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Crewe 1-0 Tranmere Rovers

1 January 2023

First half wonder goal from Charlie Colkett sees Crewe start the New Year with home victory over Tranmere Rovers.

A strike worthy of winning any football match from Charlie Colkett was enough to see Lee Bell’s Crewe Alexandra side start 2023 in perfect fashion. Colkett’s dipping drive from almost 30 yards ten minutes before half time proved to be the only goal of the game against our North West rivals, Tranmere Rovers.

Crewe had to defend Colkett’s first goal for the club as if our lives depended on it at times, but Bell’s side showed real grit and determination to make sure we held onto that clean sheet and collect those three precious points to kick start the New Year.

Tranmere will be aggrieved that they couldn’t make one of their major chances count to get something from their relatively short trip, but Crewe also had chances to extend our goal advantage with substitute Joel Tabiner and Bassala Sambou presented with good opportunities late on in the second half.

Crewe could have done with a killer second goal to ease some growing nerves inside the Mornflake Stadium, but with Conor Thomas and Rod McDonald exceptional as a makeshift centre-back pairing, Crewe showed all the resilience and desire needed to grind out a very welcome 1-0 win and end a run of three straight defeats in League Two.

With three matches in seven days to contend with over the festive period, Crewe Alexandra manager Lee Bell elected to shuffle his pack again for the visit of Tranmere Rovers. Bell was forced into an alteration at the back following Luke Offord’s dismissal against Carlisle United for an off-the-ball incident involving Jack Stretton.

The captaincy returned to Rod McDonald, who due to a lack of fit and available centre-halves was partnered in the heart of the Crewe defence by midfielder Thomas.  

There were also recalls in the midfield positions for Colkett, Lachlan Brook and Regan Griffiths, who had come on and performed well in the 3-0 defeat to Carlisle on Thursday night.

Youngsters Joel Tabiner and Connor Evans returned to the substitutes’ bench, alongside the even younger Matus Holicek and Owen Lunt.

The New Year’s Day fixture kicked off in a fine atmosphere between the two North West clubs but it was a bit of a scrappy affair inside the first few minutes. The ball spent too much time in the air with both sets of defenders aiming to hit the front as soon as possible. It made the defenders turn quickly and Crewe had to set about defending their penalty area under some early Tranmere pressure.

Daniel Agyei lifted the home support by drifting past two Tranmere defenders, but he was halted by a third, but it was encouraging signs from the Alex forward that he possessed the confidence and directness to trouble the Tranmere defence.

Tranmere began to take command of the possession and after surviving one or two minor scrambles, the Alex had Arthur Okonkwo to thank for keeping the visitors at bay in the 10th minute. The on-loan Arsenal youngster made a terrific diving save to push Kieron Morris’ shot from almost 25 yards out around for a corner. It was another key save from potentially one of our players of the season.

The Crewe goal led a charmed life at times with Morris soon having a closer effort blocked and Elliott Nevitt going close from close range after a low cross from Kane Hemmings had found him inside the Crewe box. He would have been disappointed not to have at least made Okonkwo work.

Crewe defended their box fantastically well with captain Rod McDonald leading by example. He got his head on most crosses and made a superb block to prevent Hemmings from scoring. McDonald’s timely intervention blocked his close range effort after a strong run from full-back Ethan Bristow had caused Crewe more problems.

Tranmere Rovers pressed looking for that key opening goal, but at the other end, a shot from Regan Griffiths was deflected over for a corner and from the resultant delivery, Tranmere defender Jordan Turnbull was needed to clear the danger after a fumble from goalkeeper Ross Doohan had resulted in a scramble inside a crowded penalty area. Crewe just couldn’t make the half chance truly count.

Agyei was booked for a high boot, which was a bit harsh to say the least and a flashpoint involving Brook and Nevitt had to be quickly dissolved by the referee. Brook wasn’t too happy that the Tranmere man had led with his arm in an aerial challenge. It came to nothing.

A slip from Brook, allowed Merrie the time and space to get a shot off but Okonkwo was well placed to collect at the second attempt.

Crewe had defended well and put bodies on the line and by remaining in the contest the Railwaymen were rewarded for that effort with the opening goal of the game on 34 minutes.

