The entertaining comeback against Colchester as of a week ago meant Crewe made the short journey to Shrewsbury full of optimism that the corner had been turned in the search for the elusive consistency that had undermined the season so far.
The Colchester victory made it 2 wins out of 2 and over 1,000 fans who had caught the bug of positivity travelled to Shropshire full of hope that they could indeed make it 3 out of 3 against a side that was struggling in the relegation zone on a run of no wins in five matches. With the outlook in the near-packed away end as bright as the winter sun that beat down on the Greenhous Meadow, it was so easy to predict what was to follow from the eternal balkers of Crewe Alexandra; a flat performance and a frustrating defeat.
As Steve Davis had voiced following his half-time dressing salvo against Colchester, the 0-2 win at Doncaster as well as that storming comeback vs the Us had showed what this Crewe side is capable of, yet they are finding it so easy not to produce that kind of form on a regular basis, deciding instead to churn out the kind of disjointed, sluggish performance that angered so many with home defeats to Yeovil and Oldham.
Davis will continue to wrestle with the curious case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde such is his drive and desire to win, though there was no denying his disappointment and desperation with yet another deceiving performance from his men on Saturday afternoon. One would tend to agree with his assessment that Crewe ultimately deserved a point from what was, in truth, a dour match but his decision to condemn referee Christopher Sarginson’s refusal to hand his team a penalty for what was a clear tug on loanee striker Lauri Dalla Valle was slightly misjudged. Shrewsbury were unlucky not to be awarded two valid penalty appeals of their own and such was the dejection of the Alex’s performance that saw only a speculative Chuks Aneke effort and a Mathias Pogba header trouble Chris Weale in the Shrewsbury goal, it would have been wrong to expect a bail out on behalf of the officials.
Shrewsbury carved out a chance for Luke Summerfield which he buried past Alan Martin with a bullet header and unlike the preceding Saturday, there was no way back after half-time. Despite Davis’ words and the disappointment of the journey home, the bottom line dictated that the home side were clinical and Crewe were so prevalently short of a cutting edge in a match sparse the way of chances. It was yet another time, as the Alex are surely mastering by now, to take stock after an anti-climactic, deflating defeat and prepare for the next match, an imposing Tuesday night trip to Sheffield United.
The Blades were second in League One with just one defeat in their opening 18 games as they have become the model of consistency Crewe could only dream to be, so even a point would have been out of the realms of expectation for the Alex fans willing to brave the cold on the travel to Yorkshire. Even if there remained a hopeful element upon the 200 or so that populated the away end in the impressive setting of Bramall Lane, it probably probably have been wiped out within half an hour as first Shaun Miller, to follow the rule of the haunting ex-player, and centre-half Harry McGuire both striking with corners as Sheffield United raced into a 2-0 lead.
This presents a problem in itself; again Crewe conceded first, the 12th time this season that has happened, and the feebleness of the way his side defended the two corner kicks, the second of which McGuire rose to no attention to head past a helpless Martin, would have been of serious concern to the on-watching manager. It would have seemed a long night would be in store as he stood on the touch-line, helpless as yet again Crewe struggled, but such is the clamour for eccentricity from this Alex side, they suddenly went against all expectation to draw level at 2-2 before half-time. First Mark Ellis headed home a rebound after a strike from the once again excellent Luke Murphy, before Mathias Pogba turned in from close range. If that wasn’t unbelievable enough, Chuks Aneke put the visitors ahead just after half-time only to see it cancelled out by Nick Blackman for 3-3. Both teams had chances to steal a win, but the roller-coaster night ended in a draw, just reward for both teams who had served up such wonderful entertainment.
Again, it was so evident to see the capabilities of this side as they raced back again from the brink to nearly clinch the most spectacular of three points, but the frequency in which they deceive that must cause unparalleled anger to the management team who have put an emphasis on consistency in recent weeks. It would have been hard to live with the Blades’ potency in attack, but in a performance that was notable for the impressive displays of Pogba, Murphy and Abdul Osman, any supporter would have been hard pressed to identify a poor showing from any member of the side, they were fully deserving of an unexpected point.
That’s what will wrangle with Davis in the next few days, just why can’t they produce it with regularity? He will continue to wrestle with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as he approaches Saturday’s meeting with Crawley, but it’s anybody’s guess just which one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s characters we will get.
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