Crewe Alex Vault - Memory No. 2
Saturday 13th December 1997
Stoke City 0 - 2 Crewe Alexandra
The waiting was finally over for Alex fans as mid December arrived in 1997. Crewe were already 22 games into their first ever season in the Championship (Division One as it was then), and had already faced the likes of Birmingham and Middlesbrough. Although big games, the one Crewe fans had waited a long time for was a competitive game against rivals Stoke City. Crewe had long been under the shadow of The Potters and this was their chance to exact some revenge for years of ridicule from Stoke fans.
A cold December afternoon awaited Crewe fans as they travelled in huge numbers for the first time to Stoke`s Britannia Stadium. The stadium was unknown territory for Crewe but it was the type of stadium they wanted to be playing in week in week out and Alex fans were desperate to avoid relegation in their first season in England`s second tier so this could continue.
Before the game Crewe were sat 20th in the league with 21 points from 22 games. Stoke were only five places above Crewe in 15th with 5 more points on 26. With players such as Peter Kavanagh and Peter Thorne in their side though, Stoke were expected to role over the relatively in-experienced team of Crewe quite easily.
As football fans know, anything can happen in derby games and Stoke were keen to avoid an upset as they looked to push up the table.
To the game, an attendance of 14, 623 saw Crewe awarded a free kick just outside the Stoke penalty area in the 11th minute. Crewe`s set piece specialist Shaun Smith stepped up and proceeded to bury the ball in the top corner from over 25 yards, giving Stoke keeper Carl Muggleton no chance. It was right in front of the Crewe travelling support and sent them into pandemonium, rarely had they waited so long for a moment like this.
Crewe hung onto their lead into the second half though Crewe fans had their hearts in their mouths when a Stoke cross-picked out Paul Stewart a matter of yards from the Alex goal. Stewart proceeding to head against the Crewe crossbar when it looked easier to score, the Alex faithful breathed easy again.
With Stoke pressing hard, in the 75th minute Crewe broke away on the counter attack, a through ball found Colin Little and on the turn he somehow bundled it into the net for 2-0. Crewe fans at the other end weren`t quite sure what had happened at the other end until they saw the Crewe players running away in celebration. Mass delirium broke out amongst the Alex fans, knowing there was no way back for Stoke now. Crewe stood firm for the remaining minutes and it finished 2-0. A fantastic victory for the club and the town and one that showed just how far Crewe had come from their Fourth Division plight only years earlier.
In the reverse fixture at Gresty Road Crewe won again 2-0, with goals from Ashley Westwood and Chris Lightfoot. Incidentally Crewe finished the season in a club record 11th place with 59 points, while Stoke were relegated with only 46.
It was a famous victory for the Alex on that cold December afternoon in Stoke and one Crewe fans will fondly remember for years to come, especially whenever the two teams meet again.
Teams that day:
Stoke: Muggleton, Pickering, Griffin (Tiatto, 63), Siguardsson, Tweed, Keen, Forsyth, MacKenzie, Thorne, Stewart, Kavanagh
Subs not used: Andrade, Whittle
Crewe: Kearton, Bignot, Smith, Unsworth, Foran, Lunt (Garvey, 89), Rivers, Holsgrove, Adebola (Little, 53), Seth Johnson, Street
Subs not used: Pope Click here to see other memories from the Crewe Alex Vault