A second win in the space of four days for the Railwaymen brought an end to the recent run of improved results which had seen the Cumbrians put daylight between themselves and the drop zone with two post-Christmas home wins.
“We stopped Crewe from playing their game and we created chances of our own, then we gifted them the lead on the stroke of half time,” manager Greg Abbott said. “We had our chances after the break, but we didn’t take them, and that has left us feeling very disappointed. It’s a game we should have got something from. We go again for Saturday though because, yet again, there were plenty of positives to take.”
A heavy pitch made things difficult for both sides but it was Carlisle who fashioned the first opening when Brad Potts lobbed the ball down the left flank. Matt Robson was onto it like a flash and he mesmerised his marker before dragging a decent effort just wide.
Robson was guilty of more wayward finishing when he pulled another miscued shot well wide following a smooth passing move which involved touches for Noble, Simek, Miller and McGovern during the eye-catching passage of build up play.
Crewe had to wait until the 25th minute for their first meaningful involvement in the game and it was the dangerous Mathias Pogba who did all of the work. He cut inside and let one fly but he couldn’t keep it down.
It was a better spell for the Alex and Moore tested the United stopper with an accurate thunderbolt which had to be watched all the way. Dalla Valle then flicked a Mellor cross towards the back stick and it needed a cool head from Simek to prevent Osman from making a touch.
Carlisle responded with a good spell of their own and a low cross from Robson was followed by a step-over from Miller. Brad Potts arrived late and his sliding volley brought a fantastic reaction save from the unsighted Steve Phillips. Lee Miller popped the resulting corner just wide of the target with a guided header.
Crewe grabbed the lead just before the break when Bradden Inman reacted quickly to an error from Livesey. Gillespie did well to block to the shot but Lauri Dalla Valle was on the spot to lob his header over the stranded keeper and Chris Chantler who had retreated to take up a good position on the line.
The visitors looked fired up from their half time team talk and Matt Robson went on a run which nearly brought dividends. His cross across the face of goal was begging for a touch but Miller and McGovern couldn’t quite make the connection.
United were almost back on terms when Miller pulled into space to meet a wicked delivery from Berrett. Phillips had to readjust to tip the top corner bound attempt over the bar.
Crewe picked their moments to attack as they defended their lead and a punt upfield almost brought a second goal as United were caught light at the back. Pogba unleashed a thumping volley but it crept just wide of the upright.
Carlisle had half a shout for a penalty when he bullied his way onto good work from Miller and Noble, but the referee waved the appeals away as he tumbled to the floor under the close attentions of Tootle.
A real moment of brightness came for Carlisle when they welcomed striker Rory Loy back into the fold for his first appearance since Boxing Day 2011 and he almost scored with his first touch when Edwards nodded a McGovern corner into his path. His instinctive shot was blocked and Livesey then somehow conspired to hook the loose ball over the bar from just six yards out.
Berrett and Livesey had to throw their bodies in the way at the other to block edge of the box shots from Pogba and Clayton and Loy spun to fizz a first time effort just over the bar as the action ebbed and flowed.
The Cumbrians kept going but the ball wouldn’t fall for them in the vital areas and Crewe held out to claim a keenly fought three points as they cemented their mid-table position.
Crewe - Dalla Valle (43)
Crewe - Osman (38)
United - Potts (31), Simek (60), Livesey (81)
Crewe Alexandra - Phillips, Tootle, Davis, Ellis, Murphy, Pogba (Colclough 85), Moore, Mellor, Osman, Dalla Valle (Clayton 76), Inman (Robertson 85). Subs - Martin, Dugdale, Leitch Smith, Aneke.
Carlisle United - Gillespie, Simek, Livesey, Edwards, Chantler, Berrett, Potts (Loy 70), Noble, McGovern (Symington 88), Miller, Robson. Subs - Collin, Murphy, Welsh, Beck, McGinty.
Referee - Andrew Madley
Attendance - 4,802 (485 away fans)