stuck a leg out.
On 65 minutes, some need passing from the Alex saw Ng make progress until he was pulled back by Stephens, who was rightly booked. From the resultant free-kick, Lowery’s teasing cross into the box should have resulted in an equaliser. It looked a certain goal as the likes of Hunt and then Ng threw themselves at it but unbelievably no one got a decisive touch. How is anyone’s guess!
With Crewe now on top and creating chances, Kennedy made his second change by withdrawing the more attack minded Archibald for the more defensively, Nathan Cameron.
The Alex continued to apply the pressure. Powell couldn’t quite a hook an effort goal bound in front of the 1220 away contingent and both Nottingham and Anene tried to make their physicality count in the air. It was Macclesfield holding on with Crewe seemingly forcing corner after corner.
Macclesfield’s last change saw Ironside replaced by Jacob Blyth. That occurred just before Crewe made a double substitution with Owen Dale and Callum Ainley on for the final 15 minutes for Powell and Kirk. Dale almost made an instant impact when he flicked a headed onto the top of the netting from Pickering’s cross.
The home side continued to defend for their lives and make it difficult for the Alex but we continued to push forward. With 9 minutes left, a super delivery from Ng looked certain to find the onrushing Finney but before he could make contact he looked to be bumped in the back and it was Finney flying into the back of the net instead of the ball. The Alex players were incensed by the decision but the referee waved their appeals. It was controversial to say the least.
Crewe remained on the attack with Nottingham having a downward header whacked away to safety. Crewe kept going and kept going and after Lowery won yet another corner in stoppage time, Callum Ainley tucked home a deserved equaliser. It was the last real touch of the game. It was no more than Crewe deserved for their second half performance. Shame the celebrations were marred by one of our supporters idiotically throwing a flare into the centre of the penalty area.