Crewe slip to another away defeat with Adam May hitting the only goal of the game at the Abbey Stadium.
Crewe Alexandra failed to build on the recent momentum built up with four points from our last two home games against Charlton and Shrewsbury by slipping to a narrow 1-0 defeat at Cambridge.
There wasn’t much between the two sides nor the game at the Abbey Stadium with the points decided by Adam May’s excellent shot from the edge of the Crewe box that looped up and over David Richards, hitting the underside of his crossbar before bouncing over the line.
Crewe didn’t conjure up too many chances but Chris Long had our best chance to equalise on 52 minutes when he reached a Chris Porter knockdown before the onrushing Dimitar Mitov did. Somehow his touch on it went the wrong side of the Cambridge box.
Crewe Alexandra boss David Artell made two changes to the side that drew with Shrewsbury Town last weekend. Club captain Luke Murphy started on the bench after having his training this week interrupted by the hip injury he suffered last weekend. Scott Robertson recovered from his tight hamstring to regain his place in the Alex midfield.
Chris Porter regained the captain’s armband for the trip to the Abbey Stadium.
Defender Zac Williams returned to the starting XI after having to undergo a period of isolation due to a positive Covid test. Callum Ainley dropped back down to the substitutes’ bench. The club’s young scholars, Connor Sailsbury and Joel Tabiner were named in the squad, as was last weekend’s debutant Tyrecce Onyeka.
Mark Bonner’s side came out of the blocks quickly with Travis Johnson having to clear away an early low cross from Wes Hoolahan and then Robertson got out to block an incoming shot from Adam May from the edge of the Crewe penalty area.
With Crewe struggling to make any real inroads into the Cambridge half of the pitch, James Brophy forced an early corner from the covering Offord. From the set piece, Harvey Knibbs was gifted too much room stood close to the far post and he really should have at least hit the target with his downward header. As it was, he didn’t generate any power or direction and the well placed Robertson on the post allowed it to drift harmlessly past the right hand post. It was a chance.
Crewe Alexandra desperately needed to get a foothold in the game and attain some touches of the football. Crewe’s passing game was off in the opening 10 minutes. Richards had to leave his goal to head away after Cambridge went longer looking for the run of Sam Smith. Moments later, the backline needed Williams to be alert to halt another promising attack for the home side.
When the Alex finally had the opportunity to play some football, it was a move of quality. Lowery, Offord and Johnson worked it down the right to find Robertson in space and his excellent cross field pass found the advanced, Mandron and the Frenchman’s deft touch found Finney and his instant half volleyed flashed just wide. It was a tremendous effort from the attacking midfielder.
Moments later, Mandron and Finney again combined superbly well down the left hand side, but Finney couldn’t quite find Long, who had darted to the near post to try and create some space for himself. It was better from Crewe and demonstrated that we more than capable of exposing that side of the pitch.
Lowery slid into a 50/50 challenge with Harrison Dunk and his team-mate, Offord back him up with another crunching tackle. Crewe were certainly competitive and after that slow start and some indecision at the back, began to defend with greater authority. Crewe had settled into the game with Lowery’s growing in influence in the centre of the pitch.
On 25 minutes, Porter was denied at the death by a timely challenge by Jack Iredale. The Cambridge defender had to get his last ditch tackle spot on and slide it out for a corner. Before it could be taken there was a stoppage in play when it appeared there was an medical emergency needed for a home supporter behind the goal Crewe were attacking. Long and other players quickly waved for assistance. Everyone at Crewe sincerely hopes that the person affected has recovered.
After play resumed, Sam Sherring was booked for a deliberate handball as Long looked to race in behind him. From the free-kick, Lowery tried his luck from 30 yards but it was too close to Dimitar Mitov.
When Robertson thudded into Dunk, the Cambridge man rose with some discomfort, but was able to shake it off.
On 34 minutes, Cambridge mounted their first meaningful attack for a while. Williams ghosted in behind down the Crewe left hand side and his clever pull-back was perfect for Knibbs but he lashed it over the crossbar. It was the second chance Knibbs had been presented in the game, but again he wastefully failed to hit the target.
At the other end, Billy Sass-Davies made a nuisance of himself in the air at a high free-kick and after the ball dropped, he caught it well enough but Iredale blocked it.
Three minutes before half-time, Cambridge broke the deadlock. In the first phase, Robertson’s low cross was cleared and on the break, Hoolhan carried the ball into the Crewe half of the pitch. The Alex players raced back to recover and looked to have halted the danger after the recovering Mandron had managed to poke it away, but the move was kept alive by Knibbs and he in turn rolled it over to Adam May.
May took a touch before his shot from just outside of the box looked to have taken a slight deflection to loop over Richards and crash in from the underside of the crossbar. It was May’s 5th of the campaign and meant that the U’s went in at the interval ahead.
Offord was booked in the opening minute of the second half after blocking Sherring in the centre of the pitch. From an early corner taken by Iredale, Sherring headed over and again Crewe were making a slow start to a half.
On 52 minutes, Crewe went awfully close to equalising. A long ball from Offord found the head of Porter and his knockdown was tempting for Long to steal in and after Mitov hesitated, Long did get there and poked it inches wide! The Crewe Alexandra players wanted a penalty for what could only been an infringement by Mitov on Long, but the referee wasn’t interested. After making contact with Long, Mitov needed a period of lengthy treatment but was able to continue.
Iredale was booked for a foul on the busy Long as the Alex striker looked to go through close to the half way line. The game became disjointed and littered with fouls. Knibbs shot into the floor as Cambridge went in search of a second.
On 62 minutes, Artell made the first change with Murphy replacing Robertson in midfield. Murphy’s first involvement saw him find the head of Porter and his clever flick released Mandron. His cross caused a bit of a melee with Lowery and Williams presented with half chances before Long’s low drive was blocked and diverted away for a corner. Moments later a powerful drive across goal from Finney nearly caught Mitov out but the Cambridge goalkeeper managed to just about spill it out.
With just under 20 minutes remaining, Ainley replaced Mandron to play left wing back. Cambridge’s first change saw Jack Lankester replace Knibbs.
Hoolahan was cautioned for his aggressive reaction to be penalised for an obvious handball after Long had flicked the ball beyond him. From a Finney free-kick, Sass-Davies, following a good climb, headed a yard wide. At the other end of the pitch, Sass-Davies did brilliantly to get back and do enough to make sure Sam Smith poked his effort wide of the mark.
Cambridge were allowing Crewe to come on to them a bit more and the Alex needed some quality with the final delivery into the box. Ainley certainly injected some zest down the left.
Crewe were really beginning to dominate the ball and look to probe and move around an organised Cambridge defence. With eight minutes remaining, Finney was replaced by Regan Griffiths. Long shot on target from distance but it was collected by Mitov.
Crewe had to try and advantage of Cambridge’s own sloppiness in possession but the home side continued to defend their box well enough. Johnson was booked for a trip with five minutes remaining before Bonner introduced some fresh legs to try and see out the remaining minutes.
Much to everyone’s surprise the fourth official indicated 7 minutes of added on time. It could have been all over when Hoolahan fed Smith wonderfully well on another swift break but he dragged his shot wide of the far post.
During that stoppage time, Crewe couldn’t muster that real genuine chance. Long had a late cross intercepted before it reached a red shirt and Murphy couldn’t keep a late half volley down enough to test Mitov.