Crewe Alexandra ended their pre-season campaign with a narrow 2-1 loss to Championship side Rotherham at the Mornflake Stadium. Daniel Agyei scored in the second successive friendly with five minutes of the first half remaining after fine work from the creator, Oli Finney - but by that stage Crewe were trailing 2-0 after the Millers had scored in the first minute and then again just before Agyei did.
The Alex responded really well and were excellent in the second period and certainly deserved to have at least drawn the game with substitute Bassala Sambou forcing the save of the game when he reached Tariq Uwakwe’s superb cross.
Crewe made the worst possible start to the game conceding in the opening 50 seconds. The Railwaymen had hardly settled when the advanced midfielder Ollie Rathbone reached his header ahead of Rod McDonald and Conor Washington lashed home an unstoppable shot past a helpless Dave Richards for an early opener. The stadium was stunned.
Rotherham were certainly on top in the early 20 minutes and Crewe struggled to mount any real sustained pressure in the visitors half of the pitch. New loan signing, Lachlan Brook, nearly found Ainley after a probing run. And the Brentford youngster shot through the Rotherham via free kick from the edge of the penalty area after the impressive Ainley was fouled by Rathbone.
The wide man from Australia was a threat and when in possession, Agyei showed that he can more than impose himself centrally.
Rotherham were good value for their 2-0 lead given to them by George Kelly nodded home a second goal on 39 minutes after a wonderful cross from the by-line from Shane Ferguson.
Crewe responded superbly though to go in at the break 2-1 behind. Oli Finney was the provider from the left hand side with his low cross tucked home by Agyei with his low shot going through the legs of Johansson.
Ainley grew in stature and took some hefty challenges. His touch and run on the stroke of half-time was worthy of a goal but it unfortuntely fizzed out at the death.
Crewe raised their game in the second half and quickly got on the front foot. In truth, it looked a diffrent team. We began to apply more pressure on the Rotherham box. Uwakwe began to get forward with real purpose from left back and was a provider of quality with crosses. One saw Finney loop a header early on before at the other end, Millers substitute Ben Wiles fired a shot into the floor and just wide. Conor Washington also swung over a dangerous cross that only needed a touch in front of the Crewe keeper.
Richards also made a smart save with his legs to deny powerhouse Peter Kioso. Alex boss, Alex Morris made some changes with Griffiths and Sambou on for Colkett and Finney.
Ageyi continued to be a handful with his power and pace and another strong run just before the hour mark saw him shoot down the throat of the Rotherham goalkeeper. Crewe swung the play more into our favour and after more good approach play from Ainley and Brook, Uwakwe fired a powerful shot blocked.
The move of the half saw Ainley slip in Uwakwe and his deep cross found the head of Sambou and he was somehow denied by a stunning save. The goalkeeper somehow pushed it up onto the crossbar and then recovered unbelievably to deny Brook in the follow up.
Crewe introduced youngsters, Lunt, Holicek and Tabinor to gain more experience against Championship opposition and the fresh legs made a difference to the finish too.
The Alex who had the better of the second half were unlucky not to force a draw. Another fantastic run from Agyei only needed a decisive touch to make it 2-2. It was awfully close and Crewe can take great heart from the second half display against a team two leagues higher. Ahead of the new season next week, Alex Morris’ side played some sparkling football to give us great encouragement for the kick off at Rochdale.