Crewe Alexandra suffered late heartbreak at the Keepmoat Stadium as Andy Williams hit a 95th minute winner for Doncaster Rovers, as Darren Ferguson's side fought back from 2-1 down entering injury time.
Crewe must have thought they had extended their winning run to three games when substitute Callum Saunders tapped home his first senior goal for the club in the 90th minute to put us 2-1 up but a well struck free-kick from Cameron Stewart in injury time set up that grandstand finish.
In a topsy turvy game, Crewe had taken the lead through Marcus Haber after great work from Adam King before Conor Grant volleyed home an equaliser six minutes later. It was a cruel defeat to take for the Alex, who had fought hard to remain in the game only to be punished so late on.
Steve Davis named an unchanged side for the trip to Doncaster Rovers. The Alex boss did welcome back Brad Inman (rested) and David Fox (back) to his squad and youngster George Cooper was involved again after a recent bout of illness.
Following on from the 1-0 win over Oldham Athletic two weeks ago, loan signing Semi Ajayi partnered Ben Nugent for his second start for the club.
Due to a kit clash with the red and white of Doncaster, the Railwaymen had to line up in their alternative navy kit at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Doncaster made a bright start to the proceedings and early on Ben Nugent had to make a timely interception to prevent a slipped pass from James Coppinger from reaching Andy Williams.
Crewe first real venture into the Doncaster half of the pitch resulted in Ryan Lowe heading a yard wide as he attacked the near post.
In the 8th minute, Crewe surrendered possession casually in the midfield and a forceful burst from Conor Grant resulted in him drilling a shot just wide of Ben Garratt’s right hand post.
Crewe had to be very compact in their defending as Doncaster dictated the early exchanges in the Yorkshire wind.
A superb training ground move at a corner nearly saw Doncaster open the lead on 12 minutes. In a well organised manoeuvre, a number of bodies ran from outside just outside the box to act as a diversion and that allowed Williams to get free at the near post to collect a shorter delivery. Williams ran onto the chance but thankfully Garratt had read it to save tremendously well.
The Railwaymen did begin to settle down and started to enjoy good spells of keeping possession in the Doncaster half of the pitch. Our first moment of real quality, produced the opening goal on 26 minutes.
Ryan Colclough, who had been relatively quiet by his own standards, carried the ball to the edge of the Doncaster penalty area before slipping a perfectly weighted pass to find Adam King in behind and the on-loan Swansea midfielder had the presence of mind to pick out Haber for a tap-in. It was a wonderfully crafted goal as Haber scored his second goal in his last three games.
As you expect from a Darren Ferguson side, the wound of conceding against the run of play, ignited his side into creating an almost instant chance that somehow Nathan Tyson hit over the crossbar from barely a yard out. He didn’t need telling that it should have been an instant reply.
Moments later the Doncaster captain James Coppinger forced Garratt into a straight forward save from distance before they forced the equaliser in the 32nd minute. Coppinger was again involved from the right hand side and his cross seemed to take a slight deflection to allow it to sit up perfectly for Grant to volley past a helpless Garratt. The midfielder had been able to ghost into the box but his controlled finish was crisp.
Five minutes after it went all square, Crewe conjured up another really good opportunity to retake the lead. Jones fed King in behind the Doncaster back line and again he produced an excellent cross that found the back post. If Haber had anticipated it and had not been caught on his heals a little, he may have applied his second tap in of the afternoon. The big Canadian did retrieve possession and produced a tempting cross. Colclough’s diving header was kept out by Thorsten Stuckmann and Lowe fired the follow up straight at the Doncaster goalkeeper.
Moments later, the excellent King forced the German Stuckmann into a superb reaction save after his cross took a wild deflection and looked to be heading for the top corner. Ollie Turton also hit an ambitious effort from 30 yards that certainly had Stuckmann thinking.
Crewe needed Garratt to be on top form as the half drew to a close. The busy stopper made a fantastic one hand save to deny Coppinger from distance and he soon had to spread himself to save bravely from Williams after he had combined well with full-back Cedric Evina to get in behind our back line.
Doncaster’s goalscorer started the second half with a well struck shot from 25 yards but Garratt had it well covered in truth. Colclough then tried to conjure something up for the Alex. The forward twisted and turned his way to the by-line and his low cross was initially dropped by Stuckmann but he was able to recover before King took full advantage.
Five minutes into the second half, an excellent cushioned header from Haber found Lowe virtually free on goal but unfortunately for the experienced forward, the ball seemed to get stuck under his feet and the chance was lost.
Colclough was a menace to the Doncaster defence again but his double shot inside a crowded box was blocked. Moments later, Lowe’s clever flick nearly got Haber in but Stuckmann slid on the wet surface to collect comfortably.
Jones was booked for Crewe for pulling back a shirt and from the resultant free-kick, Garratt had to be alert to palm away from the head of Tyson. The former Nottingham Forest hit-man also struck over the bar from 20 yards before Steve Davis made his first change of the afternoon with Inman replacing King. Doncaster also made their first sub with Cameron Stewart replacing Mitchell Lund.
The game continued to ebb and flow with both sides providing a decent threat in the final third. On 75 minutes, the sub Stewart provided an excellent delivery from the Crewe left hand but somehow Williams mis-directed his header wide of the mark with Garratt blocked off by Tyson. It was a let off for the Alex.
Crewe needed to ease from growing pressure and Lowe and Haber were doing well up there to retain some possession and move us up the pitch.
With the clock ticking, Evina shot wastefully over the top of the bar before Conor Grant went awfully close to a second goal with a fierce drive from 20 yards that just cleared the woodwork. Crewe were certainly not settling for a point either and another probing run from Colclough saw his cross just evade the advanced Bingham.
Steve Davis showed his intention to try and snatch a win by replacing the hard working Lowe with Callum Saunders with just over five minutes remaining and it paid off with one minute left. Colclough produced a moment of magic to create an opportunity out of absolutely nothing. He wriggled away from three Doncaster players to open the play up out on the right hand side. Inman slipped Turton in and his low cross across the six-yard box was tapped home by poacher Saunders
That looked to be the winner until Ajayi was booked for a challenge and the Donny sub Cameron Stewart hit a wonderful free-kick into the top corner and there was more drama as the home side hit a 95th minute winner after Williams had created enough space for himself to bend his shot past Garratt. To say it was harsh on Crewe was an understatement especially as the referee had awarded three minutes of stoppage time. For the second time in two seasons, Crewe had suffered defeat in stoppage time at the Keepmoat Stadium.