Posted: 20.07.21 at 22:57 by The Editor
CREWE burst into life with a second-half display which was in stark contrast to their first-half offering against a strong Stoke side.
The evening started with all sides of a ground, filled again to the 3,500 mark by supporters from both clubs, standing to applaud young Ashton Hulme.
The Alex Academy keeper, whose fight against cancer has inspired the football world, kicked off an enthralling warm-up game, which started poorly for Dave Artell's side, but ended on a high note.
After their 1-0 success over Wolves in Saturday’s searing heat, this evening Crewe were placed firmly in the cooler by their Staffordshire neighbours.
They were timid against the Potters’ press and the rearguard shrunk into the shadows cast out on the sun-lit pitch when Stoke whipped in a succession of dangerous corners, scoring twice from them during a one-sided first half.
After one-time Alex teenage favourite Nick Powell thudded the post for the visitors straight after kick-off, a flag kick on the left was flicked onto the far post before Stoke centre-half Danny Batth pulled the rebound past Will Jaaskelainen with less than 70 seconds on the clock.
The Crewe keeper did well off his line to force Brown’s effort around. But then he was left exposed at Mario Vrancic’s corner and veteran frontman Steven Fletcher headed in Stoke’s second from close range (27).
Stoke looked like they could score at will as they easily picked their way through the Crewe ranks with Powell one of the tormentors in chief.
Vrancic stuck the crossbar with a deflected effort after Jaaskelainen’s tame kick out of his box heaped the pressure on his defenders.
There was little action at the other end to trouble Stoke keeper Adam Davies. Chris Long was closed down as he shot on the turn, but failed to test the keeper. Then Charlie Kirk wasted a great shooting opportunity by delaying his strike.
And just before the break Powell headed in the third after Brown hung the ball across from the right (44).
However, the second half was a different story as Crewe stormed back and by the 70-minute mark they had reduced the defecit to a goal.
Davies pushed around Callum Ainley’s drive before Josh Lundstram offered a neat finish, curling in right-footed into the far corner at the end of a neat move in the 58th-minute.
After a flurry of changes from the bench, Stoke were further unsettled when Owen Dale made the most of a free header from a corner to thunder a header in from 10 yards.
Crewe finished the stronger of the sides with Oli Finney curling a late effort over after a driving run by Ainley down the left.
But the result was academic on a night when support and kindness was the main agenda.
Alex boss Artell said: "The ovation from both sets of fans was terrific and will live with him [Ashton] for a long time. It was a great cause and I hope we raised a hell of a lot of money for him.
"I hope he recovers and he gets the money to buy an all-singing and dancing leg, so we can welcome him back and help him.
"I've told him and his mum that however he wants to progress in his profession as a club we will help him. He's a great kid, he's a great personality and we will help him stay in professional football."
Crewe: Jaaskelainen (Richards); Johnson, Hoban, Sass-Davies, Adebisi (Ramsay); Ainley, Lundstram (Murphy), Finney (Robbins); Dale, Long (Onyeka), Kirk (Griffiths). Subs: Tabiner
Stoke Davies; Smith, Wilmot, Batth, Fox; Allen, Vrancic; Powell; Brown, Fletcher, Doughty.
Subs: Bursik, Clucas, Tymon, Thompson, Wright-Phillips, Sorensen, Jones, Goodwin, Porter, Sparrow, Coates
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