Mikael Mandron scores brace and Robbins adds third on senior debut in comfortable Alex win.
Crewe Alexandra topped Group C with a clean-sweep over victories against Shrewsbury Town, Wigan Athletic and this evening against Wolverhampton Wanderers Under-21s. Two first half finishes from experienced forward Mikael Mandron set the Alex on the way to a third successive wins in the Papa John’s Trophy. Debutant Joe Robbins grabbed a fine goal in the second half to make it a fairly comfortable night’s work for David Artell’s men.
Having already qualified for the knockout stages of the Papa John’s Trophy competition, David Artell understandably utilised his squad for the final group game against James Collins’ Wolverhampton Wanderers side. The Crewe boss named three debutants in his starting line-up with Nathan Woodthorpe and Zac Williams named in defence and midfielder Joe Robbins handed his chance in midfield.
The likes of Regan Griffiths, Josh Lundstram and Oli Finney were exposed to more game time as they try and force their way into the starting line-up and the likes of Mikael Mandron, Terell Thomas and Callum McFadzean added some necessary experience. The Finn, Will Jaaskelainen started in goal in his quest to recapture the number one spot ahead of the recently recalled David Richards.
The on-loan Spurs winger J’Neil Bennett started with Ben Knight and a fit-again Christopher Long named on a strong looking Crewe bench. There was still room for another of the club’s emerging youngsters though with Joel Tabiner’s appearances for the Under-18s earning him a place in the senior 18.
Collins had the luxury of naming the senior John Ruddy in the Wolves goal. Ruddy spend a six-month loan at Crewe earlier in his career.
With Collins at the helm, it was always going to be a football match with patient build-ups and possession football.
After five minutes, J’Neil Bennett went close to opening the scoring with an excellent shot after cutting in but the experienced Ruddy was equal to it and adjusted to tip it over the crossbar.
Just five minutes later, a promising passing move saw Griffiths hit Mandron with a longer ball and his instant lay off found Bennett but this time, his shot lacked the power and direction to trouble Ruddy. It was straight at him.
The first goal for Crewe looked to be on the horizon though and it duly arrived in the 12th minute. Good work down the Alex saw the ball played into Mandron and after he used his presence, he twisted and turned before dispatching it confidently past a helpless Ruddy. He tucked it home with real aplomb and the goals will do his confidence the world of good.
Mandron and Bennett were a threat all evening. They combined again but Bennett’s shot with the outside of his boot was just too close to Ruddy to cause him too much concern. Then a clever dummy from Mandron allowed a cross to reach the supporting Lundstram in space and he was really unfortunate to see his powerful drive hit the Wolves post and rebound away.
McFadzean lashed a shot wide after a presentable chance had fallen to the left wing back and Bennett headed a cross onto the top of the netting.
Wolves’ chances were limited on our goal but a genuine one fell to following a good cross into our box but the Wolves youngster Owen Hesketh shot straight at Jaaskelainen. Luke Cundle shot over the top of the Alex crossbar after a really strong run.
Bennett was back to his exciting best, tacking opponents on and being highly effective and it was no surprise really that we were able to double our lead on 36 minutes. Bennett was involved on the right touchline and after it was worked into the impressive Griffiths, his perfect first time cross found Mandron perfectly. His first shot hit the post but he tucked home the rebound to make it 2-0.
As you would expect, the Wolves youngsters came out in the second half aiming to get on the front foot. They had the ball in and around our box but we stood firm and defended our box well.
Mandron had a shout for a penalty on 55 minutes but the referee waved away the appeals as he tried to reach McFadzean’s low cross. Three minutes later, Robbins hit Mandron and his clever flick put in Finney but he miss-hit his finish.
The substitutions came with a flurry and Artell introduced the freshness of Long, Knight and another debutant Joel Tabiner.
Long had the ball in the net following a fantastic delivery from McFadzean but was ruled out for offside. Knight shot low at Ruddy as Crewe went in search of more late goals.
It wasn’t too long before that third goal arrived on 79 minutes. The ball was left for Robbins and he finished in style with a great drive that may have taken a slight deflection past Ruddy.
Now it was about protecting the clean-sheet and Wolves had a chance to score in the final minute after a short back pass from Lundstram but Jaaskelainen rushed to save and Crewe had their clean-sheet.