Crewe Alexandra’s new loan signing Lauri Dalla Valle scored with virtually his first touch for the club and Mathias Pobga rose highest to head home a corner from substitute Michael West to seal a first ever win at the Keepmoat Stadium. It was an accomplished performance from the Railwaymen who thoroughly deserved to record their second away win of the season.
Alan Martin was hardly tested with his defenders on top form and Chuks Aneke arguably the most threatening player on the pitch. The home side did hit the crossbar through Paul Keegan in the second half but an assured Crewe kept their composure to bounce back from our disappointing home defeat to Yeovil Town.
Steve Davis selected his on-loan Fulham striker Lauri Dalla Valle after he completed his switch yesterday and that meant a switch in his attack with Mathias Pogba really replacing Michael West on the right wing. Chuks Aneke operated in behind the Finnish striker.
The lively Iain Hume guided an early effort wide of Alan Martin’s right hand post just before Crewe made a dream start on our third ever visit to the Keepmoat Stadium. Aneke collected possession some 35 yards from the Doncaster goal and threaded an inch perfect pass through for the alert Dalla Valle to run onto. The former on-loan Fulham youngster took his time before calmly slotting it beyond a helpless Gary Woods via a post. It was a quality pass and a quality finish. After just five minutes of play, Dalla Valle had scored the quickest goal ever by a debutant. Last season, Greg Pearson had been on for eight minutes at Oxford before he tapped home a priceless winner.
An in-form Doncaster were shocked by Della Valle’s early opener but Dean Saunders’ powerful side soon began to put the Crewe defence on the back foot with Hume and Billy Paynter as the spearhead. Not for the first time this season, Crewe’s central defenders’ Harry Davis and Mark Ellis remained solid.
Crewe had the clever runs in behind from Dalle Valle to aim for and the blond Finn was causing problems with his movement. He was unfortunate not to collect a superb ball from Luke Murphy before full-back Paul Quinn had to do fantastically well to head away from the Crewe forward after Pogba had won an initial header. Quinn ended up in the back of the netting to prevent a well placed Delle Valle from nodding home a second.
An energetic and entertaining start to the game was then halted after a clash of heads between Rob Jones and Abdul Osman inside the Crewe penalty area. Osman who had cleared the ball was able to continue but a groggy Jones was forced to leave the proceedings after 25 minutes. He was replaced by Shelton Martis.
Osman seemed to be suffering no ill-effects from his knock on his head and soon drew a save from Woods after another flowing move from the Railwaymen involving Murphy, Aneke and Pogba. From a Murphy free-kick, Woods had to grasp his dangerous cross at the foot of his post with Dalla Valle anticipating any rebound.
At the other end, Martin Woods’ attempted lob just dropped over Martin’s crossbar. Crewe were confidently stroking the ball around on an immaculate surface and another promising break saw Byron Moore force Woods into another save with a shot from distance.
David Syers was the first player booked for a rash tackle on Matt Tootle. Osman was also cautioned for a tug on the shirt of Paynter. Aneke showed great strength to set Dalle Valle on another run but on this occasion he was crowded out and his shot was blocked.
In first half stoppage time, Hume had a golden chance to equalise but he wastefully dragged his shot wide. He should have hit the target at the very least. Crewe would have felt aggrieved if he had been able to find the net as there appeared to be a hefty tackle on Pogba for Doncaster to retreat possession close to the half way line but the referee missed it after slipping himself!
At the beginning of the second half, Crewe were forced into a change with West replacing Moore on the right wing. Doncaster made their second change with the experienced Robbie Blake replacing Syers.
Aneke was continuing to influence the game with his positioning and ability to slip the ball in behind. He tried to bundle his way through early on but off balance couldn’t control his shot. On other occasion he played a pass just short of Dalla Valle’s run.
From a Murphy corner, Pogba went close to forcing the ball over the line but the home side just about smuggled it behind for another. Aneke, who was a constant menace then headed straight at Woods. Crewe had started the second half in control of the possession.
After 55 minutes, substitute West was granted too much time and space and he so nearly took full advantage with a really good effort from 25 yards out.
All of Crewe’s early good work was nearly undone just before the hour mark after a melee inside the Alex penalty area. Martin parried a shot and as it bounced around dangerously inside the box, Paul Keegan adjusted his feet superbly well to crack a shot against the crossbar. Tootle completed the clearance.
James Harper was booked for a reckless challenge on Aneke and the Crewe coaching staff were also unhappy after Dalla Valle was sent crashing into an advertising hoarding after being shoved off the pitch. It was uncalled for. Hume was also booked for blocking a run from Tootle.
Crewe had Martin to thank again for another smart save to deny the Doncaster substitute Blake after a neat one-two. In the follow up, full-back Quinn had his cross blocked by Tootle. Doncaster were enjoying their best spell of the night.
A towering header from Kelvin Mellor looked to have given Crewe the cushion of a second goal on 67 minutes but it was chalked off for offside after Murphy’s free-kick had found him inside a crowded box. Aneke was again on the receiving end of another hefty tackle this time from Quinn and he was booked.
Aneke was excelling and he then slipped in Pogba who drilled a shot into the mid-drift of Woods. Pogba did make sure on 72 minutes when he rose highest to head home an excellent corner from West. It was Pogba’s sixth of the season and came at the end where 168 Crewe fans were assembled.
Doncaster’s Dean Saunders then replaced another midfielder Harper with the target man Chris Brown. Ellis did well to get across and block a shot from Hume from just inside the penalty area.
Keegan was booked and Mellor again headed at goal after yet another free-kick for the Railwaymen.
With four minutes remaining, an alert Martin stuck out a leg to deny Hume a late goal and preserve his clean sheet. He also denied Paynter a late goal in stoppage time with his legs just before Aneke left the pitch to a well deserved ovation with Gregor Robertson replacing the Arsenal youngster.