Dugdale Delivers Derby Delight
There may be doubts over who was the match winner but there is no doubt that Crewe took a deserved three points from Derby day against Port Vale at Gresty Road to move within 3 points of the automatic promotion spots.
Jim Gannon gave Port Vale a hasty 'Crewe Alex makeover' after taking over from Micky Adams this month but he failed to beat his inspiration Dario Gradi at his own game.
Crewe, with the majority of possession and more attacking flair were more than comfortable against a side that have topped the table on several occasions this season and never been out of the top 7.
Shaun Miller struck first blood with the Alex's first shot on target 20 minutes in, his turn and shot inside the area was poorly dealt with by former Alex stopper Stuart Tomlinson as a bobble of the ball helped it's way beyond Tomo's grasp.
The Vale under Gannon were no longer the rough and tough side we had come to expect and it wasn't till after the goal that we saw Vale come into the game, but it was largely in vain as their powder puff attack, including the completely ineffective lone striker of Justin Richards, failed to really trouble the Alex back line.
The Alex went into the break having silenced a rowdy 2,200 travelling Vale fans, a number that brought out a heavy police presence and our biggest gate since the Nottingham Forest visit back in December 2006.
The second half brought out a brighter Vale, perhaps following a little pep talk from Gannon, but penetration was lacking. They were only offered a sight on goal once Danny Blanchett had made a blooper with a poor header back to Rhys Taylor.
With the ball falling short of Taylor, the Chelsea loanee was forced into rushing out and palming the ball away from two advancing Vale players. Unfortunately, clattering Richards at the same time as getting the ball led the the incompetent referee pointing to the spot. It wasn't a penalty but what would a Crewe/Vale match be without a unfair penalty?
Justin Richards stepped up and dispatched the penalty with calm, leaving Vale fans hopeful they may just have robbed a point from us. It was quite possible at this point it could have fallen apart. A Vale equaliser was swiftly followed by David Artell hobbling off to be replaced by an arguable weak link in Adam Dugdale. The game for a brief moment was turned on its head.
The Crewe players though showed true grit and quality. Dugdale immediately flashed a header inches wide of the post from a corner and the Alex smelt blood, all that was lacking was a killer touch.
Dugdale's aerial presence meant corners were becoming out best chance of grabbing a winner and having seen another header scrambled off the line, it was inevitable that the the match would be decided in such a way.
With less than ten minutes on the clock and Crewe pressuring the Vale, the first short corner of the evening saw Blanchett break down the byline to cross the ball in. Both Shaun Miller and Adam Dugdale, completely unmarked, went for the header and in it went into Tomlinson's bottom left corner. Gresty Road was rocking!
But who scored it will always be up for debate. Some say it was clearly Miller's whilst the PA gave it Dugdale's way and both players are claiming it. TV replays do nothing to help either players claim.
It doesn't matter though, Crewe saw out the match without an onslaught from Vale and secured a massive three points over Gannon's men, closing the gap between 4th and 5th to just a single point.
The Alex are now three points off the top three and, touch wood, looking serious contenders for a return to League One. Next week is a trip to 19th placed Aldershot whilst eight of the top half play each other and take points off each other.
Onwards and upwards.