Crewe Alexandra looked set to collect all three points when Charlie Kirk won and they duly converted a 90th minute penalty only for battling Rochdale to salvage a point thanks to Matt Done’s equaliser seven minutes later! It was an exciting end to a game that looked to have 0-0 written all over it.
The game lacked genuine chances with Antony Evans forcing Jay Lynch into a smart save from distance for Crewe and Jimmy Keohane heading over a Ryan McLaughlin cross in first half stoppage time. Over the course of the 90 plus seven minutes, a draw was probably a fair reflection on the game.
David Artell was forced into three changes for the visit of Rochdale. Luke Offord and Nathan Wood were both ruled out after suffering injuries in mid-week at Fleetwood Town. Offord suffered a hamstring injury at Highbury that has unfortunately ruled him out for the remainder of the season.
Wood’s leg injury ruled him out, so Donervon Daniels and Antony Evans formed a new look defensive shape. Evans, who impressed when coming on at right wing back on Tuesday evening, was handed another opportunity in the new position.
Tuesday night’s match-winner, Owen Dale was carrying a slight knock, so he was replaced by Charlie Kirk in the starting line-up. Dale took his place on the substitutes’ bench.
Ryan Wintle returned from injury to take his place in the squad of 18. Omar Beckles returned from his one-match suspension but started on the bench.
With their League One status in jeopardy, it was to be expected that Brian Barry-Murphy’s side tried to get on the front foot as quickly as possible at Gresty Road. Luke Murphy was forced to cut out an early low cross from Aaron Morley for a corner and from the set-piece, Ollie Rathbone stole in at the far post and had his header deflected behind for a corner.
The visitors’ brighter start then saw midfielder Eoghan O’Connell have a powerful blocked on the edge of the box.
Luke Murphy needed a period of treatment after going down with what looked like an ankle injury from a corner. He continued for a number of minutes before being forced off on the half an hour mark for the returning Wintle.
Mandron put himself about in a wider role but there were times when the decision making wasn’t fast enough. On the occasions, Crewe pinched possession up the pitch, our final cross or pass just couldn’t pick out a red shirt.
A longer ball on 26 minutes saw Porter win his aerial dual with Paul McShane, and the ball dropped invitingly for Kirk but his shot into the floor took a deflection and was collected by Jay Lynch in the Rochdale goal. It was arguably our best opening of the first half.
Our only other move of any real merit, saw Daniels and Kirk combine to find Porter through the middle of the Rochdale defence but his shot lacked the power to test Lynch.
Evans did well defensively well to head clear from the incoming Jimmy Keohane inside the six yard box and Will Jaaskelainen had to grab a long range effort from full-back Gabriel Osho.
Lowery was forced into a trip on Conor Grant right on the edge of the box and Rochdale couldn’t punish him further at the free-kick. The visitors’ should have punished us in stoppage time after Ryan McLaughlin dug out a cross to find the supporting Keohane but he couldn’t keep his free header down and it sailed over the crossbar by some distance. It was by far the best chance of the entire half.
Crewe switched to 4-3-3 for the second half and after moving into midfield, Evans was booked for a foul on Osho.
The Railwaymen’s first chance of the second half found Wintle but he couldn’t quite connect with his volley from close range.
Rochdale’s full-back, McLaughlin, had a cross-shot pushed over by Jaaskelainen before Keohane mis-kicked his finish from a corner.
With the visitors really needing the three points to keep their hopes of staying in the division alive, Barry-Murphy made a double change when introducing Stephen Humphrys and Done with just over 20 minutes remaining.
Rochdale’s captain, O’Connell headed straight at the Alex stopper from a corner. It was too central.
After some good approach play, Evans cracked a shot from distance that was well saved by Lynch. He did well to push it away from his top corner. Moments later, at a stretch, Porter couldn’t quite direct his header on target after a searching ball from Lowery.
Rochdale lost McShane through injury and went for it by introducing exciting youngster Kwadwo Baah. The Manchester City bound winger, had one great run that saw him run across our box and shoot just wide.
Artell introduced Ainley and Dale for Evans and Porter to freshen things up. Kirk was judged offside after forcing Lynch into a good save at the near post. It was one of our best moves of the entire game with Pickering and Porter combining really well.
Rochdale desperately needed a goal and a forceful run from Osho saw his shot blocked but it would be Crewe taking the lead in the final minute. Substitute Dale provided the cross from the right and after taking a touch, Kirk went down under a challenge from Morley. It looked a soft award and the Rochdale players complained to the extent that their captain, O’Connnell was booked.
Kirk stepped up to take it ahead of Mandron. His low shot to the left as well saved by Lynch but fortunately for the Crewe man it came directly back to him and he dispatched the rebound with ease for his 7th goal of the season.
Kirk’s goal looked set to be the winner but the officials showed 7 minutes of stoppage time and a spirited Rochdale took advantage of the extra time. Artell introduced Beckles on to shore things up for the dying minutes. Morley and Humphrys had thumping shots saved before they eventually conjured up their leveller with 30 seconds left.
An aerial challenge in the centre of the pitch dropped to substitute Conor Shaughnessy and he threaded a wonderful pass in behind Lancashire and Done raced through to touch it past Jaaskelainen for a last-ditch equaliser. It was no more than they deserved over the 90 plus minutes.