Finney scores his first senior goal in 1-1 draw but Alex earn extra point after penalty shoot-out win against the Stags.
Crewe Alexandra contested their third successive 1-1 draw at Mansfield Town in the EFL Trophy but with this competition that meant the drama of a penalty shoot-out with an extra point at stake.
Recalled goalkeeper, Dave Richards, was once again the penalty hero saving two pens in the shoot-out and despite our captain Perry Ng having his effort saved, Crewe won 4-3 with substitute Charlie Kirk calmly slotting home the winning kick.
In the 90 minutes, Crewe had to yet again come from behind after a loose pass from Owen Dale was emphatically finished by Jimmy Knowles on 18 minutes.
Crewe got over that mistake to level things up before the break with a cross shot from Oli Finney catching everyone in the One Call Stadium out never mind the Mansfield goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik.
For our second group match in the Leasing.com Trophy, David Artell made eight changes to the side that drew 1-1 in the top-of-the-table clash with Exeter City on Saturday. The boss said earlier in the week that this cup-tie would open the door for a host of his players and he named a strong side sprinkled with youth and experience.
There was a full debut for Travis Johnson at right-back and his fellow Academy graduate Rio Adebisi started on the opposite flank. Dave Richards started in goal with youngster Sam Booth deputising.
Club captain, Perry Ng, returned from his one suspension to lead the Crewe side again at the One Call Stadium but this time at centre-half.
There was a recall for Paul Green after he started on the bench on Saturday and following his well taken finish against the Grecians, the on-loan Norwegian Chuma Anene was handed another start in cup competitions.
Artell named 12 Academy graduates in his match squad. Another one of the club’s graduates, Nicky Maynard started on the bench for Mansfield Town.
Travis Johnson settled down quickly and showed his pace early on when winger CJ Hamilton fancied taking him on in a foot race. Johnson was then involved in the final third finding Oli Finney on the edge of the Mansfield box and his low drive was well collected by Bobby Olejnik.
Ryan Wintle then forced Olejnik into a save after he unleashed a shot from almost 30 yards out. His effort seemed to take a slight deflection and the Mansfield goalkeeper was forced to push it behind for a corner.
Dave Richards’ first involvement saw him collect a pretty tame effort from James Clarke as Mansfield began to impose themselves more on the game.
A really positive, passing move from Crewe, saw Ng find Finney in space in the centre of the pitch and a patient build up down the left hand side saw Ainley and Adebisi combine and the left-back’s cross was perfect for Anene to attack it with his head. The Crewe striker looked to have his shirt pulled as he muscled his way into position and as a result his header lacked the power to test Olejnik.
There wasn’t anything between the two sides in the opening 18 minutes, but a lack of concentration from Dale presented the ball to Jimmy Knowles 20 yards from our goal and he punished the youngster’s mistake with an emphatic finish past Richards. Dale didn’t need telling as he looked towards the heavens.
Dale tried to make amends almost immediately by making himself a nuisance at a corner. He raced in front of the Mansfield goalkeeper to make things difficult for him and as the ball pinged about the box between Finney and Anene, it caught the Crewe forward flat footed and it harmlessly bounced through to a relived Olejnik. It wouldn’t just drop cleanly to a red shirt.
Moments later, more good play from Crewe allowed Finney to turn and curl a deflected effort over the top. Green poised to shoot from the set piece but the ball was robbed from his foot.
Mansfield had a fantastic chance to make it 2-0 on 27 minutes after they exposed our defence down our left hand side. Nolan and Johnson did well to clear the initial danger presented by Dapo Afolayan but it dropped invitingly to Andy Cook and his powerful volley from close range looked odds on to double the home side’s advantage until Richards sprung across his line to block it with a part of his leg. It was a crucial save.
Cook was then booked for jumping with his arm and debutant Johnson was cautioned for a challenge after Nolan had played the ball into the centre of the pitch. Crewe got off lightly.
The referee continued to stop/start the game for any sort of contact and it did affect the flow of what was an attractive spectacle.
