CREWE Alexandra last night gained revenge for their 6-5 defeat in the 2006-07 Johnstone’s Paints Trophy Northern Area two-leg final, at Gresty Road.
The Railwaymen, who had ended Rovers eight-match unbeaten record with a 2-0 League One win at the Keepmoat, beat the South Yorkshire side 5-3 in a penalty shoot-out in last night’s Northern Area quarter-final after it had finished 1-1.
Badly hit by injuries, illness and suspension, Rovers showed five changes to the side beaten by Oldham in Saturday’s FA Cup second round.
Youth teamers Josh Meade and Harry Middleton made their starting debuts and four of last season’s youth team, including defender James Husband who captained the team for the first time, and centre-back Liam Wakefield who was also making his starting debut, were in the club’s 16-man squad.
Crewe, who also lost interest in the FA Cup at the weekend, fielded a much stronger side which included Newcastle loanee Bradden Inman on debut.
The game got off to a slow start and it wasn’t until the tenth minute when David Cotterill shot wide that either side had threatened.
Matt Tootle denied Middleton a shooting chance from in front of goal about ten yards out on 14 minutes at the expense of a corner.
Crewe’s top scorer Mathias Pogba, fired just wide with a low shot from the edge of the area three minutes later.
A neat build-up came to nothing when Sammy Clingan’s 20 yarder struck a defender in close proximity.
Adbul Osman did well to get a foot in just as Robbie Blake was about to pull the trigger in the box on 25 minutes.
Blake had another shot blocked by a defender after he had latched on to Cotterill’s corner.
It had been a bright start by Rovers. They had defended well and been creative in midfield.
Only the woodwork denied Rovers a 31st minute goal after Blake’s free-kick, which took a slight deflection, came back off the right-hand post. a
There was a let off for Rovers on 37 minutes when Shelton Martis headed against his own crossbar trying to keep out Osman’s goal bound header after keeper Woods had done well to palm out Finnish striker Laura Dallas Valle’s angled shot.
Woods did well to deny Inman in a one-on-one three minutes later as the Railwaymen finished the half on top. Woods again came to Rovers’ rescue, saving well from Inman at the expense of a stoppage-time corner. But the home side broke the deadlock in the dying seconds through Pogba.
Rovers made a lively start to the second half and could have drawn level had striker Chris Brown been able to make better contact with Husband’s cross. Clingan then shot over from 25 yards.
Rovers made a double substitution on 54 minutes, Evan Finnegan replacing Husband and Iain Hume coming on for Cotterill. Paul Quinn came on for right-back Andy Griffin on 65 minutes.
Woods got down well to smother Chucks Aneke’s angled shot at the near post as Crewe pushed forward in search of a second goal. Max Clayton shot well wide from just outside the area in Crewe’s next attacking sortie.
Reputed to be a summer target for Rovers boss Dean Saunders, who had signed him during his two-year spell in charge of Wrexham, Pogba headed against the post with Woods beaten on 82 minutes.
Inman, who could feel pleased with his debut, shot over from 25 yards a couple of minutes later. The home side were reduced to 10 men on 90 minutes when Tootle picked up a second yellow card. Seconds later keeper Steve Phillips did well to deny Blake’s angled shot.
Rovers remained on the attack and Brown poked Finnegan’s left wing cross home from close range in stoppage time.
In the penalty shoot-out, Brown, Hume, and Quinn scored, but Blake missed.
Crewe: Phillips 6 Tootle 6 Robertson 6 Dugdale 6 Davis 6 Aneke 6 Inman 7 Osman 7 Clayton 6 Dalla Valle 6 Pogba 7. Subs: Martin, Ellis, Moore, Turton, Colclough.
Rovers: G Woods 8 Griffin ***6 Wakefield 6 Martis 6 Husband **6 Cotterill *6 Clingan 6 Meade 6 Middleton 6 Blake 7 Brown 6. Subs: Quinn**65 Hume *54 Maxted, Ball, Finnegan **54
Goals: Crewe: Pogba (45).Rovers: Brown (90+2) Sending off: Tootle
Bookings: Crewe: Tootle, Robertson. Rovers: Blake
Referee: Trevor Kettle (Berkshire)