League 2: Crewe Alexandra 3-0 Leyton Orient

First half goals from Callum Ainley, Ryan Wintle and George Cooper for Crewe Alexandra ended Leyton Orient’s 112 year stay in the Football League as they became the first team to be relegated into the National League at the Alexandra Stadium.

Crewe made 2 changes from last Monday’s 3-0 defeat at Yeovil Town with Cooper in for Jordan Bowery who couldn’t play against his parent club and Wintle replacing captain George Ray, the armband going to former Orient striker Chris Dagnall. Leyton Orient made 1 change from their 2-1 home win against Hartlepool last Monday with midfielder Liam Kelly being replaced by Tom Parkes, Teddy Mezague moving forward into midfield.

The hosts almost took the lead in the second minute when Oliver Turton was played in down the Alex right but his cross beat Dagnall into the centre with the striker about a yard from getting on the end of it. Cooper had the next effort at goal but it was saved by Sam Sargeant in the Orient goal before Dagnall was denied by a challenge from Parkes a minute later from Cooke’s left-wing cross.

The opening goal came on 26 minutes as Zoumana Bakayago was given the freedom of the Alex left to get a cross that was turned in by Ainley via a deflection at the back post. They extended the lead on the half hour as Cooper’s corner was headed home by Wintle despite an attempt to clear it off the line, the goal the first for Wintle in his professional career.

They almost extended the lead with 5 minutes before the break as a Parkes sliding challenge denied Ng his first ever goal for the Railwaymen before Dagnall’s effort was saved by Sargeant. They did get a third in the single minute of stoppage time as Ng released Dagnall down the right with him pulling the ball back for Cooper, whose shot found the bottom corner from just inside the area.

A double change at the break for the visitors saw captain Michael Collins and Mezague replaced by Paul McCallum and Josh Koroma as the O’s went to a back 3, with Parkes taking the armband. The game continued in the same pattern with Aron Pollock blocking a Callum Cooke shot before the Middlesbrough loanee almost turned provider for Dagnall with the experienced man again almost getting on the end of a cross from the left.

Harry Pickering came on for his senior debut just after the hour mark, a reward for his impressive season with Alex Morris’ U23 side, as he replaced Ainley who got a standing ovation from the home support whilst Bakayago was booked for an off-the-ball incident with Tristan Abrahams. After the tempo was slowed down for the final 20 minutes of the game, Abrahams had the first shot from Orient with 10 minutes left on the clock whilst Cooper hit the inside of the post from the corner of the area after Sargeant had made a save from Cooke.

Crewe’s next game is a trip to Plymouth next Saturday whilst Orient host Colchester on the same day. My next game, and final one of the season, will be Crewe’s final home game against Barnet on May 6th (5.30pm kick-off).

Crewe (4-4-2): Garratt; Turton, Ng, Bingham, Bakayago; Ainley (Pickering 63), Jones, Wintle, Cooke (Udoh 87); Dagnall (c), Cooper (Kirk 90)

Booked: Bakayago 72

Leyton Orient (4-4-2): Sargeant; Clark, Pollock, Parkes, Semedo; Collins (c, Koroma 45), Ochieng, Mezague (McCallum 45), Alzate; Adeboyejo (Dalby 74), Abrahams

U23 Professional Development League 2: Crewe Alexandra 0-2 Watford

Late goals from substitute Ogo Obi and Dion Pereira for Watford ended the play-off dreams for the Crewe Alexandra Under-23 team for this season this afternoon at the Alexandra Stadium.

Crewe Alexandra made 3 changes from last Monday’s 3-2 home win against Leeds with Billy Sass-Davies came in for Perry Ng at the back following Ng’s first team involvement on Monday at Yeovil, Jamie Wilkinson came in at left back for Ryan Wintle (a move that saw Harry Pickering play in central midfield) and Alex Kiwomya coming in for Callum Ainley, another of those who started in the south-west. Watford make 2 changes from their 4-1 defeat at Bristol City last week with Dion Pereira coming into their team for Carl Stewart in midfield and Michael Folivi coming in up front for Obi.

The opening chance of the game came for the visitors on 6 minutes after a defensive mix-up between Crewe goalkeeper Andy Dawber and Sass-Davies saw the defender nod the ball past his keeper with Watford trialist Harvey Bradbury hitting the outside of the post on the stretch. The next chance came on 27 minutes with Max Ryan hitting a half-volley wide from a right-wing cross.

