Goals from Mandron, Finney and Kirk see Crewe through to round two in the FA Cup.
Crewe Alexandra managed a repeat of our EFL Trophy victory earlier in the season to make sure we progressed to the second round of the Emirates FA Cup. An entertaining cup tie ended 3-2 in Crewe’s favour and should have been more comfortable for the Alex than the scoreline suggested but two goals from Nathan Delfouneso kept a spirited Bolton side in it. Crewe needed a headed goal from Charlie Kirk that just about bounced over the line to prove decisive in a topsy-turvy affair at the University of Bolton Stadium.
Mikael Mandron had given Crewe the lead just before the half an hour mark after he was in the right place again to turn home a low cross from Ryan Wintle for his sixth goal in all competitions this season.
Bolton hit back with a stunning individualistic goal from their vastly experienced forward Nathan Delfouneso. He turned sharply, before planting his curling shot away from Will Jasskkelainen on 37 minutes.
Crewe always looked the most likely side to score and we had other half chances before the recalled Oli Finney waltz through a challenge to drill us ahead again with just over 20 minutes left. When Kirk took advantage to head home from close range after substitute Owen Dale had raced to challenge the Bolton goalkeeper Billy Crellin in the air, it appeared all over.
But credit must go to Ian Evatt’s side as they hit back again just two minutes later with Delfounsco tapping home from close range after good work from Shaun Miller.
It was Crewe holding out a little in the closing stages but the fresh legs of Callum Ainley, Dale and Travis Johnson certainly helped us keep them at bay and prevent Bolton from forcing extra-time.
For our Emirates FA Cup first round tie, Oli Finney, returned to the starting line-up in place of Callum Ainley in midfield.
With Chris Porter and Luke Murphy both carrying slight injuries, there was a recall to the squad for defenders, Eddie Nolan, and a fully fit-again, Rio Adebisi. Travis Johnson, Offrandre Zanzala and Owen Dale were also named on the substitutes’ bench as the outfield players with Dave Richards as reserve goalkeeper.
Before the kick-off both sets of players and those present in the University of Bolton Stadium observed a minute of silence to remember all those who have fallen for our country in conflict.
After a patient build-up with Tom Lowery and Charlie Kirk both involved, Captain Perry Ng registered the first shot on target from 20 yards. Ng hit it with some venom too and it forced Billy Crellin to grasp at it at the second attempt.
In the fourth minute, and coming down the right hand side once again, Lowery and Powell combined on this occasion to find the supportive Ryan Wintle in space and his far post cross missed out the flying Crellin, but Kirk couldn’t direct his header on target. If the winger had connected in a better manner then it would have been the opening goal. Moments later, Kirk fired into the side netting after being slipped in by Finney.
Crewe continued to control the possession and looked capable of carving out more opportunities. On 11 minutes, Wintle took it upon himself to unleash a powerful strike from 25 yards that Crellin did well to get a slight touch to turn it onto the top of his crossbar. It was a fine effort and save from the Bolton stopper that resulted in the first corner of the game.
The Railwaymen carved open the Bolton defence again in the 15th minute. Kirk provided the perfect ball to the advanced Pickering and his neat pull back found Mikael Mandron just outside the six yard box, but his side footed effort was superbly blocked by the grounded Bolton defender Ryan Delaney. It prevented a certain goal, as Crewe went in search of that first goal to settle any nerves after three straight blanks in League One. Four minutes later, almost a carbon copy move; saw Pickering again head for the by-line and his wicked cross only needed a more substantial touch from the rushing Mandron.
In an attacking sense, Bolton’s skipper and former Crewe player, Antoni Sarcevic, dragged an effort well wide of the target after loitering close to the Crewe box. Jaaskelainen had a quiet opening half an hour on his return to his former club.
On 28 minutes, Crewe finally scored the goal their play had deserved. Mandron was involved in the initial build-up and his battling qualities saw him retain possession and find Wintle out on the right wing. The midfielder did everything right and whipped over a dangerous cross that Mandron gleefully tucked past Crellin for his sixth goal of the season and his third against Bolton in cup competitions.
