Colby Bishop scores only goal of the game at the Wham Stadium.
A really tight affair at the Wham Stadium was decided by an Accrington Stanley set-play in the second half.
In a game of few chances, a Matt Butcher free-kick just before the hour mark, forced Will Jaaskelainen into making a one-handed save onto his own crossbar. Colby Bishop reacted quickest to help himself to his fourth goal of the season and condemn Crewe to back-to-back defeats following the one at Portsmouth at the weekend.
Crewe’s best chance fell to the recalled Chris Porter in the first half from a wonderful cross from Kirk but the forward could only place his firm header into the gloves of the Toby Savin.
The Alex didn’t create too many clear cut chances all evening and Accrington saw out a late surge to collect a hard fought three points.
Defender Omar Beckles (groin) and forward Mikael Mandron (hamstring) were still missing through injury for the trip to Accrington – but the club were boosted by the return of last season’s leading marksman, Chris Porter. The veteran striker had been absence after aggravating his quad muscle in the warm up against Gillingham.
Olly Lancashire, who replaced Beckles at Portsmouth when he suffered his groin injury, started at the Wham Stadium. There was also a recall for winger, Owen Dale, who took the place of Daniel Powell. The former Accrington forward, Offrande Zanzala, dropped down to the bench again after starting at Fratton Park.
The former Crewe loanee defender, Michael Nottingham started for John Coleman’s side. Straight from the kick-off, Porter climbed above Nottingham to apply a sufficient flick on for Tom Lowery and after he burst into the box, he won the first corner after just 12 seconds of play! Accrington cleared the second phase after Lowery’s low cross was blocked.
The game started at a frantic pace with both sides looking to hit the front fairly quickly. Crewe continued to hit lone striker, Porter, hoping for him to impose himself on Accrington’s two centre-halves. His height and physical attributes would be important against a bigger Accrington side, especially at set-pieces.
Kirk’s first real involvement saw him drop into the middle of the pitch to find Dale in space out on the right hand side, but he didn’t make the most of his cross and it was easily collected by Toby Savin in the Accrington goal.
Having served us so well, Crewe were fully aware of Nottingham’s long throw in but we dealt with his first one aimed at the near post. His second one, drew Will Jaaskelainen from his goal-line and he got a sufficient hand on it to clear the box and the follow up shot from Dion Charles was blocked.
Accrington’s caused their first scare on the Crewe back line a minute later though with Colby Bishop getting the better of Offord and his low cross-shot whistled across the six yard box.
Accrington’s number 10, Joe Pritchard, then tried his luck from distance on 15 minutes but it cleared Jaaskelainen’s left hand post. The Alex goalkeeper had shuffled across to have it covered. Charles then stole possession from Wintle before his cross-shot from 20 yards took a slight deflection to force another corner.
On 22 minutes, Lowery and then Finney did well in the centre of the pitch to find Kirk. He threatened to get a shot off just inside the Accrington penalty area, but waited for Finney and he fired over from a decent position.
A minute later, Crewe broke again with Kirk and his excellent cross found Porter in the centre of goal but he directed his header straight at Savin. For a player of Porter’s capability in the air, it was a good chance for him to open his account for the new season.
Kirk was beginning to have a growing influence on the game, as was Finney, and after he dropped his shoulder to fool Nottingham, his deflected cross pinged off the top of the Accrington crossbar. Crewe were certainly having their best spell and were looking a real threat down the left hand side.
After a scrappy period of play in the Crewe half, Jon Russell shot over from distance and Dale shot with the outside of his foot into the gloves of Savin. More good approach play down the Alex left saw Finney find Kirk and his probing cross had to deflected behind for a Crewe corner out on the other side before Porter could apply a decisive touch at the far post.
Crewe forced a couple of corners as a fairly even half drew to a close but Offord looked to be impeded for one and couldn’t quite get his head on the other.
John Coleman used the half time interval to make his first change with the Newcastle loanee, Mo Sangare replacing Russell.
After pinching possession, Accrington’s full-back, Harvey Rodgers send over a long cross and Bishop climbed highest but under enough pressure he could only head down and wide. Moments later, Wintle did well to intercept a dangerous ball in our box to concede a corner. From the resultant delivery, Bishop again rose highest but couldn’t direct his header goalwards on this occasion.
Crewe sloppiness in possession allowed Accrington to build some momentum in the early parts of the second half.
After possession fell to Kirk rather fortuitously out on the touchline, he drifted inside before finding Dale on the opposite flank. The pacey winger was soon crowded out and his eventual shot was blocked but it was better from the Alex. Finney and Kirk again combined down the left but his cross to the far post just evaded Lowery and Porter.
After Pickering was penalised for a foul on Charles, Accrington scored the opening goal on 59 minutes. Pickering was booked after the two players came together and from just over 25 yards, Matt Butcher bend it around the wall to force Jaaskelainen into a one handed save. It struck the Crewe crossbar and with our goalkeeper out of the equation it became a race for the rebound, with Colby Bishop winning for a simple nod home.
On 62 minutes, Dale was cautioned for a challenge on Pritchard after the two players came together to challenge for the ball.
It continued to be a battle; with periods of scrappiness and lofted balls forward, but Crewe still have enough time to impose our football on the game and get something from it.
Pritchard shot over from distance for the home side and the Alex had gone a while without creating a genuine opportunity. Porter had half a chance at the far post but the cross from Finney was just a touch too high.
Crewe needed to step up a gear and become more creative in the final 20 minutes. Artell turned to Callum Ainley for Lowery.
Accrington were forced into a second change when Rodgers was forced off through injury and he was replaced for Ryan Cassidy. Accrington were presented with another chance from a free-kick but on this occasion, Butcher didn’t force Jaaskelainen into a save.
With 13 minutes remaining, Powell replaced Dale. Moments later, Accrington nearly doubled their lead. Crewe didn’t deal with a long throw from Nottingham and it evaded everyone until it reached Butcher at the far post but he couldn’t get enough on his connection and made it an easy connection for Crewe’s number one. Butcher then fired a shot that Bishop got a touch too but again the Alex goalkeeper was in the right place.
Powell’s first chance to shine, saw the winger do really well and Accrington got away with one as his cross took a slight deflection and fell to a red shirr rather than a Crewe one.
With the minutes ticking away, Artell made a double change with Murphy and Zanzala on for Porter and Wintle. With Accrington prepared to sit back and contain the Alex, Crewe certainly dominated the ball in the closing period but you have to credit the home side for the way they continued to frustrate us. They defended well and their shape impressive.
We had to be on our guard though, when Mo Sangare bend a decent effort just wide of the right hand post.
A wicked cross from Ng nearly found Zanzala at the far post and then Pickering fired over following a short corner routine. That real genuine chance never came and Crewe slipped to a disappointingly narrow defeat.