Crewe traveled to Tranmere last night low on confidence having seen a 2-0 lead slip at Oldham. Steve Holland, taking sole charge with Dario away, named an unchanged side though in a hope of a response.
Opponents Tranmere were looking likely to be our toughest opponents yet, but in true League One style showed how close this division is. The game throughout stayed fairly even with both sides looking to attack, but both with very little to offer in the final third.
Tranmere seemed intent on hitting it long to former Alex striker Gareth Taylor, but Taylor was dealt with perfectly by Chris McCready at the back. Their main threat should have come from Chris Shuker on the wings, who, in the past, has done a lot of damage to Crewe teams. However, he floated from the left wing to the right wing without much threat, with Danny Woodards showing just what good form he’s in.
In the first half Tranmere had the ball in the back of the net only for the goal to be flagged off side. It came when Shuker hit a curling shot beyond Ben Williams from the edge of the area; the shot rebounded off the post for Greenacre, clearly in an offisde position, to head in.
For Crewe, Gary Roberts should have done better when he dragged a shot wide of the left post, whilst Danny O’Donnell wasted a glorious chance on the stroke of half time. His free header at the far post really should have found the back of the net but instead he sent it a couple of yards wide.
Prior to the second half, it was pleased to see Steve Holland come out with the players and get into a huddle on the pitch for a last minute team talk. Whilst it’s questionable as to what effect it has on the players, it certainly lifts the fans.
The game saw it’s better chances in the second half and we could have taken the leadw within ten minutes of the restart. A clever Billy Jones free kick, 25 yards out on the right flank, was hit low towards the keeper bottom left corner when everyone was expecting a high cross. The ‘keeper managed to get down well, but spilt the ball into the path of Byron Moore and Lee Barnard. A true 10 second goal mouth scramble ensued but in the end the ball was forced clear by the 4 Tranmere defenders.
It wasn’t long before the breakthrough though. A good spell of pressure won a corner, and the referee really had no option when McCready was pulled to the ground inside the box by a Tranmere defender. Tranmere may feel hard done to, as a lot of refs would have let similar things go, but the rules state it was a penalty. So, despite Tranmere’s best efforts to put Gary Roberts off, Gaz stepped up and blasted the ball home.
As is the norm these days at Crewe, the Alex sat back asking questions of Tranmere – yet the Tranmere equaliser came from a Tranmere counter attack. With Crewe back peddling, Danny Woodards, who’d had a superb game up to then, left Chris Shuker in acres of space. Once the ball reached Shuker, it was a matter of taking his time and picking his spot.
At 1-1, it was a case of making sure we didn’t completely crack for the second time in a week. Holland brought on Neil Cox to steady the midfield in place of boo-boys target Ben Rix. Lee Barnard too was taken off after picking up an injury, and, for the second away game in a row, around 5,000 ‘fans’. After the Tranmere keeper kicked the ball out of play for a player down, Lee Barnard was left baffled when he was booed for sending the ball back to the keeper at the restart.
The game past by without much incident till the last 5 minutes, where Tranmere really piled the pressure on. Their best chance though went as Ben Williams tipped over a header, and Crewe got a deserved draw.
Holland after the match said that the players were disappointed not to have won, and that’s about right. For a team sitting in 2nd place, Tranmere were nothing too special and it took a shoddy piece of defending for them to get back into the match.
Maybe it’s a sign of how weak this division is this year. Leeds seem to be the only team looking certainties for promotion at the moment as there doesn’t seem to be any run away pack like in previous years.
We’re still lacking a strike partner for Barnard and a left winger – if we can get both positions covered, maybe we could take advantage of a very inconsistent league?
Ben Williams – 7/10
Pulled off a great save at the end of the match, but wasn’t really called into action prior to that.
Danny Woodards – 8/10
Apart from his blip for the Tranmere goal, Danny was excellent.
Chris McCready – 7/10
Gave Gareth Taylor nothing all evening.
Danny O’Donnell – 7/10
Steady for Danny, and never let Tranmere in behind.
Billy Jones – 7/10
Struggled slightly when up against Shuker but other than that, good.
Gary Roberts – 7/10
Dominating performance and a 3rd goal for the season.
Ben Rix – 7/10
Did nothing wrong and linked defence with midfield. However, he’s slowly but surely becoming a target for the boo-boys, one or two faint anti-Rix chants. If it’s not Lunt, it’s Higdon and if it’s not Higdon it’s Rix. And they call themselves fans?
Steve Schumacher – 7/10
Up and down the pitch all evening, breaking up some Tranmere play. Should show more willingness to shoot when on the edge of the area.
Byron Moore – 6/10
Did his job but is not a left winger, and a more natural left footer is needed.
Ryan Lowe – 6/10
In and out of the game, and not surprising that his best play came when he dropped deeper. Ok cover up front but not a long term solution.
Lee Barnard 7/10
Huffed and puffed but was asked to do everything from holding the ball up to running in behind the defence. He’s a battler though.