Minutes later, Lowery went down inside the box and there was a considerable shout for a penalty but referee Robert Lewis waved away the appeals. Mandron duly carried on and pinched possession from Sarcevic inside the penalty area to tee up Finney but he shot too centrally and it was collected by Crellin.
Lowery also went down again after a probing run into the Bolton box and yet again he looked to have been clipped, but again his strong appeals fell on deaf ears. Lowery certainly looked as though he had been fouled and his protests to the official continued when the ball went dead.
Crewe were firmly in control of the game and should have had more than the cushion of the one goal because almost out of nothing, Nathan Delfouneso demonstrated a great moment of skill to turn and unleash a curling shot past a helpless Jaaskelainen for an unlikely equaliser on 37 minutes. It was a wonderful finish from the former Aston Villa youngster.
Good approach play from Kirk and Finney, allowed Wintle enough time and space to get a shot off from the edge of the box but his shot was blocked and spun away for a corner.
The first half drew to a close with Bolton’s full-back, Peter Kioso, needing treatment after stretching to intercept a though ball destined for Mandron but he was deemed fit enough to continue.
Bolton came out with a spring in their step in the opening minutes of the second half and the ball was certainly in our half of the pitch than theirs, as Crewe tried to rediscover their passing rhythm again.
Crewe’s first real venture forward, saw Beckles find the head of Mandron with an accurate pass forward and his deft touch took it over Alex Baptise and find Kirk, who so nearly took it in his stride to go through on goal. Kirk kept the initial attack alive but the move eventually fizzled out to no threat.
On 56 minutes, a wonderful ball from Ng found Finney in behind and the midfielder was unfortunate to see his inventive effort go just wide. He had to adjust his body accordingly to divert it goalwards.
A lifted cross from Pickering then found Mandron off his man at the far post and his back header into the six yard box was defended well on this occasion before Lowery could reach it for a tap in.
On the hour mark, the former Crewe forward, Shaun Miller, arrived on the scene for the Trotters. Three minutes later, Powell with a deft flick and then Pickering both saw a good chance go begging after Kirk had placed an inviting ball across the box. Pickering in the follow up saw his effort blocked by two flying Bolton bodies in front of him.
Then from a Bolton corner, Crewe broke with real purpose. Kirk and Wintle led the charge from our own half with Lowery also in support. Kirk fed Wintle,who in turn gave it him back and his drive was blocked yet again.
Crawford was withdrawn for Lloyd Isgrove with 22 minutes left on the clock. A minute later, Crewe re-took the lead.
Kirk, who continued to torment the Bolton defence, found Finney inside the box. He took it upon himself to be direct and after riding a rather meek tackle, from a tight angle, he lashed it into the roof of the net. Crellin got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out and maybe he should have done better with it but Crewe didn’t care one jot. It proved to be Finney’s last touch as David Artell used the restart to make a double change with Finney and Powell off and Ainley and Dale on.
On 75 minutes, Crewe forced home a third goal. The build-up was excellent, with Mandron showing great awareness to move to the ball out to the left hand side. Kirk was again involved before substitute Callum Ainley clipped in a cross into the danger zone. Owen Dale went in bravely with his head with Crellin and as the ball looped into the air, Charlie Kirk headed into the empty net. There was a bit of scramble as Bolton tried to clear it off the line but it seemed to cross before any of them or Mandron applying another touch.
It should have been game, set and match, but a lapse in our defending saw our lead cut in half within two minutes. Miller turned provider inside the box after running in behind and he had the awareness to roll it across for Delfouneso to net his second goal of the afternoon. It was game on again!
Crewe were making it harder than it should have been and then we lost captain Ng with 10 minutes remaining with what looked like injury. Travis Johnson replaced him and looked comfortable both in and out of possession.
Bolton had a bit of a go in the closing ten minutes but Offord and Beckles stood firm and the home side never really conjured up that last chance that could have resulted in another equaliser. Pickering went closest with a whipped free kick that went a touch wide.
Crewe progress to round two with the draw taking place on Monday.