Crewe Alexandra 1-1 Swindon Town: Minus the chips…

Mike Minihane usually writes about events 50 years ago, this time he’s up to date with Swindon Town’s visit to Crewe Alexandra…

Last season I went to Crewe on a Tuesday evening in October to see Swindon Town lose a game that we dominated. Now I was hoping for better, with Crewe just off the relegation places, in poor form and with an injury list even longer than ours. There was one important difference from my previous visit, even before the kick-off. Last year I was surrounded by Crewe fans eating chips and gravy purchased from the chipper in Gresty Road and I started to drool in a rather unsightly way. This time round I was prepared but when I tried to go through the turnstile with my chip bap (a very generous portion of chips and great value at £1.50) I was politely told that the club no longer allowed chips to be taken in, presumably because it does little for the sale of their own pies. Time was going on, so I had to wolf down my bap like someone who hasn’t seen food for a week.

I like Crewe. There’s an excellent unrestricted view from the main (home) stand where I ended up having bought my ticket locally, probably the best I’ve experienced in Leagues 1 and 2. A quite friendly home crowd too. The sun was shining, there was no wind and the playing surface was good, so no excuses there.

Swindon started well, half a yard quicker than them in midfield and playing some neat, probing passing. Crewe were not getting out of their half and the locals were becoming predictably, and increasingly, restless. All it need was for us to turn our clear superiority into a goal, and on 15 minutes we should have done so when Jacob Murphy’s neat pass put in Michael Smith one on one with their keeper only for him to put his shot too close to the ‘keeper who made a decent save. As strikers’ chances go it was pretty much as good as you get. Five minutes later another chance went begging as Nathan Thompson was played in by Iraq-bound Yaser Kasim and although the angle wasn’t good he should’ve done better than shoot tamely past the far post, when a square pass to Smith was the better option.

It wasn’t until five minutes before half time that Crewe really got into Town’s half and an ironic cheer went up from the home crowd as they forced a corner. A couple of minutes later Ryan Harley was adjudged to have handled by an eagle-eyed, and obviously very keen, assistant referee. The referee didn’t see the incident but the penalty was given. It all looked innocuous from where I was sitting. Up stepped the superbly named Chucks Aneke and with the crowd sensing a totally unjustified half time lead coming up, Chucks blazed hopelessly and wildly over the bar. The disgruntled home crowd were now incandescent and most left their seats to get in the pie queue.

That had clearly been a let off for us and we started the second half with purpose. Three minutes in Nathan Byrne literally danced through their defence and laid off to Harley who hit a left foot screamer into the top corner. It was a goal that would have graced any league. Shortly afterwards a good effort from Massimo Luongo shaved the bar, a second goal then and it would have been game over.

Crewe took off the ineffective Byron Moore (who scored twice against us last season) and his replacement, Billy Waters immediately gave them more threat. We stared to sit deeper and, encouraged by the possession they were now getting, Crewe sensed that they could get something out of the game; all the more so when Aneke hit the bar with a great effort from distance. A minute later the inevitable happened and Vadaine Oliver, who’d only been on the pitch two minutes after replacing Pogba, picked up a miss-header by Kasim and hit a volley from 25 yards that looped over Tyrell Belford. The young ‘keeper who would only have had a chance of saving if he’d been on his line. As it was he was two yards off it, I don’t blame him for that given the run of play at the time.

We endured a rather fraught final 15 minutes as the home side, buoyed by the prospect of a win that hadn’t looked in the least likely for most of the game came at us. However Swindon’s defence held firm without any degree of the panic that has been apparent in previous games.

To sum up, this was a game we should have won and could have lost. I felt it was a good performance overall. Our midfield was committed and creative and defensively we were solid. Belford dealt well with crosses and looked confident. Darren Ward and Troy Archibald-Henville looked comfortable and unflustered and the full backs got forward well at every opportunity. What we lacked was a cutting edge up front, with it we’d have won very comfortably. There were very good contributions from Luongo, Harley and Archibald-Henville, but for me the man of the match was Byrne, always a threat going forward and his footwork to set up Harley’s goal was a pure delight.

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