Nantwich Town fell to a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat to local neighbours Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road. They pushed their full time opponents all the way and were a little unfortunate to lose the game after they dominated the 2nd half.
The Alex started the brighter early on and took the lead on 9 minutes when Ryan Wintle saw a free header saved, but followed in to tap in the rebound. The Dabbers responded within 2 minutes as Ryan Brooke fired home an Osebi Abadaki cross.
The Alex retook the lead 10 minutes later though, as Callum Ainley curled home after good football from the home side. The Dabbers had chances in the first half, with Ben Harrison seeing a deflected effort well saved.
In the 2nd half, the Dabbers equalised within 40 seconds of the restart, as Steve Jones’ shot just slipped out of the keepers hands to trickle over the line. The Dabbers pushed hard for a winner and could have pinched it. But in the end, a low finish from Callum Saunders won it for the Alex, who won their first Cheshire Senior Cup since 2003.
Phil Parkinson made 4 changes from the side that drew 1-1 away at Spennymoor Town last Saturday. Andy White and Steve Jones returned to the starting XI against their former club, with Jones in particular getting a warm reception before the game. Brooke and Abadaki also returned to the squad. The Alex line up contained Oliver Finney, who had spent a period on loan at the Dabbers earlier in the season.
The Alex started the brighter of the 2 teams and they were quick to control the possession. But it was the Dabbers who had the first half chances, as White saw a shot from range blocked and Abadaki cut inside and shot weakly on goal from outside the area.
The Railwaymen forged ahead inside 10 minutes though, as a cross from the left was met by Ryan Wintle in the box. He powered a header on goal, but Gyollai made an excellent save at point blank range. He was unable to stop the rebound falling nicely for Wintle, who tapped home from a few yards out.
The Alex were on top and Wintle fired wide after being set up by Owen Dale. However, the Dabbers responded within a few minutes of falling behind. Abadaki picked the ball up on the left wing and he worked his way into the box. He zipped a cross into the box and Brooke met it with a sweet side footed finish, which shot past Scott Wardley in the Alex goal. It was his 11th of the season and it drew the Dabbers level, much to the delight of the travelling Nantwich fans.
It was the Alex’s turn to respond to conceding and they should have gone back in front when some neat football in the Dabbers box saw the ball fall to Finney, but he side footed wide when he really should have scored. On 20 minutes, Ben Harrison embarked on one of his trademark mazy runs yet again, but he wasn’t able to fashion a chance.
The Alex were turning up the pressure, as Ainley saw a goal bound shot blocked before Saunders squandered a good chance after he won the ball back in the Dabbers half. He shot straight at Gyollai from the edge of the box. The Railwaymen did get the 2nd goal their play deserved after some quick football saw the ball fall to Ainley and he superbly curled beyond Gyollai into the top corner. It was a quality goal, but a blow for the Dabbers who had been level for just 10 minutes.
The Dabbers looked to hit back for a 2nd time and when they did manage to get the ball, they posed some questions. An Ibou Touray cross couldn’t find a green shirt in the box before Bell shot over the bar. The best chance came when Harrison advanced forward and fired on goal. The ball hit an Alex defender and looked to be looping over Wardley. The keeper was able to backpedal and tip over for a corner.
From the resulting corner, Harrison headed over. White had a shot blocked, whilst Pickering forced Gyollai into a save with his feet at the other end. Ainley had the final chance of the half as he skipped a challenge from Sam Hall, but shot wide from 25 yards.
The Dabbers came back out for the 2nd half re-energised and they got their 2nd equaliser barely 40 seconds in. The ball found its way to Steve Jones in the box and he spun and fired on goal. Wardley managed to get a hand on it, but not enough to stop the ball squirming over the line. It was a fantastic moment for the former Alex man, as he equalised against the club he scored 46 goals for over 177 appearances.
Parky made an immediate sub, bringing on Josh Hancock for Abadaki. The Dabbers were clearly lifted by the goal and had the hosts on the back foot. They won 2 quick corners and crosses from Touray and Steve Jones just couldn’t quite find team mates in the box. The Alex were finding it hard to hold onto the ball and a Ryan Wintle effort from range was all they could muster.
The Dabbers then almost took the lead as Hancock shot on goal from the edge of the box. The ball took a deflection and Wardley had to awkwardly palm the ball away, with the danger finally getting cleared by the Alex defence. Parky made his 2nd sub with just over 20 minutes to go, as Sean Cooke came on for Matt Bell. A Hancock cross was flicked on by Riley but claimed by Wardley as the Dabbers continued to press the look for a winner.
The Alex had a sight of goal when a Charlie Kirk free kick was flicked over by Perry Ng. They started to probe themselves and both Hancock and Harrison made superb blocks for corners as the Alex threatened. Wintle flicked a corner over the bar and Kirk fired well over as the game approached the last 10 minutes.
The final Dabbers sub came when Brooke was brought off for Joe Mwasile. Mwasile made an instant impact, causing his full back no end of problems. The pressure was really being turned up on the Alex as they struggled to get out of their own half. But despite the Dabbers pressure, they were sucker punched when the Alex counter attacked and Saunders was fed the ball. He showed his quality to find the bottom corner and put the Railwaymen ahead with 7 minutes to go.
It was harsh on the Dabbers, who had been largely untroubled in the 2nd half. They looked to equalise for a third time and pushed forward. Harrison got to a loose ball ahead of Wintle, who caught the Dabbers defender late. Wintle went into the book for his challenge.
The Dabbers pushed hard and Hancock had a goal bound effort blocked. The final chance came when a corner found its way to Steve Jones. His volley on goal was flicked on by Curtis Jones, but it went wide as the last chance to equalise came and went. The Alex were able to run down the clock and see out the final few minutes to win the game. The Dabbers will now look to pick themselves up as they head into the final 5 games of the league season.
Crewe Alexandra: Scott Wardley, Jamie Wilkinson, Harry Pickering, Oliver Finney, Marcus Poscha, Perry Ng(c), Charlie Kirk, Ryan Wintle, Callum Saunders, Owen Dale, Callum Ainley
Unused subs: Regan Griffiths, Jake Hilton, Luke Offord, Billy Sass-Davies, Oliver Harrison
Goalscorers: Wintle(9), Ainley(22), Saunders(83)
Nantwich Town: Dan Gyollai, Andy White, Ibou Touray, Curtis Jones, Ben Harrison, Sam Hall(c), Steve Jones, Wayne Riley, Ryan Brooke(Joe Mwasile, 77), Matt Bell(Sean Cooke, 67), Osebi Abadaki(Josh Hancock, 46)
Unused subs: Joel Stair, Tom Peers
Goalscorers: Brooke(11), S.Jones(46)
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