Brown comes off the bench to seal the points after messy goal from Crewe point of view
Oxford substitute Ciaron Brown came off the bench for his skipper, Elliott Moore, early in the second half and was in the right place at the right time to turn in a loose ball after Crewe Alexandra failed to clear a free-kick with any real conviction. It was such a scrappy goal to concede from our perspective and although we showed great spirit to try and salvage something against the division’s top scorers, we couldn’t find that equaliser and that on another night we may have got.
The closest we came to a goal was when Chris Long smacked the underside of the crossbar after a deep corner had fallen to him at the far post.
Crewe Alexandra were without forward Chris Porter after he was ruled out with illness. With Luke Murphy named on the substitutes bench, Luke Offord captained the side for the visit of Karl Robinson.
Daniel Agyei started against his former club in a front three backed up by the return of Callum Ainley in an attacking midfield role.
The Alex players wore black armbands in tribute to the club’s former chairman, John Bowler who sadly passed away. The fans gave their own warm ovation to remember his four decades of sterling service. In a sombre night, the Oxford supporters gave their own tribute to their former player, Joey Beauchamp, who sadly passed away at the age of 50.
A confident Oxford United side were right on the front foot. Within two minutes, Herbie Kane, shot just wide from the edge of the Crewe penalty area. Kane had struck it well and it flashed past David Richards’ right hand post.
Minutes later, Matty Taylor fired across and into the side netting instead of looking for a onrushing team-mate inside the six yard box and Connor O’Riordan had to show good strength to prevent Sam Baldock from going one on one with Richards after a deft touch from Taylor.
The U’s made an impressive start in the opening 10 minutes at Gresty Road and Crewe had to hang on in there. After those early periods of possession, Crewe conjured up their first real opportunity. Johnson’s lifted a forward ball into Sambou and his instant touch released Long through the middle but Luke McNally retreated to ease him off it.
The pressure on the Crewe goal continued with Sam Long having a shot blocked and Cameron Brannagan shot over. Taylor also headed over from a Ryan Williams cross.
Crewe tried to look for the front and the runs in behind of Long. A loose pass out from Jack Stevens in the Oxford goal, went straight to Agyei. He instantly got it out of his feet and his bending shot had to be pushed away by the relieved Stevens. Lowery couldn’t do anything with the rebound and Oxford cleared their lines.
Crewe then lost Tariq Uwawke due to injury and he had to be replaced by Josh Lundstram. Johnson moved over to left back. It was another thing to contend with for the young Crewe backline.
It wouldn’t quite fall right for Oxford in and around the Crewe box and they just lacked that final ball or killer finish. Lundstram was soon involved and his through ball nearly found the run of Lowery into the Oxford box.
The lively Taylor fired well wide from another good position as we headed into the interval and you just hoped that it could be one of those nights for the division’s top scorers.
Crewe made a much better start to the second period. The tempo was better. Taylor was booked early on as Crewe raised the tempo. Long forced Stevens into smothering an early ball and from his cross, Oxford lost their captain Elliott Long through injury. Match winner, Brown would replace him.
Crewe had their best spell and from the corner, Long was so unlucky to see his far post effort on the turn smack the underside the crossbar and bounce out on 56 minutes. It summed up our luck.
Offord was booked for a foul on Sykes and Brannagan escaped a possible red card for a high tackle on Ainley. The Crewe players were incensed by the Oxford midfielder escaped with a caution.
The referee did play a good advantage moments later after Long was fouled by Brown and the counter attack allowed Ainley to find Sambou, who had a curling shot blocked. It was so much better from Crewe.
The decisive break through arrived via a free-kick after Lowery was booked for catching Williams. The ball was delivered into the danger zone and following a messy, mass scramble in front of Richards, substitute Brown reacted quickest to turn it into the unguarded net. It would prove to be the winner.
Oxford had a chance to kill the game soon after Williams found Gavin Whyte but after taking a touch he allowed the Crewe defence to recover and deny him a clean shot at goal. It was great defending. Richards also made a good save to deny Sykes from close range.
Crewe’s spirit was commendable and the players gave everything they had. With 15 minutes left, Salisbury and Harper replaced Sambou and Griffiths.
In the closing stages, and Oxford understandably biding their time. Brannagan dragged a good chance wide of the far post.
In search of a late equaliser, Salisbury glanced a header wide and after cutting inside again he fired just wide of the far post. Oxford’s game management saw out the five minutes of stoppage time and Crewe slipped to their seventh straight defeat.