Match Report: Nantwich Town 1-5 Crewe Alexandra XI

By James Brown:

An overall positive performance from the Dabbers wasn’t enough to get the better of a clinical Crewe Alexandra XI in our penultimate pre-season friendly on Tuesday evening at the Weaver Stadium.

The Alex came out on top with a 5-1 victory thanks to goals from Lewis Reilly, Brad Walker (2), Oli Finney and Joe Lynch, four of which came in the second half.

Nantwich got themselves back in the game at 3-1 through a confident finish from substitute David Neligwa, however some mistakes in defence and high quality Alex strikes gave them a comfortable win.

With this game coming at short notice for both squads, manager Dave Cooke made some changes to the side who were 4-0 victors at Radcliffe FC on Saturday. Clayton McDonald, and two Trialists, one of which was a goalkeeper, were all in the starting XI while Crewe started usual first-teamers such as Michael Raynes, Brad Walker and Ben Garratt.

A bright start from the Dabbers saw Crewe keeper Garratt tested inside the opening ten minutes, as captain Caspar Hughes was played through the middle, but his effort was well saved by the experienced shot stopper.

The Nantwich trialist keeper was also being kept busy in the first half, making a couple of brilliant saves to deny Reilly and Regan Griffiths.

McDonald’s lofted ball downfield 15 minutes in was brought down with class by new signing James Lawrie before a slight miss-hit saw his effort go inches past the post as the Dabbers pressed for an opening goal.

Warning signs were there from the Alex however when a simple pass split the back four and sent Joe Lynch through one-on-one, but the young midfielder rolled his shot wide of the far post.

Some good defending from Crewe prevented a swift Nantwich counter attack between Lawrie and Danny Glover as the two new-men looked to link-up. The Dabbers were getting into the right positions and creating some decent sights of goal, however they struggled to make anything of the opportunities.

A penalty shout from Joe Mwasile was turned away by the referee with just over five minutes to go in the first half and, moments later Crewe went down the other end and took the lead as Reilly tucked home a neat finish from close range across goal into the bottom corner.

A first half which was largely dominated by the Dabbers saw Crewe have the one-goal advantage at the break.

The visitors were quick out of the blocks in the second half as, after a Toby Mullarkey strike from twenty yards out was fired over the bar, it was 2-0 three minutes into the half as Walker’s cross-cum-shot curled from right to left and went in off the corner of the post.

Nantwich didn’t deserve to be trailing, however the Alex were clinical at the right time and made it three after 52 minutes when some sloppy play in possession saw a pass being intercepted by Finney and cheekily tucked in past the helpless Trialist keeper.

Nantwich looked for a response to those two quick fire goals with Lawrie forcing Garratt into action before substitute Craig Lindfield fired over.

A deserved goal for the home side came just ahead of the hour mark when another substitute David Neligwa was picked out from a quickly taken free-kick, and the England schoolboy international steered his finish underneath the outrushing Garrett.

The Dabbers went on to look the better of the two sides throughout the majority of the second half, and should have pegged Crewe back again when some good link-up play between Jordan Davies and Joe Malkin saw Davies’ shot curl just past the far post.

Despite a small crowd the atmosphere was building as cross after cross was delivered into the Alex box from Lindfield and Nathan Cotterell as Malkin saw a header fly past the post.

Cotterell went searching for a goal of his own with 15 minutes to go, being found well on the left and hitting a long range effort with venom which almost dipped under the bar and into the roof of the net.

Joel Stair also went close with a headed chance from a free-kick as Nantwich ramped up the pressure but it wasn’t to be.

With chances missed, Crewe took advantage as the game headed into added time, a loose ball fell to Walker waiting on the edge of the box who neatly slotted past substitute keeper Matt Ellson for his second and to take the result away from the Dabbers before a penalty was awarded with what was to be the final kick of the game for a handball by Stair. Lynch stepped up and sent Ellson the wrong way to make the score 5-1.

Pre-season comes to an end for the Dabbers on Saturday with a trip to Leek Town (3pm kick-off) before the serious stuff begins a week later at The Weaver against Gainsborough Trinity.

Nantwich Town: Trialist A (Matt Ellson), Troy Bourne (Cobi Bateman), Trialist B (Nathan Cotterell), Joel Stair, Clayton McDonald (Niall Cope), Toby Mullarkey, Joe Mwasile (Jordan Davies), Caspar Hughes (c) (Joe Malkin), Danny Glover (David Neligwa), James Lawrie (Declan O’Riordan), Aaron Knight (Craig Lindfield)

Crewe Alexandra XI: Ben Garratt, Travis Johnson, Michael Raynes, Brad Walker, Luke Offord, Owen Dale (Billy Sass-Davies), Josh Lundstram, Oli Finney, Joe Lynch, Lewis Reilly (Abdul Djlo), Regan Griffiths

Photos courtesy of Jonathan White

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