Alex suffer away defeat but game could have swung on key moment after Andrew grabs Robertson by throat but escapes red card.
Crewe Alexandra’s search for a first league away win of the season continues after Fleetwood inflicted a 3-0 defeat on the Railwaymen – but there is no question that David Artell and his players will feel hard done-by.
Fleetwood certainly created the better of the chances in the game, hitting the post twice, and forcing Will Jaaskelainen into some decent saves in the first half, but with the game in the balance at 1-0, the Fleetwood defender Danny Andrew should have been red carded for clearly grabbing Scott Robertson by the throat after a confrontation that saw four players eventually booked.
The aggressor, Andrew only saw yellow and remained on to curl home a superb free-kick with just over 20 minutes remaining to make it doubly difficult for the Alex.
The Alex felt aggrieved all afternoon with goalkeeper Alex Cairns handling outside his area in the first half and Chris Porter pulled down inside the box in the second. It was just not our afternoon at all and the officials hardly helped with their decision-making.
That is to take nothing away from Fleetwood who did offer more of a threat, certainly from set-pieces. Their first goal had come via a corner and header from Callum Johnson on the brink of the hour mark before Andrew’s decisive second goal to seal the three points. Garner rubbed salts into wounds with a third goal on the break with the final touch of the game.
David Artell made two changes to the side that drew with Cambridge United in our last league outing. Terell Thomas and Callum McFazdean came into the back four in place of Donervon Daniels and Kayne Ramsay. With the inclusion of McFadzean, the versatile Rio Adebisi switched to the right hand side – a position he fulfilled for much of the second half of last season.
Chris Porter led the line once again with Mikael Mandron once again starting on the substitutes’ bench. A strong Alex squad also saw Chris Long named in the 18 after his lay-off with injury and illness and Madger Gomes, who made an impressive debut in the club’s Papa John’s Trophy win over Wigan Athletic.
Inside two minutes, Porter won an aerial duel to find Scott Kashket in the centre of the pitch and his instant pass over the top so nearly dropped invitingly into the path of Scott Robertson but it just had too much on it and the Fleetwood goalkeeper Alex Cairns was alert to the threat and raced to clear. Moments later, Rio Adebisi, operating from the right hand side, found himself in an advanced position and his curling effort just cleared the far post.
Crewe controlled much of the possession in the early minutes and more good work from Porter nearly saw him clip Kashket through. It took the home side a time to settle but they were a threat from their set-piece routines and defender James Hill flashed a header over the top from a corner. We also survived an untidy melee after full-back, Danny Andrew was allowed to chip over a wicked looking cross to the far post. The eventual clearance struck Robertson and deflected it behind for a corner. Robertson needed a period of treatment before he was able to continue.
With Robertson off the field, a short corner was hit by Andrew and forced Jaaskelainen into a good save and the Alex goalkeeper had to also block the follow-up from Camps.
On 18 minutes, a probing run from Finney saw him get in behind on the left hand side but from a good position he could neither get a shot off or attempt to pick out the supportive J’Neil Bennett and the chance was lost.
Two minutes later and with the Crewe defence stretched, Fleetwood were denied the opening goal by the agility of Jaaskelainen. Camps took a positive pass to give himself a yard of space to lift a cross to the far post and Ryan Edmondson must have thought he had scored, but Jaaskelainen judged the move perfectly to shuffle across and push his header over the crossbar.
On 23 minutes, McFadzean tried his luck from 30 yard with a low drive but it cleared the foot of Cairns’ right hand post. In hindsight, he probably should have fed the unmarked Bennett in space on his left hand side. Moments later, Robertson should really have hit the target at least after a superb switch of play from McFadzean had found Adebisi before he fed the midfielder in space some 25 yards from goal.
Just after the half an hour mark, there was a huge shout from the Alex players and supporters after Cairns had evidently handled the ball outside of the penalty area. Under pressure from Kashket, his hand seemed to be out of the line as he pulled the back into him, but the referee looked to his assistant and he didn’t signal infringement. Crewe were perplexed by the decision. It wouldn’t be the first.
On 37 minutes, a free-kick delivery from Robertson just missed the flying-in Thomas. Any contact from the Crewe centre-half would certainly have asked some questions of Cairns in the Fleetwood goal.
In the final minute of the half, a dangerous run from Bennett came to nothing after he had carried the ball from just inside the Fleetwood half into the box but his tame effort was blocked. His next effort was better but cleared the crossbar.
Crewe had to survive a late free-kick after Kashket had conceded in a dangerous area. Andrew struck his effort as crisp as you like and the Alex were fortunate to see it thump the post and bounce away. It was a great effort with Jaaskelainen not getting there if it had been on target.
Artell made his first change at the interval with Long on for Kashket.
Ged Garner forced an early corner when his shot from the box took a touch off of Thomas and diverted behind. After a quick, short corner, Dan Batty’s cross into a crowded box seemed to miss everyone before hitting the far post and Crewe survived again.
Almost immediately, a fine break and cross from Adebisi nearly saw pick out Porter but it was just ahead of the veteran and Hill was able to poke it behind for a corner. There was also a loud claim for a penalty when Porter appeared to be pulled down as he attempted to get onto a cross from Porter but again referee Edwards waved away his appeals.
At the other end, a long throw caused some panic in the Crewe box but Harrison Biggins’ ambitious volley flashed across goal and out the other side.
On the hour mark, Fleetwood broke the deadlock and it was no surprise that it arrived via a set-play. A fine delivery from the Crewe right hand side was powered home by the head of Callum Johnson. His close range header gave Jaaskelainen, who had been Crewe’s best performer on the afternoon, absolutely no chance.
Crewe now had to regroup and start to create some genuine chances. Two minutes after the goal there was a coming together of players after Andew grabbed Robertson around the throat after a fair but robust challenge close to the touchline. The Fleetwood defender raised his hands certainly but the officials, who seemed to lose complete control over the incident only booked him. In the aftermath, McFadzean and Robertson were also booked. It only added to the tense and to compound matters, the referee gave Fleetwood the throw in.
Crewe had to settle after the injustice of it all. Simon Grayson’s first change saw Paddy Lane on for Max Clark. Artell soon after turned to Mandron. The hardworking Porter made way.
Finney was then booked on 70 minutes for literally tracking back and pinching the ball from Jay Matete. It gave Andrew after sight at the Alex goal and this time he made no mistake. It was a wonderfully struck free-kick by the player who shouldn’t have been on pitch from a free-kick that shouldn’t have been given. A rattled Crewe had a mountain to climb with 18 minutes left.
With 15 minutes remaining, Murphy made way for Gomes and Mandron took the armband. The Alex had a couple of chances to perhaps forced an exciting climax to the game at least but Carins made a strong save with his arm to deny McFadzean and Long dragged a shot side from a decent opening.
Thomas was booked for an intentional foul on Garner as he threatened to get away as clear frustration took hold.
Deep into stoppage time, Ged Garner made it 3-0 with a tidy tap-in after the home side broke with real intent. Garner was put in an one-on-one situation and calmly slotted home to make it a forgettable afternoon.
It was a frustrating afternoon for the Alex, who’s impressive run of one defeat in eight games came to an end in controversial circumstances but Fleetwood were also value for their win for looking more of a threat throughout.