Blackburn 4-3 Crewe (AET)
Blackburn: Raya, Lowe (Marshall), Feeney, Byrne (Guthrie), Stokes (Graham), Gallagher, Hendrie, Akpan, Duffy, Conway, Wharton
Crewe: Garratt, Turton, Bakayogo, Davis, Guthrie, Hollands (Jones), Bingham, Kiwomya, Cooper (Ray), Dagnall, Saunders (Lowe)
Attendance: 3,448 (535 from Crewe)
A really gallant effort from Crewe Alexandra saw us lead 2-0 at Ewood Park this evening only for the Championship club to battle back to take the lead with two minutes remaining – but Steve Davis’ side have a real resilience about them and dramatically took the EFL Cup tie into extra-time thanks to Chris Dagnall’s second goal of the night in the third minute of stoppage time.
Owen Coyle's side finally won a seven-goal thriller after Shane Duffy headed home a corner in the sixth minute of stoppage time and it was fair to say it was harsh on a Crewe side who had also hit the post through George Cooper and seen Callum Saunders denied at point blank range in normal time.
An impressive display from the Railwaymen, especially in the first half had seen us go ahead on 8 minutes through a wonderful strike from midfielder Billy Bingham and then double the lead on 39 with Chris Dagnall tucking home from close range after another fine effort from Bingham had been too hot to handle for Blackburn’s goalkeeper David Raya.
Rovers hit back though two minutes later through midfielder Hope Akan and it set up an equally dramatic second half. The home side equalised through their young defender Scott Wharton on 69 minutes from a corner and looked to have won it when Craig Conway turned in a headed knock down from substitute Danny Graham.
A spirited Crewe side wouldn’t lie down though and Dagnall’s tidy finish took an entertaining cup tie into 30 minutes of extra-time.
Blackburn were a constant threat from corners and crosses and Owen Coyle’s side took the lead again in the sixth minute of stoppage time after Shane Duffy headed home a Conway corner. Crewe had survived three previous efforts from corners before Duffy’s presence finally told.
Crewe Alexandra made two changes from the weekend draw at Newport for the trip to Ewood Park with new signing Danny Hollands marking his full debut in midfield alongside Billy Bingham. James Jones dropped out of the starting eleven. Striker Callum Saunders also came in for the rested Ryan Lowe, who began on the substitutes’ bench. Rotation of the captaincy saw Chris Dagnall captain the Alex team for the first time.
A promising start from the Railwaymen saw Dagnall collect an accurate pass from Zoumana Bakayogo in the opening minute and on the turn force an early corner. Almost immediately, the home side did likewise with Guthrie preventing a dangerous cross from Liam Feeney reaching its intended target Anthony Stokes.
An early flurry of corners saw Crewe almost punished on the counter attack, with Feeney racing into space, but the retreating Ollie Turton did well to match him stride for stride to hold him up and his resultant shot cleared the Crewe crossbar.
A really confident Crewe side opened the scoring after just eight minutes. Some really good possession play down the Blackburn left hand side, saw Turton make progress and find Dagnall and his little lay off found Cooper on the edge of the box. He skipped past a challenge before teeing up Bingham, who drove an unstoppable shot past Raya from just outside the area. It absolutely flew past the Blackburn goalkeeper and into the top corner. It was some way for Bingham to register his first goal for the club on his 27th appearance.
Blackburn tried to respond to the early set-back but Davis did well to flick Feeney’s cross away from the head of Stokes lurking behind him. Cooper tried a ‘Bingham’ but dragged his effort wide of the mark. On 20 minutes, another probing run from Cooper saw him ride a tackle to play in Dagnall but he was a little off balance when he shot wide of the target.
Chasing an equaliser, the home side did begin to have some excessive pressure in the Crewe half of the field, but the back players continuously headed crosses away from the danger zone and Hollands was doing a sound job in front of the back four. Garratt also had to punch another dangerous looking cross from Feeney away from his six-yard box.
The Alex goalkeeper made a stunning save on 33 minutes when he was well placed to push away a powerful header from Shane Duffy following a corner from the right.
Two minutes later a rare slip from Jon Guthrie on the edge of the box allowed Sam Gallagher to get in behind but after a smart turn, he made rather a mess of his shot and it spun harmlessly wide of Garratt’s right hand post.
Crewe had defended resolutely to keep those crosses out and on 39 minutes, we doubled our advantage on the night. Bingham drilled a low shot from almost 25 yards out and Raya’s fumble allowed the goal poacher Dagnall to tuck home from close range. It was Dagnall’s second goal of the season following his opener against Hartlepool last week.
