An unbelievable afternoon at the Lamex Stadium ended in a point apiece for Stevenage and Crewe in a fixture that both sides could have won.
It means three draws in three homes games for Gary Smith’s side who remain unbeaten in the league.
Stevenage were stunned by two early goals, both from Ajay Leitch-Smith getting his third and fourth of the season, but when Luke Freeman sent a beauty into the top corner the gap was shortened.
Boro had the bit between their teeth and went in search of an equaliser, the first half failed to produce one with Marcus Haber’s header going closest, the Canadian striker had another chance just after the break but failed to get the ball out from under his feet after an Akins cross.
The game evened out and both sides were creating chances but the away team turned their attentions to protecting the lead rather than extending it after the sending off of Chuks Aneke with 20 minutes to go. A two-footed challenge on Anthony Grant was certainly dangerous.
After coming on as second half substitute Robin Shroot kept to his new ‘Super Sub’ tag to draw the sides level late on. His turn and volley into the far corner was as good a goal as you’ll see and worthy of earning a point.
A point could have been three when Greg Tansey hammered home what would have won the game but after discussions between the referee and linesman the goal was ruled out for offside and the spoils were shared.
Smith reverted to two in attack after playing much of this season with the lone striker and it meant that Haber and Patrick Agyemang would be partnered up top. Shroot, who scored the equaliser at the Ricoh Arena six days ago but later went off injured, began the game on the bench with a midfield four of Akins, Anthony Grant, James Dunne and Freeman. The back four and goalkeeper remained unchanged.
The away side made just one change, the injured Harry Bunn dropped out of the side and former Boro loanee Chuks Aneke came in. The loss of Bunn, coupled with the sale of Ashley Westwood to Aston Villa, was something that opposition manager Steve Davis spoke about before kick off, highlighting a need for new set pieces with their two specialists out of the equation. “It is all about good quality and that is what we have been trying to improve on” he told the club’s official website, and with five minutes on the clock a goal came from that avenue.
It wasn’t so much the quality of the free kick that undone the Boro defence, in truth Robertson’s ball was poor, but it managed to find Mark Ellis at the back post and his ball across the face of the goal found Leitch-Smith at the back post. The striker blasted it into the roof of the net to give the Alex the lead.
A disastrous start was made even worse just a minute later as the away side doubled their advantage. Straight from the restart Crewe won possession back and Leitch-Smith ran through onto a perfect through ball before hammering it into the far corner.
The first half was frantic but Boro were beginning to calm the storm, they were getting the ball down and calm in possession knowing that if they could get one back it’d put them in good stead for another. Haber saw a close range header kept our by ‘keeper Alan Martin but he could so nothing about a Freeman screamer before the half hour mark.
Play began at right back with Gray winning a challenge, Boro played it out of defence and before long the desired switch in play was achieved. Akins progressed forward and showed great trickery before squaring it to Freeman who set his sights on the top corner and brushed it home exquisitely.
It wasn’t an equaliser, but some sterling defending from Gray with 7 minutes of the half to go was as good as a goal. Again Crewe broke through on the right hand side and Byron Moore pulled the ball back from Leitch-Smith in the box. Smelling a hat trick his low drive beat Day but the former Preston man was positioned quite brilliantly on the line to block it and clear.
At the other end Boro came close before the break but this time it was a missed chance rather than great defending that stopped a goal. Freeman curled a perfect free kick to the back post and Haber timed his run well to meet it but his header from close range was wide of the mark.
Half Time: Stevenage 1 – 2 Crewe Alexandra
It was almost a dream start to the second period for the home side; Akins wriggled free on the right and put a great ball into the box but, free at the back post, Haber just failed to make a clean connection and the chance passed. Moments later Jon Ashton saw a low drive deflect wide and when Charles flicked the resulting corner on to Roberts at the back post his effort was too high to worry Martin.
The home side’s dominant spell was subsiding and without an equaliser coming that was a worrying sign. Crewe had chances, first Leitch-Smith latched onto a long ball that Roberts had left but a late Ashton challenge killed the chance, the resulting corner found its target though but the header was steered over the bar. Smith brought Shroot on for Agyemang, hoping the super-sub would strike again.
With twenty minutes to go Boro were given a path back into the game when Aneke saw a straight red for a lunge on Grant that left the central midfielder needing treatment. The challenge looked unfortunate rather than malicious, and after being sent off the last time he played at the Lamex Chuks will certainly be disappointed with his return.
Smith brought Greg Tansey on for Akins who had become somewhat isolated on the right wing, and moments later Dani Lopez made his debut as he came on for Grant.
Unbelievably, Shroot did strike again and with ten minutes to go the scores were level. Freeman had the ball on the left and played it to the feet of the former Birmingham man in the box, his first touch was sublime but his volley across goal and into the bottom corner topped it.
Freeman seemed certain that his cross had struck an arm with a penalty shout moments later as Boro but the real controversy was yet to come. With a minute to go Boro had a third, a winner, and over a minute after awarding the goal the referee changed his mind. Despite no flag from the linesman, consultation with the referee resulted in the goal being chalked off and 2-2 it remained.
Stevenage (4-4-2): Day; Gray, Ashton, Roberts, Charles; Akins (Tansey 74), Dunne, Grant (Lopez 78), Freeman; Haber, Agyemang (Shroot 62)
Unused Subs: Arnold, Comminges, N’Gala, Risser
Crewe Alexandra (4-4-2): Martin; Mellor, Davis, Ellis, Robertson; Osman, Murphy, Aneke (Sent Off), Clayton; Leitch-Smith (Tootle 75), Moore
Unused Subs: Garratt, Turton, Dugdale, Guthrie, Daniels, Colclough
Att: 2826 (305 Away)