The late show
Ashton on target for Boro as they stun Crewe with late winner
Crewe Alexandra 0 Stevenage 1
npower League 2
THERE may be some confusion about who grabbed the winner but there was little doubt that Boro deserved all three points from their trip to Crewe on Saturday.
The home side may have shown greater prolificacy in front of goal but many of their offerings were straight at goalkeeper Chris Day who dealt with them as you would expect from a man of his ability.
Boro, on the other hand, attacked the ball early as a group, they controlled the centre of midfield to deny Crewe the space in which they like to play, they kept their shape, and fought until the end when the home side’s legs began to tire after 90 minutes on a bog of a pitch.
Most importantly of all, Boro put the ball across the white chalk for the all-important winner which was being claimed by a number of players after the game, with defender Jon Ashton’s claims appearing the strongest.
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The result was not Boro’s highest winning margin of the season. It could, however, be their best, coming as it does to end a six-match winless run as well as signalling their first win away from home in the league since November 2.
Boro also did it while becoming only the third side to stop prolific Crewe from scoring this season.
Since the 3-0 defeat to Bury a fortnight ago, there has been a gradual improvement in performances from Graham Westley’s men and none more so than Luke Foster who was man-of-the-match this time out.
Foster, a centre-back by trade, struggled in the centre of the park at Gigg Lane but here he tackled with desire when others around him clearly weren’t up for the battle and he was also Boro’s most productive player going forward.
Foster was the only change to the Boro line-up which drew with Oxford United last Tuesday, coming in for the ill Michael Bostwick, while Ben May kept his place up front alongside Craig Reid.
Foster’s central midfield partner David Bridges had the first shot on goal, but watched on as it vaulted over the bar from 22 yards. Reid then did the same after connecting with Stacy Long’s free kick moments later.
Crewe began with a plan of trying to thread balls through the Boro back line but both Ashton and in particular Mark Roberts, on his former stomping ground, were quick to the tackle while the alert Day was on hand behind them with dustpan and brush to sweep up.
Crewe’s first shot at goal came on 25 minutes when Danny Shelley shot wide of Day’s goal, but by then May had also had a header just over the bar for Boro.
May has been a slow burner since his arrival at the club and this was only his second start in succession since mid-November, but he caused Crewe problems resulting in the hosts sacrificing two men to stop him getting headers at goal on more than one occasion.
Shelley was Crewe’s most dangerous performer, and Scott Laird had to slide in to block another of his efforts with five minutes remaining of the half.
Laird was then one of three defenders called into action in stoppage time to block Ashley Westwood’s shot after Day had saved from Donaldson.
Shelley, getting to the rebound, then drilled the ball wide when hitting the target seemed a formality.
The hosts carried on as they had left off at the beginning of the second half and just two minutes in Day was forced to save with his feet after Ashton had lost out to Donaldson who had fired goalwards.
Laird once again got in the way of the follow-up, but Crewe calls that the ball had hit his arm held no sway with match referee Rushton.
Boro continued to be a threat as well with Reid firing wide of goal, but then Crewe striker Byron Moore awoke from his slumber to quicken Boro hearts.
First up the front man hit the side netting after gaining a yard on Henry, and then on 64 minutes he beat Laird in the box and drilled his effort above Day and onto the underside of the crossbar to bounce, for him, on the wrong side of the line and then be cleared to safety.
With 10 minutes remaining Crewe claimed another penalty after Peter Winn and Moore had collided in the Boro box only for the referee to turn them down once more, and when Roberts blocked from Matthew Tootle on 86 minutes the hosts sensed it wasn’t going to be their day. It wasn’t.
With two minutes to go, Boro got a corner on the right which Winn swung in for Ashton whose looping header dropped just below the bar.
As goalkeeper Rhys Taylor flapped at it with two defenders and Byron Harrison in close proximity the ball bounced off an appendage and over the line.
Boro were delirious; Crewe stunned.
Boro have lost by a single goal six times away from home in the league this season and on more than one occasion they have been unlucky to do so.
But footballers make their own luck, and when you whip in a good corner and your defender beats his marker to the ball in the box late in a game you deserve something to go your way and Boro did just that.
Crewe (4-4-2): Taylor 6, Tootle 7, Artell 7, Ada 7, Mitchell-King 6, Shelley 7, Westwood 5, Murphy 6 (Leitch-Smith, 75), Bell 5, Donaldson 7, Moore 6. Subs not used: Phillips, Blanchett, Dugdale, Grant, Sarcevic, Powell.
Stevenage (4-4-2): Day 8, Laird 7, Henry 6, Ashton 7, Roberts 8, Bridges 7, Foster 8, Wilson 6, Long 6 (Winn 6, 62), Reid 6 (Harrison 6, 63), May 7 (Sinclair, 75). Subs not used: Bayes, Charles, Daley, Beardsley.
Attendance: 3793 (192).