To their credit, Blackburn hit back almost immediately with midfielder Hope Akpan showing great strength and poise to dart into the Crewe box and he remained extremely composed to slip it past a helpless Garratt in a one-on-one situation. Crewe’s two goal advantage had lasted barely two minutes.
Due to Akpan’s tidy finish, the Railwaymen had to settle for going in at the break just the one goal to the good.
An early half chance saw Dagnall nick possession from the feet of Scott Wharton and his cross found Saunders inside the box and the Welsh youngster was a bit unlucky to see his chest off not fall into the path of the supportive Bingham.
Blackburn’s first opportunity of the second half should have resulted in an equaliser after Stokes had teed up his strike partner Gallagher but his hesitation allowed Guthrie to recover and make a telling block with the goal at his mercy.
It really was developing into a gripping cup-tie and Cooper could not have been any closer to making it 3-1 when his curling shot hit the inside of the post and rebounded to safety. Cooper must have thought he had scored after being found by Kiwomya inside the Blackburn box.
Almost immediately, Stokes broke clear but dragged his shot inches wide of Garratt’s far post.
You could barely catch your breath because on 52 minutes, Saunders was denied superbly by Raya after Bakayogo had found him right in front of the Blackburn goal. Saunders had stolen a yard on his marker to reach an excellent delivery but he hit too straight and Raya was able to keep it out.
Owen Coyle made a couple of changes on 55 minutes with Danny Graham and Danny Guthrie replacing Stokes and Jack Bryne. Guthrie’s first contribution saw him send a snap shot from the edge of the box over the crossbar.
On 64 minutes, Steve Davis introduced Ryan Lowe for Saunders. It was his strike partner Dagnall though who turned provider for Crewe’s next effort when he slipped in Cooper and the young winger saw his firm shot pushed away by Raya.
Blackburn had survived their scares to draw level on 69 minutes. A deflected shot gave Blackburn a corner on the right hand side and Craig Conway’s cross into a crowded penalty area saw Ben Garratt leave his line but not connect effectively with his punch and Wharton’s header hit the underside of the bar and bounced down before he raced in to make sure that the Championship side were level.
The former Crewe youngster Ben Marshall replaced Lowe as Coyle used his three substitutions. James Jones also replacing Hollands, who had worked hard both in possession and out of possession on the night.
With Blackburn pressing, looking to go ahead for the first time on the night, Garratt had Bakayogo to thank for cleaning up behind him as another dangerous cross looked like causing some problems inside the Crewe box and to compensate for those high balls, George Ray was introduced for Cooper.
James Jones saw a shot blocked on the edge of the box before a deflected effort from Kiwomya forced Raya into a smart save with four minutes left on the clock. The rebound just didn’t fall nicely enough for us to take advantage.
Blackburn looked to have snatched a winner with just over two minutes remaining. Yet another cross bombarded into our penalty area and Danny Graham did well at the far post to win his header up against Turton and he cleverly nodded it down for Conway to half volley home before Ray could get his head there.
It looked all over but this Crewe side have a terrific spirit and in the 93rd minute, Dagnall showed incredible composure to drill home an equaliser after Kiwomya had picked him out with an accurate pass on the edge of the box. Dagnall took a touch before placing it beautifully into the bottom corner. Extra-time was no more than Crewe deserved for a tremendous effort.
Blackburn stepped up a gear at the beginning of the first period of extra-time and really piled the pressure on. After Harry Davis had done superbly to cut out a cross from Feeney, a succession of corners really put us under the cosh. Firstly Garratt did well to tip a header from Gallagher over the bar. The Crewe goalkeeper then did well to turn an effort from Graham behind and Turton also had to be in the right place to hook one of the line. The fourth consecutive corner was then powerfully headed home by Shane Duffy to put Blackburn back ahead on 96 minutes.
Crewe had a chance to hit back again before the conclusion of the first period of extra time when Bakayogo broke down the left hand side and he found Lowe in another space for him to have a touch but he couldn't whip his shot around enough to test Raya.
At the beginning of the second half of extra time, Crewe forced a rare corner but had to go short because of Blackburn's dominance in the air and Dagnall's clipped cross was eventually cleared before Ray could rise at the far post.
At the other end of the pitch, Duffy's powerful header just cleared Garratt's crossbar after he had been found by the impressive Conway. Cheered on by more than 500 Alex fans behind Raya's goal tried to inspire a fourth goal from the hard working Alex players but it was the quick Feeney, who looked the more likely to score the next goal as his late effort flashed over the bar.
Crewe kept going (winning seven corners in extra-time), probing and passing and deserve tremendous credit for the overall performance against a strong Blackburn side, but it is Rovers going into the hat for tomorrow's third round draw.