On the half hour mark, Folivi took a shot from the edge of the area which Dawber fumbled and turned over the bar at the second attempt after palming the ball backwards whilst the first chance from the hosts came 4 minutes from the break as a deep Ross Woodcock cross was volleyed by Callum Saunders whose outside of the foot volley was saved by Charlie Bannister in the Hornets goal.

That chance settled the hosts down and they could have leveled through Daniel Udoh who couldn’t quite connect with a Pickering free-kick whilst Watford should have extended their lead on the stroke of half time with Bradbury heading wide from 8 yards out from a Ryan cross from the left.

A change at the break for the Railwaymen with Josh Lundstram coming on for Wilkinson, allowing Pickering to play in a more familiar position at left-back. Another chance fell the way of Bradbury but his left-footed drive was tipped away by Dawber for a corner. On the hour mark, Crewe made 2 substitutions with Lewis Reilly and Luke Walley coming on for Udoh and Kiwomya and David Sesay came on for Watford in place of Dennon Lewis before Watford hit the frame of the goal again with Folivi’s effort deflected onto the bar by Sass-Davies.

Into the 69th minute where from a Crewe corner Watford got their next chance with Pereira’s break down the right resulting in him picking out Folivi whose volley was blocked by teammate Bradbury, his last involvement as he was replaced by Obi. A rare Crewe chance came with 15 left on the clock as Pickering’s right-wing cross following a short corner was headed goalwards by Charlie Kirk with Bannister making a brilliant save diving away to his right.

Into the final 10 minutes with Watford making their final change of the game with Adeyemo coming onto the field for Brandon Mason, who left the field of play with cramp, with Sesay moving to left-back. A couple of minutes later Watford took the lead as central defender Charlie Rowan brought the ball out of the defence with Dawber spilling his effort at goal allowing Obi to round him and Sass-Davies and finish from a tight angle. The second of the game came deep into stoppage time after a short corner was ran into the area by Folivi and finished off the inside of the post by the impressive Pereira.

Crewe finish their season at Bramall Lane next Monday night against Sheffield United (7pm kick-off) whilst Watford finish the season with a home game on Friday against QPR at Vicarage Road (2pm kick-off). My next game is at the weekend as Crewe Alexandra host Leyton Orient in League 2.

Crewe (4-4-2): Dawber (c); Woodcock, Poscha, Sass-Davies, Wilkinson (Lundstram 46); Kirk, Pickering, Finney, Kiwomya (Walley 60); Udoh (Reilly 60), Saunders

Watford (4-4-2): Bannister; Eleftheriou (c), Mukena, Rowan, Mason (Adeyemo 81); Lewis (Sesay 63), Ryan, Ovenden, Pereira; Bradbury (Obi 69), Folivi

League 2: Crewe Alexandra 2-2 Notts County

Crewe Alexandra came from behind twice to level the game against mid-table Notts County at the Alexandra Stadium on Good Friday.

Crewe were unchanged for the sixth straight game whilst County made one change from their 2-1 win at Carlisle last Saturday with former Alex midfielder Michael O’Connor replacing Rob Milsom.

The hosts had the first opportunity as Billy Bingham’s effort from 25 yards was deflected for a corner before the visitors took the lead on 9 minutes. A misplaced ball from Crewe midfielder James Jones found Adam Campbell whose shot from just inside the area went underneath Ben Garratt’s body and into the net, his first goal since December. The closest Crewe came to equalising in the opening 20 minutes saw George Cooper’s cross turned away by Elliott Hewitt under pressure from Chris Dagnall.

The Magpies should have extended their lead on 35 minutes as the ball was cut back to Shola Ameobi whose 15 yard effort was wonderfully saved by Garratt and pushed out for a corner. 3 minutes later the Railwaymen equalised as Richard Duffy’s misplaced pass found Callum Cooke and the Boro loanee slid Dagnall in with the experienced striker placing the ball to keeper Adam Collin’s left. The final effort of the half saw Hewitt get in behind the Alex defence but was denied by captain George Ray just before he could get the shot away.

The opening effort of the second half came 3 minutes after the break as Carl Dickinson’s free-kick was well saved by Garratt after a foul by Ben Nugent on Jorge Grant. On 51 minutes County took the lead again as Jon Stead’s pass found O’Connor after Cooke gave the ball away with the Northern Irishman scoring his 2nd of the season. After efforts from Jordan Bowery and O’Connor, Crewe equalised as Dagnall’s run from the half-way line and shot from the edge of the area was deflected away but Jones’ volley went through the legs of Collin.

