Railwaymen let slip a two-goal lead, but Olly Lancashire had other ideas.
Crewe Alexandra extended their unbeaten run to nine games after a goal fest at the Alexandra Stadium. The Alex ran out 3-2 winners over a strong-willed Bristol Rovers side, who certainly didn’t make it an easy contest.
The Alex took an early lead through Charlie Kirk following a corner routine and it wasn’t much longer before the Reds made it two nil. Ryan Wintle scored his second of the season after his deflected effort wrong footed Joe Day in the Bristol goal. Leading two nil at the break the Railwaymen found themselves in a comfortable position
But the Reds were worried as they were caught on their heels allowing Rovers to clinch a goal back just two minutes into the second half. After throwing away a three nil lead away at Rochdale in recent weeks Artell’s side saw themselves in a similar position, a fine free kick from Luke McCormick found the top corner drawing the visitors level. Meanwhile, Crewe regained their lead minutes later after Olly Lancashire headed home from a free kick just before the hour mark.
The gaffer made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Plymouth Argyle at the weekend. Mikael Mandron picked up a slight knee injury on their travels, so he was deemed only fit enough for the bench. Likewise, the experienced Chris Porter replaced the Frenchman in the starting XI.
Tom Lowery replaced Luke Murphy in midfield and Harry Pickering continued as captain following the sale of Perry Ng to Cardiff City. Luke Offord continued as right-back.
On a wet and windy night at Gresty Road the conditions didn’t seem to faze the Railwaymen as they took an early lead after just four minutes. A corner routine saw Pickering and Lowery combine before he managed to squeeze a defence splitting pass to find Kirk in behind, only for for him to poke home past Bristol stopper Joe Day.
Crewe took the early lead into their stride and looked dangerous on the attack. Pickering and Kirk once again combined down the left and the skipper was able to place a threatening looking ball across the face of goal, but nothing came of it. Another corner routine allowed Finney to get in behind, but his effort was blocked for a corner.
Despite the Reds looking dangerous on the counter-attack, the game was rather end-to-end with the Gas also looking promising. Rovers striker, Brandon Hanlan, had a couple of half chances but the partnership of Beckles and Lancashire stood firm.
The Alex made it two after just 23 minutes but this time it came from down the left-hand side. Kirk again was involved as he threaded through Oli Finney to the by-line, who chopped back onto his left foot to find Wintle. On the edge of the area, he managed to find space and his deflected shot hit the back of the net! Joe Day was unmoved.
Richards’ first real test arrived 10 minutes before the break as Finney gave away a free kick 25 yards out. The effort was heading for the top left corner, but the Welshman managed to make ground and parry the effort for a corner.
The resultant corner found Joshua Grant in space and his shot from range drifted just wide of the right-hand post. Richards was rooted and it would’ve been two-one if it was on target.
Owen Dale was the next player to trouble Day as he lost his man and after cutting inside unleashed a left footed effort. Day could only parry into the danger area but was fortunate enough the outstretched leg of Porter couldn’t get that decisive touch.
The final stages of the half saw six minutes of additional time indicated by the fourth official. Likewise, Dale thought he had made it three only four some last ditch defending to keep the scoreline at two. The combination of passes between Kirk and Pickering found the skipper on the by-line. His low driven cross was pushed away by Day but only to the feet of Dale whose snapshot effort looked to be in the back of the net.
Just before this, versatile defender, Luke Offord, gingerly walked off through injury. Replaced by Travis Johnson. One homegrown talent for another.
Half Time: Crewe Alexandra 2-0 Bristol Rovers
Bristol Rovers came out of the blocks second half and pulled one back via a corner in the opening minute of the restart. Luke Leahy won the first header and his skipper; Max Elmer was there to slide in at the far post. Paul Tisdale’s side were certainly back in the game.
Minutes later and the scores were level thanks to a sublime goal from Luke McCormick. Beckles conceded a rather cheap free-kick just outside the area, to which McCormick curled his sweet effort into the top right corner. Richards was unmoved.
To Crewe’s credit, the Reds regained their lead minutes later. A delightful in-swinging free kick from Lowery found the diving Ollie Lancashire at the far post to head into the roof of the net.
Artell was forced into another change as skipper, Harry Pickering, left the field through injury. Yet again the Alex’s academy produced another product, as Rio Adebisi entered the field.
Two inexperienced full backs meant for the visitors to try and capitalise and so they nearly did. Ehmer stole in behind Adebisi, bringing the ball down and striking at goal but Richards stood strong to protect the lead.
Tisdale tried to reinforce his attack as he made a double change. Ali Koiki and Alex Rodman replaced Luke Leahy and Cian Harries.
The Bristol changes were certainly having an influence on the closing stages and if it wasn’t for some outstanding defending from Lancashire, Crewe could have seen themselves level again. The six-foot-one defender managed to rise highest to nick the ball away from Hanlan in what looked to be a certain equaliser.
The game should have been set and match with minutes until the final whistle. A pinpoint cross from Wintle was lofted towards Dale, who from six yards out should have made it four but could only head wide of the near post.
Beckles and Lancashire stood firm and were immense throughout. Veteran striker, Porter, ran his legs off before being replaced in the dying minutes by Mandron and Murphy did well in possession when replacing the hard-working Finney.
An injection of fresh legs from Murphy nearly created a fourth goal and a brace for Kirk but his effort from an acute angle was pushed over by Day.
Full Time: Crewe Alexandra 3-2 Bristol Rovers
Man of the Match: Olly Lancashire