Crewe Alexandra ended 2021 with a deserved first league away win of the season at Morecambe. The Railwaymen thoroughly deserved the three points over the 90 plus minutes, but not for the first time had to accomplish it the hard way. It was a big, big win and we roll on to Burton on New Years' Day.
David Artell’s spirted side had to fight back from a goal down at half-time to collect those precious three points on the road. Firstly, Chris Porter notched his fourth goal of the season from a Tom Lowery cross before captain Luke Murphy produced a stunning, half volley to send the travelling Crewe fans absolutely delirious behind that goal. Murphy’s fantastic winner was worthy of winning any match.
After having fixtures postponed against Gillingham and Wigan Athletic due to Covid outbreaks at both clubs, Crewe Alexandra got back to playing football again.
Club captain Luke Murphy returned to the Crewe Alexandra starting line-up in place of youngster Regan Griffiths. After issues over who would start up front in our last two fixtures, David Artell could pair the experienced Chris Porter with Mika Mandron for the trip to Morecambe.
Our former loanee Greg Leigh started for the home side at left back. The Shrimpers were missing their leading marksman, Cole Stockton, who had scored a commendable 16 goals in all competitions in the first half of the season.
It was like the Alex couldn’t wait to get started after 18 days without football. Making a really positive start to the game, Crewe forced four corners inside the opening three minutes. One of them stemming from the left hand side forced Kyle Letheren in the Morecambe goal to scruffily claw a cross out. From a second phase he was put under severe pressure by Porter but the loose ball bounced kindly for the home side to clear their penalty area.
The first real opening arrived after just six minutes. Good approach play down the right hand side saw Callum Ainley in his new wing-back role provide a low cross and after Oli Finney intelligently left it to Rio Adebisi, his shot was blocked and in the follow-up, Tom Lowery whistled a great effort into the side netting.
It took the home side until the 12th minute to register their first real effort on the Crewe goal but Dave Richards was well placed to save Jonah Ayunga’s low drive with his legs and Billy Sass-Davies completed the clearance from the edge of the penalty area.
A dazzling dribble from Callum Ainley saw him dangerously carry the ball into the Morecambe box and he was unlucky to see his eventual shot hit Mandron and not run kindly into his path.
In the opening 20 minutes of play, it was certainly Crewe on the front foot and the only disappointment was that we didn’t test Letheren enough in that period. We were restricted to long range efforts too often, but with Crewe comfortably on top, the home support became restless with some of their teams misplaced passes.
Stephen Robinson’s side did look a threat on the counter attack a times and always offer that threat from set plays but their goal came against the run of play on 36 minutes.
There had been a short stoppage in play with Adebisi needing treatment and after the re-start, Crewe got caught cold. Ayunga’s cross into the box found Leigh in space and he adjusted his positioning superbly to direct a forceful header past a helpless Richards for the opener. It was harsh on Crewe to be a goal behind to our former loan player, but now we had to regroup and double our efforts.
Adebisi was cautioned for a foul on Shane McLoughlin as they battled for possession down the wing but Ainley defended the delivery with real conviction to head the ball back out of play for a throw. He also made a fantastic block to deny Aaron Wildig a shot on target at least and there was a late scare when the same player went down inside the box with the home support demanding a stoppage time penalty. The referee ignored the pleas.
In the opening minute of the second period, Richards was immediately charged down by Adam Phillips as he tried to clear up field but the ball rebounded to safety, much to our relief. Phillips was forced off with injury and was replaced by Toumani Diagouraga.
Crewe hit back six minutes into the second half and it was the excellent Tom Lowery again pulling the strings. He provided an accurate cross and Porter was there again to net his fourth goal of the season. The veteran forward was on the spot once again and the away contingent erupted with a timely leveller.
Almost instantly, Artell made a change with Kayne Ramsay on for Adebisi, who had been struggling since that picking up that knock.
Jon Obika tried to get at Sass-Davies but the towering Welsh defender stood up well to make a fantastic block and spin it behind for a corner. Crewe dealt with the high ball well enough.
Two minutes before the hour mark, Murphy produced his moment of brilliance. The midfielder had the confidence and ability to control a dipping half volley from 25 yards out that dipped at precisely the right moment to defeat Letheren. It was his first goal since his return to the club and it was no wonder he celebrated it with his team-mate and a delirious away section. The Alex skipper was booked for his celebration but he wouldn’t have cared one jot.
From one nil behind at the break, a resurgent Alex had completely flipped the game on its head thanks to Murphy’s magic.
It nearly got even better the Alex after Ramsay and Lowery played a neat one-two and the on-loan Southampton full-back nearly found Mandron flying in. It was stopped close to the goal line and hooked clear.
Offord, Sass-Davies and young Zac Williams were then put under severe pressure as the crosses came over. They stood up superbly well but Wildig had a glorious chance to level on 65 minutes but lashed it wastefully over the bar.
A minute later, Richards produced a stunning one handed save to deny Ayunga after he showed his power and pace to get a low shot off. Richards got a strong hand on it to divert it behind for a corner.
Obika was replaced by Arthur Gnahoua and Wes McDonald also soon appeared too for Wildig, as Robinson shuffled his pack.
Crewe had regained control of a tense affair and had to manage the final 15 minutes or so. Crewe were forced into another change due to an injury to Ainley. Travis Johnson came on at right back.
Antony O’Connor dragged an ambitious effort wastefully wide after stealing possession from Mandron after he tried to hold it up for us. The pressure was going to come but Crewe were seeing the game out with style. We had to stand firm at our near post to stop a cross from sub McDonald.
On 84 minutes, Robertson replaced Finney to offer some fresh legs in the key area. Following a short corner into McDonald, the Shrimpers laid it up for Callum Jones but his driven shot hit the side netting. Richards had it covered. Crewe restricted Morecambe to no genuine chances to seal that first away win in League One this campaign.