Alex pinned back after leading 2-0 but Ollie Lancashire pops up with priceless winner from Lowery free-kick.
Crewe Alexandra extended their unbeaten run to nine games with a battering display against a spirited Bristol Rovers side. The Alex ran out 3-2 winners in the end, but had to work until the final of six minutes of stoppage time to see it through.
Crewe led 2-0 at the interval thanks to goals from Charlie Kirk and Ryan Wintle - but then saw that lead evaporate within six minutes of the second half as Paul Tisdale’s side fought back only for the excellent Ollie Lancashire to head home a Tom Lowery free-kick on 55 minutes to secure a fantastic three points.
The Alex players had to dig in, in testing weather conditions, against a good Bristol Rovers side, who gave it a real go also but faced Lancashire and Omar Beckles at the peak of their powers. Crewe put bodies on the line to see it through.
The Alex also had to cope with the loss of Luke Offord and Harry Pickering through injury with youngsters’ Rio Adebisi and Travis Johnson stepping up to the plate. It was a fantastic performance for differing reasons in that second half.
Crewe Alexandra manager David Artell made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Plymouth Argyle at the weekend. Mikael Mandron picked up a slight knee injury at Home Park, so he was deemed only fit enough for the bench. The vastly experienced Chris Porter replaced the club’s leading scorer in the starting line-up.
Tom Lowery replaced Luke Murphy in the Alex midfield and Harry Pickering continued as captain following the departure of Perry Ng to Cardiff City earlier today. Luke Offord continued as right-back.
Charlie Kirk was subjected to a hefty challenge straight from kick-off and that set the tempo for an entertaining first half.
Crewe’s first real attack on four minutes saw Owen Dale and Tom Lowery combine and the midfielder’s low cross was sliced over his own crossbar by Alfie Kilgour. Crewe used that first corner to perfection.
It was one right off the training ground. A short corner was worked between Charlie Kirk and Lowery and the midfielder threatened to cross to the far post but cleverly disguised his pass back into Kirk and he raced on to it to dispatch past a helpless Joe Day. It was a fantastically worked goal to give Crewe an early lead.
Bristol Rovers’ number 9 Brandon Hanlon was a handful and both Olly Lancashire and Omar Beckles had to foil the powerful forward with last ditch challenges inside the Crewe box. The reading of the game from the Crewe centre-halves was spot on all night.
The visitors’ continued to press and played some tidy football of their own. Crewe were pinned back into our own half as Paul Tisdale’s side enjoyed their best spell of the first half.
Crewe then went and scored at just the right time after 23 minutes. We kept the ball superbly well, switching the play from right-to-left to find skipper Pickering. A pass into Kirk then saw the winger find the burst of Finney inside the left channel. He did well to then find Wintle and after taking a positive touch to give himself a yard of space, he guided into the far post for the second goal of the night.
Moments later, a really loose ball in defence nearly gifted Crewe a third goal. Kirk picked it up some 20 yards from goal and after finding Finney, his return touch was heavy and a relieved Rovers managed to clear the impending danger.
Bristol Rovers continued to offer a threat with Zain Westbrooke shooting over the top of Dave Richards’ crossbar and the same player also forced the Crewe goalkeeper to push over for a corner from a well struck free-kick.
Rovers kept pushing though and after a well worked corner of their own, Josh Grant fired just past the post.
Finney was booked for a tug and kicking the ball away before the half ended with a couple of injuries. Bristol Rovers lost Ed Upson and Crewe lost Offord both what appeared to be hamstring injuries. Travis Johnson came on at right back.
Bristol Rovers came out of the blocks second half and pulled one back via a corner in the opening minute of the restart. Luke Leahy won the first header and his skipper, Max Elmer helped himself to a tap-in at the far post. It was certainly game on again and just minutes later it was 2-2 thanks to a fantastic strike from Luke McCormick. Crewe conceded a free-kick just outside the box and McCormick rattled his shot into Richards’ top left hand corner. Just like Rochdale, Crewe had seen a lead disappear almost instantly.
To their enormous credit, Crewe rallied again and a manic period of three goals in nine minutes saw the Railwaymen back in front thanks to Ollie Lancashire’s superb diving header from Lowery’s excellent centre from a deep free-kick.
Now back in front, Crewe had something to protect once again. The tackles continued to fly, with Cian Harris cautioned for catching the flying Owen Dale.
Crewe then lost Pickering after he was caught in the back. He was unable to continue and had to be replaced by Adebisi. Crewe had lost both full-backs, on the same day Perry Ng completed his move to Cardiff City.
Ehmer stole in behind Adebisi, with what looked suspiciously like handball to control it, but Richards stood up well to make a fine save at his near post.
Tisdale made a double change with Koiki and Rodman on for Harries and Leahy.
Finney hit one past the post and Dale had a downward header tipped around the post by Day after he was found by Wintle.
At the other end, Lancashire made a goal saving header at the far post and Crewe survived a scramble from a corner when a deflected shot just went past Richards’ post.
Beckles and Lancashire stood firm and were immense throughout the 90 plus minutes. Porter ran his socks off before being replaced in the dying minutes by Mandron and Murphy did well in possession when replacing the hard working Finney.
A burst from Murpy nearly created a fourth goal for Kirk but his powerful drive was pushed over by Day.
Crewe held out to secure a hard fought 3-2 win over the Pirates and the three points takes us up to 7th and one point adrift of a play-off place.