Porter scores injury-time leveller from the spot for spirited Alex.
Chris Porter showed all his experience and composure to convert an injury time penalty to level things up at the New York Stadium this afternoon. The veteran forward came off the bench for Scott Kashket moments after we had fallen behind to an Ollie Rathbone goal in the early minutes of the second half, and as we entered the final minute of play, he was having his shirt pulled by the Rotherham defender, Wes Harding, to win the penalty. Harding was sent off and Porter made no mistake to equalise.
It was a fantastic point gained by David Artell’s side who battled hard to remain in the game and make it count with a strong finish.
Club captain, Luke Murphy, returned to the starting line-up after missing Tuesday’s home defeat to Morecambe due to a slight hamstring strain. Josh Lundstram dropped to the substitutes’ bench.
David Artell had to deal with two players falling ill. Terrell Thomas and J’Neil were unwell and had to be replaced by Billy Sass-Davies and Luke Offord as Crewe reverted to a wing-back system for the trip to the New York Stadium. Ainley occupied the left flank, with Scott Kashket encouraged to be main one supporting Mikael Mandron.
Rotherham United boss Paul Warne named the former Crewe loanee Dan Barlaser in their starting line-up. The former Newcastle United youngster never really established in the starting line-up at Gresty Road but has shown his qualities after leaving the Premier League outfit.
After a fairly even opening few minutes, the home side had the first glimpse of goal after seven minutes Scott Robertson did well initially to win possession from Ollie Rathbone, some 30 yards from our goal, but the Millers harried and quickly won it back from Murphy and after being played in to the side of Offord, Will Grigg sliced his shot into the side netting.
On 13 minutes, Rotherham created the best chance of the early exchanges. Ben Wiles skipped over a challenge from Sass-Davies before rolling it across the Crewe box for the onrushing Chiedozie Ogbene, but under severe and necessary pressure from Rio Adebisi, he fired wastefully over the crossbar.
The pressure on the Alex goal began to grow and Michael Smith fluffed his lines in front of Jaaskelainen before Grigg headed into the mid-drift of Sass-Davies. The Crewe defender had positioned himself accordingly to make the block and although Grigg appealed for handball, it was quite clearly not. Barslaser also had an effort from 25 yards deflected wide for a corner.
Crewe did have spells of decent possession though with Mandron and Kashket busying themselves as a pairing, but we were just lacking that quality final ball into the final third or into the Rotherham box. Murphy registered our first shot on target after 23 minutes but it was comfortable for Vitkor Johansson in the Rotherham goal.
Just after the hour mark, the diligent Rathbone pinched possession from Murphy some 35 yards out and after carrying it forward, he whistled a powerful shot just wide of Jaaskelainen’s right hand post. Murphy needed a period of treatment after collecting a knock in the challenge with Rathbone. The captain resumed and was back in play when a flick header from Grigg on 36 minutes was collected by an alert Jaaskelainen close to the line. Another sight of the Crewe goal saw Grigg again fire into the side netting after Rathbone had slipped him in.
Crewe had done a solid, containment job, but it was us certainly wanting the rest-bite of the half time whistle.
Some good combination play down the left flank though saw Ainley hold up play intelligently before waiting for support from Adebisi. His instant pass in behind was just too far ahead of Mandron and it ran through to the anticipating Johansson.
A well worked free-kick from the home side on the brink of half-time saw Tolaji Bola head over before Jaaskelainen was cautioned for taking his time over a goal kick. The yellow card was much to do with the home fans demanding it more than anything!
Crewe were forced into a change before the interval with Ainley forced off with an injury. He was replaced by Lundstram in stoppage time.
Warne made two changes of his own during half-time with Wes Harding and Shane Ferguson replacing Joe Mattock and Bola.
Lundstram soon settled into the game, keep possessing and being competitive to retrieve the ball back.
Six minutes into the second half, Barlaser was presented with a great chance to fire The Millers in front. The ball dropped for the midfielder after a bit of an untidy melee, but his shot was too close to Jaaskelainen. Anywhere else would surely have been the opener.
That came three minutes later for the home side from our own possession. Kashket had laid the ball back for Daniels, only for Rathbone to close down the defender’s clearance to race through before keeping his cool to fire into the bottom right hand corner. Crewe’s resolve was finally broken.
The opening goal prompted a quick change for the Alex with Kashket making way for Porter. The tenacious Robertson was trying to provoke a response and the Scot did fantastically well to hold off a challenge in midfield and feed Adebisi in behind but he wastefully over hit his low cross and the chance was lost.
Crewe were placed on the back foot and had to deal with some tricky corners coming in from both sides. From one from the Crewe right, Jaaskelainen seemed to get a touch on a dipping cross before Sass-Davies did well again to head behind for a corner on the other side. Rarmandi Edmonds-Green threw himself at the cross but flashed his header wide. Offord also did well to deflect a shot from Smith away for yet another Rotherham corner. Wiles shot inches over after the ball was cleared out to him.
On 70 minutes, Warne made his final change with Freddie Ladapo replacing Grigg. Sass-Davies cut out a cross from Smith to deny the third Rotherham sub from having an effort at goal.
With a chance to break from a Rotherham corner, Harding took a caution after pulling Lundstram down close to the centre circle.
With the one goal still in it, Crewe remained very much in the contest but needed to try to utilise the aerial ability of Porter by aiming some crosses into the Rotherham penalty area. As we entered the final 10 minutes, Crewe had to make it nervy for the home side.
With seven minutes remaining, Ramsay found Porter on the floor and after taking a touch, his low drive forced Johansson into his first meaningful save of the afternoon. It was a fine effort from the veteran and showed how fragile the Millers lead was.
Smith was cautioned for hauling Daniels down as he threatened to carry the ball forward. With three minutes left, a testing cross from Lundstram to the near post drew Johannson and after colliding more with his own defender than Mandron, he dropped the ball to the Alex striker’s feet but referee Allison penalised Mandron for a foul, much to the annoyance of the Crewe players and 343 supporters behind that goal.
In the final minute, Ladapo had a golden chance to wrap it all up after he was found superbly by Obene but he lifted his effort wastefully over the bar.
Crewe’s effort paid off right at the death. That cross aimed for Porter finally came in and as he went for it, his shirt was clearly pulled by Hastings. The assistant gave it and Hastings received his second yellow card to dimiss him. Porter stepped up, cool as you like to send Johansson the wrong way for a precious equaliser. The away end erupted.