Wintle, Ainley & Saunders sink Dabbers in thrilling finalCrewe: Wardley, Wilkinson, Pickering, Finney, Poscha, Ng, Kirk, Wintle, Saunders, Dale, Ainley
Unused Subs: Hilton, Griffiths, Offord, Sass-Davies, Harrison
Goals: Wintle (9), Ainley (23), Saunders (84)
Crewe Alexandra Under 23’s celebrated winning the Cheshire Senior Cup for the first time in 14 years after a thrilling final at Gresty Road.
The Alex ran out 3-2 victors over local neighbours Nantwich Town with Callum Saunders netting the late winner after first half efforts from Ryan Wintle & Callum Ainley.
Ryan Brooke & Steve Jones replied for The Dabbers, but Crewe ground out the victory in front of a raucous 1,831 crowd.
The Alex came flying out of the traps at Nantwich & took the lead in just the ninth minute to make the early pressure tell.
Harry Pickering’s dangerous cross from left full-back was met by the head of Wintle, but keeper Daniel Gyollai saved well, only for Ryan to stab in the rebound.
But The Dabbers didn’t roll over, & instead responded almost immediately with forward Brooke sweeping home the equaliser at the front post from a low driven cross with just 13 minutes on the clock.
The set-back didn’t halt Crewe however, Oli Finney missing a gilt-edge chance to regain the lead just three minutes later, side-footing wide from eight-yards after Callum Saunders did well to get to the by-line & cut-back.
Saunders then drifted inside from the right & side-footed a shot goalwards that was saved by Gyollai, but Crewe were back in front on 23 minutes thanks to a superb Callum Ainley strike.
He exchanged a quick one-two with Charlie Kirk before curling first time into the top corner from the edge of the box with his precise finish.
After a frenetic opening half hour, the game calmed somewhat on the run-in to half-time, with a single chance for either side, Ben Harrison dipping one for Scott Wardley to tip over the top before Gyollai saved a low Pickering drive with his legs from the angle.
As Crewe had done in the first period, Nantwich came out all guns blazing after the break & levelled it at 2-2 in the first minute of the second period, veteran & former Crewe man Steve Jones coolly finishing past Wardley.
The game entered a cagey period with both teams seeing the ball without really threatening on goal, the next opportunity falling on Perry Ng’s head from a free-kick in the 70th minute, but his flicked effort gliding just wide of the post.
As the game entered the final stages, Ainley showed great composure & sent a through ball to Callum Saunders seven minutes from time, but the striker snatched at his shot & blazed over.
The Dabbers had seen a lot more of the ball in the second period, but Crewe made the extra quality tell, with Saunders not to be denied a minute later, latching onto Finney’s through ball to fire the 84th minute winner into the corner.
That did it for The Alex, capping a 3-2 success to record a first Cheshire Senior Cup win since 2003 despite late pressure from the visitors.
The trophy presentation took place on the pitch after the game, with captain Perry Ng lifting the trophy in front of a rapturous 1,831 strong crowd in what was a thrilling cup final between the two near neighbours.