Football: Johnson boosts Crewe

Crewe Alexandra 1 Bristol City 0
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The Independent Online
CREWE MOVED out of the bottom three of the First Division for the first time in six months last night and almost certainly condemned their opponents, Bristol City, to relegation in a thrilling tussle at Gresty Road.

Dario Gradi may feel he owes a debt of gratitude to the England Under- 21 manager, Peter Taylor, for allowing the match-winner, Seth Johnson, to stay at home to fight for his club's place in the division rather than take part in yesterday's friendly in Hungary.

"It was a display of common sense by Peter and the FA," the Crewe manager said. "Peter told me at the beginning of the season that he wanted Seth but said he wouldn't play him in friendlies."

Conversely, his City counterpart, Benny Lenartsson, was shown no such reciprocal compassion, with regulars Vilmos Sebok and Jim Brennan on friendly duty for Hungary and Canada respectively. "It's stupid, and it's a decision which may have cost us a place in Division One," said the Swede.

While a season's work cannot be condensed into a single encounter, his comments were far from melodramatic. In a sour irony, it was a delightful skip down the right wing, the position Brennan would normally be marshalling, by Rodney Jack which led to Johnson's decisive strike in the 23rd minute. Jack crossed to Danny Murphy who failed to make a clean contact, but rushing in - inevitably - was Johnson to sidefoot home from six yards.

"Of course playing for England is a great thing, but this game meant so much to me - I was glad to be a part of it," said the midfielder.

It was a memorable fixture not least because of the marked contrast in styles. Crewe, as has been Gradi's way for years, stuck to the considered passing game despite the direct and muscular efforts of the visitors to unhinge them. Such a gameplan was all the more impressive given that they maintained both shape and purpose throughout the 90 minutes while labouring under the imminent threat of relegation. Should they now avoid the drop, the First Division will be all the better for their presence.

Crewe Alexandra (4-4-2): Kearton; D Wright, MacAuley, Walton, Smith; Murphy, J Wright, Charnock, Johnson; Jack (Street, 77), Rivers. Substitutes not used: Little, Foran.

Bristol City (4-4-2): B Andersen; Murray, Shail, Taylor, Carey, Locke (Doherty, 72), Howells (Edwards, 72), Brown (Cramb, 86), Tinnion; Torpey, Akinbiyi.

Referee: C Foy (St Helens).