Crewe Alexandra 4
(Chris Dagnall x3, George Cooper)
The final day of the season in recent years for a Crewe fan has been nothing short of a nightmare. Close shaves with relegation before eventually dropping out of League One last year have not given me any reason to race home. I still have fond memories of just breaking into the League Two play offs on the final day of the season in 2012, before winning at Wembley and heading up a division.
Now from my last post you will have worked out that I am back home in Cheshire for a few days and the late kick off at Gresty Road opened up a great chance for dad and I to make the day into a double header. Redgate Clayton versus Newcastle Town Reserves was the pick for a 14:30 kick off, a great warm up for the Crewe game at 17:30.
Today was a welcomed change to final day proceedings. Crewe, albeit at the wrong end of the table had nothing to play for, and neither did Barnet. Despite having nothing to play for, I always love watching my team play at home but I have been waiting a long time to see them win at home. The last time I watched Crewe pick up a home three points was way back in September 2014, a 2-1 victory over local rivals Port Vale. Since then I have been to Gresty Road on seven occasions with my record at three defeats and four draws. So watching Crewe hit four past Barnet was extra special, even though nothing was riding on the result.
As a kid the final day of the season usually meant getting loads of kit and boots from my favourite Crewe Alex players, at my dads house, I have a museum of player memorabilia, shirts and boots from some of the best Crewe players of the last decade, now I am all grown up, I will proudly leave it to the next generation of young Crewe fans to get gifts from the current crop of players.
Gresty Road has been a big part of my life, home of the club I have supported since 2003, it was also the venue of my A Level exams as well as my 18th birthday party that neatly tied in with leaving my home town for university. Gresty Road is just a friendly place in general, part of the reason dad and I started watching them, giving Port Vale and Stoke City a go before making the decision. I would love to say Crewe has run through my family but dad grew up supporting Leeds and the rest of my family aren’t really that into football. Heading to Crewe isn’t just about the match, it is a close knit group of fans, from Neil, Dave and Harold in the programme shop, to Karen in the club shop who organises the travel to away games, the gentleman selling golden gamble tickets to Chris, Jules and Gail on the front row who have become good family friends all the way through to the friendly nature of the players and coaches, Lee Bell, Jon Guthrie, James Jones all good to say hello to on passing.
It is more than just a team, it’s a club, a lifestyle and a team that I will follow for the rest of my life. But enough of the emotional stuff and onto the match report.
Chris Dagnall netted a hat trick to help him bag the player of the year award and help Crewe end the season with a flourish following a 4-1 win over Barnet.
George Cooper grabbed the other goal as Dave Artell’s men finished the campaign in 17th with plenty of room for improvement next season.
Dagnall’s treble was the first in a Crewe shirt since Clayton Donaldson and Joel Grant scored three each in an 8-1 drubbing of Cheltenham Town in April 2011. Shaun Miller and Ashley Westwood were the other scorers that day. Current Crewe boss Artell was in the line up for the Railwaymen that day.
Crewe were inspired from the off and both Cooper and Jordan Bowery both put chances off target in the opening five minutes.
The first goal came on eight minutes when well-travelled striker Dagnall grabbed his first of the afternoon. Ryan Wintle sent the ball forward and Dagnall controlled the ball in the box, holding off David Tutonda and slotting the ball through the legs of ‘keeper Josh Vickers at the near post.
Barnet’s first effort of the game came from a 35-yard strike from Jack Taylor, the effort just going over Ben Garratt’s goal.
On 21 minutes, former England youth ‘keeper Garratt made a superb pinpoint save from close range to deny Michael Nelson who poked towards goal after a spell of pressure from the visitors.
Crewe doubled the lead on 25 minutes when Barnet’s clearance was sent straight back by Ollie Turton’s header and it fell to Dagnall who entered the box and drilled the ball low into the bottom corner.
Rossi Eames decided to make a tactical change for the Bees, with a change at left back, Tutonda making way for Elliot Johnson.
Garratt was really earning his stripes before the break, making a great save to keep out Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s curling free kick, parrying it away from the bottom corner.
Barnet did threaten again before the interval, towering forward John Akinde breaking away before firing a left footed shot straight at the Crewe ‘keeper.
In first half stoppage time, Artell was forced into a change, Callum Cooke coming off in his final game for Crewe and replaced by Callum Ainley.
Garratt was again forced into action shortly after the restart, tipping Curtis Weston’s shot around the post.
It was Weston who pulled a goal back for Eames’ men with an absolute thunderbolt strike. The midfielder picked the ball up, took one touch to settle himself before firing a shot right into the top corner from 25-yards.
Four minutes later, Crewe restored their two-goal lead and Dagnall claimed the match ball when he converted Zoumana Bakayogo’s low cross to bundle it over the line. Bakayogo had exchanged a failed give and go with Ainley, the ball fell to Nelson in the box and he slipped, allowing Bakayogo to nip in and fire the ball across the goal line for Dagnall to score.
Crewe’s second substitution came on 72 minutes, Oli Finney replacing fellow academy graduate James Jones to get some more minutes on the pitch in his first year as a professional.
The Railwaymen were in the driving seat as Bowery spurned a good chance just wide in his final game before heading back to parent club Leyton Orient.
Cooper rounded off a sterling performance when he latched onto Dagnall’s flick on straight from Garratt’s long kick to poke it past Vickers. Cooper’s next move involved becoming Crewe’s third change of the evening when he made way for Charlie Kirk to play out the final 12 minutes of the game.
The game slowed in the final ten minutes, Crewe firmly in control and there was still a chance for Bowery to miss another shot when he raced through following Kirk’s pass forward, however he couldn’t convert the one-on-one and sent the ball trickling wide.
In the final minute, Vickers had to make a smart save at the near post to deny Kirk after some good build up carved a good opportunity for the youngster to get his first senior goal for the club but it wasn’t to be.
2016/17 Games: 131
2016/17 Grounds: 68 (11)
Total Grounds Visited: 158 (42)