Crewe Alexandra’s relegation to League Two could be confirmed at Doncaster Rovers on Saturday following the club’s seventh straight defeat at MK Dons. A well taken lob from Troy Parrott and individualistic effort from Conor Coventry gave Liam Manning’s in-form side the cushion of a 2-0 lead at half-time.
That is the way it stood at Stadium MK with the home side quite content to protect their lead and keep their hopes of automatic promotion back to the Championship firmly alive but Crewe would get their consolation goal through substitute Bassala Sambou with one of the final touches of the game. He tucked it away really well after a Travis Johnson cross dropped for him in the 93rd minute.
Crewe couldn’t muster another chance as League One’s in-form side stretched their unbeaten run to 14 games without defeat to keep that pressure on Rotherham and Wigan at the top of the table.
Crewe’s survival in the division hangs by the thinnest of threads following 14 defeats in the last 15 matches.
Following the 3-1 defeat to Fleetwood Town on Saturday, David Artell named Rekeem Harper and Josh Lundstram in his starting line-up. Chris Porter and Oli Finney dropped out with Finney not named on the substitutes bench due to illness. The club were handed a major boost with the news that Mikael Mandron was able to re-join the squad after injury. The Frenchman had not featured since injuring his knee away at Gillingham back in February.
Young defender Lewis Billington was included on the bench for the first time at senior level.
MK Dons were presented with an early half chance in the game but Troy Parrott couldn’t keep his effort down enough to test Dave Richards in the Crewe goal. Crewe’s first genuine attack nearly saw Tom Lowery roll the ball into Chris Long in a goal threatening position, but Harry Darling read the situation perfectly to intercept and avert any potential danger.
An inventive corner from the Alex nearly saw Lundstram provide a clever flick through a crowd of players to find Kashket in front of goal, but again some last ditch defending from the home defence managed to smother the ball back to Jamie Cumming in the Dons goal.
A set piece free-kick, this time coming from the MK Dons saw Scott Twine flick a header inches wide of the far post, with the referee adjudging that the final touch had come from a Crewe head.
As expected MK Dons were patient in their build up and were comfortable playing out from the back but they were not afraid to mix things up and aim to hit a longer ball down the channels. Crewe’s high press worked well at times though and we couldn’t make the most of a couple of openings through the busy Long and Lowery, who certainly had licence to go and support the main striker.
One of those longer passes paid off in the 24th minute for The Dons. Lewington’s terrific accuracy with his pass found Parrott in behind and as Richards rushed off his line, a really calm finish from the on-loan Tottenham man saw him lift his shot over the stranded Crewe goalkeeper. It was a wonderful finish and it certainly ignited the MK Dons crowd, who had been kept relatively quiet until that point.
On the half an hour mark, another flowing move from the Dons down the Crewe hand side resulted in Kaine Kesler Hayden heading straight at the well placed Richards. A couple of minutes later, a well struck free-kick from Scott Twine bounced off the Crewe crossbar and we responded well to clear the second ball.
Five minutes before half time, the home side scored their second goal of the evening and it was a result of a fantastic solo run and finish from Conor Coventry. His determination to run at the heart of the Crewe defence saw him brush off a challenge and burst into the box before dispatching it past a helpless Richards.
It left Crewe with one almighty task in the second half against the in-form side in League One. They continued to control the game and could have stepped up a gear if necessary.
Artell made two changes for the start of the second half with Murphy and Williams making way for Mandron and O’Riordan. Offord regained the captain’s armband.
Under some early pressure, Crewe were defending their box but a free-kick conceded by Offord gave Twine another chance from distance but on this occasion his flat shot went well over the crossbar.
Good approach play from Mandron saw him find Kashket and after the former Wycombe man had cut back inside, he couldn’t keep his shot down enough to test Cumming. Crewe were not making Cumming work hard enough and it was too comfortable.
Just after the hour mark, Manning made a double change with goalscorer Parrott and Mo Eisa being replaced for Connor Wickham and Theo Corbeanu.
The game had a lull period with inactivity of real goal mouth action. MK Dons with the cushion of a two-goal lead were in firm control of the actual contest. Young O’Riordan did well to intercept in the six yard box before Darling could apply a decisive touch. He also did extremely well when he halted a dangerous looking counter attack, reading the situation well to poke the ball away from the fresh legs of Corbeanu.
Crewe’s final change came on 69 minutes when our scorer on the night, Bassala Sambou, replaced Kashket. The Alex had spells of good possession but he just lacked that real bit of quality in the final third to really up a well drilled defence. The effort was there but that final pass or cross was just finding too many white shirts. The one time, a cross really did drop for us, Sambou tucked it home from close range.
At the other end, more concerted pressure saw the impressive Kesler Hayden provide a low cross into a dangerous area but Travis Johnson was alert to make a block challenge on Corbeanu. Twine just could not provide a touch on a wicked delivery from Wickham.
The Dons final substitution saw Matt Smith replace Josh McEachran with just under 10 minutes left on the clock.
The Alex kept going, trying to salvage something and after Ainley shot well over the crossbsar, Crewe scored in stoppage time after Johnson’s cross found Sambou. The January signing adjusted really well to fire past Cumings but there would be no grandstand finish and defeat was confirmed moments later.