Town were denied at the very end this afternoon as Crewe Alexandra staged a late comeback to overturn a two-goal lead to take a share of the spoils in a 2-2 draw.
Goals in either half from Jack Muldoon and Kazeem Olaigbe looked to have secured an important, but deserved three points but strikes from Dan Agwei and Tariq Uwakwe left Town frustrated.
Simon Weaver named an unchanged side from the one that gained a valuable point away at Salford City in midweek, which meant a second successive start in goal for Mark Oxley.
The visitors too named the same side from midweek, with Lee Bell sticking with the eleven that defeated Hartlepool 2-0. There was one change on the bench for Alex with Sean Robertson replacing Matus Holicek following his return from suspension.
There was little action over the opening ten minutes but the game sprang into life when the pace of Kazeem Olaigbe saw him outpace the visitors defence to fire a shot on goal, but Rod McDonald did just enough to deflect the ball wide.
Town then almost grabbed the lead when David Richards was forced into a double save firstly from Anthony O’Connor’s header and then Luke Armstrong’s follow-up shot.
On twenty minutes the visitors had their first meaningful effort at goal. Elliott Nevitt created some space on the edge of the area and fired at Oxley’s goal with his effort inches away from the sliding Callum Ainley at the far post. Had he got even the faintest contact it would have given Alex the lead.
Town countered with a quick break that saw Muldoon power towards the Crexe box before playing in Alex Pattison, whose return pass was smartly cut out. Pattison then had a free header from the resulting corner but couldn’t direct the effort on target.
They did get the lead that their possession advantage deserved though ten minutes before the break. Pattison’s ball into Olaigbe’s was deftly cushioned for Muldoon to fire past Richards for his second goal in successive games.
Muldoon was again in the thick of the action minutes later when he released Pattison down the right with the midfielder playing in Armstrong who shot just wide of Richards’ left-hand post.
The lead was almost wiped out a couple of minutes before half-time with Town indebted to a fantastic double save from Oxley. He first palmed Nevitt’s shot onto the post and then recovered quickly enough to turn Ainley’s follow-up effort away for a corner.
Crewe had the first opportunity of the second-half when Nevitt used his size and strength well to hold off Tom Eastman to turn and shoot but his effort was well wide of Oxley’s goal.
A wonderful Town move almost saw them double their lead five minutes into the half. Muldoon and Armstrong combined well down the right with the latter backheeling perfectly into Pattison’s path. Only a last ditch Luke Offord tackle prevent Richards from being called into action.
Town were not to be denied though. When the visitors failed to clear the danger from the following corner Olaigbe was on hand to lash home to double the advantage.
Just before the hour mark Crewe made their first change of the day when Connor O’Riordan was replaced by Robertson.
Rio Adebisi was then yellow carded for cynically hauling back Pattison when the Town midfielder was well placed to launch another attacking foray.
Both sides then made a change with Simon Weaver introducing George Thomson in place of Levi Sutton and the visitors replacing Connor Thomas with Lachlan Brook.
With Town asserting more and more control over the game the visitors frustration spilled over when Ryan Finnigan clattered Josh Falkingham to go into the book.
With Toby Sims having put in another accomplished performance in defence he was withdrawn with fifteen minutes to go in favour of Warren Burrell. The visitors made their final substitution of the game when Tariq Uwakwe was brought on in place of Ainley.
Alex had a lifeline with eight minutes remaining though when O’Connor brought down Agwei with the referee immediately pointing to the spot. Agwei stepped up to comprehensively strike past Oxley to halve the arrears.
Agwei then headed wide with five minutes left to set up a nervy finale for Town fans and their fears came to pass when substitute Uwakwe levelled just two minutes from time.
TOWN: Oxley, Falkingham, Olaigbe, Sims (Burrell, 74), O’Connor, Pattison (Folarin,86), Sutton (Thomson, 64), Muldoon (Grant, 86), Armstrong, Foulds, Eastman.
Substitutes: Jameson, McArdle, Daly.
Goals: Muldoon (34), Olaigbe (51)
Crewe Alexandra: Richards, Adebisi, McDonald, Offord, Thomas (Brook, 64), Ainley (Uwakwe, 75), Agyei, O’Riordan (Robertson, 59), Finnigan, Nevitt, Tabiner.
Substitutes: Beadle, Griffiths, Sambou, Sass-Davis.
Booked: Adebisi (61), Finnigan (73).
Goals: Agwei (82, pen), Uwakwe (88)
Referee: Lewis Smith