A Christmas cracker from Owen Dale in the final knockings earns Crewe a point on their travels.
A superbly executed overhead kick from Owen Dale three minutes from time saw Crewe Alexandra return to Gresty Road with a point. Dale fashioned his goal of the season contender just in time; who would’ve thought it would be courtesy of a corner?
The Alex were at the forefront of yet another disappointing defensive goal, following a Burton corner. Sam Hughes headed the Brewers in front just 14 minutes from time.
David Artell made three changes to the Crewe Alexandra side that came from behind in midweek to defeat Swindon Town 4-2. Leading marksman, Mikael Mandron, and centre-half Omar Beckles returned to the starting XI.
With club captain Perry Ng serving a six-game suspension, youngster Travis Johnson found his place at right-back. Likewise, Harry Pickering took the armband.
Olly Lancashire and Chris Porter were the unfortunate pair to drop to the bench for the trip to the Pirelli Stadium. Billy Sass-Davies was recalled to the squad after his recent loan spell at Altrincham.
Former Alex man, John Brayford, captained the Brewers, and Colin Daniel started at left back. As well as former number one, Ben Garratt, finding himself on the bench.
The opening stages of the game possessed some entertaining football, but neither keeper really being tested.
It was almost 20 minutes until any goalkeeper was tested, with Burton’s winger, Charles Vernam, cutting inside before unleashing an effort at goal. Though the effort could only be directed down the throat of Alex number one Will Jaaskelainen.
Burton enjoyed a period of pressure towards the Alex goal but nothing to really concern opening the scoring. Vernam was again involved in Albion’s next goal threat as he ran towards the goal line, before playing a low cross only to be missed by every yellow shirt and put behind by Pickering for a corner.
Continuing to press the Reds backline, Joe Powell stretched his legs down the left-hand side before firing a low cross across the six-yard area. Fortunately, Beckles managed to get enough on the ball for Jaaskelainen to pick up the loose ball.
On 28 minutes, it was Pickering who could trouble Burton’s Kieran O’Hara between the sticks. Standing over the ball, the skipper struck a dipping effort from the right that O’Hara had to push over for a corner.
Another set piece, courtesy of a corner enabled Beckles to find himself free at the far post to meet Pickering’s delivery, but he could only head into the side netting.
The Brewers defence continued to be disciplined in their shape; making it difficult for Crewe to get in behind. Though, the Reds defence just as well-matched the home side, as Offord and Beckles maintained the threat of Akins and Vernam.
Just before the end of the first half, Tom Lowery managed to break forward and strike an effort at goal making it uncomfortable for O’Hara. Though, the former Manchester United youngster managed to parry the effort away.
Half Time: Burton Albion 0-0 Crewe Alexandra
An early opportunity fell to Crewe in the opening minute of the second half. After picking possession, the reds broke forward before Lowery spread the ball wide to the lively feet of Dale. His precise cross to the far post picked out Luke Murphy but he could only direct his header into the gloves of O’Hara.
The Railwaymen were certainly on the front foot in the second half, maintaining possession and patiently waiting for that one opportunity.
Down the other end Jaaskelainen had to scurry across his line to make sure a 25-yard effort from Joe Powell was kept out.
Just after the hour mark and David Artell, made his first two changes of the afternoon. With Daniel Powell and Tom Lowery making way for Charlie Kirk and Oli Finney.
Soon after, Burton boss Jake Buxton made his sides first change with Niall Ennis replacing Ciaran Gilligan.
Kirks first real involvement came five minutes after his introduction. Drifting pass a couple of Albion bodies before his pass invited Ryan Wintle to strike at goal. His effort was well saved by O’Hara, but it was Crewe who looked the more likely to open the scoring.
Mandron’s last involvement came on 70 minutes, Dale found the Frenchman, but his shot was easily collected by the Burton stopper. He was the replaced by Chris Porter.
The home side were restricted to efforts from range for most of the afternoon, but with 14 minutes remaining they took the lead courtesy of a set play. Joe Powell sent the cross to the far post, which saw Sam Hughes rise highest to nod down past Jaaskelainen.
Totally against the run of play and it meant the Alex needed to find that same fighting as they did on Tuesday evening, in order to get something from the game.
Three minutes later and Jake Buxton’s side nearly made it two, as Charles Vernam was presented with a one-on-one with Johnson but could only see his dangerous effort just clear the post.
On 83 minutes, the Alex went close to equalising. Patient build up play saw Pickering cross to the far post, but a misjudged header from Colin Daniel’s meant the ball looked to be heading across the line. Except for last gasp defending from Hughes who managed to hook the ball off the line.
At this point Hughes was deemed Burton’s hero, scoring at one end and saving a certain equaliser at the other.
With only three minutes remaining, debutant Johnson was replaced by Lancashire just before the pivotal corner.
Beckles won the header at the far post, guiding it across to the path of Dale. With his back to goal, the inform winger managed to improvise and unleash a perfectly executed overhead kick giving O’Hara no chance.
A moment of magic to draw Crewe deservedly level. But time wasn’t on their side and the Reds had to make do with a point.
Full Time: Burton Albion 1-1 Crewe Alexandra