Town: Chris Weale, Jermaine Grandison, Julian Bennett, Joe Jacobson, Darren Jones, Jon Taylor, Matt Richards (c) Mark Wright, Luke Summerfield, Luke Rodgers, Marvin Morgan
Subs: Joe Anyon, Rob Purdie, Asa Hall, Jeremy Helan, Ryan Doble, Aaron Wildig, Lee Collins
Crewe Alexandra: Alan Martin, Matt Tootle, Harry Davis, Mark Ellis, Luke Murphy (c), Mathias Pogba (Daniels, 85), Byron Moore, Gregor Robertson, Abdul Osman (Clayton, 71), Chuks Aneke, Lauri Dalla Valle
Subs: Steve Phillips, Adam Dugdale, Max Clayton, Oliver Turton, John Guthrie, George Ray, Brendan Daniels
Referee: C. Sarginson
Assistants: S. Plane & A. Fox
Fourth Official: N. Radford
Attendance: 6,169 (1,014 from Crewe)
Martin Wild reports from Greenhous Meadow
There are two changes to the side which started at Orient last week, where a late goal cost Graham Turner’s side a valuable point. There’s a recall for Mark Wright in place of Jeremy Helan who was a touch off the pace at Brisbane Road, and in defence Joe Jacobson comes in at left-back for Rob Purdie who drops to the bench. Paul Parry has a groin problem so is sidelined and Jamie Proctor misses out on a subs shirt with Ryan Doble preferred. Crewe were victorious here last month in the JPT so Town will be looking to redress the balance in the first of two vitally important back-to-back home games.
The temperatures are consistent with the winter season although the sunshine and blue skies give the backdrop more of a summery outlook. There’s a decent sized crowd inside the Meadow with good numbers having made the short journey from Cheshire.
Town kicked off having been turned around to attack the Salop Leisure end of the ground with manager Turner watching from the technical area, which isn’t generally his preferred vantage point for the opening 45.
Town started as brightly as the low-lying sun with Marvin Morgan just a fraction away from getting on the end of a superb delivery from Jermaine Grandison in the opening three minutes.
Referee Mr. Sarginson made an early entry into his notebook when he penalised Lauri Dalla Valle for a late challenge on Town captain Matt Richards in the centre circle, and then returning favourite Luke Rodgers had the home fans out of their seats when he latched onto a long punt forward making a nuisance of himself against another one of his former clubs.
Crewe didn’t threaten until 10 minutes in but Richards had to be well placed to deal with a back post header that was helped on towards goal by Mathias Pogba.
The visitors were coming more and more into the game and an exceptional ball from the lively Byron Moore across the 6 yard line had to be intercepted by Jacobson to prevent it reaching a red shirt.
With the first half at the midway point there wasn’t a great deal to choose between the sides with neither goalkeeper having to deal with anything too troublesome. Chuks Aneke was soon to try his luck from fully 30 yards but the midfielder was central to goal and therefore, the effort was food and drink for Chris Weale between the home posts.
When the ball went up the other end, Rodgers pulled off his man to take up a good position and allow Morgan the chance to pick him out with an angled ball, but his strike partner went for goal instead, taking the wrong option as Alan Martin snuffed out the danger at his near post.
Luke Summerfield had almost taken out a corner flag with his first shot of the afternoon but the second was considerably closer, with Jonny Taylor having the misfortune to stand directly in its path to help out the retreating Alex defenders.
There was a huge talking point six minutes before half-time when Dalla Valle went down under a heavy challenge in a congested penalty area, but despite loud appeals from the thousand Crewe fans behind that goal, the ref waved play on. It looked like a big let off for Salop and three minutes later they struck. Much of the goal was down to Morgan who did really well down the left hand side before sending over a peach of a cross that was met powerfully by the head of Summerfield who had made a penetrating run from deep to arrive unmarked ten yards out.
Half Time: Town 1 Crewe Alexandra 0
Within a minute of the restart Shrews almost stretched their advantage. Rodgers played a superbly weighted pass into the path of Morgan who blasted the shot towards goal only to be denied by a terrific strong armed stop from Martin. It was a brilliant save and kept Alex in the hunt at a crucial stage of proceedings.
As Town began to boss the game Wright had two sighters of goal but neither carried enough threat to worry Martin, but at least the hosts were creating opportunities.
Weale had to be quick witted when a Richards back pass looked a touch short but he raced from his goal to beat Dalla Valle in the 50/50 dash to spare the skipper’s blushes.
Right on the hour Crewe should have levelled. Gregor Robertson sent over a brilliant ball that defenders hate and as Jacobson hesitated, Pogba threw a head at it only to send the effort crashing against the net support behind the goal. He kicked the advertising boards out of sheer frustration as he knew he had spurned a glorious opportunity to equalise. Moments later Dalla Valle stretched Chris Weale with an accurate low shot from the edge of the box with The Railwaymen again starting to impose themselves on the game.
Town responded well though and when Wright teed up Summerfield, the goalscorer’s effort was blocked by Abdul Osman with home fans screaming for a pen. It was too far away to say with any certainty that the shot had been blocked by an arm or a hand but the appeals from those in the West Stand were almost to a man.
Weale again needed to be alert to spring from his line, this time thwarting Dalla Valle after a sloppy attempt at a clearance from Darren Jones, and then Steve Davis changed his hand with Max Clayton brought on in place of Osman with the game inside its last quarter.
Crewe were still very much in this game and Mark Ellis had a clear sight of goal only to be denied by the outstretched legs of Weale who was keen to bank the clean sheet. Alex had shown enough resolve to come back from two behind last week and win 3-2 so there was work still to be done for Turner’s men.
It was nervy stuff with Shrewsbury forced to defend for long periods as Alex continued to probe with their patient build-up play.
Six minutes from time Clayton’s ambitious overhead kick from 12 yards bounced fractionally wide of the far upright to further twang the nerve ends.
Aaron Wildig got a late run out for Rodgers with Turner’s thinking surely about preserving the lead and stemming the tide with an extra body in midfield.
Three minutes were signalled by the fourth official with Town looking to bank a first home win since they accounted for local rivals Walsall five weeks ago. There was to be no repeat of the drama in London this time last week and a very precious three points were secured.
Full Time: Town 1 Crewe Alexandra 0