The beginning of a break from the league for Crewe FC as they travelled to Wythenshawe FC for the JB Parker Challenge Cup. A much easier minibus journey than last week’s winding visit to Whaley Bridge meant spirits were high in the Crewe camp before kick-off. The game also provided the Crewe players with a chance to ‘Express themselves’ as manager Andy Aspinall phrased it in his pre-match talk. So with the rain steadily falling, could Crewe continue in the cup? Crewe got the game underway, beginning a fast paced opening five minutes, but it took until the 6th minute for the first shot. A tame freekick from Wythenshawe didn’t trouble Arran Lyons in the Crewe goal. Less than a minute later, and straight down the other end of the field, a foul on Harry Ashworth gave Nathan Southern a chance to give Crewe the lead. However his rasping freekick only troubled the wall before the home team cleared their lines. In the 9th minute some good work by Curtis Lewis on the right played in Derice Richards whose whipped ball to the edge of the box was volleyed in past the flailing keeper by Ian Carr. Some miscommunication almost took the goal away from the midfielder, but no need for the dubious goals panel on the day. 1-0 to Crewe, who were gradually growing into the game and their change of formation. Derice then went close in the 14th minute but his shot from a narrow angle went over following some good interplay with Kieron O’Connor. Derice again went close three minutes later when his long range effort skimmed off the wet surface but the keeper parried it away. Crewe were now ramping up the pressure, and in the 23rd minute Ashworth’s floated freekick was headed wide by a combination of Conor Alcock and Jake Maunder. Some slick passing starting from Dave Griffin at the back all the way through the team eventually ends up at Southern’s feet and his curling effort skids on the slippery pitch and almost caught the keeper out. From the ensuing corner, a neat routine eventually found Carr on the left whose shot looked to be going in from the bench but a slight deflection took it just wide. Crewe finally made their dominance count after more tidy work by Curtis played in Nathan Dyer on the right and his superb cross was expertly chipped over the keeper from the edge of the box by Derice Richards first time. An excellent goal, a fantastic assist, and I think it’s safe to say Crewe were certainly expressing themselves. However two minutes later it was Arran making a great save, getting down well to hold onto a deflected shot. Carr again went close in the 37th minute but only a fine reflex stop denied him following another Ashworth freekick. That rounded off the first half in terms of chances but certainly not effort. Wythenshawe kicked off the second half, which began in the same vein as the first with both teams battling for superiority. Crewe had the first chance of the half, when Southern fired just wide following a scramble in the box after a long throw. Three minutes later, Ian Carr won the ball back, drove forward with it himself and fired in an effort from distance but it was straight at the keeper. In the 65th minute a precise through ball from Southern, slotting in well in is role of midfielder for the day, found Ashworth but he was muscled off the ball while bearing down on goal. Ashworth was again involved again two minutes later when his low freekick almost caught out the keeper, who got down just in time to turn his trickling effort wide. A hat trick of chances for Harry Ashworth in five minutes, as he channelled his inner Di Canio and attempted a flying scissor kick from a Nath Dyer cross, but he couldn’t quite connect and the ball was cleared. The newly introduced Brandon then tried his luck, but his shot from the edge of the box was claimed by the keeper. Wythenshawe then kept Arran on his toes forcing him into a fine save to preserve his clean sheet. Arran was again involved when his exquisite pinpoint kick picked out Derice, who finding himself 1 on 1 was dispossessed by a sliding keeper who had to get his lunge spot on. The final chance of the game came in the 86th minute, when a Harry Maclennan freekick was nodded goalwards by a cluster of both Crewe and Wythenshawe players alike, but it dropped straight to the waiting keeper. The game eventually wound down with both teams battling until the final whistle. A fine result for Crewe, a 2-0 win and progression to the next round sealed. A great team performance as seen from the dugout, with Nathan Southern looking more than comfortable in his unfamiliar midfield role and Dave Griffin, calm and composed in the centre of the defence. Tricky conditions against a good team, made all the more impressive when considering the injury situation facing the team, with 12 players out for the near future. Injury woes? What injury woes? Speaking after the game, manager Andy Aspinall was more than pleased with how his team had done. “An Excellent performance, great result, and through to the next round of the cup which is all that matters today. Massive credit to the lads, I thought every one of them to a man was excellent.” “Notable absentees today, no Josh Ruane, no JJ Bailey, Matty Worrall still on the long term injured list. So we’ve come to a really difficult place with probably 12 or 13 unavailable first team players today and the lads have been absolutely fantastic. They controlled the game, deservedly 2-0 up at half time and in the second half they’ve just put in a really professional performance.”


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