Crewe Alexandra had to come from 1-0 down against cup giant killers Bradford City to make it through to the area final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at the Alexandra Stadium. An equaliser from Byron Moore on the brink of half-time cancelled out Kyle Reid’s opener for the Bantams before the Alex scored three more in the second period to make sure it was us facing Coventry City in a two-legged affair with the winner going to Wembley.
Substitute Max Clayton headed Crewe in front for the first time from a Moore cross before further late goals from Brad Inman and fellow sub Chuks Aneke sealed a superb but rather flattering 4-1 win. It was a much closer affair than the score line suggested.
Crewe Alexandra boss Steve Davis made three changes to his side that drew 1-1 with Leyton Orient at the weekend with AJ Leitch-Smith, Harry Davis and goalkeeper Alan Martin coming in for Clayton, Mark Ellis and Steve Phillips. Phil Parkinson made eight changes from his weekend side but there was a debut for new striker signing Andy Gray.
Chances were few and far between in the opening passage of the game, but it was the home side controlling much of the possession. Alan Martin was called upon to grasp an early header from Tom Naylor before the covering Kelvin Mellor did superbly to stop Andy Gray in his tracks as he threatened to go through on goal.
Adam Dugdale hit a Matt Tootle with his shoulder more than his head before the second delivery from the defender was just about flicked away from the head of Mathias Pogba.
After a fairly even opening, it was the visitors who took an 18th minute lead following a rare error from Martin. Kyle Reid chanced his luck from distance and perhaps deceived by a bounce ahead of him, the ball travelled through the Alex goalkeeper and into the net.
Crewe thought they had hit back almost immediately but Leitch-Smith’s fine finish from Pogba’s knock down was ruled out after Pogba had slightly strayed offside from Luke’s Murphy ball.
Inman had a shot blocked to take the power off his close range effort and the ball bouncing harmlessly through to the Bradford goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin before a fine delivery from Mellor saw Pogba not quite make a definite connection with it and his header drifted wide of the far post.
Crewe were just lacking that final pass but Mellor nearly picked out Pogba again from a wide area. The home side’s pressure finally told in the 43rd minute when Moore showed great pace to try and make the by-line and his cross-come-shot took a deflection that looped up and over a stranded McLaughlin. The Bradford goalkeeper stood little chance.
The first half ended with Crewe on the front foot and Leitch-Smith forced a good save from McLaughlin before Inman could only force his follow up effort into the side netting.
At the interval, Martin was replaced by Phillips after suffering a foot injury earlier in the game. Bradford wasted a good early chance when Alan Connell mis-hit a knockdown from Gray. If he had connected he would have caused Phillips some early trouble.
Crewe continued to enjoy the majority of the possession and more good work form Moore saw him find Inman and his half volley was superbly tipped onto the roof of his net by McLaughlin. It was a fine save from the Bantams stopper.
Bradford somehow stayed level after a forceful run from Tootle saw his low cross deflected against the foot of the post and as the ball deflected into the path of Moore, he must have though he had scored his second goal of the night, but his powerful shot was somehow blocked!
Steve Davis made a change with Clayton replacing Leitch-Smith and Inman continued to be a threat with a couple of decent efforts that just cleared the Bradford crossbar.
Bradford made a double substitution with Nahki Wells and Zavon Hines replacing Connell and Gray. Pogba soon followed for Crewe with Aneke completing our subs on the night.
With 13 minutes left, the earlier change paid off with the alert Clayton stooping to head home a Moore cross. The Bradford goalkeeper was beaten at his near post and will be disappointed but Clayton showed great agility to flick it in for his 5th goal of the season.
Moments later a mis-hit shot from Aneke saw Clayton nearly connect and divert it in but it went a yard wide of the mark. The lively forward headed another Moore cross into the back of the net but it was ruled out for offside.
Bradford went close with Wells swerving a dangerous looking cross just wide before a later mix-up between captain Murphy and his goalkeeper saw the ball bounce close to our goal-line. It was heart in the mouth stuff and Murphy recovered to clear the danger.
Inman went close again but McLaughlin did just about enough to turn it around the post. It was nervy moment for the Bradford goalkeeper.
A late effort from Zavon Hines saw him curl just one wide and with the just the one goal in it, it was always going to be grandstand finish.
Crewe ended any doubts in the 89th minute when a splendid through ball from Aneke released Inman through on goal and he kept his composure to slide the ball past McLaughlin for 3-1.
There was even enough for Aneke to get in on the act. He combined superbly with Clayton before dispatching an unstoppable shot past a helpless McLaughlin in stoppage time.