With 15 minutes to go, O’Connor volleys from the edge of the D but his effort was straight at Garratt. A contentious decision was made in the 90th minute as Ameobi went down under pressure from Garratt but the referee gave the former Newcastle player a yellow card for diving, those behind the goal have since suggested that it was a penalty.

Both teams are back in action on Monday with Crewe travelling to Yeovil and Notts County host Portsmouth. My next game is Nantwich vs Ilkeston tomorrow afternoon.

Crewe (4-3-3): Garratt; Turton, Ray (c), Nugent (Ng 69), Bakayago; Jones, Bingham, Cooke; Dagnall, Bowery, Cooper (Wintle 69)

Notts (4-4-2): Collin; Tootle, Duffy, Hollis, Dickinson; Grant, O’Connor, Hewitt, A.Campbell (Yeates 72); Stead (T.Campbell 90), Ameobi (Forte 90)

Booked: Hewitt 86, Ameobi 90

U23 Professional Development League 2: Crewe Alexandra 3-2 Leeds United

A superb volley from Callum Saunders gave Crewe Alexandra a 3-2 victory to keep their play-off dreams alive at Under-23 level against Leeds this afternoon at the Alexandra Stadium.

Crewe made 3 changes from their Cheshire Senior Cup victory over Nantwich last Wednesday with Andy Dawber starting in goal for Scott Wardley, Ross Woodcock replacing Jamie Wilkinson at right-back whilst Daniel Udoh came in for Owen Dale up front.

The opening chance of the game occured in the 2nd minute with Julio Lopez heading over a corner for the visitors before an Oliver Finney effort from the edge of the area with his weaker right foot was deflected over the bar for a corner a couple of minutes later. The opening goal of the game came on 26 minutes with a low Harry Pickering cross finding Daniel Udoh with his back to goal and his lay-off into the path of skipper Perry Ng who placed the ball into the bottom corner.

The equaliser for Leeds came 10 minutes before the break as left-back Tom Pearce’s cross was glanced into the far post by Sammy Amissah whilst the final effort of the first half came as Charlie Kirk’s left-footed effort from the edge of the area was saved by Mory Diaw in the Leeds goal.

Both teams made a change at the back with a change at centre back for Crewe as Billy Sass-Davies replaced Marcus Poscha whilst Mike Taylor replaced Robbie Gotts at right back for Leeds. Ryan Wintle, who it was later announced that he had extended his contract with the club for another year, drove a shot towards goal which was beaten away by Diaw before he gave Crewe the lead again on 55 minutes. The ball was played into Saunders whose lay-off was fired into the goal from 20 yards.

Leeds had a free-kick from 30 yards on the hour which Eoghan Stokes curled over before Saunders took an effort on from just inside the area which Diaw saved for a corner and substitute Jack Clarke’s effort from just out the area was tipped over the bar for a corner by Dawber. The final 15 minutes saw Wintle again go close as his shot was blocked by Lopez after the Alex midfielder took it around a defender after having to run round the referee.

Saunders scored the best goal of the game (and most probably of the season) as he volleyed Wintle’s long ball over Diaw on the stretch 12 minutes from time before a free-kick from Pearce was turned in by Taylor’s head inside the far post.

Crewe’s next game at this level is a week on Wednesday (19th April) against Watford at the Alexandra Stadium with a 1pm kick-off whilst Leeds host Sheffield Wednesday on 21st April at Elland Road. My next game is on Friday as Crewe host Notts County.

Crewe (4-4-2): Dawber; Woodcock, Ng (c), Poscha (Sass-Davies 46), Pickering; Ainley, Wintle, Finney, Kirk (Lundstram 90); Saunders, Udoh (Reilly 60)

Leeds (4-3-1-2): Diaw; Gotts (Taylor 46), O’Connor (c), Lopez, Pearce; Whitehouse, Nicell, Odour; Stokes; Amissah (Clarke 59), Knight (Wollerton 76)

Northern Premier League: Nantwich Town 3-2 Ashton United

A late strike from veteran Northern Ireland forward Steve Jones was the difference between play-off contenders Nantwich Town and mid-table Ashton United at the Weaver Stadium despite the hosts almost throwing away a 2 goal half-time lead.

Nantwich made 2 changes from Wednesday night’s Cheshire Senior Cup final defeat to Crewe with Josh Hancock and Joe Mwasile replacing Steve Jones and Osebi Abadaki, both of which were on the Dabbers bench, whilst Ashton make 1 change from their 2-1 home defeat to Workington last Saturday as Simon Woodford replaced Max Cartwright, who was recalled by Stockport this week from his loan spell with the Robins, at the back.

