Homegrown talent in George Lloyd, ensures Crewe’s cup journey comes to an end.
Crewe Alexandra’s Emirates FA Cup campaign concluded at Cheltenham Town this afternoon after a George Lloyd header in extra-time sealed a 2-1 win for the home side. Veteran striker Chris Porter forced the extra half an hour with his first goal of the season albeit via a deflection, but the Alex couldn’t quite find a second equaliser to take the tie to penalties.
David Artell made three changes to his side that lost in midweek at Accrington Stanley with midfielders, Luke Murphy and Callum Ainley, replacing Oli Finney and Tom Lowery. The other change meant Owen Dale was replaced by Daniel Powell.
With Mikael Mandron and Omar Beckles still not fit to be named for selection, it was the same squad of 18 who travelled to the Wham Stadium.
Former Crewe Academy graduate, Chris Clements was named in Cheltenham boss, Michael Duff’s, starting line-up. As well as the former Crewe loanee, Chris Hussey.
The home side took an early lead at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium, a poor clearance from the feet of Will Jaaskelainen, fell to the feet of George Lloyd on the right touchline.
A deep cross to the far post and Pickering could only head clear to the edge of the penalty area. The West Brom loanee Finn Azaz, found himself in space to strike a volleyed effort into the corner of the Alex net
What was such a soft goal to concede from a Crewe viewpoint, things only worsened as Artell was forced into an early change. Callum Ainley was replaced by Oli Finney following an knock in the opening stages.
Former Crewe academy graduate Chris Clements was presented with a similar opportunity as Finn Azaz minutes earlier. A fizzing cross from Matt Blair across the box, was cleared only to edge of the 18-yard area but Clements’ effort was deflected for a corner.
After falling behind early on, it took the Alex some time to get in the groove and start to pose a threat towards the Robins goal.
Crewe’s first opportunity came on 15 minutes. A corner routine allowed Charlie Kirk to pick out Oli Finney on the edge of the penalty area; his volleyed effort was blocked, as was his follow up effort.
The Railwaymen continued to maintain control of possession, whilst Duff’s side were happy to play on the counterattack. With a lack of space and opportunities for Chris porter to hold the ball up, the Alex would have to be patient in the final third.
Half an hour on the clock and referee James Adcock was left with a big decision. Veteran striker Chris Porter managed to dispossess Lewis Freestone some 25 yards from goal, who’s acute touch would have led him through on goal if it wasn’t for Freestone’s blatant pull down.
Despite Freestone the last line of defence, the Alex’s protests were ignored, and the young defender was shown a yellow card. A major decision that the referee got wrong. On another day, an early shower would have been calling!
The resultant free kick saw Harry Pickering force Cheltenham goalkeeper Scott Flinders into a smart save to his right. Meanwhile his next involvement wasn’t so smooth, as a defensive calamity between his defenders lead to him clearing the ball, only for it to ricochet off his own defender, Charlie Raglan, and towards goal but went inches past the post.
Three minutes from the end of the first half and things nearly got worse for the Railwaymen. Matt Blair broke free down the right flank before pulling his cross back to the onrushing Liam Sercombe. A golden opportunity for the midfielder, though his effort blazed just over the top of Jaaskelainen’s crossbar.
Half Time: Cheltenham Town 1 – 0 Crewe Alexandra
The second half began much like the first, an early scare again for the Alex. Olly Lancashire misjudged the flight of the ball, allowing Alfie May to get in behind the defence. An episode of passes with goal scorer, Finn Azaz, allowed May to strike a volleyed effort just over the crossbar.
A reaction was urgently needed from Crewe, and so they responded. Harry Pickering played a long ball up to Porter, who’s pass was intercepted but managed to find its way to Finney. The awareness from Finney, played in Daniel Powell on the right of the Robins box, but his effort was fired straight at the Cheltenham number one.
On 55 minutes, the Alex managed to conger up another opportunity. A passage of play down the left between Charlie Kirk and Finney, who’s cut back fell to Luke Murphy to strike first time. His volleyed effort looked destined for the back of the net, though Flinders produced a superb save to keep Cheltenham in the lead.
The equaliser came just after the hour mark. A loose ball was picked up by Porter some 25 yards from goal. The time and space that he found himself in allowed him to take aim from range. Heading for the left-hand side of goal, the effort deflected and left Flinders wrong footed.
Following the equaliser, Artell turned to the bench as he looked to be going for the win. An action-packed season of two to three games a week, meant neither manager wanted extra-time. Likewise, livewire Owen Dale replaced Daniel Powell.
Owen Dale made an instant impact and began to make life hard for veteran defender Chris Hussey at full back. Dale managed to manoeuvre his way down the right; attacking towards the goal line he went down under pressure. Despite appeals from everyone in gold and black, the referee waved the claims away.
With the clock ticking and only eight minutes remaining, Dale set skipper, Perry Ng, down the right. From the goal line, he chipped in a cross that found Kirk at the far post. The attacker’s forceful effort whistled narrowly wide.
With minutes remaining, the Robins replaced Freestone for Will Boyle.
Crewe again appealed for a penalty with only two minutes of the 90 remaining. A knock down from porter saw Dale chasing in behind, although seemed to be pulled down in the process. Not for the first time, the Alex protests were ignored.
In additional time, Cheltenham won a corner in the dyeing embers of the game. The resultant corner fell for Charlie Raglan whose header whistled past the post.
Full Time: Cheltenham Town 1 – 1 Crewe Alexandra
Extra time it was, and two halves of 15 minutes were to be played.
Two quick starts from the home side in 90 minutes, would hopefully have prompted the Railwaymen to be on their toes from the kick-off!
Four minutes into extra time and Cheltenham took the lead for a second time. A far post cross from Thomas Sang, was headed back across the six-yard box and George Lloyd threw himself at the ball to head past Jaaskelainen.
Olly Lancashire was hurt in the collision needed extensive treatment. After a necessary delay, Lancashire was bandaged up round his head and able to continue.
With another equaliser needed to take the tie to penalties, Finney was replaced by Tom Lowery.
An additional five minutes were added in the first half of extra time, following the head injury to Lancashire.
Extra Time Half Time: Cheltenham Town 2 – 1 Crewe Alexandra
The second half of extra time saw Luke Murphy make way for Offrande Zanzala, adding the additional threat to the frontline of attack.
The Reds continued to probe the Robins defence, but the home side stood strong. Crewe couldn’t quite create that final chance and therefore their Emirates FA Cup campaign comes to an end.
Extra Time Full Time: Cheltenham Town 2 – 1 Crewe Alexandra