Chris Porter returned from a mid-week stomach bug to head home a priceless 83rd minute winner for Crewe Alexandra at the Jonny Rocks Stadium. Porter showed great strength and awareness at the far post to head home Dan Agyei’s corner past Owen Evans to seal a 2-1 win for Crewe. It was our second away win of the season and keeps our hopes of escaping the drop alive.
Veteran Porter had also provided the assist for the opening goal of the afternoon, scored by Christopher Long.
Crewe had deservedly led at the half-time break after Long’s tidy finish into the corner of Owen Evans’ net following Chris Porter’s assist from a header, but we would be pinned back just three minutes into the second half.
Like Crewe, Cheltenham’s front two of Alfie May and Kion Etete combined to conjure up an equaliser after the restart with Etete firing through the legs of Dave Richards to level things up. That is the way it stayed until the final ten minutes with genuine chances becoming more limited as the game wore on but Porter’s awareness from the set-piece proved to be the difference in the end. The win was no more than Crewe deserved for their desire to go on and win the game late on. We were the better side on the day and defended our goal from Cheltenham’s set-pieces and long throws with real resolve.
It ended our recent run of seven strsight defeats in a bit of style.
Match winner Porter had returned from illness to captain the Crewe side after missing the mid-week loss to Oxford United due to a stomach complaint. Porter partnered Long in the front line as David Artell reverted back to a back three with Josh Lundstram and Agyei in the wing-back positions. Tariq Uwakwe was ruled out through injury.
Rekeem Harper returned to the Alex midfield with Callum Ainley dropping back down to the substitutes’ bench.
Before kick-off there was a rousing one minute of applause for the former Cheltenham Town goalkeeper, Bill Gourlay, who recently passed away.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and only a fantastic block challenge from Travis Johnson prevented Alfie May from giving the Robins a first minute lead. From the very next attack, Dave Richards had to demonstrate his agility by clawing out Kion Etete’s downward header with a strong right hand.
From the second of successive corners, Michael Duff’s side did force the ball over the line, but there was an obvious infringement on Richards as he tried to claim the high ball and it was rightly ruled out by referee Anthony Backhouse.
Crewe drew breath with a corner of their own after four minutes and after the initial delivery was cleared there was good possession play in and around the Cheltenham box involving Harper, Lundstram and Long.
Following on from a second corner, Crewe were presented with a chance to take the lead. Lundstram showed some real desire and to keep the ball alive inside the box and only a last ditch tackle from Mattie Pollock prevented Long from helping himself to a tap in. It was a wonderfully timed tackle to avert the danger.
Crewe had settled into the game well and were beginning to enjoy good spells on the ball. That period of positive play finally told in the 18th minute. Cheltenham originally cleared Agyei’s cross from a free-kick, but the attack was kept alive by Regan’s Griffiths forceful header back into the danger zone. Porter cleverly nodded onwards towards Long and the former Everton youngster delightfully tucked away his shot by guiding it into the far corner for his 6th goal of the season. It was such a clever finish and no more Crewe had deserved after those early scares.
Long ran in behind again to create an opening for Tom Lowery on the edge of the Cheltenham box but his curling shot was blocked and sent spinning for a corner. Crewe were certainly getting some joy down the sides of the Cheltenham back three.
On 26 minutes, Griffiths was incorrectly booked for ‘impeding’ May on a counter-attack. As they ran together down the touchline, May grabbed the Crewe midfielder around his neck and hauled him to the floor. How the referee found a result in booking young Griffiths was strange to say the least!
Long was lively and causing the Cheltenham backline all sorts of problems with his clever movement and play. He flicked Will Boyle into the middle of next week to earn the Cheltenham captain a booking after he hauled him down on the edge of the box and from the resultant free-kick, Lowery went close to a second goal for the Alex. His effort hit the side netting with goalkeeper, Owen Evans praying it went the other side of his far post.
On 33 minutes, the Cheltenham midfielder Callum Wright forced Richards into a finger tip save following a good effort from 25 yards. The Crewe goalkeeper had moved across to have it fully covered at the expense of a corner.
Griffiths and Lowery continued to compete, intercept and dictate the tempo of the game from midfield and Crewe always looked a threat when finding those runs in behind of Long and Agyei.
At the other end, Crewe stuck to the task but May did have a late curling shot that needed a deflection from Offord to take it behind. The Alex saw out the remaining minutes of the first period really well to lead at the break but had to survive a loud shout from the home side when Ben Williams went down inside the box under a challenge from Lundstram in stoppage time. Needless to say, the referee left the field to a chorus of boos from the home crowd after blowing his whistle soon after!
Cheltenham made another bright start to the second half and were level inside three minutes. Their front two combined to unlock the Alex defence. May found his partner, Etete, and after he held off the intentions of youngster Connor O’Riordan, he steadied himself to fire through the legs of the advanced Richards for the equaliser.
Crewe felt they had a strong appeal for a penalty of their own when Long appeared to be floored by Charlie Raglan after he had reacted quickest to Porter’s flick-on, but again the referee waved the appeals of both players and Alex staff.
On the hour mark, Duff made the first change of the game with Liam Sercombe replacing Ramsey. Soon after Wright was booked for a high challenge on Griffiths as he flung himself into another tackle for the cause. Johnson soon joined Wright in the book for a foul on Etete as he threatened to progress down our right side.
The game was evenly poised with both sides in a position to push on and go and win the game. Crewe probed and pressed but found a tighter backline in the second half. That real need to score again drove us on though.
On the break though, another timely intervention from Johnson halted Wright from possibly forcing a chance over the line after Etete had cleverly chipped it into the box. Richards came and collected.
With 7 minutes remaining, Crewe regained the lead via a corner. Porter won it himself by chasing down Ragalan and from the resultant set-play, taken by Agyei, Crewe’s vastly experienced striker swooped at the far post to head home from close range.
Artell made his first change with assist maker Agyei replaced by Sambou. Duff also made a change with Williams replacing Pollock.
Late on Artell introduced the fresher legs of Salisbury.
As expected, Cheltenham went for broke and loaded our box with crosses, corners and long throw-ins but we stood up to the onslaught really well. The only half chance, the home side had of salvaging a point saw Richards save from May with his legs. Bodies on the line saw us keep the ball out to win the game.