Defeat at fellow strugglers Doncaster sees Crewe relegated with four games remaining,
Crewe Alexandra suffered relegation to League Two after just two seasons following this 8th straight defeat at the Eco-Power Stadium.
Crewe exited the league thanks to a 2-0 defeat against fellow strugglers Doncaster Rovers, who in turn keep their only slim chances of survival alive.
Crewe have been demoted with four games remaining and have clearly not been good enough to compete at the level.
The Railwaymen needed three points and results to go our way elsewhere if we were at least going to delay the inevitable, but we didn’t hold up our side of the bargain in Yorkshire.
Goals in each half from Tommy Rowe and on loan Norwich man, Josh Martin condemned Crewe to relegation in the battle of the bottom two clubs. Martin’s goal coming just seconds into the second half was a decisive moment in what had been a fairly open affair.
Crewe did create some chances of our own that could have altered the complexion of this particular game with Rekeem Harper hitting the inside of the post with a clever effort and Chris Long blasting over from a good position. Crewe also had a very strong shout for a second half penalty after a tremendous solo run from Callum Ainley, but the referee waved away our appeals after Ainley had been tripped by Kyle Knoyle.
Lowery also went close with a well struck volley from Ainley’s cross, but Jonathan Mitchell made the save appear easier than it was.
Crewe Alexandra boss David Artell was forced into a late change to his starting XI with Zac Williams a late withdrawal following the warm up. Fellow youngster Lewis Billington was a late inclusion in the Crewe defence, operating at right back. Josh Lundstram switched over to the line hand side in the reshuffle and Sean Lawton was promoted to the bench.
Following his late consolation goal at the MK Dons on Tuesday evening, Bassala Sambou was rewarded with a start alongside Mikael Mandron and Chris Long. Billy Sass-Davies returned to the Crewe team after a calf problem as Artell reverted back to straight back four. Fellow defender, Luke Offord captained the Crewe side.
The first attempt at goal came from the home side in the opening few minutes. Josh Martin did well in the initial approach and from his well paced pass across our 18-yard box, Matt Smith forced Dave Richards into his first meaningful save. The Alex goalkeeper watched it all the way to push it behind for a corner. Moments later, Crewe escaped when an incoming Tommy Rowe was foiled at the far post by a combination of young Billington and Richards.
Crewe’s first opportunity to break the deadlock came after seven minutes and Lundstram was a little unfortunate to poke his effort at the far post just over the top of Jonathan Mitchell’s crossbar.
Rowe wouldn’t be denied just minutes later though. In only the 10th minute, Crewe didn’t get close enough to the Doncaster captain and his low drive from 20 yards flew past Richards for the opening goal of the afternoon. It was far too simple as the Alex failed to apply enough pressure to block his shot or at least put him off balance from just outside the penalty area. Doncaster had certainly settled quicker.
In a quest to get back into the contest, Crewe battled away with Offord, Harper and Long trying to stamp some authority on the proceedings with some sturdy tackles, but the early goal certainly injected some confidence into Doncaster’s play.
Winger Martin continued to impress and after being halted by Billington, his powerful shot was blocked by the head of the well positioned Lundstram to deflect it behind for a corner. Moments later, Doncaster were presented with a free-kick right on the edge of our box due to a handball committed by Lowery, but John Bostock wastefully struck the wall.
Bostock’s follow up effort was more accurate and forced Richards to save low down to his right hand side with a strong hand. The Crewe goalkeeper was soon called upon to rush from his line and save with his legs from Reo Griffiths, who had smuggled himself behind Sass-Davies. It was a smart save close to the by-line.
On 39 minutes, Crewe could not have gone any closer to an equaliser if we had tried. After Ainley had a shot blocked by a crowd of Doncaster bodies, Harper went for placement with the follow up and he was so unfortunate to see his flicked effort strike the far post and somehow stay out. It about summed up our luck of late.
Moments later, Long had a clear sight of the Doncaster goal but he elected to go for power instead of the far post and his shot flew wildly over the top of the crossbar. It was a wasted effort for a player of his calibre and he knew it.
There were certainly chances there for Crewe but there were also chances at the other end for Doncaster too. It was a fairly open affair with both sides in desperate need of the points.
Whatever was said at half time went instantly out of the window because the supporters had hardly found their seats before the home side doubled their lead. Barely 60 second had passed before a pass into the box from Rowe caused Smith to have his goal bound effort blocked by Sass-Davies.
With a grounded Richards also forced into a save from the deflection, there followed a scrappy melee in front of the Crewe goalkeeper before the impressive Martin kept his composure to guide it past a number of black shirts and into the far corner for 2-0. Crewe were staring relegation firmly in the face. What a dreadful start to the second half in what was a crucial 45 minutes.
In reply, Crewe tried to hit back early through Long but after his shot was diverted towards Lowery, the supportive midfielder just couldn’t get it under his spell and it ran through to a grateful Mitchell.
Just before the hour mark, Crewe were denied a penalty. Ainley, who had been industrious throughout embarked on a fantastic solo run. Showing real balance, skill and purpose, Ainley drifted past Doncaster defenders and into the penalty area and he appeared to be felled as he was about to shoot by a clumsy challenge from full-back Kyle Knoyle. Much to the annoyance of the Crewe players, referee Declan Bourne pointed only for a corner. Mandron and Rowe were booked in the aftermath of the decision.
After the protests had died down, Crewe had to settle for a corner and Mandron had his forceful header cleared close to the line.
At the other end, winger Aidan Barlow had two openings but lifted his shots over on both occasions.
With 25 minutes remaining, Murphy replaced Sambou as Crewe went to 4-4-2. Soon after, Porter replaced a cautioned and tiring Mandron. The Frenchman had given it everything he had following his injury lay-off.
Crewe kept going, trying to get a lifeline back into the game with Harper shooting straight at Mitchell and Lowery striking a fine volley from Ainley’s cross that Mitchell had to pluck out of his top corner.
The dangerous Martin drifted inside before firing too high to trouble Richards and Griffiths was presented with a great chance on the counter attack but a combination of Richards and Offord managed to block.
Doncaster introduced fresh legs to see out the remaining minutes and get over the line. Their hopes of remaining in the league remain for the time being. Ours were sadly ended today, but that was a culmination of a dismal season of results, especially in this recent barren spell of one win from the last 17 matches.
Crewe will now be looking to avoid nine straight home defeats when AFC Wimbledon arrive in South Cheshire on Good Friday. Only pride to play for.