Richards saves crucial penalty at 1-0 to help Crewe progress to knockout stages.
Crewe Alexandra qualified for the knockout stages of the Papa John’s Trophy following a 2-0 win over Wigan Athletic this evening. Oli Finney scored his second goal in as many games to set Crewe on their way after just 14 minutes and an own goal from Wigan’s Scott Smith on the hour mark sealed the win after Chris Porter did well to win an aerial dual at the far post.
Crewe also had David Richards to thank for saving Stephen Humphrys’ penalty five minutes into the second half and it wasn’t the former Rochdale man’s night after he missed an open goal after gliding past Richards as the Latics looked for a passage back into the game.
As expected, David Artell shuffled his pack for the second of our Papa John’s Trophy group matches. The Alex boss handed opportunities to goalkeeper David Richards, Callum McFadzean, Madger Gomes, Josh Lundstram, Travis Johnson and Regan Griffiths.
Mikael Mandron partnered Chris Porter up front, with Artell naming a strong and experienced bench. There was a place in the squad of 18 for Academy youngster, Joel Tabiner.
Crewe started the brighter of the two sides and a couple of minutes in, Lundstram fed Mandron and his cross shot was blocked by Tom Pearce. McFadzean’s dipping corner then had to be clawed out by Wigan’s debutant goalkeeper, Sam Tickle and in the follow up, Gomes had a powerful shot blocked. Crewe had set a high tempo.
Wigan Athletic’s first venture into our box nearly saw Curtis Tilt reach dangerous cross at the far post. At full stretch, he just couldn’t reach it and it was let off.
Crewe’s early pressure finally told on 14 minutes. Thomas headed back into a crowded penalty area and Finney reacted quickest to dispatch his volley past a helpless Tickle. It was his second goal in as many games after he opened the scoring against Cambridge United at the weekend.
The weather was deteriorating and the strong wind made it difficult for Wigan to play in Crewe’s half of the field. Crewe kept that pressure on with Mandron cleverly laying off a chance for Griffiths and his instant hit from the edge of the box flashed just wide.
At the other end, Thomas made a strong block from captain Gavin Massey before Jason Kerr twice got round the back at set-pieces but he couldn’t quite make the most of the space he was granted.
On 26 minutes, McFadzean, who was looking to get forward at any opportunity, robbed possession on the edge of the box and hit a well struck shot that Tickle did well to watch and grab in tricky conditions.
Two minutes later, Mandron showed some deft skill to pull a long ball out of the sky and then find Finney. His instant lay off found Griffiths again and his curling effort had to be pushed away by the busier Tickle. It was another encouraging move from the Alex.
Griffiths was always a goal threat but he was booked on 37 minutes for a foul on Pearce as he threatened to get away and Kieran Lloyd joined him in the book before half time for a deliberate handball.
Wigan enjoyed some good possession but didn’t force Richards into any real meaningful saves in the first period. Humphrys fired over from a decent position for him before Finney should have made it 2-0 on 40 minutes.
Another great move from Crewe saw Thomas find Porter with a searching long ball. The veteran held it up and it was eventually fed out to Mandron on the right. He picked out his man, Finney with an precise pass across the box but Finney with the goal at his mercy screwed his shot wide. It was a great chance to give Crewe a two-goal cushion heading into the break.
Wigan’s first effort on target came via the penalty spot five minutes into the second half. Massey’s driven shot struck Thomas on the top of his arm and the referee pointed to the spot. It seemed rather harsh on Thomas as he didn’t know much about it and he couldn’t get out of the way of it.
Humphrys stepped up but Richards judged it right, diving to his left to make a fine save and keep our lead intact. Wigan upped the tempo to try and force their way back into the game and the penalty miss spurred Crewe back into life. McFadzean and Finney soon combined down the left and Mandron poked an effort at Tickle at the near post.
On the hour mark, Crewe doubled the lead. An excellent cross from Johnson from the right found the head of Porter and his nod back across goal was turned into his own net by Smith.
Offord and Thomas were in firm command at the back but Wigan did have some half chances. Massey hit one outside of the boot wide of the target with a decent effort before Pearce was booked for a reckless challenge on Johnson.
Crewe had to dig in with 15 minutes remaining with those fitness levels tested. With six minutes left, Humphrys latched onto a long ball and Offord made his one mistake of the night to let him slip away and his touch took him past the rushing Richards but from a tight angle, he failed to hit the target with the goal open. It may have set up a grandstand finish if he had but the Alex saw out the final minutes to deservedly progress in the competition.