Crewe take Sunderland to the wire but cannot create enough chances to force an equaliser at the Stadium of Light.
An unfortunate own goal from Luke Offord in the final minute of the first half decided the game at the Stadium of Light this evening. Crewe Alexandra were aiming to survive goalless until the break but the home side’s relentless crosses into our box finally paid off for them when the impressive Lynden Gooch provided a wicked delivery that Offord could only divert into his own net.
That proved to be the only goal on the night and although Sunderland created the better of the chances with Max Power, Gooch and Bailey Wright all wasting good ones, Crewe didn’t really test Lee Burge in the Sunderland goal on too many occasions.
We made a fist of it and remained in the game but the home side deserved credit for they defended their own box.
David Artell made the one change for the club’s first trip to the Stadium of Light for over sixteen years with midfielder Oli Finney replacing Callum Ainley.
The only other alteration to the squad that drew 1-1 with Blackpool at the weekend was the reintroduction of Travis Johnson to the Alex bench for Billy Sass-Davies.
What an incredible shame that this League One fixture in such a fantastic venue kicked off with no supporters present. The encounter began at a frenetic pace with both sides showing a competitive edge. There was a number of aerial duals and the game needed someone to put their foot on it and provide a breather.
With neither goalkeeper called into any sort of action inside the opening ten minutes, it was Sunderland who forced the first corner of the game on the Crewe right, but the delivery cleared everyone because a slight Crewe touch took it out for a throw out on the other side.
A promising counter attack that stemmed from a forceful punch from Will Jaaskelainen saw Charlie Kirk instantly feed Daniel Powell. He in turn found his supportive captain, Perry Ng, and his tempting cross, aimed for the deeper Kirk on the opposite side, had to be cut out by a stretching Grant Leadbitter.
The first real glimpse of goal saw Charlie Wyke acquire a yard of space away from Omar Beckles but after turning on the edge of the box, he was wasteful with his finish and it sailed harmlessly over the Alex crossbar. It was more than a presentable chance.
On 15 minutes, a flick on from Mandron found Powell in a one-on-one situation with wing-back, Denver Hume. Powell did not hesitate to use his strength to take the full-back on and getting past him with relative ease; his low shot was blocked for a corner.
The home side continued to be eager to load the Crewe penalty area with crosses, aiming for the height of Wyke, but Beckles and Offord contained the threat. They were kept busy though and Beckles did superbly to get in front of his man on one occasion inside the six-yard. The next one saw Wyke head straight at the young Finn in the Crewe goal. The Alex wall also stood firm when Chris Maguire whipped a free-kick just wide of the upright.
Beckles was once again in the right place to head away danger after Maguire and Lynden Gooch combined down the Alex left. Jaaskelainen was also called upon to make his first meaningful save after the Sunderland captain Max Power unleashed a shot inside the Crewe penalty area.
On 37 minutes, a progressive passing move saw Crewe enter the final third with Kirk in possession but the ball just ran away from Finney as he tried to collect it on the edge of the Sunderland box and the chance was lost. It was better from Crewe though in an attacking sense.
Five minutes before the half time interval, Sunderland’s movement drew Crewe out defensively and Maguire actually had more time than he thought, when slicing his effort over the crossbar. Soon after, a spinning deflection almost diverted into the Crewe net but it went only for a corner.
Phil Parkinson’s side continued to press, aiming to score that opening goal before the break and it came in heart breaking fashion for the Alex in the final minute. A wonderful cross from wing-back, Gooch, saw Offord deflect his header into his own net from close range whilst under pressure from Wyke. On the balance of play, the home side, who had been relentless with their crosses probably deserved to be slightly ahead.
At the beginning of the second half, Kirk fed Finney down the left channel but from a good position he made a mess of his low cross and the chance was lost. Any sort of proper contact would have given Powell a simple tap in.
Sunderland had the perfect chance to double their advantage on 52 minutes but after Beckles had prevented one shot, Max Power blazed over with his follow up effort.
Five minutes later, David Artell made his first substitution of the night, replacing Powell with Owen Dale.
On 65 minutes, Wyke raced onto a through ball from Gooch and he beat Jaaskelainen to the loose ball. His hack down resulted in a free-kick and a booking for the Crewe number one. From the resultant free-kick from Gooch, Bailey Wright’s headed down and over from close range when he should really have been celebrating a second Sunderland goal.
Crewe had enjoyed some let offs and at only 1-0 were still very much in game, if we could show a moment of quality in the final third.
Artell’s second change saw Finney withdrawn and replaced by Ainley. Ng soon joined his goalkeeper in the referee’s notebook and had to tread carefully in the final 20 minutes.
Ainley was soon involved and his excellent pass found Kirk in yards of open space but he had just strayed offside. If he hadn’t, he was in.
Moments later, an impressive run from arguably the best player on the night, Gooch went on a mazy run that would have resulted in some goal but for Jaaskelainen’s fine save with his face. The Alex stopper stood up well and long enough to make the block, as the wing-back tried to lift it over him.
Ainley then found Kirk inside the box but his shot was blocked by the grounded Leadbitter. Crewe needed that one clear opportunity to perhaps grab an away point.
Crewe mounted some late attacks but Sunderland continued to defend their box well. We were just lacking that decisive final ball to expose them. By that point, Porter was on for the final 10 minutes (replacing Kirk), as the Railwaymen went a bit longer to look for the experienced forward and the former Sunderland man, Mandron.
It was end to end stuff, with Crewe aiming to force home that equaliser but we couldn’t conjure up that major chance that could have seen us depart the Stadium of the Light with something.