Knight off the bench to seal Alex win in EFL Trophy on night of positives.
Crewe Alexandra grabbed an injury time winner to seal a 1-0 victory in the Papa John’s Trophy against close neighbours Shrewsbury. A well worked move in the second minute of stoppage time saw substitute Ben Knight calmly dispatch his finish after Chris Porter had cleverly headed down a Travis Johnson cross invitingly into his path.
Knight’s controlled finish gave Crewe a deserved second win of the season after we created the better chances and were the better side on the night.
The performance was notable for some real positives with Donervon Daniels solid at the back and leading by example as captain on the night. Tom Lowery returned to the starting line-up and completed 90 minutes and got us on the ball in midfield and debutant Scott Robertson demonstrated his enthusiasm and competitive edge after only completing his move from Celtic late yesterday.
As expected for our opening group game of the Papa John’s Trophy, David Artell used the opportunity to shake things up in terms of his starting line-up.
Tom Lowery returned to the Alex midfield for his first start of the season and there was a debut for Scott Robertson after he completed his loan move from Glasgow Celtic. Scott Kashket’s transfer was not finalised to give him permission to mark his debut.
There were also starts in a much changed side for goalkeeper Dave Richards, Chris Porter, Travis Johnson and Regan Griffiths. Kayne Ramsay and Donervon Daniels also returned with Daniels captaining the side in Luke Murphy’s absence. Crewe operated with a back three with Callum Ainley and Callum McFadzean offering the width.
The former Crewe players, Daniel Udoh and Elliott Bennett started on the substitutes’ bench for Steve Cotterill’s side.
Lowery’s first involvement saw him produce a stunning turn to wriggle between two and after linking up with Griffiths, the ball was intercepted before it could reach Porter.
Lowery was his industrious self, trying to link the play and making sure Crewe retained possession.
On 7 minutes, Crewe created the first chance of the evening. Finney got down the left hand side and his low cross was side-footed just wide by the rushing Griffiths.
Minutes later, Lowery was denied a goal on his return when his shot from the edge of the box was touched behind by the stretching Harry Burgoyne.
Crewe were dominating the possession and trying to play through the lines in the Shrewsbury half of the pitch. The pressing and energy to keep Shrewsbury pinned in their own half was first class and we certainly had the better of it in the opening 20 minutes.
Shrewsbury were forced into their first change of the night when Rekeil Pyke was injured when catching Robertson. He was replaced by George Nurse.
Crewe were creating the better openings and a low drive from McFadzean took a slight nick to send it beyond the far post. From the corner, Ramsay just couldn’t keep his header down after coming through a plethora of players.
From a free-kick at the other end, Welshman Richards did exceedingly well to come for a high ball and take the ball from Ethan Ebanks-Landell. They both landed rather awkwardly but were soon up.
Moments later, the impressing Daniels showed all his experience to deny Charlie Caton a clear shot at goal after full-back Nathanael Ogbeta did well to cut it back from the by-line. Daniels continued to dominate in defence and his passing out from the back often found our midfielders in space.
Khanya Leshabela became the first player to be booked for a block on Porter but from a dangerous position, McFadzean, wastefully for him, shot into the Alex fans behind that goal.
Crewe had enjoyed the better of the first but we went in level.
The Railwaymen were soon out of the blocks in the second period. From a longer free-kick taken by Daniels, Porter did superbly to win a header and direct it towards Finney. His touch under pressure was turned behind by the busier of the two goalkeepers on the night. It was another half chance for the Alex.
Moments later, Griffiths, who got forward well all night, flashed a header over the top of the crossbar.
Another forceful run from Ramsay, saw him carry the ball up the pitch with real purpose and when the cross came in Porter almost manoeuvred himself to get his head on it. The veteran was certainly a threat with his presence and aerial ability.
Crewe kept the ball really well and a rather reckless challenge by Josh Daniels on Robertson saw him booked. The on-loan Alex midfielder was unhappy with the late challenge on his ankle.
On the hour mark, Artell made his first change with Ben Knight replacing Finney.
Shrewsbury were usually reliant of a counter-attack or a misplaced pass from an Alex player. On 63 minutes, a positive move from the Shrews saw Bowman play in Daniels but he failed to hit the target from a really good position. It signalled Shrewsbury’s best period in the game and youngster Ogbeta went close before Richards did well to save at the near post from a corner.
Richards was also well placed to pluck a header from Bowman after he was finally delivered a cross in the air and in his direction.
Robertson on his debut was excellent. He was always eager to get on the ball and play forward when it was on, he was competitive throughout and his recovery runs were purposeful. A surging run forward as we entered the final 10 minutes saw him not quite wrap his foot around his cross and not surprisingly the youngster suffered a touch of cramp.
The hard working Griffiths was replaced by Josh Lundstram with 8 minutes left on the clock. Shrewsbury also made a change with summer signing, Luke Leahy replacing Caton. Bennett was also given the last few minutes as a late introduction.
Daniels played Bowman exceptionally well and the former Exeter man endured a frustrating night. When he did threaten to get in behind, Daniels stepped up to play him offside. The Alex skipper was certainly one of the positives on the night.
With the game heading towards a penalty shoot-out and a chance of an extra point, the Alex conjured up that late goal. Porter did brilliantly to pull off and nod down Johnson’s deep cross and Knight did the rest.