Crewe defeated at Doncaster as Fergie's side step up a gear in second half.
Doncaster Rovers continued their march towards a return to League One with a deserved 3-1 win over Crewe Alexandra but David Artell’s side were in the contest for a period and if we had taken some good chances at key times, then it could have been even more interesting.
As it was, new loan signing Jordan Bowery saw a very good chance at the end of the first half saved by the legs of Ian Lawlor and he later shot just wide after a smart turn. James Jones, who had fired Crewe level with the sixth goal of the season, was also denied a second goal mainly due to the terrific agility of Lawlor.
Doncaster, who had taken the lead through Conor Grant only for Jones to equalise before the break, upped it a gear in the second period and goals from John Marquis and Tommy Rowe saw them pull away.
New loan signing Jordan Bowery made his debut for the club with Chris Dagnall regaining his place in a new-look front line.
Club captain Ryan Lowe and winger Alex Kiwomya had to settle for places on the substitutes’ bench at the Keepmoat Stadium.
After recently extending his stay with us until the end of the season, Danny Hollands was named captain this afternoon.
Before kick-off, both sets of supporters warmly applauded war hero Ben Parkinson onto the pitch. Ben suffered severe injuries whilst on duty for his country but bravely made his way onto the pitch as guest of honour.
Crewe Alexandra were presented with an early half chance after Charlie Kirk had clipped a wonderful ball into the box for the run of Dagnall. The busy striker did well to hold up play and then produced a tempting low cross that James Jones nearly made into a genuine opportunity. The midfielder was under pressure and his touch was heavy and it was hooked away by Andy Butler inside the six-yard box.
On 8 minutes, John Marquis held off the intentions of Hollands to feed James Coppinger out wide and after he had cut back to pass Bakayogo, his dangerous cross had to be cleared up field by the well positioned Turton.
Both sides tried to get a foothold on the game but it was evident from early on that it was going to be proper football game on a fine playing surface.
Just before the 20-minute mark, Crewe created their own trouble when Jones felled Andy Williams on the edge of our box. Doncaster tried to disguise the taker but in the end, Coppinger’s curling effort was superbly palmed over by Ben Garratt.
Soon after, Dagnall stole in again on a free-kick from Cooper but he couldn’t quite direct his header goalwards to really trouble Ian Lawlor.
After a promising start to the game, the Railwaymen found themselves a goal behind after 23 minutes. Andy Williams did well on the floor to keep the move alive and he smuggle it out to Conor Grant and with the whole goal to aim at, the midfielder calmly drilled it past a helpless Crewe goalkeeper. Crewe had permitted Grant, on loan from Everton, far too much space to select his spot.
A few minutes later, Crewe had their goalkeeper to thank again for a miraculous save on his line to prevent a touch from Ray from crossing over for 2-0. Ray and Guthrie both had to go for it as the cross flew across our six yard box and Garratt did brilliantly to keep it out and then get to his feet to deny Coppinger on the rebound.
Crewe hit back on 32 minutes after good work from Kirk on the left hand side. The youngster was prepared to get the ball out of his feet and attack Matty Blair before clipping in a cross into a dangerous area. Dagnall, who had been lively from the off, pulled the ball down and thumped a shot that was well saved by Lawlor but James Jones was there to keep his composure and tuck home the rebound for his sixth goal of the season.
Doncaster, brimming with confidence at the top of the League Two table, were always a threat though and Williams flashed a header over the crossbar after stealing enough space. The Donny number 11 then twisted and turned before firing a deflected effort into the gloves of Garratt.
With the first half drawing to a close, Crewe had a great chance to go in at the interval ahead. Dagnall excelled again to find Cooper in space and a break was on. Cooper slipped in new boy Bowery perfectly to create a one-on-one situation but the striker drilled his shot against the legs of the Doncaster goalkeeper Lawlor.
There was even time for the willing runner, Dagnall to break the offside trap down the Doncaster right hand side and his cut back for the onrushing Jones, who steadied himself to hit another goalbound effort but on this occasion, Lawlor produced a fantastic save to push it over.
Doncaster were not finished either and Bakayogo had to flick a header away from Williams and then Turton denied Coppinger as he threatened to fire the home side back in front in stoppage time.
At the beginning of the second half, Crewe had to survive an early onslaught from the home side as Doncaster forced a number of early corners and Guthrie did well to clear one dangerous cross with his head as Marquis threatened to get his head onto a Coppinger delivery. Blair became the first player to be booked for diving.
On 54 minutes, Crewe survived a scare when Blair forcefully got in between Kirk and Bakayogo to lift an effort on goal. His lob appeared to be dropping in but it struck the far post and Ray was handily placed to hook it away.
Doncaster’s pressure finally told on 56 minutes and from a Crewe perspective it was far too easy. Crewe conceded a needless free-kick away and Grant’s free-kick was headed home by Marquis. The Doncaster striker had been granted too much room and his forceful header put Darren Ferguson’s back in front.
Blair was forced off with what looked like an injury, to be replaced by Craig Alcock. On 63 minutes, Crewe went close to equalising for a second time. Dagnall was again the provider, he scrapped for possession in the middle of the pitch to create an opening and he found his striker partner Bowery and after a fine turn his right foot shot just cleared the far post.
The influential Coppinger was denied a third goal for Rovers as he tried to slide in an effort past Garratt but again Turton did well to deny him.
On 66 minutes, that decisive third goal arrived for the home side. Williams’ fantastic header struck the underside of the Crewe crossbar and whilst the home crowd appealed that it had crossed the line, Tommy Rowe made sure by closing in on the rebound.
As the third goal went in, Artell was preparing his first change with Kiwomya replacing Kirk. The second change was forced with Bakayogo limping off to be replaced by Nugent. Guthrie switched to left-back. Moments later, Williams missed a good chance with his head to make it 4-1 at the far post.
Crewe’s final change saw Wintle replace Cooper and Ray joined Blair in the referee’s book.
A strong Doncaster outfit pressed forward looking to add to their goal tally but it wasn't going to be Williams' day as he miscued a late effort wide of the target.