Crewe couldn’t follow up our mid-week home victory over Lincoln City as Darren Moore’s Sheffield Wednesday inflicted a 2-0 defeat on a spirited Alex side this afternoon. A forceful run and finish from Owls midfielder, Barry Bannan in the first half and a fine header from Lee Gregory in the early minutes of the second half sealed the points for one of the league’s promotion hopefuls, but it didn’t tell the complete story of an entertaining encounter at the Mornflake Stadium.
With the Alex 1-0 down, Chris Porter had a penalty saved in first half stoppage time by the legs of the Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper, Bailey Peacock-Farrell and his follow up header was also kept out by the agile stopper.
Crewe to their great credit continued to try and get back into the contest and we had two half chances in the dying minutes where if one had gone in, it could have made for a tense closure but we couldn’t get a decisive touch on two late crosses to set up that grandstand finish.
Crewe Alexandra lost the forward line-up from Tuesday evening with two-goal penalty hero Mikael Mandron ruled out through illness and Ben Knight also out after rolling his ankle in training in the final session.
That re-opened the door for midfielder, Scott Robertson, and experienced striker Chris Porter. Porter captained the side with Luke Murphy named on a strong-looking Crewe bench. The bench was boosted with the inclusion of a fit-again Kayne Ramsay.
The League One fixture kicked off to an amazing atmosphere and the visitors boosted by a sold-out allocation in the away end nearly had a goal to celebrate in the opening minute. After captain, Barry Bannan got on the ball for the first time, Lewis Wing raced into the box and had his shot on the turn blocked superbly by Billy Sass-Davies.
Crewe started to enjoy better spells of possession but were a little wasteful with the longer ball up to Porter. Griffiths and Finney were trying to get as close to him as possible for any knock downs or flick ons.
On 16 minutes, Robertson was booked for a pull back on Dele-Bashiru to concede a free-kick. From 25 yards out Bannan had his powerful drive blocked by the rushing Lowery coming out of the Crewe wall.
The game was evenly poised with each player trying to win their personal battles. A good move from the Alex saw Offord step out of his defensive position to find the head of Porter and his slight touch on it found Rio Adebisi up in support. The left full-back turned inside and his low shot was deflected behind for a first corner. Gregory headed Ainley’s corner away from inside a crowded six yard box.
The deadlock was broken by the Owls on 27 minutes. Bannan, who was arguably the most influential player on the pitch, picked the ball up, played a change of passes with Dele-Bashiru and got away from Griffiths. He had a bit of good fortune to get through a tight space and in truth he shouldn’t have been able too, and his firm drive flashed past Richards for the opener. Bannan was booked for celebrating.
Crewe tried to hit back and on 33 minutes, an excellent low cross from Williams only needed a touch at the far post from Porter, but he couldn’t get a decisive touch on it.
Soon after, Richards made a telling save after Theo Corbeanu stepped away from Offord and chopped back onto his left foot inside the Crewe box. It was a fine save from the Welshman and Crewe went on to finish the first half strongly and in possession.
We played some superb, passing football to take the game to Wednesday. They would drop off to contain us and were well drilled under Moore but as the half entered injury time, Ainley flicked himelf away from Corbeanu and after the ball was played from right-to-left, Robertson’s cross struck the arm of Bannan. Referee Swabey pointed to the spot.
Crewe’s regular penalty taker, Porter, was back but he missed a rare spot kick for him when Peacock-Farrell wasn’t fooled to dive. He stood up to save with his legs and was then alert enough to push Porter’s follow up header away as well. It was a fine double save from the Wednesday goalkeeper and it meant the Alex went in at the interval a goal behind.
The penalty miss came back to haunt us just two minutes into the second half. After Richards had kept out an initial effort, the ball was crossed back in by Jack Hunt and Lee Gregory headed home a second for the visitors. Crewe’s task had become doubly difficult.
Artell immediately made a change following the second goal with the experienced Murphy on for Griffiths. Moments later, Richards did well to race from his goal and get a hand on a through ball ahead of the lively Gregory.
Just after the hour mark, Artell made a second change with Johnson on for Robertson. Ainley, who it must be said worked his absolute socks off for the cause shifted into midfield. A good run from him created half an opening for Lowery to get a shot off from the edge of the Wednesday box but it was well held as Porter looked to shuffle any spillage.
Josh Windass also came on for the Owls with Dele-Bashiru making way.
Sheffield Wednesday with that 2-0 advantage certainly controlled the second half a lot more than they had for the final 20 minutes of the first half when they were being forced back by Crewe.
They were excellent in possession and always posed a threat on the counter-attack. Gregory stole in behind Sass-Davies and was denied a second goal by an alert Richards again. Windass also shot into the side netting after Bannan’s quick thinking at a free-kick.
Crewe replaced young Williams for Ramsay and we got some joy down that side with Johnson winning a couple of free-kicks high up the pitch.
Crewe held in the game but needed that goal to make a real go of it late on. Porter looked for a team-mate instead of heading for goal himself when he was picked out superbly by Offord.
There should have been more joy at the back stick as well for either Porter or Ainley after a deep cross from Adebisi had caused Peacock-Farrell some problems. Neither got a decisive touch.
Then in stoppage time, Adebisi produced arguably the delivery of the day but his tempting low cross evaded about four Crewe shirts and went out the other side. Any sort of touch would have halved the score and then who knows? But it wasn’t to be and in truth a strong Wednesday side deserved the three points.