In a game where neither side played well, it was Port Vale who went home with the 1-0 victory at Gresty Road.
Despite dominating possession in the first half Crewe failed to really test Vale keeper Brown. Vale looked the better side after the half time whistle as Crewe’s play became incredible predictable, pass it sideways slowly and then try a long ball for it to fail.
Despite neither side really deserving the win, if anyone looked likely to take all three points it it was unfortunately the Vale.
Defence- Whelan, Ng, Ray, Hunt
Midfield- Ainley, Jones, Wintle, Kirk
Strikers- Bowery, Porter
Subs- Richards, Raynes, Miller, Nicholls, Lowery, Finney, O’Connor
Defence- Rawlinson, Smith, Legge, Clark
Midfield- Whitfield, Oyeleke, Conlon, Hannant
Strikers- Pope, Miller
Subs- Joyce, Kay, Hornby, Quigley, Kanu, Vassell, Hardcastle
Neither side was really on top for the first 20-minutes, both sides had half chances but neither managed to created anything Clear Cut. Crewe began to take control half-way through the first half, however, the attacks for the most part were easy to defend for the Vale as we constantly crossed from deep.
Crewe had the best chance of the first half on the 34-minute mark, Jordan Bowery was first to a loose ball but had his one on one effort saved by Brown, the rebound fell to Porter who saw his tame effort cleared of the line by Legge.
Vale also came close when Whelan’s poor back-pass played through Miller one-on-one with Garratt, Garratt saved and the rebound was just fired wide by Hannatt.
Despite the first half having little in the way of chances, Crewe had the majority of the ball but just lacked that bit of quality to break down a well organised Vale defence. Crewe failed to take advantage whilst they were on top over an extremely poor Vale side and they were made to pay for it.
It was almost like the roles were reversed for the Second Half. Whilst Crewe were keeping the ball well in the first half and it was Vale playing the long balls, the second half was just a constant back and forth of balls pumped forward.
The problem was that Vale were winning the majority of their first and second balls, whilst Crewe didn’t win more than a handful. If Crewe were to be successful in this game they had to keep the ball on the ground, unfortunately they failed to do so.
Vale started the second half well, and were nearly rewarded for their efforts on the 49th minute. Garratt saved the initial strike by Miller, the ball fell to Pope who really should have made it 1-0, fortunately for the Alex his shot was fired against the bar.
Despite Vale being on top they failed to really create any more chances of note. Callum Ainley received the first of Crewe’s three yellow cards for what appeared to be a very soft push on Whitfield. Whelan was the next in the book just two minutes later as he pulled down Miller on the touch line.
Ainleys yellow card saw him brought off for Shaun Miller on the 65th minute, Nicky Hunt also made way for the returning Kevin O’Connor. Another soft booking for the Alex was given to Shaun Miller on 73-minutes, no debate that it was a foul but it certainly wasn’t a yellow card.
The frustrating refereeing continued for Crewe and this time they were punished for it. Porter was fouled deep inside the Vale half but it wasn’t given, however, a similar challenge was awarded as a foul to Vale just moments later inside the Crewe half. This wasn’t the first time Crewe fans were frustrated by the referees decisions, it seemed Porter was fouled every time he’d go up for a header and George Ray was continuously held down from Corners.
The initial Vale cross from the free kick was cleared, but the ball was crossed back in from the right to the back post where it was nodded in by an unmarked Leon Legge thanks to static Crewe defending 76-minutes in.
Nicholls came on for Bowery five-minutes later to try and force an opening for the Alex. Crewe had their best chance of the second half on 86 minutes as Shaun Millers low cross deflected of a Vale Defender and was somehow kept out by the keeper.
Crewe looked unlikely to get an equaliser as they failed to test the Vale defenders. We played the ball slowly round the back before lumping it forward time and time again. It just looked like the Vale players wanted it more.
Full Time Thoughts:
All week leading up to this game Artell stressed the importance of keeping to our game plan because with the ball on the deck we are better than Vale. For most of the first half Crewe did just that and looked the better side for it. However, we just lacked that final bit of quality to make the possession count.
The second-half performance however, was an absolute shambles. The players were just hitting it forward with no real quality making it extremely hard for Bowery and Porter to win their headers. If Artell really wanted the boys to play the ball on the ground why did he start with two big men up top, it simply didn’t make any sense.
Something needs to change for County away next Saturday. Personally I would see Miller brought back into the side, as with both Bowery and Porter up front we look very one dimensional.
James Jones put in a poor display, and considering that there are other centre midfielders trying to get minutes it makes sense for him to be dropped. Either Tommy Lowery or Oliver Finney should replace him, both have played well for the under 23’s and deserve more minutes in the first team.
Both full-backs again looked. Hunt just looks like he can’t keep up with the game at times and Whelan looked uncomfortable on the ball and because of this nearly gave away a goal. I’d like to see Ng moved back out to right-back with Raynes coming in at centre back and O’Connor return at left-back. One thing is for certain, we are really missing Harry Pickering.
We are a good footballing side, when we get the ball forward quickly on the deck we are a threat to any team. Today all we did was lump it long and pass it sideways and it just isn’t acceptable. Artell clearly knew what had to be done to win from his press conferences throughout the week, but somehow we did exactly what he said we had to avoid.
You aren’t going to win games with one shot on target. Something needs to change quickly for the Railwaymen or both Artell and the club could find themselves in serious trouble.