Goals from youngster Callum Ainley, Marcus Haber and Brad Inman gave Crewe Alexandra their first victory since early February and in the process plunged Doncaster Rovers closer to the relegation trap door.
The Railwaymen responded superbly to going behind to Tommy Rowe’s opener on 28 minutes to make sure we were level at the break thanks to Callum Ainley’s first goal at first team level after he seized on a mistake by full-back Cedric Evina. Marcus Haber’s controlled finish on 58 minutes put the Alex in front and Inman sealed the victory with an excellent finish in stoppage time after good work from fellow substitute Daniel Udoh.
Crewe thoroughly deserved the victory by showing plenty of spirit and character to fight back and end our run of 15 games without a win.
Crewe Alexandra boss Steve Davis made two changes to the side that were unfortunate to lose 1-0 at Oldham Athletic last weekend. Club captain Harry Davis returned to the starting line-up in place of George Ray in the heart of the defence. George Ray and Ben Nugent were on the bench alongside Brad Inman and the club’s most recent signing Daniel Udoh.
One youngster Callum Ainley replaced another Charlie Kirk for his fifth professional start.
Due to an excessive downpour in South Cheshire, the kick-off was delayed for half an hour to allow surface water to be cleared from the pitch.
In the early exchanges of play, Zoumana Bakayogo conceded a rather needless free-kick on the edge of the penalty area but James Coppinger’s delivery was cleared at the far post by the covering Ollie Turton.
Davis and Fox were then called upon to halt the progress being made by Andy Williams with Fox clearing for a corner. From Coppinger’s cross from the right, Mitchell Lund headed just over under pressure from Jon Guthrie.
Crewe had moments of promise as well but our moves were breaking down in the final third. We were just lacking the quality with our final ball or cross but a fine run from Callum Saunders saw him race in behind on 11 minutes. He collected James Jones’ lifted pass but he didn’t catch his shot well enough to trouble the Doncaster goalkeeper Remi Matthews for the first time.
The impressive Turton showed great strength and timing to stop danger man Tommy Rowe as he threatened to open the scoring and Darren Ferguson’s hard working side were getting some joy down the flanks with Coppinger on the right and Riccardo Calder on the left.
Saunders was a menace with his runs in behind though and he certainly appeared to have been shoved in the back by Craig Alcock inside the penalty area. The question was certainly presented to referee Swabey but he waved away the appeals.
Genuine chances on goal were few and far between but Doncaster’s first real effort resulted in the opening goal on 28 minutes. Crewe lost out in two aerial battles on the edge of the penalty area and Rowe was granted too much time and space to get his shot off. It took a wild deflection off captain Davis and seemed to bounce really awkwardly in front of Ben Garratt to give him little chance of saving it.
Crewe tried to respond quickly from going behind but Marcus Haber didn’t get enough on a flick on from Guthrie and Matthews was able to jump on the loose ball before Davis could apply a really telling touch at the far post.
A dangerous looking corner from James Jones was tipped over by Matthews before the Doncaster goalkeeper was called into action to punch clear ahead of Haber.
Coppinger headed straight at Garratt from a good position before Crewe Alexandra finally made our growing pressure count in the final minute of the first half. Saunders did superbly down the touchline to send the overlapping Bakayogo down the left hand side and his low cross was aimed towards young Ainley. The covering Doncaster full-back Cedric Evina made a right mess of his clearance and Ainley stole possession from him to dispatch it past Matthews for his first senior goal.
Doncaster made a change at the interval with Aaron Taylor-Sinclair replacing full-back Lund.
The visitors, who desperately needed three points to starve off their own relegation back to League Two, had the ball in the back of the net from Tyson and Williams but they were rightly chalked off for offside.
A swift counter attack from Crewe saw Saunders appeal for another penalty after his close range shot seemed to be blocked by the hand of Alcock. Haber’s follow up effort was blocked. From the resultant corner, Haber headed down and into the gloves of the well placed Matthews.
Crewe took the lead on 58 minutes through Haber’s controlled half volley after Bakayogo reached the by-line. His low cross found Saunders and it eventually broke through to the big Canadian got over the ball to finish superbly. Doncaster boss Darren Ferguson was not happy after Crewe had regained the ball after the referee had penalised Rowe for high feet.
Haber broke away but his cross was too close to the Doncaster goalkeeper and the chance of him finding Saunders unmarked was lost.
At the other, Williams curled a shot just wide after turning Davis inside the box. Davis certainly made up for that with well positioned headers inside the Crewe penalty area when Doncaster started to load our box.
Ferguson made a double substitution with Cameron Stewart and Liam Mandeville replacing Tyson and Calder.
With Doncaster increasing the pressure, David Fox made a superb block to deny Rowe a free shot at our goal before Williams headed straight at the Crewe goalkeeper from a decent position.
Crewe continued to be a threat on the break through and the introduction of Inman for the hard working Saunders injected some fresh legs in attack.
Inman’s first real contribution saw him feed Ainley and he was unfortunate to see his curling shot deflected behind for a corner. Ainley was excellent before he was replaced by Dan Udoh.
Doncaster’s late chance to salvage something from the game then saw Rowe shoot just wide and Williams wasted a really good chance when he couldn’t direct his header on goal.
Crewe introduced defender George Ray for Haber to hold on to the 2-1 lead but it was Crewe grabbing the final goal of the game in stoppage time. Crewe broke superbly well to put Udoh behind the Doncaster back line. He kept his composure to roll the ball into Inman and he fired his low shot perfectly past Matthews to seal the win for the Alex.