Alex narrowly lose on the road again and are left to rue missed first half chances.
Crewe Alexandra suffered their third 1-0 defeat on the road to a team with high hopes of promotion and like the performance at Hull City, the Railwaymen were rather unfortunate not to have collected at least a point at Portman Road.
Ipswich Town narrowly won the contest through a set-piece corner just after the hour mark with Crewe once again left to rue missed chances in the first half. Luke Offord didn’t quite connect with a free-kick from Harry Pickering and Tom Lowery was foiled at close range by Ipswich goalkeeper Tomas Holy after he had been set-up perfectly by Owen Dale at the far post.
Crewe should have scored at least once in that first half and we would be punished for not doing so, when the towering Oli Hawkins headed home an Alan Judge cross from a short corner.
A spirited Alex went in search of what would have been a deserved equaliser but Holy did well again to save again from Lowery. It was frustrating because our performance deserved something.
Tom Lowery returned to the Crewe starting line-up after being rested for our mid-week home fixture against Lincoln City. Lowery replaced Luke Murphy in the Alex midfield. Owen Dale and Callum Ainley retained their places after facing the Imps on Tuesday evening. Chris Porter and Daniel Powell once again started on the substitutes’ bench. The only other change in the squad saw Travis Johnson replace Donveron Daniels.
The match in East Anglia kicked off in wind and rain swirling across the Portman Road pitch. Crewe made a bright start with Dale producing a deft flick to free himself and race down the wing. Callum Ainley was just about crowded out on the edge of the Ipswich penalty area and Ryan Wintle hit a searching pass from his own half that nearly landed over the full-back’s head and into the path of Dale.
A Pickering free-kick also caused some panic in the Ipswich defence before their goalkeeper Tomas Holy rather unconvincingly got something on the full-back’s cross before the advanced Luke Offord did. Any sort of contact from the young defender and Crewe would have been ahead because Holy had been indecisive and not come for it.
The home side did begin to enjoy some more periods of possession, but the Alex defence stood firm and most of the action remained in front of our back four.
Dale was certainly getting tremendous joy up against Stephen Ward and after taking down a long pass from Offord on his chest, he created enough space to force Holy into a smart save after 15 minutes. It was quite evident that Dale had the measure of Ipswich’s experienced full-back and Crewe continued to try and find our pacy wide man.
Another really promising break saw Crewe make it a three on three situation, but after Ainley and Kirk had swapped passes, Lowery was foiled by a committed but fair challenge just inside the box. Moments later, skipper Ng fired in a shot that was well held in slippery conditions by Holy.
Crewe had been the better side in the opening 20 odd minutes with Will Jaaskelainen virtually unchallenged. Ipswich’s first real test on the Crewe goal saw the hugely impressive Offord move across to cut out a dangerous looking cross for a corner ahead of Oli Hawkins.
Just after the half an hour mark, Crewe created the chance that should have resulted in the opening goal. Ainley and Kirk again combined in and around the Ipswich box to find Pickering and his back post cross found Dale, who intelligently placed it back across goal for Lowery to volley but he struck his effort straight at a grateful Holy. We then couldn’t force the rebound over the line.
It was certainly a chance missed but you also have to credit Holy for not committing himself too much to remain upwards and make the save. The busier Ipswich goalkeeper was then called upon to collect a cross before Mikael Mandron slid in for a tap in as Crewe continued to press looking to score first.
On 35 minutes, the home side made inroads down the Crewe left and Edwards’ back post cross was chested behind the goal by Freddie Sears after Offord had got a touch on the cross. Edwards was rather lucky to escape any sort of punishment for kicking out at Offord after the ball had crossed the line for a throw-in. Referee Trevor Kettle spoke to both, but didn’t produce a card to the Welshman.
In truth, Crewe probably didn’t want the half time whistle to come. The only thing missing from a fine all round performance was that goal to show for it.
Ipswich started the second half by introducing some early crosses and both Beckles and Offord had to clear. Hawkins also had a shot that was deflected over for a corner. The home side had certainly raised it a gear following the interval, but Crewe’s defensive space remained solid and we continued to catch the Ipswich front two offside. Andre Dozzell was booked for a handball offence as Crewe threatened to attack.
Ward’s cross was then headed into the gloves of Crewe’s Finnish goalkeeper by Hawkins.
Ainley soon broke the Ipswich offside trap to race onto a through ball from Lowery and following some neat and patient play, Lowery’s firm shot was blocked. In the second phase of play, Dale’s low cross into the six yard was just about cut out.
It was better from Crewe and there were chances there but the deadlock would eventually be broken by a set play.
The opening goal came on 62 minutes after Sears had stolen possession from Ng and the skipper had to recover to concede a corner. The short corner routine set up Alan Judge to whip over a cross and the towering Hawkins headed home his first goal for the club.
Crewe had been left to rue those missed first half chances and Ipswich unlocked us with a straight forward set piece. It wasn’t deserved on the balance of play and incredibly frustrating.
Mandron was as frustrated as everyone and was booked soon after, as was Judge for chopping down Lowery in the centre of the pitch.
Crewe tried to respond immediately and a lovely flick from Ng found Lowery in behind but from a tight angle his shot was pushed behind for a corner. From the resultant corner, Offord forced Holy into another decent save.
A flurry of substitutes, saw Jackson replace goal scorer Hawkins for the home side. Porter and Powell replaced Dale and Mandron for the Alex. A Kirk cross was too high for Porter following his arrival.
Crewe continued to press and enjoy good periods of possession but we just needed that little bit quality in the final third. We occupied some great positions without quite selecting the right option.
After being found by Powell, some neat footwork from Ainley saw him create some space on the edge of the box but his low drive was blocked by Luke Woolfenden.
As we entered the final 10 minutes, Lankester replaced Bishop for the home side before Finney replaced Ainley. Edwards was finally booked for fouling Kirk on the run and from the free-kick, Pickering’s delivery was headed wide by Powell.
There was also a strong penalty appeal when Finney went down after a bit of melee in front of Holy but referee Kettle wasn’t interested.
Crewe had given it their all against an Ipswich side that have not conceded a goal at home all season in League One. They should have done this afternoon but didn’t and that proved the difference at Portman Road. You could see their sense of relief at the final whistle but David Artell won’t be interested in the plaudits following an improved performance.