The opening chance of the game came on 10 minutes with Lee Knight firing over when he should have done better before Nantwich keeper Daniel Gyollai, who turned 20 this week, tipped a Matty Chadwick free-kick out for a corner following a foul from Ibou Touray on Woodford. Nantwich’s first effort came on the quarter-hour with Ryan Brooke not able to get on the end of Hancock’s left-wing cross whilst they took the lead a couple of minutes later after a terrible back-pass played Mwasile in behind allowing the Nantwich winger to lob Luke Pilling, who was left in no mans’ land.

After a period of pressure with Brooke looking dangerous on the wing, Andy White’s right-wing cross was headed goalwards by Hancock which was straight at Pilling and Ashton’s first effort after the goal saw Charlie Duke’s cross turned over by Knight. The lead was extended on 38 minutes with Matt Bell’s inswinging corner missed by Pilling as he went to punch the ball with the ball going over the line off the unfortunate Dominic Smalley.

Ashton made a change to get back into the game in midfield with John Roberts replaced by Richard Smith to give the midfield a bit of physicality, with the sub heading wide before going into the ref’s book after 3 or 4 fouls early in the second period. Ashton got a foothold back into the game just before the hour mark after a curling effort from Chadwick wasn’t held by Gyollai with Crowther left with a tap-in from the edge of the 6-yard box.

After a couple of subs for the hosts and a change for the visitors, it was all Nantwich with White, Mukendi and Hancock all coming close to adding to the lead. Into the final 10 minutes of the game and still only one side looked as though they were going to win as Mukendi headed wide when he should have done better before Curtis Jones’ overhead kick went wide of the far post.

The final goal for Nantwich came a minute after Cavell Coo came on in the Ashton midfield with him losing the ball in the middle of the park with the ball finding Steve Jones with the experienced substitute finding the top corner of the goal. That looked to have sealed the game but a minute later a cross into the Nantwich box wasn’t dealt with and the ball went in off Wayne Riley for the second own goal of the game.

Nantwich’s next game is next Saturday as they host Ilkeston with Ashton’s next game being a home game against Stafford Rangers on Tuesday night. My next game is on Monday afternoon in the U23 Professional Development League with Crewe hosting Leeds at the Alexandra Stadium.

Nantwich (4-2-3-1): Gyollai; White, C.Jones, Harrison, Touray; Hall, Riley; Mwasile (S.Jones 71), Bell, Hancock; Brooke (Mukendi 73)

Ashton (4-2-3-1): Pilling; Smalley, Mason, Woodford, Stanchini (Coo 88); Lees (c), Roberts (Smith 46); Crowther, Duke (Maiese 69), Knight; Chadwick

Booked: Smith 53

Cheshire Senior Cup: Crewe Alexandra 3-2 Nantwich Town

A Callum Saunders goal 6 minutes from time gave Crewe Alexandra their first Cheshire Senior Cup victory since 2003 at the Alexandra Stadium against near neighbours Nantwich Town despite the Northern Premier League twice drawing level after the Alex took the lead.

Crewe made 4 changes from their Under-23s game on Monday night (a 4-1 win at Ashton Gate against Bristol City) with Scott Wardley replacing Andy Dawber in goal, Jamie Wilkinson in for Ross Woodcock at right-back, Callum Ainley in for Chelsea loanee Alex Kiwomya out wide and Owen Dale in for Daniel Udoh up front.

Nantwich also made 4 changes from Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Spennymoor Town with former Crewe academy graduate Andy White coming in at right back for Joel Stair, Steve Jones came in as captain against his former club for Josh Hancock on the right-wing, Abadaki in for Joe Mwasile on the left-wing whilst Brooke came in for Tom Peers up front.

The opening effort of the game saw Nantwich attack through White but his effort was blocked before Abadaki came in off the wing and his shot was straight at Wardley. Crewe took the lead on 8 minutes as Harry Pickering’s left-wing cross was headed down by Ryan Wintle, straight at Daniel Gyollai but the Crewe midfielder scored at the second attempt. Nantwich equalised 5 minutes later as Abadaki’s cross from the left was finished first-time at the near post by Brooke.

There were 2 efforts from Crewe before they re-took the lead with Saunders shooting straight at Gyollai whilst Callum Ainley’s shot was blocked by Ben Harrison. They did take the lead again on 21 minutes as Ainley played a 1-2 with Charlie Kirk with the former curling the ball past Gyollai into his top-left corner. Nantwich almost leveled 10 minutes later as Harrison came out of the defence with the ball before taking a shot that was deflected and tipped over by the young Alex keeper.

