Crewe Alexandra: Steve Davis says lack of experience cost side Leyton Orient win
TEENAGE debutant Ryan Colclough went close to stealing a late victory for Crewe.
But Steve Davis still admitted his side had suffered for their lack of experience as they had to settle for a fourth consecutive League One draw.
Colclough was involved three times in penalty-box drama in the closing minutes. and looks another bright prospect from the Crewe production line.
But fellow youngsters Brendan Daniels, who was making his first start, and second-half substitute Ollie Turton struggled to make an impact.
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Matt Tootle got the Railwaymen off to a whirlwind start with only his second goal for the club, but Martin Rowlands smashed home a superb first-half equaliser.
Afterwards the O’s proved to be the better side for much of the game, but failed to make their possession count.
“Maybe we are a bit too young at the moment,” said Davis.
“I think I might have to dip into the loan market as the squad is a little threadbare.
“But Ryan has got lots of ability as he showed, and hopefully he can build on that.
“He did well in pre-season, and in our under-21s league games he has been one of our star performers.
“With the way the game was posed it was worth a gamble putting him on, and as it turned out he could have grabbed a goal at the end.”
Tootle, currently being deployed on the right side of midfield, showed a striker’s instinct to get into the Orient penalty box to meet Daniels’ cutback from the by-line and drive right-footed into the top corner. It was his first goal since December 2009 in a 2-2 League Two draw with Rochdale.
Max Clayton should have ensured Crewe emulated their powerful start at Stevenage seven days previously when they surged into a two-goal lead before the 10-minute mark.
But the youngster lost his composure when the ball broke conveniently for him on the edge of the box and Ryan Allsop was off his line quickly to make a decisive block.
Russell Slade’s O’s have enjoyed an unspectacular but steady start to the season, and field a line-up bristling with experience from the likes of Rowlands, Kevin Lisbie, Dean Cox and former Port Vale midfielder Anthony Griffith.
Rowlands went close with a well-struck half-volley and Ryan Brunt, on loan from Stoke City, then skied a close-range header.
But Rowlands, a prolific scorer from the middle of the park in his Brentford and QPR days, showed his shooting prowess when he seized onto a loose clearance from a Cox cross and drove a fierce right-footer from the edge of the Alex box into the bottom corner for the O’s 19th-minute leveller.
Without the influential Byron Moore, who had been left out on compassionate grounds, Crewe struggled to offer a supply line for Clayton and Ajay Leitch-Smith.
Tootle, though, conjured a neat flick for Leitch-Smith to surge into the danger zone six minutes before the interval, and Allsop was mightily relieved to see the frontman’s low drive come back off the foot of the keeper’s near post.
Griffith’s late lunge on Abdul Osman prematurely ended the Ghanian’s afternoon with a twisted ankle. Teen Turton was a straight swap in the centre of park early in the second period.
Brunt went close to smuggling Lee Cook’s low delivery past Alan Martin and then Ellis got in a decisive clearing header from inside his own six-yard box as Brunt was poised to finish off Cox’s cross.
But Tootle was soon advancing forward after a timely interception in the middle of the park to leave Leitch-Smith sizing up the Orient goal. Yet the striker dragged a disappointing finish across the face of goal.
Martin’s reactions saved the day for Crewe when Lisbie sneaked in at the far post to greet Cook’s raking cross. The Scot managed to turn the striker’s header around.
Tootle was an attacking inspiration again in Crewe’s strong finish, forcing Allsop to push out a powerful volley as the Railwaymen went for a winner.
Colclough then forced Allsop to palm away a stinging drive before the young winger’s deflected effort arrowed just wide of the far corner.
He then headed into the keeper’s arms after Orient had been reduced to 10 men when Griffith saw red in stoppage time for a late lunge on Luke Murphy to earn him a second booking.
“We had our moments and we still could have nicked it, although we probably didn’t deserve to,” added Davis, who left Moore out of his starting XI after the death of the winger’s close friend.
“Ajay Leitch-Smith should have scored when he was put through.”
Orient boss Slade had no complaints about Griffith’s red card.
“They were both bookings. He was a bit silly for the second one,” he admitted.
“It was a very open game from first to last and both teams were trying to win it.
“Crewe started the better – they’re the best starters in the league, as they showed at Stevenage.
“We had a fantastic 20 minutes in the second half when we rained crosses in, but couldn’t convert.
“It was a great goal from Martin – he hit it really well from the edge of the box and it flew into the corner.”