Jaaskelainen saves Marquis penalty to preserve point and clean-sheet for the Alex.
Alex goalkeeper Will Jaaskelainen saved a penalty from Pompey’s John Marquis on the hour mark as Crewe Alexandra bounced back from our heavy defeat to Oxford on Saturday to claim a point and a clean-sheet. The young Finn made amends for conceding the penalty after Ronan Curtis went over the rushing goalkeeper as he tried to latch on to a through ball. Marquis confidently stepped up but Jaaskelainen judged right to make a crucial save.
It wasn’t only the penalty save that made Jaaskelainen erase last Saturday afternoon because he also produced world class stops in either half to deny promotion hunting Portsmouth the lead.
Crewe had half chances in truth with Craig MacGillvary in the Pompey goal not as troubled as out Finnish stopper but Owen Dale, Tom Lowery and Antony Evans from a well struck free-kick all going close.
David Artell made six changes from the side that lost 6-0 to Oxford United on Saturday. Captain Harry Pickering was the lone survivor in the back four. He was joined by the recalled Luke Offord, Nathan Wood and Rio Adebisi. In midfield, Tom Lowery and Antony Evans returned to the starting line-up with Evans making his third start following his loan switch in January.
Chris Porter also earned a recall ahead of leading scorer, Mikael Mandron. The bench was obviously strong with Daniels, Beckles and Lancashire making up the defensive cover. Ainley dropped down to the bench with Mandron and winger Stephen Walker started in reserve again.
The visitors conjured up the first real attacks of the game thanks to their lively winger, Marcus Harness. He placed a diving header over the top of the Crewe crossbar before his dangerous low cross was superbly cut-out by the sliding Luke Offord before it reached Ryan Williams in the six-yard box. It prevented a certain early goal.
Rio Adebisi suffered a nasty boot in the face from Ronan Curtis. It was purely accidental and after a lengthy stoppage, the young full-back continued for the time being.
Crewe were pressing Pompey high up the pitch and made it difficult for Darren Cowley’s side to play out from the back. With licence to get forward, Lowery had a shot blocked on the turn inside the box and Kirk untimely slipped as he tried to grasp the loose ball.
The hard working Lowery was also booked for not retreating 10 yards at a quickly taken free-kick.
A fantastic cross field pass from Pickering nearly found Porter but it was a difficult one to pull down and if he had he was in front of goal. Evans produced some quality from the right hand side and one excellent delivery found Lowery and his flick header just bounced the wrong side of the far post.
Evans went awfully close with a well struck free-kick from 25 yards out. Sean Raggett was booked coming through the back of Porter in conceding it. The on-loan midfielder struck it perfectly and it just took a slight nick of the wall to deflect it behind for a corner.
Just before the Evans free-kick, Adebisi was forced off with a head injury. The earlier kick in the face had clearly affected him. He had to be replaced by Donervon Daniels.
Porter won his fair share of flick-on’s and there were a couple of occasions where his partner Owen Dale couldn’t quite get hold of it or wasn’t close enough to take full advantage.
Offord was booked for pulling down Harness after he got himself in a mess close to the by-line but other than that he was assured again at centre-half.
At the other end, Charlie Daniels fired wastefully over from distance before in stoppage time, Will Jaaskelainen made an excellent save at a corner to deny Jack Whatmough from close range. John Marquis had also had a bite at the cherry and after a melee, Daniels completed the clearance up pitch and we went in level at the break.
Portsmouth created the best chance of the early exchanges of the second half when Marquis directed his header straight at the Alex goalkeeper from Williams’ cross.
The visitors early pressure told and they were awarded a penalty in the 60th minute when Curtis went over the onrushing Jaaskelainen. Darren Drysdale checked with his assistant before pointing to the spot. The Alex goalkeeper made amends for conceding the spot-kick by denying Marquis. He judged right to dive and make a comfortable save.
After Kirk had made a mess of his intended clearance, he needed to rely on his goalkeeper to pull off a fantastic one handed save to deny Williams.
Kirk made way for Mandron and Dale went out wide as Crewe changed tact to try and find a winner.
In truth, Portsmouth applied more of the pressure. Tom Naylor headed wide from a corner as they cranked it up in the final 20 minutes but Crewe contained them superbly well.
Cowley introduced White and Byers for Close and Williams but it was the excellent Tom Lowery who looked the most likely to conjure up an winner in the closing stages.
The midfielder curled one just wide from the edge of the box before his late chip to the far post just missed the head of Porter. It would have been an unbelievable assist.
Dale also had a late chance to hit the target but pulled it wide of the far post. Crewe had needed to test the Pompey goalkeeper more on the night.
Crewe worked exceedingly hard for a point and a clean-sheet and there was still time for Daniels to make a superb last ditch tackle to deny a late burst through the Crewe back line in the dying minutes.