Another great away point for battling Alex at Home Park.
Scott Kashket’s first goal for the club set the Alex up for another well deserved point on our travels. Kashket fired us into a second minute lead with a powerful drive that flashed past Michael Cooper in the Plymouth Argyle box.
Ryan Hardie levelled things up for Ryan Lowe’s Pilgrims with 18 minutes left but Crewe battled away courageously, like we did at Rotherham United on Saturday, to collect another good away point.
There were chances at both ends in an open and entertaining game that flowed throughout and although we had to weather the storm at times, we had good chances through Scott Robertson and Mikael Mandron to perhaps have gone two up.
Terrell Thomas and J’Neil Bennett returned to the Crewe starting line-up for tonight’s encounter at Home Park. Both recovered from illness to reclaim their places with the injured Callum Ainley and Billy Sass-Davies missing out. The club’s Wales Under-21 International was named on a strong Alex bench that didn’t include midfielder Madger Gomes after he became the latest player to suffer with illness.
Our former player, Ryan Lowe, named our former loanee midfielder, Conor Grant in his starting line-up and our ex-winger, George Cooper, on his bench.
Before kick-off there was one minute of applause for the NHS to recognise all the outstanding work they performed during the pandemic and thereafter. Plymouth donated 1,000 tickets for key workers to attend tonight’s game.
Crewe got on the front foot almost immediately and after a neat interchange of passing between Kashket and Bennett, the on-loan Tottenham Hotspur winger got a shot off and accepted a corner as it spun off the pitch. Luke Murphy took the corner from the left hand side and during the second phase of play, Rio Adebisi fed Kashket just inside the Plymouth penalty area. The forward took a sublime touch to create a yard of space and without hesitation absolutely drilled his shot past a surprised Michael Cooper. It was a wonderful, powerful strike to mark his first goal for the club.
It was a dream start for the Alex and the shock of the early goal seemed to deflate much of the noise of the home support inside Home Park. Lowe’s side tried to respond from falling behind so early with Ryan Hardie winning a corner at the other end, but the Alex dealt with the in-coming cross to clear.
As the game approached the 10th minute, an uncharacteristic lack of concentration from Scott Robertson surrendered possession far too cheaply to Hardie on the edge of the box and he drew a smart save from Will Jaaskelainen who pushed his effort with conviction behind for a corner.
Plymouth began to increase the pressure on the Crewe goal and Jaaskelainen made another good save from Luke Jephcott with his outstretched foot. The busy Hardie also had a well struck effort blocked by the well placed Donervon Daniels.
Although Crewe were standing firm, the concerted pressure on the Crewe goal certainly increased the volume once again and the Alex were quite relieved to have a short break when full-back, Macauley Gillesphey needed treatment. It would be a trend of the first half.
A handball infringement from Bennett then presented the Pilgrims with a free-kick from a good position, but Hardie struck it into a stubborn Crewe wall. From the second phase, Dan Scarr screwed his shot at the far post wide of the mark.
Hardie was a fraction out from equalising when his shot into the ground bounce just wide. If it had been on target, Jaaskelainen would not have stood a chance of saving it.
On 27 minutes, Crewe broke with real purpose. Kashket found Bennett, who quickened step off the wing opened up the pitch and he slipped the ball into the supporting Robertson. The Scottish midfielder certainly seemed to have his shirt pulled by Ryan Broom as he prepared to get a shot off. The offence occurred just outside the box but it certainly looked a foul. Crewe got nothing.
On the half an hour mark, Grant limped off with injury and had to be replaced by Jordan Garrick. He had an early shot from just outside the Crewe box but Adebisi stood firm to make the block.
On 35 minutes, Crewe went awfully close to making it 2-0. The dangerous Bennett was the provider once again from the left hand side and he picked out the untracked Robertson but his side footed shot was too close to Cooper and he made the stop with his legs. It was a good chance for the on-loan Celtic youngster to register his first goal.
In the immediate aftermath of that chance, Thomas stepped out of defence and with real conviction struck a swerving shot that Cooper did well to watch and push out and the clearance was completed by Scarr before Mandron could react to the rebound.
As the first half drew to a closure, the crosses kept coming into the Crewe box but we kept clearing them with purpose. Broom did get his head on one with a diving effort but he couldn’t quite get it on target.
Crewe weathered some storms when we needed to and with the pace of Kashket getting him in behind, there were always possible openings to be had. In fact it was Robertson running forward in stoppage time to find Mandron and on the turn he had another shot saved by the feet of the alert Cooper.
Plymouth were forced into a concussion substitution at half-time with James Wilson withdrawn and Brendan Galloway coming on. It was another of Plymouth’s subs, Garrick who tried to get the Pilgrims going but after an encouraging burst from midfield, his ball out to Edwards was wasted by the captain as he cut it back for no-one.
Crewe lost Ramsay just five minutes into the second through injury and he had to be replaced by Travis Johnson. The excellent Bennett twisted and turned on 55 minutes to land our first shot on target of the second half but it was straight into the gloves of Cooper.
Johnson was cautioned soon after for a cheap pull on Garrick’s shirt and Houghton almost immediately to chopping down Bennett. His own free-kick hit the Plymouth two man wall and out for a corner.
Kashket did superbly to defend a back post cross from Broom and he then raced out of defence to get us up the pitch. Bennett who had only just recovered from illness made way with 20 minutes left for Lundstram. Bennett had been a really bright spark for us all night.
Offord was booked for a foul on Jephcott some 25 yards from our goal but Broom lifted his effort over the crossbar.
On 72 minutes, the home side equalised. It was that man Broom causing the problem once again with his desire to hit our box and after another forceful run, his pass into Hardie was perfectly weighted to take it beyond Daniels and the number 9 slipped it home.
It was all square again as an entertaining game entered its final phase. It was certainly evenly poised and the Plymouth substitute, Galloway was the next to enter the referee’s book.
With 13 minutes left, Artell made a positive change with defender Offord making way for forward Porter. Crewe reverted to 4-3-3 with just over 10 minutes left on the clock.
The pressure started to increase on the Crewe goal and the crosses became more frequent. One dropped to Broom but he wasted it with a wayward shot. Another from the busy midfielder hit the head of Daniels.
Ryan Law went down under a challenge from Murphy inside the box but the referee was well placed to judge no contact. To be fair to Law he didn’t complain too much.
With the clock ticking down, it was Plymouth looking the more likely to score a late winner but Crewe had stood firm in their defending. A last throw of the dice from Lowe, saw Kieran Agard replace Hardie. Robertson was booked in the final minute before the fourth official signalled for five minutes of stoppage time.
A tremendous shift from the Alex was seeing us through to another away point against one of the league’s in-form sides. It was another positive display from the Railwaymen and the belief was there again.