Spirited Alex perform better but lose 2-1 after Celina's sublime chip seals it.
Christopher Long scored his third goal in three games at Portman Road, but it was still not enough to bring back any away points to South Cheshire. Despite producing one of our best footballing performances of the season, Ipswich won the game 2-1 after scoring in the opening minutes of the game through Sone Aluko and then in first half stoppage time, following Bersant Celina’s visionary chip over Dave Richards.
Crewe were rather unfortunate to go in 2-0 down at the interval after creating some really good openings with our passing and movement, but we couldn’t quite find a way past Christian Walton in the Ipswich goal until the 73rd minute when Long was alert enough to turn in a shot from Mikael Mandron.
It was Ipswich certainly wanting the final whistle at the end, as Crewe desperately tried to find that equaliser that our endeavour on the day had probably deserved overall.
Club Captain Luke Murphy had to serve a one-match suspension in wake of his 5th booking of the season against AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday evening. Chris Porter captained the side.
The vacant midfield spot went to another of our Academy graduates, Regan Griffiths. The Liverpool-born Griffiths was making his full league debut for the club.
After serving a one-match ban of his own, Luke Offord, returned to the starting XI in place of Terall Thomas. Oli Finney was also preferred ahead of the Spaniard Madger Gomes.
Ipswich scored with virtually their first attack of the game after just three minutes. Griffiths did exceeding well initially to cut out a cross from Janoi Donacien, but in the second phase of play, wide man Sone Aluko drifted past Rio Adebisi and his dangerous cross across the six-yard box appeared to take a nick of Luke Offord to divert into the net. It was such a poor goal to concede, so early into the contest.
It was evident that Ipswich were targeting our left hand side with Donacien and Aluko combining regularly and always aiming to interchange and get in behind. Conor Chaplin fired against Billy Sass-Davies from distance after Richards had to occupy the left channel of the box to clear a back pass from Williams.
Crewe’s best move of the opening period came in the 15th minute. A lovely flowing move of passes saw Lowery find Long down the Ipswich right hand side and his punched pass into the area was collected by the supporting Finney, but he was just crowded out by the athletic Donacien, now on defence duty.
Four minutes later, the in-form Long went awfully close to finding that equaliser. Crewe had been patient in their build up play and after Williams was invited forward into the Ipswich half, his searching ball was nodded down by Porter to the edge of the box. Although he was presented with some options either side, Long elected to carve out a chance for himself and he had every right to, with his fierce drive needing a really good tip over the crossbar by Christian Walton.
With Crewe continuing to get some joy in the final third, on 23 minutes, Finney shot over after Long had poked a throw from Adebisi through to him.
Despite making that slow start to the game and conceding that poor early goal, Crewe had settled really well at Portman Road and looked a threat whenever we kept the ball for any length of time.
Ipswich continued to appear a threat too but their genuine chances on our goal were fairly limited.
With five minutes of the first half, Crewe created another wonderful chance with some great football. Lowery and Williams were both involved before the ball was swept out to Kashket out on the right. His deep cross to the far post found Porter and his intelligent knockdown for Long gave him time to instantly move it on to Finney, but the ball wouldn’t quite sit for him to apply a decisive shot and Ipswich recovered to clear.
Moments later, Lowery shot over from a decent possession after the Alex had worked it well off the right.
A well grafted move from the home side saw them switch play from the right to our left and play in Donacien again but on this occasion, the retreating Porter was there to hook the danger away. There was also a late scare after Morsy had drilled in a shot that took a wicked deflection to cause Richards discomfort but in the follow up Chaplin missed his header on the rebound. The assistant had his flag up and it wouldn’t have counted anyway.
Ipswich made it 2-0 right on the stroke of half-time. Bersant Celina produced a moment of sublime skill to double the Tractor Boys’ advantage with virtually the last kick. In the fourth minute of stoppage time, he drew gasps of appreciation for the way he pulled a long ball down to get it under his spell before producing an inch perfect chip over the head of Richards and into the top corner of his net.
It was a finish of the highest quality and was an absolute sucker punch for Crewe as we headed into the break. After a fairly positive showing, certainly football wise, in that first 45 minutes, the Alex now had two goals to chase instead of one.
Richards had to alert to leave his goal and get there first ahead of Macauley Bonne before Williams was the first player to be cautioned in the game for a foul. Richards judged Morsy’s free-kick to collect it ahead of Bonne.
Ipswich’s Bailey Clements soon joined Williams in the book for pulling over Lowery as he threatened to make progress down the right. From the free-kick, Porter headed goalwards after Billy Sass-Davies had found him in some space with his own header. It was too close to Walton to really trouble him.
Ipswich went in search of a third goal to kill off any hopes of a Crewe revival with Bonne curling an effort a yard wide of the far post before Long elected to try and find his strike partner, Porter, instead of possibly pulling the trigger himself. Crewe had to settle for a corner.
10 minutes into the second half, Artell made his first change of the afternoon with Mikael Mandron on for Kashket. Mandron occupied the same position as the man he had replaced on that right flank.
When Crewe kept possession and worked it well playing one and two touch, there were certainly potential openings there. Long retained possession to find Lowery and he instantly turned it over to Finney. His weighted pass found Williams on the overlap but his low delivery into the six yard box was smothered by Walton.
On 62 minutes, Aluko went close to extending the home side’s lead but his controlled volley just bounced the other side of Richards’ right hand post. Centre-half Toto Nsiala headed onto the top of the netting from an Ipswich corner.
With 25 minutes remaining, Paul Cook made a double change with Kyle Edwards and Lee Evans replacing Chaplin and Alumo. Barely 60 seconds later it should have been 3-0. Edwards was soon involved to feed Celina with an excellent pass and instead of taking the chance himself he rolled it over to Bonne, who subsequently cleared the crossbar when it was easier to score. It was another golden chance wasted.
Crewe tried to rally and quickly and Long soon lashed a shot from 20 yards out into the crowd when he would have been better placed to aim to pick out one of the support cast trying to fill the opposition box. There were still chances there for Crewe to get back into the contest.
With 18 minutes, the goal we had threatened all afternoon finally came. Finney released Mandron in space down the Ipswich left and his forceful run into the Ipswich box resulted in his low shot being turned home by the alert Long for his third goal in three games. It was now game on at an anxious Portman Road.
Crewe could sense that Ipswich were vulnerable at the back and getting jittery. After more good work from Finney and Long, Mandron shot over the top from the edge of the box. Long also dragged a cross-shot across the box from another decent position.
At the other end, Richards spread himself to save smartly from Scott Fraser after he had been slipped in by Edwards. Celina also pulled a shot wide after more good wing play from the fresher Edwards. The winger also shot wide after a mazy run.
Crewe made their last change with Ben Knight on for Griffiths with just over six minutes left on the clock. A promising Crewe move should have presented us with a chance but the ball out to Porter just forced him a tough wide and Walton came and collected Lowery’s deep cross before it reached the head of Mandron.
In those closing minutes, Ipswich were anxiously holding on to their now slim advantage. A spirited Alex were aiming to create that one good chance to force home what would have been quite a deserved equaliser on the day.
There was a late chance via a free-kick but Knight’s delivery was poor and too easily cleared. That one chance nearly came with Mandron and a dummy from Long giving Porter a late chance but his effort from on the floor was blocked.
Then with the final action, Bonne raced clear on the Crewe goal but Richards made a smart save with his legs.
At the final whistle, the Alex players collapsed in defeat after giving their absolute all but there were some real positive signs.