Saunders grabs a late winner for the Alex
Callum Saunders grabbed a late winner as Crewe Alexandra booked their place in the Third Round of the FA Youth Cup with a 2-1 win over Rochdale. Fraser Murdoch gave the Alex the lead midway through the first half and after Dale equalised on the stroke of half-time, Saunders netted a late goal for the Alex to seal an impressive win.
Crewe were unchanged from the side that defeated Coventry City in the First Round of the Youth Cup last week and survived an early scare when keeper Robbie Johnson was quick to smother the ball after initially fumbling a long-range shot.
Dale continued to make the brighter start to the game with a series of early corners before Callum Camps sent a free-kick wide of the Alex goal.
On 17 minutes, Crewe had their first real chance of the game as Saunders, who hit a brace in the win over Coventry, struck the post.
That effort seemed to give the Alex a confidence boost and on 25 minutes they had the opening goal of the game. Saunders broke away and produced a good cross and strike partner Murdoch produced a
powerful header to give Crewe the lead. Minutes later George Cooper had an effort well saved by the Dale keeper.
The home side were still causing the Crewe youngsters problems and after Johnson was alert to deny an Andrew Cannon effort, the Alex keeper had to react quickly to clear a stray back-pass.
Just when the Alex looked to be going in to the break in the lead Rochdale found a leveller. Crewe failed to deal with a corner and Yomi Samuels was on hand to bring the home side level.
The second half started with Cooper forcing a quick reaction save from the Rochdale keeper before a dangerous cross by Dale defender James Hooper created worry in the Alex defence.
As conditions at Spotland worsened, Dale applied more pressure with Cannon again going close before Murdoch and Chris Speed had efforts for the Alex. That was Speed's last contribution to the game as he was replaced by fellow first-year scholar Joe Howell.
Just as the tie looked to be heading in to extra-time, Crewe snatched a late winner with Saunders continuing his excellent run of form in the Youth Cup. The Welsh forward latched on to a Murdoch flick and confidently finished to put the Alex in to the next round.
Manager Alex Morris made a late change as Joe Kearns was replaced by Dom Smith as the Alex looked to hold on to their lead which they successfully did to set up a Third Round tie at Bristol Rovers.