Crewe Alex: Steve Davis full of praise for his players
STEVE Davis insisted Crewe had done enough to win at Gresty Road for the first time in three games.
The width of the crossbar denied Nathan Ellington the glory of making the swiftest of impacts on his debut as the Alex pressed hard in the closing stages of an intriguing derby battle.
Shrewsbury were a cut above Davis' side when they secured automatic promotion from League Two last season.
But the Alex boss believes the Railwaymen have adapted to League One the better.
The current seven-point gap between the two sides backs that up.
Yet Luke Summerfield's first-half equaliser which secured a point for Shrewsbury to add to their earlier 1-0 victory at the Greenhous Meadow might suggest otherwise.
"We were better than them in this one and we have been in all three games and that's no disrespect to them," said Davis. "They were better than us last season even with Nick Powell and Ashley Westwood in our team. But we're a much better all-round team now and that performance was good enough to win the game."
Crewe certainly attacked impressively in the closing stages when Ellington went so close.
But, in truth, there was little to separate the sides in a good quality tussle and a much better one than expected on such a scarred and barren surface.
Both sides kept the ball down in the opening exchanges with Alex skipper Luke Murphy blasting wide after a neat interchange.
But the Railwaymen flew into a 10th-minute lead after some simple attacking play caught out a square Shrewsbury defence. Ajay Leitch-Smith slipped a ball inside for Byron Moore who finished with aplomb, right-footed into the far corner.
Graham Turner's side have been better away from Shropshire this year as their most recent 3-2 success at MK Dons would testify.
They edged back into the game after the early setback with Yado Mambo heading wide from a free-kick and Jon Taylor cutting in from the right only to drive his shot straight at Steve Phillips.
But Summerfield levelled in the 28th minute when he struck with his head for the second time against Crewe this season.
Left unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box, the midfielder was picked out by a cross from Marvin Morgan and planted the ball into the bottom corner.
Gregor Robertson went close to restoring Crewe's lead with a far-post header.
But Morgan's pace caused Harry Davis problems and provoked a penalty appeal as the striker was clipped right on the edge of the box. Taylor, though, was wasteful with the resulting free-kick, driving routinely straight at the Crewe wall.
But after the restart, Shrewsbury were indebted to goalkeeper Chris Weale, who twice denied Leitch-Smith.
First he clawed the striker's looping shot-cum-cross away from under his bar and then blocked off the same player's effort at his other post.
Weale also made another smart stop to deny Max Clayton, who made room for a right-footed drive, but found the keeper up to the task down at his near post.
But a swift visiting counter-attack came close to producing a fourth goal in five games for Bolton loanee Tom Eaves. The big striker held off Kelvin Mellor, but wasted the one-on-one when he shot straight at Phillips.
After Ellington went close to stealing the win, Graham Turner's side appeared to have a realistic penalty appeal turned down after Rob Purdie was upended by Robertson before he could latch onto Eaves' pass.
"Rob would have got onto the ball, although he might not have been in a shooting position.
"If it had been against us I think it would have been a penalty," said the Shrews boss, whose side has been better on their travels this year, picking up four wins.
"Four points from games at MK Dons and Crewe are a good return, especially in the position we're in.
"We've done quite well over a period of time when we've gone a goal down.
"We denied Crewe chances and we always looked a threat on the break.
"But we allowed them a bit too much room for the 15 minutes after half-time which could have been costly."
Davis revealed he had livened up his attack in the second half after a half-time pep-talk aimed at Mathias Pogba, who drove powerful shots past the upright in the closing stages.
"It was one of our better performances at home," he said. "There were threats all over the pitch – we looked better and looked more dangerous.
"Nathan had a great header and was unfortunate.
"But that's why we brought him on because we know he can score goals."