Crewe Alexandra exited the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy against Wigan Athletic this evening after twice taking the lead at the Alexandra Stadium.
After Ben Garratt saved a penalty from Sanmi Odelusi in the opening minute of the game, Australian Brad Inman laid on a sixth minute goal for Marcus Haber before Jordy Hiwula cancelled out that opener just four minutes later.
In a topsy-turvy cup tie, Crewe regained the lead to lead at the break when a shot from Ryan Colclough squirmed past the experienced Jussi Jaakelainen but Hiwula side-footed home a second equaliser with 20 minutes remaining.
The goal that decided the tie was a stunner. On a counter-attack, Yanic Wildschut unleashed an unstoppable drive from 30 yards that flew into Ben Garratt’s top corner. With 10 minutes of stoppage time added on for a nasty facial injury to George Ray, Crewe still could have forced penalties with Jaakelainen saving late on from Haber and then Dalla Valle couldn’t keep his header down from the rebound.
Steve Davis made a couple of changes for the visit of Wigan Athletic with Chris Atkinson coming in for leading scorer Adam King and Jon Guthrie was recalled at left-back for the on-loan Stephen Kingsley, who was away on International duty with Scotland Under-21s. Harry Wilson and Callum Saunders were also away with the Wales Under-21 side, but Marcus Haber postponed joining up with Canada to play this evening.
Gary Caldwell’s Wigan side were handed a dream start at the Alexandra Stadium with the referee awarding the visitors’ a penalty after just 44 seconds. The recalled Guthrie was adjudged to have felled Sanmi Odelusi inside the box and he took it upon himself to take the spot kick. Ben Garratt went the right way to save to his right hand side.
Garratt’s fantastic save prevented a disastrous start for the Alex and gave us the platform to take the lead after just six minutes. Brad Inman did superbly well to hound full-back Andy Kellett into an error and rob him of possession and he glanced up to roll the ball invitingly over for Haber to slide in and stir us into that early lead. It had been quite a start at the Alexandra Stadium and the attacking play didn’t stop there.
The Alex stopper was called into action to palm away a dangerous looking corner from Kellett and from another corner from the Crewe right, the Latics drew level after 10 minutes. Crewe actually thought it should have been a goal kick but after failing to clear, Hiwula spun to turn in a knock down right in front of Garratt.
Crewe had their moments as well from crosses going into the opposition box, but the ball wouldn’t drop invitingly for either the advanced Ben Nugent or Haber and Donervon Daniels was able to clear the danger. Haber was also just inches away from reaching a cross field ball from Inman after he and Colclough had linked up superbly well down the left hand side.
Wigan lost Chris McCann through injury and he had to be replaced by Don Cowie before a fine cross from George Cooper found Haber at the far post but under pressure, he couldn’t direct his header on target.
Cooper also forced a save from Jaakelainen after Colclough had crossed to the edge of the six yard box. The Alex youngster chose to have a touch instead of shooting first time and the Finnish goalkeeper spread himself to make the save at the foot of his post.
Therefore it was rather surprising that Jaakelainen allowed a shot from Colclough to squirm past his outstretched hand and cross the line to put the Alex ahead at the interval.
Wigan certainly came out with an extra zest to their play in the second half and Garratt was called upon to deny the lively Hiwula and Wildschut drove another effort into the side netting from an acute angle.
Wigan continued to press looking for a second equaliser and Crewe were dealt a huge blow when Ray was injured after Francisco Junior caught him in an aerial dual. Ray won the header and Junior’s momentum took him through and he caught him on what appeared to be the cheekbone. A lengthy stoppage ensued and resulted in Ray being stretched off and 10 minutes of time added on at the end.
The Ray injury resulted in a change around at the back with Guthrie moving to centre-half and James Baillie coming on at right-back, with the versatile Turton switching to the left.
Crewe boss Steve Davis also introduced Callum Ainley for Cooper.
Wigan deservedly drew level on 70 minutes and in truth the pressure told. Hiwula was denied a clear run at goal by the covering Guthrie but with the ball still not clear, defender Daniels smacked the post with a fantastic shot from the edge of the penalty area. From the third passage of play, the alert Hiwula was there again to goal poach his second goal of the evening as the ball came back into the Crewe six-yard.
From a David Fox free-kick into the Wigan penalty area, Inman volleyed a shot just wide of the target before Wigan scored the decisive goal on 76 minutes.
Crewe had been on the attack and had been comfortable in possession but young Ainley attempted to play the ball round the corner, and the mistake was pounced upon. From being on the attack, Crewe now found themselves in a 2v2 situation with Wildschut in possession. He chose to carry it forward instead of passing before unleashing a magnificent strike straight into Garratt’s top corner. It was a strike of the highest quality and left Crewe behind for the first time on the night.
Ainley tried to make amends quickly and clipped a delightful ball into Haber. It was a little awkward for him to control but the Canada International managed to but he could only lift the ball over the onrushing Jaakelainen and over his crossbar.
With the tie slipping away, Lauri Dalla Valle replaced Inman before Max Power had a dangerous looking effort deflected behind for a corner.
Deep into stoppage time, Crewe were presented with a golden opportunity to force spot-kicks when Fox’s cross evaded two Wigan defenders to drop to Haber clean on goal but he side-footed his effort against the Wigan goalkeeper and as the rebound looped into the air, LDV couldn’t get over it enough to keep his header down and Crewe were facing a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy exit at the second round stage.