Uche Ikpeazu marked his Crewe Alexandra return with the opening goal this evening on the half an hour mark, but the Railwaymen had to settle for a point after the Doncaster Rovers captain James Coppinger forced home an equaliser via a corner with ten minutes left on the clock.
Ikpeazu once again scored on his Crewe ‘debut’ following his brace against Bradford City when he signed on loan with us last season. His all-round display saw him claim the Man-of-the-Match award as well.
Crewe excelled in the first half and looked the more likely side to score, although Ben Garratt made an unbelievable save to deny Coppinger an early goal.
Steve Davis did not hesitate to name his new loan captures Uche Ikpeazu and Nicky Ajose in his starting line-up for the visit of Paul Dickov’s Doncaster Rovers to the Alexandra Stadium. There was a recall at right wing-back for James Baillie, thus allowing Oliver Turton to move into central midfield alongside Jamie Ness and Anthony Grant.
A lively opening to the game saw both sides enjoying good spells of possession with Crewe certainly acquiring some joy with Baillie down the right flanks and Greg Leigh on the opposite side. Ness was finding them with a range of quality passing both short and long.
The powerful Ikpeazu soon became a real handful, bouncing off the robust centre-half Andy Butler and slipping his new partner Ajose in through on goal. The on-loan Leeds United striker got his shot off but the covering Reece Wabara did superbly to apply a block after just eight minutes.
After ten minutes, the visitors from Yorkshire, the lively Curtis Main was granted too much time and space down the Crewe right hand side and his accurate cross found his captain James Coppinger coming in but the agile Ben Garratt produced a stunning tip over to deny him the opening goal.
From the resultant corner, Crewe switched off and had a let off as Nathan Tyson volleyed over the crossbar at the far post. The former Derby and Nottingham Forest man had been left all alone.
Ness continued to spray the ball around all the park and was at his influential best. From one of his well struck free-kicks, George Ray won a far post header but Butler did well to hook the danger away with Ikpeazu waiting in the wings.
Ikpeazu continued to cause mayhem with his physical presence and Butler was booked for clattering into him close to the touchline.
His goal arrived on eve of the half hour an hour mark. He caused the initial danger trying to pull down a long ball from Leigh. The ball was kept alive by Turton and his cross found Ajose at the far post. He managed to cut the ball back for Ikpeazu and his instant shot took a deflection to leave Sam Johnstone absolutely stranded.
It was more than Crewe had deserved and in truth, the Railwaymen looked the more likely side to score again before the interval. More good work found the overlapping Leigh but he was just denied a clear shot at goal. Leigh also found Turton in enough space for him to drive a shot from 20 yards just wide of the mark.
Fellow debutant Ajose had a chance to get his name on the score sheet but he couldn’t quite control his side-footed volley at the far post after Dugdale had headed the ball back into a crowded box following Ness’ free-kick to the edge of the Doncaster Rovers penalty area.
At the other end though, Harry Davis timely produced a challenge to prevent Nathan Tyson from getting a shot off.
As expected Doncaster stepped up a gear at the beginning of the second half, and skipper Dugdale had to apply an early block on a shot from Paul Keegan. Keegan also sent a deflected shot straight through to Garratt.
Dugdale also did superbly to cut across Coppinger and block his low cross that was aimed towards Tyson. The Doncaster forward was forced off injured minutes later and had to be replaced by Theo Robinson.
After turning Butler again on the half way line, Ikpeazu embarked on another forceful run that resulted him getting a shot on target. A searching pass from Grant was just too long for the willing runner Ajose.
Ness produced another splendid pass through to Ajose, who took it superbly on his chest only for Butler to get across and produce a timely interception as he entered the box.
Doncaster soon had more of the ball in and around the Crewe penalty area but were finding it hard to create major openings. Main turned sharply but shot over and the fresh legs of Robinson saw him force Garratt into a straight forward save.
Ikpeazu managed to get another shot off after more good approach play from Leigh before he was replaced by Marcus Haber.
Crewe also lost the impressive Leigh with a knock and he was replaced by Guthrie.
Haber flicked a Ness corner wide of the mark before Doncaster grabbed their equaliser on 80 minutes. It came via a corner after Grant had rushed out to deflect a shot from Forrester over the top of the bar. From the resulting corner taken by Forrester, Robinson applied a touch on it that Garratt did well to palm out but Coppinger reacted quickest to poke the rebound home.
The re-start was delayed by a Doncaster fan running onto the pitch and throwing a flare. That caused seven minutes of stoppage time.
Drawing level ignited Rovers for the closing stages and for the extended injury time but they couldn’t find a way past Garratt.
Late chances for the Alex to perhaps win it saw Ness fire at Johnstone and the on loan Stoke City midfielder nearly wriggled his way through with a late solo run but he was just crowded out.