Beckles sent off with 20 minutes to go as Crewe slip to away defeat at Wigan.
Crewe Alexandra failed to build on the hard-fought point earned at home to Portsmouth in mid-week by slipping to a disappointing 2-0 defeat to relegation threatened Wigan Athletic.
During the week, David Artell felt that our trip to the DW Stadium would be just as difficult as facing promotion hunting Portsmouth and so it proved with Crewe losing on the road for the first time in three games.
Crewe, who didn’t threaten Jamie Jones’ goal enough over the 90 minutes, were certainly unfortunate to concede a freakish opening goal on 15 minutes. Tom Lowery’s clearance inside his own box struck Joe Dodoo before looping over a static Will Jaaskelainen.
The decisive second goal completely changed the complexion of the game when Callum Lang was allowed to carry the ball some 35 yards into our penalty area before he was felled by Omar Beckles when conceding an obvious penalty. Beckles was shown a red card and Lee Evans beat the Crewe goalkeeper with his spot-kick.
Substitute Chris Porter headed a Harry Pickering free-kick over after beating Jamie Jones to it but Crewe’s genuine chances were few and far between and it is another game with a blank.
Leading scorer Mikael Mandron and defender Omar Beckles returned to the starting line-up for the trip to Wigan Athletic. Chris Porter, who started the goalless draw against Portsmouth, returned to the substitutes’ bench and full-back Rio Adebisi was ruled out following his head injury.
Due to Adebisi’s absence in the back four, the versatile Luke Offord switched over to right-back. Beckles partnered the on-loan youngster Nathan Wood in the centre of the Alex defence.
Before the earlier kick off at the DW Stadium, there was an immaculate one-minute of silence in respect of the life and service of HRH Prince Phillip, who recently passed away at the age of 99. The EFL fixture had an early afternoon kick-off due to the Prince’s funeral later in the day.
Crewe almost made the perfect start. A promising move from Artell’s side in the opening minute saw Charlie Kirk reach the Wigan by-line and his clever little cross over the six yard box had to be cleared by Luke Robinson before Owen Dale helped himself to a simple tap-in at the far post.
Barely a minute later, Mandron also had a shot on the turn blocked after Evans had shifted the ball back into the Wigan penalty area.
After just eight minutes, Robinson whipped over a far post cross from the Crewe right hand side and Callum Lang coming in over Harry Pickering just failed to get a real positive connection with his head. The Alex captain applied enough pressure to unbalance the Wigan winger.
Murphy was penalised for a trip on the tricky Viv Soloman-Otabor in the right back position and Wood had to produce a great defensive header to send Lee Evans’ cross over his own crossbar. Wood continued his presence in the air by then heading the corner clear.
It was evident that Wigan Athletic were coming more into the game as an attacking force and after Will Keane had registered the first shot of target for the Latics, the home side took the lead on 15 minutes.
The opening goal came in the most bizarre of circumstances.
Crewe had stood firm against probing runs from Lang and Keane before Tom Lowery’s clearance out of defence struck Joe Dodoo to send the ball looping into the air and over a disbelieving Jaaskelainen.
Wigan were boosted by their fortunate opener and they worked hard to prevent Crewe getting out. Good work from Lowery and then Kirk though did find Evans in some space and he certainly looked as though he had been tripped before unleashing a shot from 20 yards, but the officials waved away the appeals. Kenny Lunt in the technical area was livid.
The impressive Wood confidently stepped into midfield to find Mandron and he in turn provided Kirk out on the left. The winger dropped his shoulder before sending over a teasing cross that both Mandon and then Dale failed to find a connection and Robinson was able to clear. Following a smart turn from Dale that left Robinson trailing in his wake, Evans wastefully shot over from almost 30 yards.
The game went a little scrappy with free-kicks breaking up the rhythm but there was also a couple of scrambles in each boxes but the ball wouldn’t quite drop for the forward players to get a clean shot off.
Lee Evans did get a shot on target with five minutes of the first half remaining after Robinson had laid the ball off to him just outside of the Crewe penalty area but after firing through a crowd of players, Jaaskelainen was positioned right behind it to collect with relative ease.
Lang also did really well to keep the ball in play before the ball crossed the by-line but none of his team-mates had been prepared to gamble on him making it and Offord cleared for a corner.
From the set-play, defender Curtis Tilt was given too much of a free run for his header and Jaaskelainen was forced to get down and make a smart save close to his goal-line and Keane couldn’t control the rebound.
In truth, it was Crewe wanting the half time whistle and an opportunity to regroup, but there hadn’t been too much between the two sides.
Crewe’s first attack of intent in the second half saw Lowery skip away from Lee Evans and find Dale out on the right flank. The winger used Offord’s decoy run on the outside as an opportunity to cut inside and fire a shot from the edge of the box but his firm effort was blocked.
Beckles and Wood continued to win their fair share of headers inside our box but we were caught out of a quickly taken free-kick on 52 minutes. That allowed Soloman-Otabar to find Funso Ojo in a central position but his shot was deflected behind for a corner.
Jaaskelainen stood firm when full-back, Tendayi Darikwa, shot from the edge of the box following another Wigan corner. The Latics players had complained that Tilt had been prevented from reaching the corner but there seemed to be some messy wrestling from both sets of players.
After Wood was tripped bringing the ball out, winger Soloman-Otabor was booked for kicking the ball away.
Crewe created some promising positions but lacked that final pass of quality to really expose the Wigan defence.
With 20 minutes left, Wigan exposed Crewe back-line. After Mandron failed to retain possession played up to him, the ball was surrendered to Lang and he literally ran through the heart of our defence before Omar Beckles impeded him inside the box. The referee did not hesitate to point to the spot and a red card soon followed for the Crewe defender for a professional foul.
For the third successive game, Jaaskelainen faced a penalty but on his occasion, despite getting his hand on it couldn’t keep Evans’ well struck spot kick out.
The second goal and red card understandably prompted a couple of changes with Mandron making way for Porter and Daniels on for Kirk. Daniels went right-back with Offord returning to the centre of the defence.
The ten men of Crewe tried to get back into the contest via a Pickering free-kick, and Porter was unlucky to see his header fly over the bar after beating Jones to the excellent cross. Wigan also had a let off when Tilt appeared to handle back a cross to his goalkeeper but despite the Crewe protests, the referee was unmoved.
With the minutes ticking away, the introduction of subs began to flow with the former Crewe loanee Dan Garner, Thelo Aasgaard and Jamie Proctor all coming on for the closing stages.
Evans shot straight at the Crewe goalkeeper from distance with a couple of minutes to go and sub Aasgaerd forced Jaaskelainen into a save - but Crewe couldn’t conjure up that genuine chance that could have led to a nervy climax for the home side.
Wigan began to wind the clock down and frustrate the ten men of Crewe and they deservedly recorded their third straight win to keep their hopes of staying up very much alive.