Walking in a Wintle Wonderland.
The Alex faithful returned to the Alexandra Stadium for the first time in 281 days and were treated to a stoppage time winner from midfielder Ryan Wintle. The Railwaymen deserved to take all three points, having peppered the Cobblers back line all afternoon despite falling behind early on.
A 94th minute winner for Wintle’s first goal of the season secured a superb comeback in front of the returning 2,000 fans. An exchange of passes involving Charlie Kirk and Harry Pickering on the left allowed the skipper to cross low across the penalty area and after an Oli Finney dummy, there was Wintle to seal a 2-1 win.
Crewe fell behind just three minutes into the encounter after finding themselves on their heels. A pass in behind the Alex defence allowed Sam Hoskins to fire a low cross from the right before Ricky Holmes got the decisive touch from close range.
The third time in successive league games that the Reds have come from behind to salvage a point or three.
Owen Dale with his third goal in three league games on 53 minutes got the Alex back on level terms. The Railwaymen dominated the game trying to force a way through a stubborn Northampton defence, who were reduced to 10 men after full back Joe Martin was sent-off for a second bookable offence with 20 minutes remaining.
David Artell made three changes to the Crewe side that drew 1-1 with Burton Albion in the club’s last league outing. Charlie Kirk, Ollie Lancashire and Oli Finney all returned to the starting XI with Daniel Powell, Luke Murphy and Travis Johnson all dropping to the bench. Perry Ng continued his six-match suspension, so Harry Pickering took the captaincy.
Supporters were permitted to attend a live game at the Alexandra Stadium for the first time since their League Two fixture against Stevenage on 3rd March. A maximum of 2,000 Alex fans were able to watch the Reds live in League One action for the first time since 2016.
The visitors started the brighter of the two sides opening score line in the first three minutes. Crewe set up, expecting the ball to be lofted into the penalty area. Except Northampton had other ideas and used the opportunity to take a quick free kick allowing Sam Hoskins to run in behind. A lackadaisical Crewe defence couldn’t regroup before Ricky Holmes volleyed home from six yards.
After that slow start, the Railwaymen never seemed to look back, controlling possession for the remainder of the match.
As the Reds began to find their feet, a clever flick from Pickering found Wintle and he combined with Kirk down the left-hand side before Finney’s low cross was hooked clear. Cian Bogler was cautioned for a reckless tackle on Finney, but if the referee had anticipated play and played advantage, Kirk would’ve found himself clear into the penalty area.
Finney came close following his volleyed effort went wide of the post. Joe Martin later picked up his first of two cautions in the game for time wasting at a free kick on the halfway line. A trait of the visitor’s game that came back to haunt them in stoppage time.
Despite the Alex being on the front foot target man Harry Smith won his header in the Reds penalty area and centre half, Fraser Horshall volleyed wide. Though, could well have beaten Will Jaaskelainen if his effort was on target.
Keith Curle’s side went in one goal ahead at the break but you felt there was more to come from the Alex.
Half Time: Crewe Alexandra 0-1 Northampton Town
The Railwaymen equalised through Owen Dale on 53 minutes after he converted Kirk’s cross from the left to leave Northampton stopper, Steve Arnold, rooted. His scruffy finish into the ground, totally deceived the Northampton number one for 1-1.
Now Crewe were level, the visitors were there for the taking. Chances began to open up with Mikael Mandron feeding in Finney, giving the attacker time and space but he could only fire over. Perhaps if the effort was on his stronger left foot, the net would have bulged.
The Reds continuous peppering of the Cobblers defence prompted Curle into making a double change. Caleb Chukwuemeka and Ryan Watson replaced Ricky Holmes and Nicky Adams. Soon after, Max Dyche replaced Chris Missilou.
70 minutes on the clock and the away side were reduced to 10 men. The visitor’s tactics were greatly affected when Martin received his second caution for a reckless challenge on Luke Offord.
With a man advantage Crewe turned on the pressure. Kirk’s effort across the face of goal struck the post and somehow eluded the onrushing Finney.
On 73 minutes, a piece of trickery from Kirk as he managed to flick the ball up before attempting an audacious lob towards the far post from an acute angle. Only for it to be headed clear off the line and prevent a certain goal of the season contender.
Two minutes later and Mandron’s cute touch sent Tom Lowery through on goal, but Arnold managed to pull off a superb one handed save to keep the scores level.
Camped inside their own half, Crewe kept knocking on the door of the Northampton goal. Finney headed onto the crossbar following Dale’s pin-point cross.
David Artell turned to his bench with 10 minutes remaining, as the fresh legs of Daniel Powell replaced Owen Dale. Powell’s first involvement saw him win a corner, the resultant set piece from Lowery found Lancashire’s head but his effort was again, cleared off the line!
83 minutes and Pickering picked up a booking for a professional foul, after checking Chukuwuemeka as the visitors looked to attack.
Artell made his second change of the afternoon with a few minutes remaining. Luke Murphy replaced Tom Lowery.
With the scores level and a dominant display from the Reds which saw them culminate 22 efforts at goal, you felt they would get that final chance. It’s moments like this when the 2,000 fans are needed.
In the dying embers of the game the Alex got that final opportunity! Omar Beckles found Kirk before again releasing Pickering down the left and his low driven cross was dummied by Finney as Wintle rushed in to fire home.
A steppingstone for football and the Alex. Fans returned, three league games unbeaten and the Reds move up to 11th in the table.
Full Time: Crewe Alexandra 2-1 Northampton Town