A second home game in a row for Crewe, as they entertained newly promoted Billinge FC. After the heart-breaking late equaliser they conceded last week, Crewe were looking to get back on track. Despite the draw in their previous game, Crewe’s home form was certainly still intimidating and their run of good results was still intact. Crewe kicked off the first half and immediately went on the attack. Derice Richards fired in a snapshot from outside the box, the ball took a deflection on the way through, and Nathan Southern instinctively gets a deft touch on the ball to flick it over his head and over the keeper. A fantastic bit of improvisation and skill from the striker, who gave Crewe the lead after just 46 seconds. After that lightning quick start the game, the next 10 minutes became decidedly scrappier with both teams battling for possession. The next clear cut chance came in the 14th minute, Ian Carr played in Harry Ashworth who worked some space on the edge of the box and fired in a low drive that went just wide of the far post. Four minute later a neat over-the-top ball by Jake Maunder was inches away from the charging Richards, but the linesman’s flag was already up. Richards was again causing the opposition defence problems when Southern played him through down the left hand side of the box, he then squared the ball for Ashworth but the midfielder couldn’t quite position himself to turn the ball in. A long ball from Arran Lyons caught out the Billinge defence in the 29th minute, Southern rushed onto it, shielded it well before laying it off for Harry Maclennan whose cross/shot flew just wide with the goalkeeper scrambling. Billinge then reminded Crewe of their own attacking threat, piecing together a good move but their final shot went wide of the Crewe goal. Straight down the other end, and Richards turned his marker, played through Southern on the right, but the strikers drilled cross wasn’t connected with by a player from any team and it fizzed across the box untouched. With the chances coming thick and fast it was Arran's turn to be tested, saving superbly 1 on 1 with the opposition striker in the 34th minute. However there was nothing he could do four minutes later, when a Billinge corner was powered home by a leaping defender to pull the away team level. Crewe then pushed for the goal that would restore their lead, and were nearly handed it when a ball ricocheted off a Billinge defender, and almost fell to Ian Carr at the back post but he couldn’t quite connect. It was Carr again at the back post a minute later following a whipped ball in from Maunder after a poor corner. However the midfielder clattered into a combination of the ball and opposition goalkeeper. That would be the final chance of a tricky first half, with the teams entering the changing rooms at a stalemate. Billinge got the second half rolling, but Crewe had the first chance in the 47th minute when JJ Bailey met an Ashworth corner, but his header was straight at the keeper. Down the other end, it was Arran Lyons turn to make a save, comfortably holding on to a headed effort. The next clear-cut chance didn’t arrive until the 64th minute, when Richards rolled his marker and hit a curling effort from the edge of the box that rolled just wide of the far post. Crewe however didn’t appear to learn from the first half, and a Billinge corner was again their undoing. In the 68th minute, a downward header from a floated corner found the back of the net, and Crewe had seen their early lead slip away. Crewe then piled forward and only two last ditch tackles in two minutes denied Richards and Southern from getting a shot on goal. In the 79th minute, a poor punch by the keeper from a Nathan Dyer cross was almost swept in on the rebound but a Billinge player managed to get a block in. Ashworth then tried a speculative effort from distance in the 83rd minute, but despite a good connection the ball skewed wide of the post. Dyer then tried his luck from distance, but his effort was straight at the keeper who held on with Crewe players lurking in abundance. With Crewe throwing men forward there was an inevitability about a possible counter attack, but a superb triple save by Lyons denied the newly introduced Billinge striker. Baileys flick on the 90th minute was held up well by Maunder in a crowded box, he laid it off to Ashworth but he couldn’t keep his shot down. The final chance of the game arrived, and it wasn’t without a hint of controversy. A good tackle denied Richards, Ashworth was first to the loose ball and looked to have been tripped in the box by a trailing leg. However the Crewe appeals fell on deaf ears and the referee blew for full time. Post-match manager Andy Aspinall reflected on the defeat; “Fell short of the level that we expect, we started brightly enough and got an early goal, but after that we were far from what we’ve been this season. Probably our worst performance of the season which is a shame because we’ve been good at home, we’ve been in good form and with no disrespect to our opposition today, we’ve lost against a team that aren’t around the top of the table. If we have aspirations of progressing and finishing as high as we can, then we’ve got to be better in games like this. It’s disappointing because we’ve conceded two from set plays again but far from happy unfortunately today because we’ve not been good enough, and credit to Billinge. They’ve come, they’ve waited for their chances, and they’ve scored two from two corners, two good headers. But it’s been a disappointing day because we’ve been far below what we should be.”


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