First half goals from Oli Finney and Mika Mandron seal priceless home win for competitive Alex.
Crewe Alexandra put the disappointment of defeat to Burton Albion behind them with a hard fought 2-1 win over Charlton Athletic at Mornflake Stadium this evening. First half goals from Oli Finney and Mikael Mandron set us on the way to a much-needed victory and even though the Charlton substitute Mason Burstow pulled one back with just over ten minutes remaining, Crewe deservedly got over the line.
That wasn’t the end of it either because deep into stoppage time, a shot from Elliott Lee took a deflection, looped up hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced over the line. There was literally five seconds remaining on the clock and it looked as though Charlton had salvaged a point only for the assistant referee to lift his flag and after a discussion with the referee it was controversially chalked off for what must have been an offside and Dave Richards having his vision clearly obstructed. If he would have saved it remains debatable but the assistant made the right call.
David Artell made three changes to the side that lost so convincingly at Burton Albion on New Year’s Day. Chris Long returned from a period of isolation to regain his place up front alongside skipper on the night, Chris Porter.
Scott Robertson regained his midfield spot ahead of Luke Murphy and Travis Johnson started at left-wing back with Mikael Mandron switching to right wing back.
It was a tentative start to the game with genuine chances few and far between. Luke Offord made a decisive block on the edge of the box from Conor Washington before Crewe’s first real attack saw Roberton find Mandron and his far post cross just evade the incoming Travis Johnson. Offord also tried his luck from over 20 yards out after taking it upon himself to attack the space ahead of him and shoot at Stephen Henderson’s goal.
The Crewe forwards, Porter and Long were certainly putting a shift in for effort up there but their touches of the football were actually few and far between in the opening 20 minutes. Charlton controlled much of the possession and it took a combination of Sass-Davies and Williams to make a fantastic block on Diallong Jaiyesimi after Ben Purrington had made it to the by-line.
The visitors should have taken the lead on 19 minutes. It should have been a tap in for Elliott Lee but he seemed to miss his shot completely after Jaiyesimi had done well in the wide area.
Lee also produced an acrobatic effort that flashed just wide of Richard’s right hand post but the Alex goalkeeper had it covered. It was still a tremendous effort.
Crewe’s first major chance came just before the half an hour mark. Porter got the ball out of his feet after pouncing on a loose ball and he instantly set Finney clear. The midfielder on this occasion drilled his effort just wide of the far post. Moments later, Finney nearly found Long in behind and from a well worked corner, Offord struck it on the volley and after hitting it into floor, the bounce forced Henderson into a meaningful save.
That period of play injected life into the Alex and lifted the noise inside the Stadium. It was much more positive from Crewe and that goal finally came on 38 minutes. Mandron’s endeavour continued in the right wing back role and after his shot from the edge of the box was pushed out by Henderson, an alert Finney gleefully helped himself to the rebound to open the scoring.
The frustration got the better of Washington and he was booked for a late challenge on Offord. Johnnie Jackson’s frustration was all evident after a late counter-attack broke down after Washington’s heavy touch from Lee’s through ball ran through harmlessly to Richards.
Crewe went in 2-0 at the break after another well worked set-piece. A flowing move involving Mandron, Porter and then Long resulted in a stoppage time corner. Lowery took it from the left and Mandron rose highest to head home our second. It was no more than Crewe deserved for that really positive last 15 minutes of the first half.
As expected, Charlton came out in the second period and had a right go. An early free-kick from Lee was pushed away by Richards and he needed Offord on hand to complete the clearance. The Alex goalkeeper was then forced into a really good save to deny Washington with a header.
Jackson quickly introduced some fresh legs with Burstow and Corey Blackett-Taylor on for Pennington and Jaiyesimi, who had been cautioned for a foul on Finney. Finney soon joined him in the book.
Alex Gilbey was also lucky to escape more severe punishment when perhaps his arm rather than his elbow caught Porter.
On 67 minutes a low free-kick from Lowery was brought down by Long and after making a yard of space his shot hit the outside of the post.
At the other end, the energetic Lee dragged a shot wide of the mark from a decent position for him before a rare mistake at the back from Sass-Davies saw Washington pinch possession and roll it across for Burstow but Williams did superbly to get something on it and Richards pounced on the loose ball.
The Alex goalkeeper also produced a fantastic save to keep out Sean Clare’s curling effort.
Long was a continued menace to the Charlton back line and he so nearly combined well with Lowery to get another shot off.
As we entered the final 10 minutes of an enthralling game, Charlton hit back. Inevitably, danger man, Lee was involved again and after Richards had saved, the deflected ball was eventually headed home by Burstow. It looped over the Welshman, who was rather unlucky.
Artell added some legs to his midfield with Murphy and Griffiths on for Robertson and Finney. Young Griffiths could have helped himself to a tap-in if Long had managed to re-find him after the two of them broke late on. Griffiths also shot straight at Henderson after his enthusiasm pinched the ball back on the edge of the box.
A long ball from Jason Pearce found Washington, who was once again saved by the legs of the rushing Richards.
Crewe were fighting to the last, defending our box well right until the remaining 5 seconds of stoppage time when Lee’s deflected effort hit the underside of the bar and bounced in. It appeared that Charlton’s pressure in the final 10 minutes had paid off, only for the assistant to rightly raise his flag. After minutes of dialogue between the officials, the goal was ruled out and Crewe had a deserved three points.