Wintle produced one of the passes of the night to find Finney advancing through the middle of the Mansfield defence but the covering centre-half, Ryan Sweeney did well to hold him up initially and Paul Green’s eventual cross was too close to the gloves of Olejnik.
Crewe were certainly enjoying the better of the possession but we were not conjuring up too many genuine chances to test the Mansfield goalkeeper too often. That was the only frustrating factor of the first period.
In the final minute of the first half Crewe finally beat Olejnik with an outrageous finish from Finney. His ambitious shot/cross ended up in the net but the assistant referee had raised his flag indicating a goal kick! Had the ball taken a deflection or even more bizarrely gone through the side netting? It was difficult to tell but it seems that Olejnik misjudged the power and accuracy and was rooted to the spot as it flashed past him.
Everyone stood there completely bewildered trying to work out what had happened. The Crewe players knew it was a goal and referee James Oldham went over to discuss the incident with his assistant. The verdict came back and the goal rightly stood and Finney had his first senior goal for the club.
After Rio Adebisi had twice reached the by-line for Crewe and Dale also whip over a dangerous looking cross in the opening minutes of the second half, the Stags boss John Dempster made his first change of the night by introducing the experienced Jacob Mellis for Tomlinson.
Alistair Smith then demonstrated some really good close control and strength to hold off Green in the centre of the pitch and he released Knowles perfectly through the middle. Crewe needed the quick reactions of Richards in a 1v1 situation and he raced off his line to challenge the Stags attacker and he did enough to avert the danger and win us a goal kick in the process. The Welshman had once again reacted quickly to prevent us falling behind again.
Crewe continued to play possession football, aiming to probe a clear opening. A timely interception from Finney saw him rob the ball back for Crewe and feed Green and his shot was blocked on the edge of the box.
The game was evenly poised and Adebisi had to apply a stern block on a shot from Afolayan. It was all long range stuff from both sides.
Mellis, who hadn’t been on long was forced off with just over 20 minutes left. A muscle injury forced him off and he was replaced by Mal Benning.
As we entered the final 15 minutes, Crewe made their first change with James Jones replacing Green.
Crewe continued to control the majority of the play but those genuine opportunities were limited. A fantastic cross from sub Jones tempted Anene but the forward couldn’t quite reach it.
With ten minutes remaining, Artell introduced the fresh legs of Kirk and Pickering for Dale and Adebisi. Mansfield also put on the talented Otis Kahn.
Pickering and Kirk made an almost instant impact. Their freshness certainly caused extra issues down the Mansfield right.
A flowing move from the Alex saw Nolan, Ng and Wintle all combine to find Finney inside the box and there appeared to be contact on him but the referee booked the Crewe player for going down too easily.
It was Crewe pressing looking to win the game in the 90 minutes and we were just lacking that final ball.
In stoppage time, Johnson showed the same level of pace he had shown in the first minute to catch a through CJ Hamilton again and slide the ball away from the winger and out for a corner. It was terrific from the young right back.
Kirk nearly won the tie with the last kick after a superb counter-attack involving Ainley and Finney. Kirk positioned his body perfectly to side foot into the far corner but it went just wide of the far post.
The game ended 1-1 which meant a penalty shoot-out for an extra point.
CJ Hamilton thumped the first spot kick through the middle for 1-0. Olejnik then guessed right to deny the Alex skipper Perry Ng.
Cook tried to blast the home side 2-0 up from the spot but Richards just stood there and let it hit his knees.
James Jones calmly slotted us level with a cool finish into the centre of the goal. Afolayan kept his cool too to put Richards the wrong way.
A confident Pickering slotted home with little fuss. Ali Smith was next up for the Stags and after a short run up, Richards guessed right, got fingers on it and turned it onto the post. Finney clipped us 3-2 up despite the Mansfield goalkeeper getting his hand to it.
Benning had to score and did by coolly rolling it into the corner.
Kirk had to score to win the extra point and he did with a fine penalty.