Point apiece a fair result after Blackpool control first half at Gresty Road.
It was honours even at Gresty Road this evening and a 1-1 draw was probably right. Crewe’s leading scorer, Mikael Mandron tucked home his 5th goal of the season after a superb flowing move involving Callum Ainley and Charlie Kirk ten minutes into the second half.
On the balance of play, Blackpool fully deserved their equaliser on 71 minutes with midfielder Grant Ward lashing home from fairly close range after a messy scramble inside the Crewe box.
The game was on an edge but neither team carved out their real, genuine opportunity to go on and win it. Crewe stuck at it, dug in and although it wasn’t a polished performance like Wigan last week, the players did the other side of the game really well.
It was a point gained rather than two lost.
Will Jaaskelainen returned from International duty with Finland’s Under-21s to regain his place in the Crewe starting line-up. Dave Richards, who kept a clean-sheet in the club’s comfortable 3-0 win over Wigan Athletic, returned to the substitutes’ bench.
The only other change from the home victory over the Latics last weekend was the return of defender Omar Beckles in place of the injured Donervon Daniels. Beckles had replaced Daniels early on in that game.
Callum Ainley’s man-of-the-match performance saw him rightfully retain his place ahead of the returning Oli Finney. Winger Owen Dale also had to settle for a place on the bench after serving a period of self-isolation. Daniel Powell kept his place.
Blackpool boss and former Crewe Academy coach, Neil Critchley, returned to Gresty Road for the first time as an opponent. He named the former Crewe Academy graduate, Oliver Turton, in the starting line-up.
The visitors made the brighter start and Crewe found it increasingly difficult to get into the Blackpool half of the pitch. Critchley’s side started confidently and kept possession well and their high press made it hard for Crewe to make much impact. Mandron was operating mainly on scraps.
An early delay in the game due to an injury to the Blackpool left back, Luke Garbutt, allowed Crewe to regroup. The former Everton youngster had to be replaced after looking like he had aggravated his hamstring.
Blackpool loaded the Crewe box with crosses looking for the presence of Gary Madine. When one dropped for him to hit the Alex defender Luke Offord made a fantastic block. The yloungster impressed again up against an experienced striker in Madine.
Crewe began to move up the pitch but chances were few and far between at both ends of the pitch. At times we surrendered possession too easily and a moment of sloppiness saw Jaaskelainen scramble back to hook a Murphy back back pass off the line after Beckles let it run past him.
Crewe defended well as a unit to keep Blackpool at bay because they certainly had the better of the possession stats. On 35 minutes, Wintle stuck his head in where it hurts to divert a well struck volley from Jerry Yates away for a corner. It was great defending from the Alex midfield and Crewe continued to throw bodies on the line.
Chris Maxwell didn’t have to make any serious saves in the first half and we found it difficult to get in behind them too often. Kirk up against substitute Mitchell looked our best bet after he had switched wings with Powell.
The half ended with our former player, Turton, booked for a hefty challenge on Offord.
Blackpool started on the ball again but Ainley nearly fed Mandron through but it was just about cut out by the longer leg of Marvin Ekpiteta. The next attack saw Ainley find Kirk and his low cross was cut out by the impressive Jordan Williams.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 54th minute and it was a well-crafted goal from the Alex. Pickering started it out with a punched in pass to Ainley and he did fantastically well to draw a challenge before feeding Kirk in behind Turton. Kirk had the time and space to work in and his lofted cross was perfect for Mandron to dispatch. He couldn’t really miss it either as was the perfection of Kirk’s flight on the pass.
CJ Hamilton’s pace down the Crewe left created a half chance for Williams but his low shot was deflected behind for a corner, or should have been.
A really forceful run from Powell then saw him provide a really tempting cross and Ainley went close to getting a touch. There was a strong appeal for a penalty as it looked as though Ainley had been held.
Yates was booked for dissent before Powell did well defensively to get back and make a challenge on Mitchell.
Blackpool continued to press though and deservedly scored the leveller on 71 minutes. Turton’s long cross to the far post was kept alive and after Madine and Yates had scrambled for it, the ball dropped invitingly at the feet of Ward and he lashed home for 1-1.
Blackpool also had a strong shout for a penalty of their own at a corner after Madine went down but the referee wasn’t interested. Beckles and Offord continued to defend superbly well and those chances never came to either side.
In the closing stages, Finney and Lowery offered some fresh legs from the bench and there were late bookings for Murphy and Beckles, as the game got a little scrappy with it littered with fouls.
Crewe saw out the final few minutes to gain a good point against a well set-up Blackpool side.