Dale and a Porter penalty give Crewe all three points at Highbury
Crewe Alexandra produced a real hard fought performance to emerge with all three points from Highbury this evening. A well taken finish from Owen Dale following a determined assist from Luke Murphy gave Crewe the lead after 23 minutes but the Alex had Will Jaaskelainen to thank once again for going in at the interval ahead. The young Finn saved his third penalty in four games to protect that advantage. The goalkeeper judged right once again to deny Kyle Vassell an equaliser.
With an entertaining encounter evenly poised, Crewe secure the points in the 82nd minute via a penalty of our own won by substitute Antony Evans. The recalled Chris Porter confidently dispatched it into the bottom corner.
There were chances at both ends in the game with Jaaskelainen pushing a Vassell header out and doing likewise from a Barrie McKay free-kick in the second half. Both Porter and Mandron also went close with headers but couldn’t keep them down.
The Alex ended their recent run of three games without a goal to win and in the process, leapfrog Fleetwood in the table.
With Omar Beckles serving a one-match suspension following his red card for his professional foul at Wigan Athletic on Saturday, there was a recall for Ollie Lancashire at the heart of a three-man Crewe defence. Nathan Wood and Luke Offord made up the trio with Rio Adebisi and Harry Pickering as wing-backs.
Rio Adebisi returned to the starting line-up following his head injury against Portsmouth. The youngster missed Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at the DW Stadium after suffering a bout of delayed concussion.
In a newly established 3-4-3 formation, Chris Porter also returned to the starting line-up to form the three-man attack with Mikael Mandron on the right and Owen Dale on the left.
Along with Beckles, Antony Evans and Charlie Kirk missed out.
Fleetwood had a glorious chance to open the scoring in the opening 30 seconds of the match after full-back Janoi Donacien found the run of Barrie McKay in behind the Alex back-line, but the rather surprised forward seemed to thud his shot into the floor and it became an easy collection for Will Jaaskelainen.
After just four minutes, Donacien then released Kyle Vassell in similar circumstances but his pull back across the box was cleared by the well placed Offord.
Offord then turned provider at the other end of the pitch but his accurate cross was caught by Alex Cairns when placed under severe pressure from Porter.
The Fleetwood captain, Callum Connolly, was booked for going through the back of Dale in the centre-circle. Moments later, Dale broke the Fleetwood offside trap and after drifting past the onrushing Cairns with relative ease, he couldn’t quite pick out a white and gold away shirt for a tap-in and it was whacked clear for a corner.
From the resultant corner in the 16th minute, Porter met the header to force a type of save from Cairns and then he thought he had bundled the loose ball home close to the line but it was the Fleetwood goalkeeper emerging with the ball in his possession.
Three minutes later and Crewe had to readjust at the back with Offord forced off with what looked like another hamstring injury. After a period of treatment he was replaced by Donervon Daniels in the back three.
On 22 minutes, a period of persistence from Porter and then Mandron saw him register a shot on goal. Carins did well to get down to make a one handed save and then grabbed the rebound before a Crewe shirt could react.
Crewe didn’t have to wait long to break the deadlock though. Barely 60 seconds later, Fleetwood were caught out trying to play out from the back and Luke Murphy did fantastically well to slide in and send the ball over the box to find Dale. The youngster took a touch to give himself a wider target with bodies on the line before smashing it home for his 10th goal of the season.
The lead given to us by Dale’s calm finish didn’t look like it would last when perhaps a cold-to-the-game Daniels swung at a clearance and caught his man instead to concede a penalty. Remarkably, it was the fourth spot kick Crewe had conceded in successive matches but with Jaaskelainen in goal, you always believe you have a chance of keeping it out.
The young Finn once again judged right, diving to save the penalty from Kyle Vassell and remarkably the ball spun agonisingly to the opposite post before the support cast arrived quickly and managed to hook it clear before Vassell could prod it home. It was another decisive penalty save from the Crewe youngster.
Just before the half an hour mark, Vassell must have thought he had made amends for his penalty miss when he met Donacien’s cross with a firm header only for the alert Jaaskelainen to push it out for a corner.
After picking up an injury, Nathan Wood attempted to try and play on but after making a defensive clearance in the 39th minute, he again signalled to the bench for treatment. Physio Steve Phillips did his best once again but the on-loan Middlesbrough defender was clearly struggling when he ran.
Wood went through the pain barrier as much as he could and although he was in discomfort continued to defend our box, trying to get to half-time. He also had six minutes of stoppage time to content with!
It could have been even better for Crewe heading into the half-time interval but Porter couldn’t keep his header from Pickering’s free-kick underneath the crossbar enough. Lancashire also had a late header deflected over from a corner.
The half ended with Adebisi being booked for a lunge at McKay after he skipped away from him on the touchline.
Nathan Wood reappeared for the second half but it was evident that he couldn’t shake off the injury and to be replaced for Antony Evans. Wood had given it a real go but couldn’t continue. Crewe’s captain Pickering moved into the back three with Evans operating wide right.
On 53 minutes, Murphy was booked for a foul on the edge of the Alex box but Fleetwood found Jaaskelainen in form again. He watched McKay’s curling effort go over his wall and adjusted to push it behind for a corner.
The home side appealed strongly for another penalty when a shot from Jordan Rossiter hit a body. The Fleetwood man wanted a handball, but it was difficult to see anything in it.
Simon Grayson’s side had certainly come out second period with a greater intent to attack and load our box. Another free-kick, this time from Dan Batty was cleared by the head of Pickering.
On 64 minutes, Mandron was presented with a great chance to make it 2-0 after he was picked out by Evan’s excellent cross from the right but again it was too high to trouble Cairns.
Grayson made a double change with Gerard Garner and Sam Finley introduced for Rossiter and Rydel.
Danny Andrew was booked for a foul on Lowery close the Crewe by-line and the frustrated full-back was cautioned for kicking the ball away in dissent.
Another change from the Cod Army saw Barry Baggley replace Batty with 20 minutes remaining.
Crewe switched to 4-3-3 for the final quarter of the game but there was no shutting up shop, hoping to see out the remaining minutes and see out a 1-0 win. The Alex were still interested in creating opportunities.
Evans’ skill in a tight space drew a free-kick from Baggley and he was booked for his pull back.
With 8 minutes left, Crewe’s persistence in attack was rewarded with a spot kick of their own after Connolly had dragged Evans to the floor inside the box. It was an obvious infringement and referee Joyce was placed to instantly award it. Porter confidently stepped up to drill home the penalty into the bottom corner. The Alex had breathing space.
Fleetwood tried to respond quickly and Baggley nearly gave them a lifeline after he turned a low cross across the six yard box but Daniels was there to complete another clearance.
Crewe saw out the remaining minutes really well to collect another deserved clean-sheet from a tough place to get one.