Crewe Alexandra almost pay penalty for Tootle's red card moment
REFEREE Trevor Kettle played a major role again as Crewe overcame Doncaster Rovers in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy northern area quarter-finals last night.
Kettle oversaw a controversial second half of the section final back in 2007 when Rovers came from behind to beat the Alex and reach Wembley.
Just as then, Crewe were coasting through, after Mathias Pogba had given them a deserved lead in first-half stoppage time.
But Matt Tootle was given his marching orders late in the second for two bookings – the first well deserved, the second more harsh – and the visitors equalised through Chris Brown from close range in injury-time.
But there was a happier ending for Crewe fans last night as they prevailed 5-3 on penalties.
Steve Davis made four changes to the Crewe starting line-up which lost 1-0 to Burton Albion in the FA Cup on Saturday, handing a debut to central midfielder Brad Inman, the 20-year-old loan signing from Newcastle United.
Keeper Steve Phillips came in for Alan Martin, while Adam Dugdale, another of last season's regulars, took the place of rested Mark Ellis in the middle of defence.
Striker Max Clayton also made a return, making his first start in a month-and-a-half.
Skipper Luke Murphy, suffering a slight groin strain, was left out of the squad and Harry Davis took the armband.
Doncaster had an unfamiliar look compared to the side who have won four of their last five games in League One, but manager Dean Saunders should probably not be accused of doing a disservice to the competition.
A virus has swept through the Rovers' camp to add to injuries and Saunders – missing captain Rob Jones, Kyle Bennett, Martin Woods, ex-Vale striker Billy Paynter and suspended Paul Keegan among others – had even asked the Football League for a postponement.
In the end, he was able to pick six of the first-teamers who had lost 3-1 to Oldham and his side – albeit including 17-year-old Josh Meade, 17-year-old Harry Middleton and Liam Wakefield, aged 18, making their first starts – was said to be what he would have picked for a league match.
It was the visitors who started the brightest.
Mathias Pogba, in the third minute, was fortunate not to concede a penalty when he leant into Meade on the very edge of the area.
Referee Trevor Kettle awarded a free-kick which David Cotterill whipped in from their left just past the back post.
Cotterill, celebrating his 24th birthday, fired another missile from the right past the other upright in the 11th minute, then Robertson recovered from a slip to block a shot from Brown, who was free in the middle of the box.
At the other end, James Husband lost his footing, Pogba pounced and played in Chuks Aneke, who poked a shot from 25 yards wide of the right post.
Crewe left-back Gregor Robertson was yellow-carded for a poorly-timed tackle on Meade, but Robbie Blake smacked the resultant free-kick against the post from 30 yards.
Lauri Dalla Valle's harassment of Shelton Martis almost paid dividends as he won the ball and drew the defence, crossing for unmarked Aneke to hit the bar with a header.
Crewe ended the half well and five minutes before the break, Inman made the most of more sloppy defending to get in one-on-one with Gary Wood, but his shot was too close to the keeper.
Clayton and Inman, again, both went close before the breakthrough came on the whistle as Clayton made space and crossed for the unmarked Pogba to steer home into the bottom corner.
Doncaster upped the ante after the break and Phillips, in his first outing of the campaign, showed no sign of rustiness as he dived low to brilliantly block a close-range shot from Brown.
Tootle was booked a minute later for a rash tackle on Husband but the roaming right-back, often the home side's most potent force going forward, was bursting down the other end to be fouled by Blake, who also had his name taken by Kettle.
Saunders made changes, bringing on 29-year-old front man Iain Hume and, another 17-year-old debutant, Evan Finnegan, with about 40 minutes to play as the wet and cold conditions got even worse.
Brown soon had a goal disallowed for offside, clattering himself and Phillips in the process, as Rovers, who then replaced former Stoke captain Andy Griffin with Paul Quinn, fought for a way back.
Aneke tried to put the game to bed as he twisted and turned down the left and shot low to the near post from 20 yards, but Woods was never worried.
Aneke made way for Oliver Turton and Clayton for Ryan Colclough before Inman, who had been quietly impressive in his first taste of senior football, swung in a deep cross for Pogba to power a header against the woodwork.
Australian Inman found his shooting boots late on and let fly with a couple of long rangers as Crewe seemed to be seeing out play without too much concern.
But then Tootle saw red for his second booking, an innocuous foul on the half-way line just as the fourth official was showing there would be four minutes of stoppage time.
Straight away Doncaster broke down Crewe's right and Phillips was forced into a save before Brown levelled matters from close range at the death. It meant penalties.
With no extra-time it meant a shoot-out and the first five penalties were scored to leave Crewe leading 3-2 when veteran Robbie Blake smacked his effort against the bar.
Alex substitute Byron Moore and Rovers' Quinn stroked their spot-kicks home, leaving Robertson to send Crewe through 5-3.