Unbeaten Run Remains Intact. Just.
The crazy month of October continued but we just about kept our nine game unbeaten run in the league going with a 3-3 draw against Torquay.
It wasn't pretty, in fact it was downright ugly from the Alex at times. Torquay were seven without a win before today's game but, just as our unbeaten run may not be as impressive as it looks on the face of it, Torquay looked a better side than their form gave them credit for.
How much of that was down to a shoddy Crewe outfit remains unclear. A slow start from the Railwaymen would be an understatement, we failed to get out of the blocks completely for the first 45 minutes of the game. Lee Bell struggled to put a foot right and Patrick Ada & Dave Artell struggled as Elliot Benyon ran them ragged.
With the Alex not quite with it, Torquay took full advantage. They may have struggled to come by goals this season but they had no trouble sticking away two set pieces in the first 15 minutes. For the first, Ada sloppily headed out a goal kick for a corner before Artell was unusually complacent to allow Mark Ellis in at the far post for a free header. Eight minutes later Ada popped up again, this time tumbling Benyon as he turned Ada and nearly got free on goal. The result free kick was floated in and converted by Ellis again.
We offered little for the rest of the first half. Torquay limited Grant and Donaldson's time on the ball and the Railwaymen generally fluffed their lines when it came to play in the final third. Our best chance of an early chance back into the game was turned away by the referee; despite the humongous Torquay keeper clearly carrying the ball outside his area, the referee decided as long as he didn't wave it above his head before doing a juggling act, that's fine by him!
It wasn't until the final few minutes of the half we finally woke up and started playing a bit. One attack finally proved fruitful when Byron Moore got the better of Guy Branston whose had got the better of the ball! The referee pointed to the spot but Lee Bell's spot kick crashed off the underside of the bar and bounced out off the line.
Impressively, heads didn't drop and it was only a matter of seconds before Donaldson made amends. Murphy's ball over the top of the Torquay defence found Donaldson with the time to turn and lash home from just inside the area. A lifeline at half time. Two-one was probably not quite what we deserved. It was a pretty poor first half, probably the poorest 45 minutes of the season, and didn't leave much hope for the second half.
Thankfully every 45 minutes is a game within itself at Crewe. The second half was pretty much a Crewe affair, we controlled possession for much of it - although had the obligatory muck up - and it was time to turn the tables on last weekend.
It's unfortunate that the obligatory muck up came before the turn around though. We huffed and puffed for 20 minutes, only to receive a sucker punch not too dissimilar to the one Oxford served a couple of weeks ago. Lee Bell lost the ball in the centre for the umpteenth time to Elliot Benyon and when Benyon was felled, quick thinking from Torquay and too much standing around from the Alex saw Eunan O'Kane released free on goal. He put it past Rhys Taylor off the crossbar.
So a last 20 minute, two goal come back it had to be. I can't remember the last time I saw something like that at a Crewe match... but there was hope.
There's a lot to be said about substitutions. Dario generally shy's away from them until the last 10 minutes but I think the completely ineffective combination, as good as they were on Tuesday, of Grant and Donaldson forced his hand today. Their replacements, Shaun Miller and Ajay Leitch-Smiith, set about changing the game between them.
The added attacking energy not only got the rest of the team going but the fans also. Within 3 minutes of their arrival we were back in the game; Westwood picking up a stray ball 25 yards out and with a chest down and a shot on the half volley, Westy set about getting a point from the game.
The goal really gave everyone the belief and within five minutes the scores were level. It was another penalty after Branston had taken down Ajay Leitch-Smith in a all out goal mouth scramble; Torquay defenders did their fair amount of protesting but frankly it was as clear a penalty as you'll see. Following Bell's miss in the first half, Westwood stepped up to the plate this time and made no mistake.
It's fair to say we probably should have won it from there. Nick Powell was brought on for a bright 10 minutes and after sending one header whiskers wide he'll be kicking himself for not netting the winner. Shaun Miller's work and teasing ball left the 16 year old with a glorious chance and an almost open net from 8 yards out only to send his header sailing over.
It was end to end stuff as the final whistle approached and Torquay were not settling for a point; they saw Rhys Taylor pull off a fantastic save before Westwood cleared a injury time corner off the line. Phew.
A point's a point. I've forgotten what a win gets you...?
Despite the comeback I wasn't quite as jubilant as the Chesterfield fans last week, the overall performance still left a lot to be desired - particularly in the first half. Individual performances were also well below par; Dave Artell, Patrick Ada and Lee Bell can't be too pleased with themselves.
On the bright side, we picked up in the second half and salvaged a point. Last week we were left wondering if a Crewe side come come back from a couple of goals down. I suppose we got our answer today.