John Barnett looks back to past games against the Alex
Our first meetings with Saturday's opponents came in our first season in League Two, in December 2011 on what was to become a customary chilly afternoon at Gresty Road.
We were on a 14-match unbeaten run but fell behind to a header from Wes Fletcher. The match turned when future Red loanee Shaun Miller was shown a straight red card for a foul, and Matt Tubbs equalised soon after. We dominated the second half but the home side defended manfully, and even had a couple of penalty shouts turned down at the other end.
The return fixture came on Good Friday 2012, when we were battling for the third promotion spot and opened the East Stand. We fell behind, this time to Byron Moore, and we were grateful to a string of fine saves from Michel Kuipers for keeping us in the game. These would prove crucial when we were awarded a penalty three minutes from time and Gary Alexander blasted home to rescue a point in what turned out to be Steve Evans’ last match in charge.
We both went up so our next trip north came in November. We had a number of chances, but the result was decided with two goals in three second-half from Crewe’s Lauri Dalla Valle, leaving us six games without a win. The rematch was again in the spring – late March this time – and another quick-fire double settled the result as Jamie Procter’s brace in the final quarter of an hour kept alive our slim play-off hopes.
A season later and we were under the caretaker management of Gary Alexander and Martin Hinshelwood, following the departure of Richie Barker, and on another cold afternoon in Cheshire, Chuks Aneke’s 80th minute strike was enough to win it for the hosts, who were again reduced to 10 men with the dismissal of Vadaine Oliver ten minutes into the second period.
That made it a seventh blank for us in eight games. By the time of the clash here in early April, we were playing catch-up following several postponements during the winter. We had enjoyed some impressive results, but the schedule was beginning to take its toll as we slipped down the table. This time, Uche Ikpeazu gave the visitors the lead before a Procter special drew us level. Brad Inman won it for the Railwaymen ten minutes from the end.
We hosted the first meeting in 2014-15, again in November. The Alex were bottom of the table but kept up their 100% record of taking the lead in the fixture when George Cooper netted in the 19th minute. John Gregory’s team had only tasted five victories themselves and were in need of a win but had to settle for a point earned courtesy of Izale McLeod’s cracking finish.
Good Friday saw the sides separated by just two points at the bottom of the table. Reds on-loan defender Richard Wood saw a header cleared off the line in added time and that was the closest either side came to taking all three points in a goalless draw.
Our subsequent relegation meant we did not meet again until they went down in 2016. And the normal pattern was resumed as we visited Gresty Road in the December, but there was a change in our fortunes as two poacher’s goals from James Collins clinched our first win at Crewe.
The visitors got their revenge last March as our poor home form continued. James Jones opened the scoring before half-time, before the match was over as a contest with two goals in the first seven minutes after the interval from Jordan Bowery and Chris Dagnall. And it was the same score earlier this season (in December, of course) when Dagnall scored twice to add to a fine curling effort from Callum Ainley in a game which saw Reds have two players sent off.
Pictured: Izale McLeod is congratulated by Matt Harrold and Dean Leacock after scoring in our 1-1 draw against Crewe in November 2014.