It’s never your team, it’s always your rivals who are the one’s to be knocked out by the non-league giant killers. Your team is too good to be knocked out by a non-league team, well so you think. It was the Crewe way of thinking before Telford came to Gresty Road in the FA Cup 3rd round. The team looked strong enough despite Brammer, Moses, McCready, Vaughan, Sorvel, Walker, Tomlinson, Edwards and Smart all injured with midfield dynamo Justin Cochrane suspended. The team picked its self….
B.Jones - Foster - Wright - Tonkin
Lunt - Higdon - Rix
Varney - Ashton - S.Jones
Obviously the more buoyant team, Telford started the brightest and kicked off before hitting down the right wing. Sam Ricketts whipped a cross in to the onrushing Lee Mills but Billy Jones managed to get in front of him to smash the ball out for a corner. The corner was hit to the near post for Lee Mills, both Ince and Varney went up for the ball but neither were near and Lee Mills simply guided the ball into the open net from 3 yards.
Crewe fans, and no doubt players, were shocked but there was a certainty around the ground that it was a matter of time before we brought it back level. We were dominating with Telford pinned back in their own box. We pushed and Luke Varney’s persistence paid off as he won a corner. From the corner it could have been a repeat of Wigan as Lunt sprayed a ball to the edge of the area where that superhuman Billy Jones volleyed it from the edge of the area but Challis closed down well to deny Billy the goal.
On the 5th minute we went closer with a cross from Billy Jones it bounced down to Ashton who scuffed his volley from the left side of the area, the ball went over the keeper and looked to be going in but on the line Luke Varney couldn’t get above Trevor Challis, who cleared off the line.
Varney nearly did it again when he got inside the right of the penalty area and from the byline cut it across an open net… Jonah slid in just a heart beat too late.
Varney, Billy and Tonkin hit cross after cross but Telford held on and cleared them time and time again. Varney’s shot, from the edge of the area on the 15th minute, summed us up as it curled from the right out for a corner.
Luke Varney went the closest when he got into space in the right side of the area, from an angel he just hit towards the roof of the net but the keeper managed to push it over the crossbar. A few minutes later Varney had less luck as Matthew Clarke slid in from behind on Varney and forced Varney to fall awkwardly on his shoulder. Clarke was booked but Varney faces a spell on the sidelines as he suffers a new injury to the shoulder he had surgery on earlier this season. Varney also adds to the growing, now at 9 first team-ers, injury list.
On the rare occasion Telford got into the Crewe half Lee Mills caused a bit of troubled and from just inside the area he smashed the ball over the Gresty Road End. Kenny Lunt meanwhile saw his weak shot well wide of the right post, from 25 yards.
Five minutes from half time it was still all Crewe. Tonkin was charging forward and Billy Jones was hitting some sweet crosses in. Kenny Lunt though couldn’t quite get into the game with him being tightly marked by the Telford midfield.
Dean Ashton was the one frightening the hell out of Telford defenders, and his first real good chance saw some skill Premiership fans drool over. Deano got away from his marker, about 30 yards out, before dropping his shoulder and shimmying past another defender where he hit a powerful shot towards the top right corner from 25 yards but the keeper at full stretch managed to tip to round the post.
Two minutes later Deano’s shot from inside the area, from the right, flashed across the face of the goal before going inches wide of the far post.
After finishing the first half with about 80% possession and so many good chances it seem inevitable the equaliser would come but somehow it wasn’t happening for us and things got a little panicky.
From the off Crewe showed real determination to get that equaliser and within 25 seconds of the restart Dean Ashton bombed down the middle of the Telford half and from 30 yards smashed a corker of shot at the top corner but somehow it was literally skimmed the left post.
In the second half we started to relax more and pass it around the back a bit more, with Telford sitting deep, their strikers being as far forward as half way in their own half, it was easy for Wright, Foster, Tonkin and Billy to get attacks going once more.
Pressure, pressure, pressure was the instruction the Alex were given by Dario but there was just nothing coming out of it and frustrations were growing in the home ends. By the hour mark Michael Higdon was subject to a barracking from his own fans as he sent a 30 yard shot well wide, with some good options on the break. The anti-Ashton brigade were back out in force when luck didn’t shine up front… which was strange when Steve Jones had done nothing all day whilst Ashton created everything.
With 9 Alex players pushing Telford to the limit there was always a chance Telford could break away and occasionally they did, Lee Mills breaking away but from 30 yards his rather lame shot was pointless.
Robin Hulbert tried to lob Incey from 35 yards but Ince wasn’t to be caught out. The chance’s for Crewe to equalise were there and it was lack of luck, some paint work and bad finishing that saw us miss glorious chances.
First as we threw everything at ‘em a Ant Tonkin cross was whipped in low and hard and at the near post Ashton just guided the ball goal wards and it was in… Match of the Day didn’t have their upset, or so we thought before the ball came bouncing back off the base of the right post. It was almost as if it was in slow motion. A couple of rebounds from Alex players were cleared.
Ashton was then fed through and beat the offside trap, the goalkeeper rushed off his line quickly, to the surprise of Ashton. Ashton found himself with less time than needed as he was one on one with the keeper, he tried to just chip it over the keeper as the keeper tried to smother the ball but it just bounced off the keeper. The keeper ended up winded.
You knew it wasn’t our day when Ashton couldn’t find the target with his next shot. As we threw everything at them, with Foster moving from defence to attack, a high through ball from Wright bounced high in the box. The keeper thought he had it but when Foster jumped in front of him he was slightly distracted and ended up on the floor with the ball at Ashton’s feet. Ashton took his time with a open net, give or take one or two defenders on the line, and from a yard inside the area Ashton blasted it at the open net and missed by about a millimetre.
In the final few minutes Telford broke away and with Sam Ricketts trying to flatter Telford when he turned David Wright inside out before hitting his 30 yard low shot straight at Ince’s left post.
A cup shock indeed. Telford can have their 5 minutes of fame for Match Of The day but cup runs cost. Whilst they provide some good financial security they can also give you plenty of worries with injuries and a backlog of games.
It could be a blessing in disguise, hopefully we can get most of our injuries cleared by the end of the month, with a few coming back this week - we hope!. With a fully fit squad, who’s to say we can’t make up the financial loss in the play-offs?
On Telford, they came with a game plan and kept to it. They defended in plenty of numbers and kept Kenny out of the game. They packed the wings with defenders when we broke down the wings. They were very strong and experienced in there defending. That’s not to say that with a bit of better finishing and a bit of luck then we could have won by 2 or 3 goals.
It didn’t help with the midfield being so lightweight. With Brammer injured and Cochrane suspended there was no bite in there with Kenny, Higdon and Rix and if I was Dario I would have seriously considered putting Billy in there to add that ‘bite.
Well, full reaction is on the site in the ‘Over confidence bites back!’ article… and the that headline it’s self leaves me to say: That’ll teach us!