Following a thrilling 3-3 draw with Blackburn Rovers, David Artell was on one hand pleased that Crewe Alexandra are in the hat for Monday’s third round draw, but was left disappointed that we couldn’t take full advantage of playing nine men for over half an hour at Ewood Park.
Crewe were out of sorts for the opening half an hour and as a consequence were three goals down and seemingly out of the FA Cup – but a penalty and a red card for Harper got us back into the tie. Elliott Bennett’s dismissal five minutes into the second half gave Crewe even more hope and goals from sub Eddie Nolan and a header from Chris Porter has set up a replay at Gresty Road.
A comeback was not on the cards after a really slow start but the dressing room will be frustrated that we couldn't kill them off at the first attempt with the advantage we had.
Artell told the club’s official website: “It was an enthralling cup tie and at 3-0 down if someone had offered us a replay you would have snapped their hand off. Saying that after they went down to nine men with over half an hour left, it is also an opportunity lost. If I was a betting man I would have backed us to get another but we couldn't manage it and I would have lost my money.
“It was there for the taking and although we showed some character and had some chances, we just couldn’t find the winner. Blackburn’s game management was very good to close the game out in the last 15 minutes. They bought a number of free-kicks, played the percentages well and I think Caddis was taking five minutes per throw-in but I understand that.
“We had some chances though. There were plenty. Ports has headed wide, Dagnall forced a great save from their goalkeeper with a great effort and Jordan had one blocked.
“The disappointing aspect of the game for me was the first 20 minutes. I was fed up and annoyed because I had asked them to be ready because they would start the game fast. We stood off them, didn’t get near them and were defensively poor.
“I told them at half-time that we were back in the game and that this wasn’t the Blackburn that won the Premier League, this was a League One version , like Rotherham in the last round, and we had to get in their faces more and press them up the pitch. When we did that we got chances.
“The penalty and the red card changed it. I thought Harper was unfortunate to be sent off because I thought the penalty was now seen as sufficient punishment. I didn’t see the second red card if I am being honest but I'm told there was a kick out.
“I did see the one Samuel should have been sent off for but the referee chose not to send him off. He probably did not see it. I did and he was lucky. The red cards certainly helped us and I was proud of the way we came back.
He added: “It is great to be in the hat for the third round but it could have been even better for us in the circumstances. We live to fight another die, a week on Tuesday.”