- Railwaymen lose Group B opener
- Two debuts as youngsters impress
- Cooney sees red in final minute
Crewe Alexandra were edged by a single goal in their opening Papa John’s Trophy fixture at Port Vale.
Home skipper Ben Garrity opened the scoring in a dominant first-half display by the home side.
The Railwaymen were on top in the second half and came close to forcing an equaliser on a number of occasions.
But they ran out of time and Ryan Cooney was sent off for two bookings as they slipped to a narrow defeat in Group B.
Manager Lee Bell will take positives from the second 45, particularly due to the performances of several homegrown youngsters.
Now Crewe will look to pick themselves up and go for three points at Forest Green Rovers this weekend (Saturday, 3pm).
Bell made seven changes to the side that beat MK Dons at the weekend, with first starts for the club handed to homegrown midfielder and loan duo Joe White and Aaron Rowe.
Scholars Calum Agius, Lewis Nolan and Nathan Robinson were among the subs.
Vale, who made nine changes, handed a second debut to striker Ryan Loft after he rejoined the club from Bristol Rovers on Deadline Day.
Keeper Tom Booth stood up well to make a good close-range stop from James Plant in the early stages.
On 15 minutes a sweeping Crewe move freed Cooney in a shooting position but the wing-back rushed his effort and it was well wide.
Just three minutes later the hosts took the lead after Tom Sang’s cross found Garrity in the area and he controlled before blasting it home from close in.
Garrity’s header was deflected just wide and ex-Alex loan man Conor Grant’s free-kick sailed into the gloves of Booth, as Vale pressed for a second.
Grant smacked a post and Mickey Demetriou hooked off the line following a corner shortly after the half-hour mark.
But the visitors stood firm and settled things down in the latter stages of the half.
Bell made two changes at the break, introducing Shilow Tracey to attack and Luke Offord to defence.
On 53 minutes Tracey flicked Lunt clean through on goal but the midfielder couldn’t beat keeper Jayson Leutwiler was equal to his effort from the edge of the box.
Booth gathered a Loft strike at the second attempt as Vale countered, but it was the Alex on top.
Agius came on for his debut just after the hour mark and he was soon into the action, skinning his man before delivering a cross that Tracey couldn’t quite steer home.
Booth made a good stop to deny Baylee Dipepa who surged through one-on-one on the counter attack as the game headed into the final stages.
A cynical foul from Jason Lowe ended Tracey’s participation with 10 minutes left, and Nolan came on to make his debut.
It opened up for the lively Agius in the penalty area but he slashed a shot over, and he nodded wide after Courtney Baker-Richardson headed back across goal.
Vale managed the seven minutes of injury time effectively, and referee Steven Copeland showed Cooney a second yellow card in the dying seconds.
Port Vale (3-4-3): Leutwiler, Cass (Dipepa, 65), Lowe, Balmer (Iacovitti, 46); Sang, Walters, Grant (Brazier, 90+1), Shorrock; Loft (Ojo, 65), Plant (Clark, 72) Garrity.
Subs not used: Ripley, Massey.
Booked: Shorrock, Lowe, Clark.
Crewe (3-5-2): Booth; O’Riordan, Billington, Demetriou (Offord, 46); Cooney, Lunt, White (Agius, 60), Thomas, Finney; Nevitt (Tracey, 46, Nolan, 80), Rowe (Baker-Richardson, 61).
Subs not used: Davies, Robinson.
Booked: Booth, Cooney (2).
Sent off: Cooney.
Referee: Steven Copeland.
Attendance: 2,846 (245)