Year ends with heavy defeat after captain Offord sees red minutes into second half.
Crewe Alexandra finished a sub-standard year with a dismal 3-0 home defeat against promotion chasing Carlisle United side this evening. A hugely disappointing night also saw captain Luke Offord sent off five minutes into the second half following an off-the-ball clash with Jack Stretton.
Including an FA Cup defeat to Barnsley, Crewe have now suffered four straight defeats on the back of a hat-trick of encouraging victories when Lee Bell first succeeded Alex Morris as the club’s new manager at the beginning of November.
The Railwaymen have not been able to build on that early momentum and will eagerly aiming to add some new reinforcements to cover an on-going injury crisis, especially in forward positions once the January transfer window opens.
In contrast, Paul Simpson’s Carlisle side followed up their 1-0 win over Bradford City on Boxing Day with a deserved victory at the Mornflake Stadium courtesy of goals from Morgan Feeney, Owen Moxon and substitute Kristian Dennis all on target.
To try and ignite a greater threat in the final third of the pitch, Lee Bell paired Bassala Sambou with youngster Connor Evans in a 4-4-2 formation. It was Evans’ full league debut after six substitute performances, which included a late introduction at Stockport on Boxing Day. The 19-year-old Welshman showed some nice touches, but found it difficult aerially against Carlisle sized defenders before being replaced following Offord’s red card.
Crewe had welcomed back club captain, Offord, following his one match suspension and he replaced Zac Williams, who was forced off with an injury in the 2-0 defeat at Edgeley Park. Offord teamed up once again with partner Rod McDonald in the heart of the Crewe defence but would last 50 minutes. Kelvin Mellor returned at right-back after missing the one game with midfielders Charlie Colkett and Eli King dropping to the substitutes’ bench.
Joel Tabiner was quickest out of the blocks and he registered a shot on target within the first 60 seconds. His driven effort was comfortable collected by the Carlisle goalkeeper Tomas Holy. Moments later, Jordan Gibson had his own sight of the Crewe goal but he wastefully dragged his shot wide.
Crewe were eager to compete for the second balls and had started well enough, so it was doubly frustrating to concede such a poor goal from Carlisle’s first corner. Owen Moxon’s wicked cross from the right wasn’t dealt with any conviction in a Crewe shirt and the slightest of touches from Morgan Feeney saw the ball drop into the far corner of the net. It seemed to drop home in slow motion and was such a disappointing way to concede the first goal after just five minutes.
The former Carlisle defender, Mellor tried to rouse a response with a positive run that resulted in a corner, but Uwakwe’s poor delivery struck the first man. His second was much better and Holy had to rely on his towering colleagues to help him out after he had left his line and got no way near it.
Then on 11 minutes, Jack Stretton so nearly took full advantage of Offord’s back header that didn’t have enough on it to reach the advancing Arthur Okonkwo. The Carlisle forward had read the intent and his connection was blocked by the Crewe goalkeeper and spun away for a corner when it could have been much worse.
Tabiner continued to be a threat for Crewe with his half turns and eagerness to run at the Carlisle defence with some real intent and the home side began to wrestle good periods of possession.
Feeney was booked for impeding the Alex goalkeeper after he had confidently caught a corner and looked to get Crewe on a counter attack and from another run from Mellor, Uwakwe had a shot blocked some 25 yards from goal.
Crewe were just lacking that final quality ball into the Carlisle box and due to their height advantage were not getting much change from set pieces and corners.
Five minutes before the interval, McDonald got his pocket pinched by Gibson and that saw the ball break to Stretton. Under pressure from the covering Offord, the Carlisle forced Okonkwo into a diving save and the big Crewe goalkeeper did exceedingly well to shuffle across and then smother the second effort from Gibson in the follow up. It was a fantastic double save that kept Crewe in the contest at that stage.
Crewe generated some positivity heading into the break. A strong run from Daniel Ageyi saw him make inroads into the Carlisle penalty area, but his shot from a really tight angle was rash. Moments later, a confident Tabiner drifted off his wing position and fired a yard wide of the target. The half ended with Agyei again producing another positive run but Holy judged his cross more effectively to palm it down and collect.
Whatever was said at half time by Bell and his staff was wiped away within a minute of the restart. The supporters had hardly settled into their seats before Gibson collected a simple throw and was allowed to cross from the Crewe left hand side. His deep cross was headed down by Jack Armer and the best performer on the night, Moxon gleefully collected it and instantly dispatched it into the opposite corner for 2-0. Far too easy.
It was a disastrous start to the second half and Crewe’s mounting problems only increased a few minutes later. After Mellor was booked for a lunge at Charters, Luke Offord would see red following an off-the-ball incident.
Offord was involved in an aerial battle with Stretton and in the aftermath, the Crewe captain clashed with the Carlisle forward and the referee was on hand to show him an instant red card after the forward fell to the floor holding his back.
Offord must have raised his hands and will now serve another suspension after just returning from one for his five cautions. His absence is only compounding Crewe’s problems with a lack of defensive options at centre-half.
Two goals behind and a man down, Crewe were in damage-limitation mode with almost 40 minutes still to play. An instant change from Bell saw Regan Griffiths replace the unfortunate Evans, as Crewe had to sacrifice one of their attacking options.
Carlisle lost the injured Taylor Charters and replaced Stretton with Sonny Hilton and Kristian Dennis as Simpson freshened things up for the final half an hour. Gibson then dragged a shot wastefully wide.
Following a fantastic sweeping ball from Tabiner, Agyei was presented with a one v one situation with Feeney and he half-heartedly appealed for a penalty when his cross was blocked with part of his arm, but the referee wasn’t interested and Crewe had to settle for a throw in out on the left.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, Bell made a change with Brook replacing the industrial Tabiner. The youngster had tried to be creative on the night and had at least had two shots. Brook was eager to get on the ball too and make an impression.
On 72 minutes, Crewe were punished from our own throw-in. A long clearance from Jack Armer bounced once and with Dennis not marked by either Griffiths or Adebisi, he raced through on goal and blasted past a defenceless and frustrated Crewe goalkeeper for 3-0. It was an emphatic finish from the Carlisle substitute, but Crewe had granted him the freedom of the borough to score.
A number of Crewe fans departed for the exit gates and it was a case of licking the wounds and looking forward to the New Year’s Day fixture against Tranmere Rovers.
Crewe escaped conceding a fourth goal when Feeney’s header hit the Alex post and then substitute Jamie Devitt saw his late effort smash against the underside of the crossbar from distance. It was a wonderful effort that probably deserved more. Crewe couldn’t wait for the final whistle which came after four minutes of stoppage time.