Excellent goals from Knight and Finney seal deserved progression in the Papa John's Trophy
A moment of individual quality from Ben Knight in the first half and a near post header from Oli Finney from a Knight corner in the second half sealed Crewe Alexandra a deserved 2-0 win over Doncaster Rovers in the Papa John’s Trophy. Crewe were good value for their win with Mikael Mandron and Finney also hitting the woodwork.
David Artell made a number of changes for the visit of Doncaster Rovers this evening. As expected, the boss gave opportunities to others with only Oli Finney and Luke Offord surviving from the weekend defeat at Ipswich Town.
Will Jaaskelainen returned in goal and there was a full debut for young defender Connor O’Riordan. Luke Murphy returned from his one match suspension to captain the side and Callum Ainley made his return from injury as right wing-back. Nathan Woodthorpe, making only his second senior appearance in the Papa John’s Trophy started at left wing-back.
Ainley made a bright start on his return. His first touch in the game saw him hit a perfect crossfield pass to the opposite flank and he quickly demonstrated his attacking intent by taking on Branden Horton and crossing. He also came off his wing to fire an early shot wide.
Young O’Riordan made a positive start too. He stepped out of defence to find Mandron and then made a great tackle on Aidan Barow. The youth player also made a tidy clearance from underneath his own crossbar to hook a low cross from Joe Dodoo over.
Mandron hit the crossbar with a header on 15 minutes after O’Riordan and Finney combined well off the right flank before Doncaster midfielder Matt Smith drilled a shot wide from the edge of the Crewe box.
It was fairly end-to-end stuff, with both teams getting the ball down to play. Dodoo dragged a sot wide from a decent position for the visitors before Nathan Woodthorpe forced Louis Jones into a smart save after good approach play from Gomes and then Mandron. The Doncaster goalkeeper was well placed to push it behind for a corner.
On 33 minutes, Knight produced a moment of individual brilliance to give Crewe the lead. The on-loan Manchester City starlet was fed by Thomas and his only intent was to carry the ball forward and shape to shoo. His accurate, lofted effort flew in over a helpless Jones for the opening goal. It was a truly fantastic strike.
At the other end, Barlow curled an effort just wide of the far post and Thomas did well to block a fierce looking shot from Knoyle. The Doncaster full-back was also booked before the half-time break for clattering into Woodthorpe after he had got to a loose ball first.
The half ended with Offord superbly flicking a cross away from Dodoo and Thomas had a late header deflected behind for a corner out on the left.
Artell made a double change at the break with Travis Johnson and Josh Lundstram replacing Ainley and Gomes.
Crewe quickly went in search of a killer secoind goal. Finney dug out a pass into Knight and after positioning his body well, he curled his shot just wide of the far post.
Murphy got on the ball and again led by example. He fed Knight and it was soon into Woodthorpe but his low cross was cut out.
Doncaster made a change with Hasani replacing Barlow just before the hour mark. Dodoo had an effort blocked for a corner before Thomas shot over for Crewe after a short corner was worked into him.
Knight was becoming more influential in the game and he had a cross headed wide by Offord before his 73rd corner was headed home by Finney at the near post. It was a tidy finish to give Crewe the luxury of a 2-0 lead.
From then on the game management was excellent. Jaaskelainen rushed out to deny Smith a free run at his goal and there was a late introduction for Tabiner for the battered Woodthorpe.
Crewe wanted the clean-sheet and our defending was resolute in the closing stages. Murphy was well placed to chest a late cross back to his goalkeeper before he had a late shot blocked on the edge of the Doncaster box.