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Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 Crewe Alexandra

19 April 2022

Crewe's work undone by penalty concede at Hillsborough as Owls move 4th in table.

A real gallant display from the Railwaymen was undone at Hillsborough this evening by a clumsy challenge from Scott Kashket on Nathaniel Mendez-Laing close to our by-line. The Sheffield Wednesday wide man was felled just before he was either going to cross and shoot and Lee Gregory inflicted the ultimate punishment by tucking away the penalty just before the hour mark.

The only goal of the game gave Darren Moore’s Sheffield Wednesday side a precious three points in their quest to secure one of the play-off spots – but in front of 22,566 supporters at Hillsborough, Alex Morris and his team would have been pleased with his side’s overall performance. We remained right in the contest and the roar at the final whistle was one of relief that they got over the line.

Despite the home side missing two glorious early chances to ease their own play-off nerves, Crewe competed, made things difficult and offered some purpose on the counter-attack. Callum Ainley forced Bailey Peacock-Farrell into a smart save in the first half and there were half openings for Mandron and Long on the counter-attack.

 Following the 3-1 win over AFC Wimbledon on Good Friday, interim manager Alex Morris retained consistency by naming an unchanged team for the trip to South Yorkshire. The club also had the luxury of naming a fit-again Tariq Uwakwe on a strong looking substitutes’ bench. Club captain Luke Murphy and the scorer of the third goal on Friday, Bassala Sambou, were also in the squad.

With the race for a play-off place reaching the real business end of the season, it was no surprise that Darren Moore’s Sheffield Wednesday side attempted to get on the front foot as quickly as possible.

Crewe defended with real resilience in the opening few minutes, but after their influential captain dropped deep to collect possession in his own half, Barry Bannan produced a stunning pass to release Jack Hunt on the left and his instant centre should have resulted in the opening goal of the game after just six minutes. Hunt’s cross basically took David Richards out of the equation and it should have been a simple tap home for Saido Berahino, but unbelievably he lifted his shot clear of the crossbar. To say it was a let off was an understatement. No-one inside Hillsborough could quite believe that Berahino had made a mess of it.

The Wednesday pressure continued and Berahino was guilty of missing another half decent chance moments later. A strong run from Lee Gregory allowed him to find Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and he forced Richards into a smart save inside a crowded box. The ball dropped invitingly for Berahino but he couldn’t get over the ball to make a strong enough contact to really trouble Richards and his retreating defenders.

When Gregory missed another glorious opportunity right in front of a virtually defenceless Richards, the anxiety inside Hillsborough was paramount. Again, the Wednesday forward did not make a good enough contact following a clever knock down from Mendez-Laing. There may have been a flag raised on that one.

Richards was soon called into another good save, diving to his left, to push George Byers’ shot from the edge of the Crewe box away from danger. A period of treatment for the Crewe goalkeeper was a welcome respite for the overworked Crewe defence. We needed to catch our breath and settle on the ball. Ainley did that intelligently enough in patches and his willingness to carry the ball into the Sheffield half of the pitch was encouraging for Crewe.

A lively break from Long, coming into a centre position from the left flank nearly saw him through on Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s goal, but the covering Jordan Storey produced a timely tackle to divert it away for a Crewe corner.

Although, the home side with the calibre of players at their disposal were a threat in our final third, Crewe did enjoy periods of good possession and that was warmly appreciated by the travelling Alex faithful. Crewe had set out to frustrate the home crowd and look to counter attack whenever it was on. Following those early gilt edge chances for the Owls, Crewe settled into the game and became more solid across their backline. When they did expose us through the desire of Mendez-Laing, Offord was on hand to clear his low cross into our six-yard box.

At the other end, Rekeem Harper did superbly to pinch possession and run off Bannan and then find Ainley. He timed his pass perfectly to release Williams on the inside, but the young full-back couldn’t quite get enough on his cross to pick out Long, who did his best to try and keep the move alive.

The game plan was working from Morris and his backroom team and five minutes before the half-time whistle, an interception from Josh Lundstram found Mika Mandron in enough space to lay off to Ainley. The midfielder confidently got the ball out of his feet and unleashed a shot from 20 plus yards that drew a first meaningful save from a diving Peacock-Farrell. It was encouraging stuff.

The crosses continued to arrive inside the Crewe box but it was a question of remaining immensely concentrated. Williams did just that at the far post and the impressive Ainley cleared another low cross into our six-yard box to keep it goalless heading into the interval. Ainley’s only blot in his first 45 minutes was a late booking for time wasting, but Crewe had achieved their first objective.

The second half begun with Berahino aiming to make amends for his early miss but his powerful shot was blocked by Offord and Marvin Johnson sent the follow-up high over the Crewe crossbar. Moments later, Sass-Davies did well with his standing position to cut out a low cross from Mendez-Laing, who looked the most likely of the Wednesday forwards to create something.

The half was seven minutes old when Mendez-Laing’s persistence from wide areas finally paid off. He demonstrated his power and pace to get on the outside of Kashket and his clumsy challenge close to the by-line resulted in an obvious penalty. After all Crewe’s efforts it was an avoidable giveaway. Lee Gregory kept his composure to send Richards the wrong way from the spot after the Crewe goalkeeper was cautioned for trying to delay the taking of the penalty.

Kashket was soon withdrawn with Uwakwe replacing him just before the hour mark. Ainley switched sides. Mendez–Laing was soon on the front foot again though down that side and his shot won Wednesday corner and Richards was called upon to push Storey’s header round his post.

Just after the hour, Mandron broke clear, but he was eventually crowded out inside the box and Long was penalised for a soft foul in the follow up. It was half a chance on the break from the Railwaymen. Moore soon made his first change with Massimo Luongo replacing Gregory.

Crewe continued to have periods of the ball, but after Harper was robbed of possession, a quick counter-attack saw Hunt fire just wide of the far post. Wednesday just couldn’t find that final pass to unlock a stubborn Crewe defence. When they did through Johnson, Luongo completely fluffed his shot at the far post to let Crewe off the hook again. They certainly missed some good chances on the night.

With 17 minutes remaining on the clock, Morris made a double change with Lundstram and Harper off for Sambou and Murphy. Crewe needed that one real chance to fall.

With the one goal in it, it made for a tense climax to the game for the home side and any misplaced pass or surrender of possession was greeted with a touch of nervousness stemming from the terraces inside Hillsborough. A probing run from Williams drew a foul from Luongo and he was booked. Lowery’s free-kick into the box was cleared with conviction.

With eight minutes left, Berahino and Mendez-Laing made way for Kamberi and the former Crewe youngster Chey Dunkley.

That genuine chance never really came for spirited Crewe side but it did for Sheffield Wednesday but not for the first time, substitute Kamberi wasted it with Richards quick off his line to deny him.

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