Pools Edged Out At Crewe
Despite once again taking the lead in a game – this time through Evan Horwood – and creating a whole host of chances, Pools finished the game 2-1 down on another frustrating afternoon.
Ryan Noble marked a confident return to Pools with an early curling effort from the edge of the box, which he saw go wide of the far post.
The on-loan striker was full of running and enthusiasm for Pools this afternoon, causing the hosts a real problem with his non-stop harassing and chasing.
In what was another positive start to a game from Pools, they were dealt an early blow when Andy Monkhouse picked up what looked to be a painful injury to his foot and limped out of the game.
Evan Horwood was his replacement and the left back – now playing left wing – took just two touches to open the scoring for Pools.
A Jonathan Franks’ cross was hit up into the air where Antony Sweeney found it to cushion a sweet header down for Horwood who beat the offside trap to poke home the opener.
As has been something of a recurrence for Cooper’s side this season, Pools started the game well and looked full of enthusiasm but, with that second goal not arriving, the opposition began to see a glimmer of hope and a way back into the game.
Scott Flinders pulled off a great save to deny Chuks Aneke with a strike from distance, before the big keeper blocked again, this time from Luke Murphy from close range.
But while Pools were being stretched at the back, they were causing problems of their own at the other end.
A long ball up field from Darren Holden was met by the towering Steve Howard in the air and he flicked on for Noble who had read it well and met the ball to fire on goal – only to be denied by Alan Martin in the home net.
Mathias Pogba found the back of the Pools’ net shortly after but was denied by the linesman’s flag but Crewe began to look more likely when going forward.
When Craig Leitch Smith found space inside the area, Peter Hartley put in a strong challenge to clear the ball but with his teammates preparing for the resulting corner, the linesman’s flag once again played its part – this time to signal a penalty kick, with Hartley adjudged to have handled the ball in the challenge.
Despite the strong protest from Pools, the spot kick stood – fortunately Pogba completely misjudged his kick, sending the ball high over the bar, hitting the roof of the stand behind.
Pools’ relief at this miss did not last long though as Chuks Aneke picked up the ball on the stroke of half time to send a lovely strike through the area and into the top corner of Flinder’s net from the edge of the box.
Cooper’s men failed to hold the lead into half time but offered enough in the first half to suggest there would not be the second-half slump as had been seen in recent outings.
Pools’ hard work after the interval saw a good break down the left – good link-up play between Holden and Horwood saw the young left back cut into the area to feed Noble but the striker saw his powerful shot bocked by Martin.
Just minutes later and Noble was back in a similar position to shoot on goal again – this time though, with Martin beaten, his shot was blocked by the defender and out of danger.
With the game opening up, either side could have grabbed the next goal; Leitch Smith broke down the right to cut in and shoot on goal but a good block by Flinders followed up by a clearance from Austin under pressure from Clayton saved the day.
It was Crewe who took the lead though with 15 minutes remaining; with a low freekick played into the box from the left, defender Mark Ellis popped up through a crowd to poke home at the far post to make it 2-1 to the hosts.
Neil Austin hit a strike from the edge of the box which caught Crewe on the hop and saw it go over the keeper to hit the crossbar and bounce back on the wrong side of the goalline as Pools looked to get back into this game.
With Ryan Noble leaving the field through injury, Cooper brought James Poole on to support Steve Howard up front.
And the big striker has a great chance to head a late leveller only to see his effort go high over the bar while Craig Lynch hit another late opening into the side netting.
With no more goals this afternoon, Pools travel home with a 2-1 defeat and will be looking to pick up that all-important League One win as Doncaster Rovers visit The Vic next Saturday.
Full Time: Crewe Alexandra 2 Pools 1
Booked: Murray (19), Hartley (40), Howard (40)
Pools: Flinders, Austin, Baldwin, Hartley, Holden, Franks (Lynch), Murray, Sweeney, Monkhouse (Horwood 7), Noble (Poole) , Howard
Subs Not Used: McHugh, Collins, Humphreys, James
Crewe: Martin, Tootle, Davis, Ellis, Clayton (Turton 90), Murphy, Pogba, Leitch Smith (Dugdale 92), Mellor, Aneke (Daniels), Bond
: Garratt, Robertson, Ray, Waters Subs Not Used