A long clearance up field from Okonkwo saw Turnbull and Sambou compete in the air and with Tranmere unable to clear the second phase, the ball bounced invitingly towards Colkett. The midfielder pushed it down into his path with his chest and after holding off the close intentions of Morris, his ambitious shot from almost 30 yards flew over the top of the stranded Doohan and into the net.

It was the summer signings first goal for the club and a genuine contender for goal-of-the-season. His long-range effort and the confidence to go for it thoroughly deserved that outcome and for all their possession and over double efforts on our goal, Tranmere were now chasing the game.

In response, Tranmere’s Hawkes had a half volley that came to nothing and Crewe were thankful for a foul given on Sambou from a corner after he had beaten Davies to a deep cross. Okonkwo was most thankful because he had come for the cross and not got there.

Crewe Alexandra’s work ethic and Colkett’s moment of skill saw Bell’s side go in at the interval with a one goal advantage.

In the opening couple of minutes of the second half, Sambou so nearly made a hurried Tranmere Rovers clearance prove costly. He rose highest to a looping ball and he somehow directed a long distance header on goal. It was dipping in under the crossbar and Doohan had to be watchful and tip it over.

On 50 minutes, Crewe had another lucky escape. A Hawkes corner from the right was met the far post by the diving head of Davies, but Tariq Uwakwe was brilliantly positioned to clear it off the line and Griffiths was able to complete the clearance up to Agyei.

Goalscorer, Colkett was forced off through injury and had to be replaced by Tabiner. It looked as though the luckless Colkett had aggravated his hamstring, to only add to Lee Bell’s growing injury crisis. Crewe also had a scare when Rod McDonald suffered a head injury and it could have been worse because the referee allowed play to continue and it needed a combination of Thomas and his goalkeeper to somehow turn Hemmings’ low cross behind for a corner. Crewe were livid.

Sambou had the ball in the net just before the hour mark, but any potential celebrations were ruled out quickly by the assistant’s flag.

The corners continued for Tranmere but Crewe were standing really firm and defending that lead, trying to get over the line. Micky Mellon also made a change with Mumbongo replacing Nevitt.

On 68 minutes, an opportunist effort from Merrie was not troubling Okonkwo and Crewe remained compact and defended our penalty area as a really strong unit. Moments later, a better effort from Hawkes was blocked.

There were also spells of good possession in the Tranmere half of the pitch to ease some of the pressure and the anxiety. After one such move, Agyei showed good strength towards the far post, but headed straight at Doohan.

Tom Davies was rightly cautioned for pulling back Sambou after the forward chased down a long clearance. Tranmere heads managed to clear Tabiner’s decent cross from the free-kick, but Crewe were not decisive enough to really attack it.

At the other end, Davies went close with a header at the back post before the substitute Mumbongo had a fantastic chance to draw Tranmere level but after getting free of the Crewe defence he couldn’t keep his free header down and it sailed well over the crossbar. It was a golden opportunity spurned by the visitors with just 13 minutes remaining.

With time ticking away, Hawkes was replaced by Jon Nolan before Crewe were presented with the chance to extent their lead, but young Tabiner just couldn’t convert at the far post. He just didn’t connect cleanly enough to make sure of his finish.

With five minutes left, Sambou was then gifted the chance himself to wrap it up in a one v one situation with Doohan but he dragged his shot wide of the mark and Crewe still had to see out the remaining minutes with just the slender lead.

The Railwaymen had to dig in, get bodies behind the ball and continue to defend our box as well as we had done all afternoon.

With time desperately running out for Mellon’s side, Morris needed to show a bit more composure inside the Crewe penalty area but he rushed his right footed effort, sending it wastefully over the top of the crossbar.

Thomas and McDonald excelled at the back and to add fresh legs in midfield, Eli King replaced a tiring Brook. Crewe had to survive another six minutes of stoppage time. Griffiths did well to deny Bristow an effort at the far post by poking the ball away from him and Cogley volleyed wastefully as Crewe continued to manage the game really well.

The hard working Sambou also scrambled a late corner away from the boot of Davies and Rovers couldn’t make one of their countless set pieces count.

The Alex showed a real determination to keep the ball out of net and get over the line. Colkett’s strike was worthy of winning any football match and so it proved. It ended a run of four straight defeats in all competitions for the Alex and made sure we got off to the perfect start in 2023.















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