Into the second half and Nantwich equalised nearly straight away. The ball dropped to Steve Jones inside the area with the veteran forward firing it goalwards which Wardley got a hand to but not enough to keep the ball out. Nantwich were the better side in the opening part of the second half and could have took the lead if Brooke could have got on the end of Ibou Touray’s cross from the left.

Mid-way through the second half and sub Hancock had a deflected shot saved by Wardley before Saunders got in behind the Dabbers backline with Harrison making another decent block and Crewe captain Perry Ng headed a Kirk free-kick over the bar. Into the final 10 minutes and Saunders got in again firing another shot over before he scored the winner getting on the end of an Oliver Finney through-ball finishing across Gyollai into the bottom corner of the goal. The final chance of the game came in stopppage-time with a Cooke corner falling to Steve Jones on the edge of the area with his shot deflected wide by Curtis Jones.

Crewe’s next game for the Under-23s sees them host Leeds on Monday afternoon at the Alexandra Stadium whilst Nantwich’s next game is against Ashton United at the Weaver Stadium on Saturday, which is also my next game.

Crewe (4-4-2): Wardley; Wilkinson, Ng (c), Poscha, Pickering; Kirk, Wintle, Finney, Ainley; Saunders, Dale

Booked: Wintle 87

Nantwich (4-2-3-1): Gyollai; White, C.Jones, Harrison, Touray; Hall, Riley; S.Jones (c), Bell (Cooke 67), Abadaki (Hancock 47); Brooke (Mwasile 77)

League 2: Crewe Alexandra 1-2 Cambridge United

A goal in each half from Luke Berry was enough for Cambridge United to overcome Crewe Alexandra despite Cambridge captain Leon Legge putting the ball into his own net at the Alexandra Stadium.

Crewe were unchanged from their 2-0 away win at Carlisle last Saturday so they continued with the team that had won all of their previous 3 games, keeping clean sheets in all 3, whilst 2 changes with Conor Newton coming in for former Alex youngster Mark Roberts (Newton playing in midfield with Greg Taylor playing at the back) and Barry Corr starting up top instead of Ben Williamson.

The first meaningful effort of the game came on 5 minutes after some neat interplay between Chris Dagnall and George Cooper which saw the former have his shot saved by Will Norris with the first Cambridge chance came on 10 minutes as a Berry free-kick was cleared to Liam O’Neil but his shot flashed wide of the post. The next chance came on the half hour mark with the on-loan Jordan Bowery’s shot saved by Norris with his rebound from Cooper’s half-volley flew over the bar.

Cambridge took the lead with 10 minutes to go of the half Berry took the ball from just outside the area, taking on 2 men before beating a George Ray slide-tackle and smashing the ball across the goal past Ben Garratt. They could have extended the lead a few minutes later but Garratt saved the ball from O’Neil’s drive before a superb save from Garratt prevented Harrison Dunk from extending the lead for the visitors.

Into the second half, Crewe equalised just before the hour mark and a ball was switched to the left to Dagnall (where it looked as Brad Halliday was pushed over by Dagnall) with the striker’s ball turned into his own net by Legge under pressure from Bowery. A minute later, Cooper’s cross was almost turned in by Dagnall but he was only inches away from connecting.

After a foul was given away by Ben Nugent (that the defender was booked for), Berry struck the free-kick into the corner of the goal, although if the wall had jumped they might have kept it out. In stoppage time Cambridge were reduced to 10 men as Paul Lewis, who had only come on in the 88th minute, was sent off for a 2-footed lunge on Dagnall as the Alex striker came away with the ball from a defensive corner.

Crewe’s next game sees them travel to Accrington with Cambridge hosting Leyton Orient, both next Saturday. My next game is the Cheshire Senior Cup final on Wednesday night seeing the Alex’s Under-23 team face Nantwich Town at the Alexandra Stadium.

Crewe (4-3-3): Garratt; Turton, Ray (c), Nugent, Bakayago (Ng 76); Jones, Bingham, Cooke (Kiwomya 76); Dagnall, Bowery, Cooper

Booked: Turton 10, Nugent 70

Cambridge (4-2-3-1): Norris; Halliday, Legge (c), Taylor, Carroll; O’Neil, Newton (Elito 61); Maris (Lewis 88), Berry, Dunk; Corr (Ikpeazu 61)

Sent Off: Lewis 91