Mikael Mandron scores a double and Owen Dale hits a stunner as Crewe overcome spirited Bolton in Checkatrade Opener.
A really entertaining group game in this season’s Checkatrade Trophy competition in Bolton was finally decided by an 88th penalty from summer signing Mikael Mandron this evening.
Having already opened the scoring on the night with a 15th minute header, the confident striker powerfully converted the spot-kick to give Crewe a deserved 3-2 win after Owen Dale had been fouled by George Taft.
Crewe twice had the lead in the game thanks to a first goal for the club from Mikael Mandron and then through a stunning strike from Owen Dale in the second half – but a new-look Bolton side under Ian Evatt gallantly fought back twice to equalise with our former forward Shaun Miller coming off the bench to level things up at 2-2 before Mandron sealed a deserved first win of the season for Crewe.
At the University of Bolton Stadium, David Artell made five changes to the Crewe Alexandra side that narrowly lost 2-1 to Lincoln City in the League Cup on Saturday.
Into the starting line-up for our first group match in the Northern Section of the Checkatrade Trophy against Bolton Wanderers came new signings, Omar Beckles and Offrande Zanzala, right-back Travis Johnson, Callum Ainley, and debutant midfielder Josh Lundstram.
In the absence of club captain, Perry Ng, midfielder Ryan Wintle took the armband. Also rested from Saturday were Charlie Kirk, Oli Finney and Ollie Lancashire.
Ian Evatt named a strong Bolton side for his second competitive game in charge contained the former Crewe player Antoni Sarcevic as their skipper and forward Shaun Miller on the substitutes’ bench.
The first major opportunity of the game fell to Lundstram in the 8th minute. Billy Sass-Davies saw the midfielder’s run through the heart of the Bolton defence and the centre-half found him with a fine pass. Lundstram was in on goal but shot too centrally and too close to Billy Crellin and his retreating defenders completed the clearance to concede a corner.
In reply, Bolton had a strong shout for a penalty rejected by referee Anthony Blackhouse following a collision at the far post with Dave Richards. The referee waved away the appeals and the home side had to settle for a corner, which was forcefully headed clear by Billy Sass-Davies.
After that scare, Crewe took the lead on 15 minutes. Ainley’s footwork won a free-kick on the left hand side and he duly produced a sublime delivery that invited summer signing Mikael Mandron to power home his first goal for the club. The capture from Gillingham buried the chance with his head at the far post.
More good work from Ainley saw him fouled out on the touchline by Tom White but the official allowed play to continue as his deft touch sent Zanzala racing towards the Bolton penalty area. He cleverly used the selfless overlap of Lundstram as a decoy before dragging his shot just wide of the left-hand post. Moments later another flowing move from Crewe saw Sass-Davies and Dale involved before Ainley’s first time shot cleared the crossbar. It was encouraging stuff.
Crewe continued to control much of the possession and it was just that final pass or some solid last ditch interceptions that prevented us from testing Crellin on more occasions.
After Travis Johnson forced Bolton into surrendering possession, Ainley and Zanzala combined again in and around the opposition penalty area. An interchange of passing between the pair inside the box resulted in Ainley shooting straight at Crellin.
It should have 2-0 to Crewe before the half-time interval when a tempting ball from Pickering was allowed to travel right across the Bolton box to Dale at the far post but he could only prod his contact too close to Crellin. Dale smacked the floor in frustration because he knew he had been given the perfect chance to open his own account for the new campaign. He would have to wait for a much tougher chance to do that!
Dale quickly showed that he had the miss out of his system by producing a stunning half volley that just cleared the top of the Bolton crossbar. It was a terrific effort.
Like Saturday against the Imps, Crewe had enjoyed the better of the first half, even more so at the University of Bolton Stadium, but again the margin should have been greater than the one given to us by Mandron’s unstoppable header.
Crewe also started the second half on the front foot with Dale showing great pace to draw a foul from Delaney for which he was booked. Zanzala continued on the advantage but was just denied a clear run at goal by a timely challenge from George Taft.
Moments later another teasing cross from Ainley was flicked just wide of the far post by Mandron.
Crewe were standing firm in defence and Richards wasn’t forced into any real key saves to keep us ahead. His kicking was assured and his talking at the back could be heard above most inside an empty Stadium. The Crewe goalkeeper did need the presence of the aggressive Beckles and Johnson though to clear a dangerous looking cross ahead of Doyle.
That improved period of possession for the home side eventually paid off in the 53rd minute. A searching cross to the far post found Ali Crawford unmarked and he calmly nodded back across the six yard box to allow Delaney the easiest of tasks to equalise.
Bolton were growing in confidence and Beckles had to make a superb block to deny Nathan Delfouneso and then Doyle steered a difficult header a yard wide of Richard’s left hand post.
A tremendous run from Ainley from deep saw the attacking midfielder carry the ball to the edge of the Bolton box but under pressure, his shot was too tamely struck to trouble Crellin.
Just before the hour mark, some fine football from Crewe once again saw Pickering find Manadron, this time on the floor, and the towering forward did everything right and was so unlucky not to restore our lead when Delaney raced back to superbly clear from the line. Barely a minute later, Mandron was also unfortunate that his well-directed header was just a touch too high.
The first changes of the evening saw Kirk introduced for Zanzala and our former striker, Miller on for Delfouneso. Bolton’s other change in the 64th minute saw White off for Brandon Comley.
The substitutes had barely time for their studs to hit the grass before Dale scored a fantastic solo goal two minutes later. The youngster brimming with confidence cut in from his wing position and unleashed an unstoppable shot from 25 yards that flew past Crellin. The Bolton goalkeeper hardly moved as the ball arrowed into his top corner.
With 20 minutes left, Kirk looked to have been fouled in possession but the referee ignored his protest and allowed play to continue. That allowed to Doyle to race in behind our back line but uncharacteristically for him he shot wide of the far post. It was a let off.
Kirk was soon creating havoc though and his pull back from the by-line saw Owen Dale have a thumping shot blocked and Ainley also with his well struck follow-up effort.
It was a key moment in the cup tie, as with 15 minutes remaining, Miller demonstrated his finishing ability with a well struck shot past Richards. The Crewe goalkeeper had no chance with it, after Miller had collected a pass, produced a sharp turn and finished with real finesse for his first goal for his new club.
Who had enough to go and win it?
It was level once again as we entered the final stages of a really good game of football. With 10 minutes on the clock, the hard working Lundstram left the action for Finney.
Doyle went close again but side footed just wide of the mark before Crewe were presented with that chance to win it from the penalty spot. It was won by the impressive Dale after he had raced in behind to collect a fantastic pass from Pickering. Just as he was about to pull the trigger and probably score, he was clipped by Taft and the referee had no choice but to point to the spot.
Mandron stepped up and calmly put Crellin the wrong way to give Crewe their first win in the EFL Trophy group stage with Shrewsbury and Newcastle United’s Under-21s still to come at home.