Dale and Lundstram on target but Stoke run out winners on a special night for young Ashton.
A thrilling friendly game that ended 3-2 to Stoke City was the ideal way to raise funds for young Ashton Hulme this evening. It was some game with the Potters 3-0 ahead at half-time thanks to goals from Danny Batth, Steven Fletcher and our former player, Nick Powell.
Crewe gallantly fought back to make a game of it in the second half thanks to goals from Josh Lundstram and Owen Dale. Of course, it was only a friendly match and topping up fitness levels and all that - but the supporters certainly got their money’s worth.
The club’s latest pre-season fixture against Stoke City was arranged in aid of young Ashton Hulme. The Crewe Academy goalkeeper is a mad Potters fan and all proceeds from this evening’s friendly encounter have been given to Ashton and his family in their continuing battle against cancer. The game ended with both sets of fans chanting 'Ashton Number 1'. What a way to finish a special night for him.
As expected, David Artell, freshened up his starting XI from Saturday’s 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers. The Finn, Will Jaaskelainen, returned in goal and there were starts for Travis Johnson, Josh Lundstram and Billy Sass-Davies.
The Stoke City manager, Michael O’Neill, named our former player, Nick Powell in his starting XI and their strong line-up included the likes of Joe Allen, Steven Fletcher, new signing Mario Vrancic and Danny Batth.
Fittingly and to an incredible ovation, young Ashton kicked the game off. His beaming face as he made his way off was the biggest of the night.
It took Powell preciously 60 seconds to show his ability. A burst of pace into five yards of space resulted in him hitting the foot of the Crewe post with an accurate snap shot. Luckily for us, it hit the post and rebound back and was put behind for a corner. Crewe were caught completely cold and from the resulting corner from the right, Tommy Smith hit the post again and Danny Batth was alert enough to head past a helpless Jaaskelainen.
From another corner, Rio Adebisi managed to clear inside the six-yard box just ahead of Powell and after Lundstram had been outmuscled by Vrancic. The midfielder shot just wide from the resulting free-kick.
Stoke were hugely impressive and Crewe couldn’t beat their high press and get further up the pitch. The pressure on the Crewe goal continued. An outrageous flick from Powell send Jacob Brown down the left hand channel and his low cross was met by Steven Fletcher. Only a fine reflex save from Jaaskelainen prevented it from being 2-0.
From another threatening corner, Batth headed over from close range and Ben Wilmot also went close as Stoke continued to threat from set-pieces. Crewe were handed a let-off when Hoban appeared to shove Fletcher in the back as he raced into the penalty area. If it wasn’t a friendly, it would have surely have been given.
Crewe did venture forward and Long led the surge with a forceful run to win a corner. Dale managed to get a shot off but Alfie Doughty stuck his head in the way.
Powell’s touches and movement was sublime throughout the opening 45 minutes. He shot wide from 25 yards following a loose pass out from the back and it was Crewe certainly wanting the drinks break.
Perhaps the short break cost us a moment of concentration because from the next phase of play via a corner, Stoke scored the second goal of the night through Fletcher’s close range header. It was far too straightforward and Artell wil be disappointed with the goals we conceded on the night.
The hard working Long squeezed a shot in at the near post after some good possession football involving Kirk, Ainley and Dale. Moments later, Dale saw his low cross hooked away by the well placed Batth.
Another superbly weighted touch by Vrancic send Jacob Brown away and his curling shot just missed the far post. That was followed up with Stoke hitting the woodwork again when Vrancic’s deflected effort hit the underside of the bar. It was some performance from the Potters in that first half.
Ainley was arguably Crewe’s most effective player on the night and after robbing Allen of possession he found Kirk but he got stopped suddenly in his tracks before he could get a shot off.
Powell finally scored the goal he deserved after he raced into our box untraced to head in from close range to make it 3-0. His performance deserved a goal on his return to Gresty Road.
Fletcher made way for Sam Clucas at the interval and that allowed Powell to push further forward. Kayne Ramsay replaced Rio Adebisi for Crewe. More would follow on a warm evening in South Cheshire.
Dale flew in early to try and get his head to an early cross and that raised the Alex crowd. We settled down and played much better football.
Danny Batth shot just wide from 25 yards before Powell flew in with Sass-Davies to try and acrobatically get a shot on target.
Ainley was vibrant again to force the Stoke goalkeeper into a stretching save on 55 minutes and it was much better from the Alex. Our growing confidence was finally rewarded with Lundstram’s curling effort after Kirk found him with a clever pass on 58 minutes.
The goal resulted in a flurry of substitutes for both sides. Powell received a standing ovation from both of supporters.
Crewe defender Tommie Hoban had the ball in the net via a couple of headers from Sass-Davies and Dale but the goal was chalked off for offside.
Barely a minute later, we had a let off after Sass-Davies under hit back pass allowed Brown to race through, round sub goalkeeper Richards but saw his shot hit the post and deflect behind.
Sam Clucas also forced Richards into a smart save after his first time effort went central.
With 20 minutes left, Dale forcefully headed home an Ainley corner to make it 3-2 and make it an intriguing last passage of the game. The injection of youngster Tyreece Onyeka saw his work ethic nearly rob the Stoke goalkeeper and a wonderful piece of skill saw him pick out Dale but his header was wide.
Crewe continued to press, looking for an equaliser but the closest we came to scoring one saw Finney lift a late shot over the bar after more probing from Ainley.
Crewe: Jaaskelainen, Johnson, Adebisi, Lundstram, Sass-Davies, Hoban, Dale, Finney, Long, Kirk, Ainley
Subs: Ramsay, Richards, Murphy, Griffiths, Robbins, Onyeka,