Mandron opener cancelled out by Williams after defensive error.
Crewe Alexandra began their League One campaign with a 1-1 draw with Cheltenham Town. Mika Mandron’s 28th minute opener was cancelled out by Andy Williams equaliser five minutes before the half time interval after he was able to capitalise on Donervon Daniel’s back pass across our own box.
Crewe had the majority of the possession in the second half but just couldn’t break them down to find that decisive winner. Credit must all go to Cheltenham who came and defended their box well in that second period.
In the end, Crewe had to settle for a share of the spoils and David Artell will be disappointed with the number of genuine chances created out of the possession.
Luke Murphy was handed the captain’s armband and he started in midfield alongside Oli Finney and Josh Lundstram. Both those players missed a large chunk of last season through injury and only returned for the final game of the campaign against Shrewsbury Town.
Before kick-off both sides took the knee to warm applause.
Cheltenham Town had the first sight at goal after only two minutes but Williams sliced his opportunity well wide of the target. The away side tried to turn the Crewe back line at any opportunity and they were getting some joy in the early exchanges with the diligent runs of Alfie May and Williams.
The Alex needed Dave Richards to produce a strong hand to push off an effort out from Williams on the turn and May was judged offside as he connected with the loose rebound.
Crewe started slowly in terms of genuine chances and it took an under hit back pass from Conor Thomas to ignite us in the attacking third. Ainley read the situation and would have been through on goal but for Charlie Raglan’s sliding tackle.
The competitive start to the season was emphasised by Adebisi’s crunching tackle on Liam Sercombe on the edge of the box.
On 16 minutes, a fantastic move from the Alex created our first chance of the game. Kayne Ramsay carried the ball into the Cheltenham half of the pitch, and after Dale and Lundstram combined down the right hand side, Mandron just couldn’t steer his header on target to trouble Owen Evans in the Cheltenham goal.
Moments later, Ainley switched the ball over to Ramsay and he elected to shoot instead of laying Dale in and his shot struck the back of Hussey. From the corner, it was played shorter and Daniels had his shot blocked.
Crewe found themselves in some promising positions, but we just lacked that final ball to really trouble the Cheltenham backline.
Another sliding interception from Matty Blair prevented Ainley from latching onto a through ball from Mandron before May shot off Offord and it spun away for a corner.
Crewe took the lead on 28 minutes after a hard crafting Lundstram forced Ellis Chapman into an error and after winning the ball back, he found Mandron. The Alex striker showed great composure to get the ball out of his feet and roll into the far corner of Evans’ net for the seasonal opener.
The opening goal certainly saw Crewe gain more control of the game and we arguably had our best spell of the game before Cheltenham’s equaliser on 40 minutes.
Cheltenham had a strong appeal for a penalty when Williams went down but the referee rightly waved away any appeals.
We gifted the visitors the equaliser with five minutes left of the half. Daniels did well initially to half the busy May down the touchline but after reclaiming the ball, he put too much on his pass back towards Richards. The slippery surface didn’t help and the pace took it through to Williams to help himself to an easy chance.
It was Crewe wanting the whistle, as Matty Blair whipped over another dangerous ball across our box.
The busy May then forced Dave Richards into a superb double save, first with his legs and then he pushed out his follow up with force. It was a crucial double save at the start of the second period.
Crewe continued to be patient in possession but Cheltenham dropped off in numbers and made things difficult in the final third. There wasn’t a lot of space.
Daniels made a brave block with his head to deny Chapman from distance before the game opened up a bit. A good ball from Lundstram found Ainley on the hour mark but his curling shot cleared the far post by some distance. May also shot wide with a low drive.
Ramsay was booked for a foul on 65 minutes and the foul count from both sides disrupted the flow of the game in stages.
Artell freshened things up with a couple of chances with MacDonald and Porter on for Finney and Ainley. Lundstram and Adebisi combined well down the left but the final ball was just behind Mandron and Daniels shot high from distance after winning the ball back well in the middle of the pitch.
Crewe huffed and puffed but couldn’t find a way through. Cheltenham stood up well to a couple of late free-kicks and in the end, Crewe had to settle for a point after our last effort saw Mandron head wide from Rio Adebisi’s cross.
A fantastic gate of 5,301 watched it.
Crewe: Richards, Ramsay, Adebisi, Offord, Daniels, Murphy, Ainley (Porter), Finney (MacDonald), Dale, Lundstram, Mandron