Dale nets winner as Crewe return to winning ways.
Crewe Alexandra returned to winning ways at the New Meadow thanks to Owen Dale’s 8th goal of the season. Dale was in the right place again to tap home after 27 minutes after Travis Johnson’s dangerous looking cross was inadvertently sliced into his path by Ethan-Ebanks-Landell.
Shrewsbury had chances of their own with Harry Chapman firing into the side netting in the opening couple of minutes and Crewe had Dave Richards to thank for some important saves at the beginning of the second half.
It was a real gritty, second half performance from the Alex who deserved the points for their collective defending and work ethic. It was a hard fought victory that moves up to 9th in the table.
With the matches coming thick and fast in League One, David Artell, made three changes for the trip to Shrewsbury Town. Artell freshened up his wide men with Owen Dale and Daniel Powell in for Stephen Walker and Charlie Kirk.
After completing his summer move to Blackburn Rovers, Harry Pickering, returned to Crewe on loan and was again named captain for the short trip to Shropshire.
With his game time limited with his parent club, Rotherham, Billy Jones, was again left out for youngster Travis Johnson as he readjusts to the demands of playing two games in a week. Jones missed the clash against his hometown club - but Omar Beckles returned to the New Meadow for the first time since leaving the Shrews for Crewe in the summer.
In the Shrews line-up was the former Crewe forward, Daniel Udoh.
With Steve Cotterill still in hospital battling against Covid-19, his assistant Aaron Wilbraham, again deputised. Everyone at Crewe wishes Steve a speedy recovery and hopefully he will be back in the dugout soon.
Shrewsbury could and perhaps should have taken the lead in the opening couple of minutes when Harry Chapman took a lovely touch round Johnson and raced through on goal. Dave Richards narrowed the angle and forced Chapman to shoot into the side netting instead of across him. It really was a clear chance that so nearly caught Crewe napping.
Pickering was booked early on for catching Udoh in the centre circle but Ethan Ebanks-Landell escaped a card for similar on the Alex captain. It was a strange one and infuriated the Crewe bench.
Crewe’s first major attack stemmed from the left foot of Pickering. His accurate ball forward dropped on to the edge of the Shrewsbury penalty area and after Mikael Mandron had made a nuisance of himself; the ball fell to Powell and his low drive forced Matija Sarkic into his first save of the evening.
Midfielders, Ryan Wintle and Oli Finney, soon tried their luck from distance with Finney’s deflected effort forcing Sarkic to scramble across and prevent a corner more than the opening goal.
On 27 minutes, Crewe did take the lead though. Johnson’s fine delivery into the Shrewsbury box, forced Ebanks-Landell to slice his clearance ahead of his goalkeeper and after taking the pace off the cross, there was Owen Dale in the right place again to help himself to the simplest of tap-ins. It was Dale’s 8th of an impressive season for the winger.
The opening goal settled Crewe down and they certainly began to enjoy more of the possession in the Shrewsbury half of the pitch. Mandron was a great outlet and he worked tirelessly to retain the ball and get us up the pitch and occupy the Shrewsbury centre-backs with his work ethic.
Shrewsbury’s winger, Shaun Whalley, joined Pickering in the referee’s book for a foul on Johnson.
Udoh continued to battle up front, but he didn’t get much change out of Beckles and Olly Lancashire in the first half. Crewe deservedly led at the break thanks to Dale’s poached finish.
Shrewsbury had a couple of early sights of Richards’ goal after the battling Udoh and Chapman kept the ball alive and Whalley whipped a shot from the edge of the box just wide. Moments later, midfielder Oli Norburn curled his effort on target but Richards showed fine agility to push it away from danger.
The early Shrewsbury pressure continued and they forced a number of corners from both sides. Crewe did likewise down our right hand side through good work from Johnson and Powell. Wintle headed one corner into the gloves of Sarkic, as did Beckles against his former club.
The Shrews made their first change on 56 minutes with Josh Daniels replacing Ryan Sears. On the hour mark, Udoh used his presence to try to roll away from Lancashire but the defender did superbly well to stick with him and block his near post shot for a corner.
The home side continued to press and after a really forceful run from Nathanael Ogbeta down the Alex right, his powerful shot on target had to tipped over by an alert Richards. It was a smart save from the Crewe goalkeeper at his near post.
Udoh headed wide from a Chapman corner coming in from the right hand side. Johnson did superbly in the six yard box to deny Ogbeta a tap in at the far post after Pickering had initially blocked Daniel’s cross. Johnson covered the ball back to his grounded goalkeeper.
With 20 minutes remaining, the tricky Whalley deceived Lancashire close the touchline before cutting inside and forcing Richards into another good save with a curling effort from just outside the box.
Beckles was booked for arguably one of his mistimed challenges with 16 minutes remaining. He had been on the receiving end of a fair few fouls himself on the night with no cards shown!
There was one shown to Chapman though soon after, as he tracked back and fouled Finney.
That prompted a double change for Crewe on 77 minutes with Lowery and Walker replacing the injured Finney and Powell. Udoh also made way for David Davis.
Crewe had to really dig in and press for the final 10 minutes to protect that lead given to us by Owen Dale. As expected, Shrewsbury had more of the ball as they pressed for that equaliser but the Alex players put in an incredible shift and remained compact.
With six minutes left, Lancashire joined his defensive partner in the book after catching Whalley as he rolled away from him. The Alex were standing firm as a unit.
In a last throw of the dice, Shrewsbury introduced forward Rekeil Pyke for defender Ro-Shaun Williams.
With five minutes of stoppage time to see out, the hard working Mandron was replaced by Porter. Dale won a free-kick after being pulled back five yards outside the Shrewsbury box. Crewe headed for the corner and camped them in. It was that sort of professional display from the Railwaymen.