Crewe Alex: Pogba at the double to down battling Dons
TWO goals from Mathias Pogba saw Crewe come from behind to beat MK Dons with a fine attacking display at Gresty Road last night.
The Dons had taken the lead just past the half-hour mark with a header from Patrick Bamford, but Pogba pulled his side level five minutes before the break with a bullet header of his own.
MK Dons hit the woodwork twice as they poured forward in search of the win after the break and Crewe made them pay with Pogba rolling in his second with just six minutes to go.
And Anthony Kay saw red for the Dons in the closing stages after picking up two bookings in quick succession.
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Steve Davis made two changes to the team who drew 1-1 with Shrewsbury Town on Saturday after losing forward Max Clayton to England under-19 duty and winger Byron Moore, who was suffering from a dead leg.
Youth team product Ryan Colclough, aged 18, and new striker Nathan Ellington, aged 31, were both handed full debuts, with Colclough lining up on the right wing, Pogba switching to the left flank and Ellington up front with Ajay Leitch-Smith.
Colclough almost made an immediate impact, out-pacing left-back Adam Chicksen to spring the offside trap and collect a low through-ball from Harry Davis.
The fleet-footed prospect, from Burslem, raced in on goal, but shot just too close to Ian McLoughlin from 10 yards.
The Alex's attacking intent meant another chance was soon to be had, this time courtesy of left-back Gregor Robertson.
He dribbled into space as far as the opposition area, resisted the temptation to shoot and instead laid the ball across the six-yard box towards Ellington and Colclough, who were both prevented from getting a shot away.
At the other end, former Alex striker Ryan Lowe – who had received a warm reception on his return to Gresty Road – made the most of space created by Crewe's gung-ho attitude.
He collected the ball in the final third, he got behind keeper Steve Phillips, but saw his shot blocked by Mark Ellis.
Lowe claimed it had hit the centre-back's hand, but referee Tim Robinson waved the penalty appeal away.
Dean Bowditch fired over from long range as MK Dons tried to keep Crewe on the back foot and Shaun Williams' effort from a clever corner routine was easily stopped by Phillips.
But it was the away side who took the lead in the 31st minute. Robertson lost the ball too casually in his own half, Lowe swung in a fine cross from the right and Bamford stole in to glance a superb header past Phillips.
It took a fine block from Robertson, then Davis, a minute later to keep the deficit to a single goal.
Crewe had been pushed back into their own area and Bamford's shot was saved by Phillips, but the rebound fell kindly, leaving Robertson needing to jump in and prevent further damage.
Still, the ball broke to Lowe, but his shot was stopped on the line by the alert Davis – and then Bowditch ballooned that rebound over to allow the Alex a collective intake of breath. Crewe recovered their attacking momentum and were almost back on level terms.
Robertson's corner was met by Ellis, but his bullet header was cleared from underneath the crossbar and Colclough flicked the loose ball over.
Ellington showed he could create chances from almost nothing when he spun and fired a half-volley at goal from 30 yards, leaving McLoughlin scrambling furiously across his line to push wide for a corner.
But it didn't take long for Crewe to draw level. Robertson's 40th-minute set-piece was cleared back to him to loft a cross to the back post, where Pogba buried a header into the roof of the net.
Crewe almost edged in front before half-time, with Leitch-Smith releasing Murphy to sprint down the inside left channel.
But his low cross flew beyond the desperate lunges of his team-mates and narrowly wide of the post.
Darren Potter, whose only notable involvement in the first half was to harangue the referee, attempted to restore the visitors' advantage with a long ranger straight after the break, but Davis put his head in the way to stop the missile.
His clearance fell to Chris Lines, who whacked an effort against the post and the ball bounced across the face of goal where Lowe also hit the post, only to be ruled offside.
Luke Murphy made way just before the hour mark, limping off the pitch to be replaced by Ollie Turton.
Ellington was next to make way, in the 74th minute, as his legs tired on his first start in senior football since the first week of January.
Chuks Aneke came to the fold and almost helped put Crewe in front straight away, twisting into the area and skimming an inviting cross across the six-yard box, eventually cut out by ex-Railwaymen Jon Otsemobor.
MK Dons hit the woodwork again when Shaun Williams thumped a free-kick on to the crossbar – after Bamford had tried to distract Phillips with some dancing right in front of the keeper as he was arranging his wall.
It was Pogba who was next to dance though, in celebration, after converting number 16 for the season in the 83rd minute.
Kay had been booked for a foul on the Guinea international before the forward raced through from the resultant free-kick, had a one-on-one saved, but slipped in the rebound.
It was the 16th of the campaign for Pogba, who is aiming to become the first Crewe player since 1968 to score 20 or more in his debut season with the club. The night got worse for Kay when he cynically fouled Matt Tootle, who had only been brought on moments earlier for Leitch-Smith.
Referee Robinson had no choice but to show the defender a second yellow and send him on his way.
It was a miserable way to end the night for the Dons.
But they had deserved, and were given, little sympathy from 13th-placed Crewe, who now draw level on points with their opponents to keep their hopes of another late push for the play-offs alive.