Coventry City 1 Crewe Alexandra 2: Steve Davis hails super-sub Max Clayton
STEVE Davis and his Crewe side like coming to Coventry.
The Railwaymen recorded their second victory at the Ricoh Arena this month when Max Clayton came off the bench to net a late winner with his first touch.
This was after Leon Clarke had earlier given Coventry a 12th-minute lead that lasted just four minutes thanks to a Mark Ellis volley.
The result followed Crewe's 3-0 Johnstone's Paint Trophy success here earlier this month before Coventry won 2-0 at Gresty Road on Wednesday to exit the competition 3-2 on aggregate.
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Davis felt that familiarity contributed to an even game.
He said: "It was a bit scrappy in parts, but we came here with a plan again and I thought we wanted to go as long as we could, keeping them out.
"Obviously the early goal was a setback, but I always felt we could score from something.
"The game was fairly even. It was a bit of a battle and scrap and that's maybe the result of playing each other four times.
"I think that makes a difference. You know each other player-wise and although we tried to change the shape it is still difficult because our paths have crossed three times already so it was difficult."
Crewe keeper Steve Phillips was man-of-the-match on his last visit to the Ricoh Arena and enjoyed himself again.
"He made two or three important saves, as we expect him to do because that's what he is there for," added Davis.
While the message to Clayton was clear.
Davis said: "I told him to go out there and score the winning goal. It's nice when you have a talented 18-year-old to bring on and get you a goal."
Crewe started with three central defenders and two wing-backs, a system that has served them well at intervals this season.
However, City found space in and around in the box as Clarke and Carl Baker, twice, went close before the opener.
The breakthrough came when Clarke was allowed to get the wrong side of Adam Dugdale to control Cyrus Christie's long, diagonal ball on his chest before blasting home.
But Crewe responded well. Gregor Robertson forced a great save from Joe Murphy with a 20-yard shot before Ellis volleyed in from Robertson's resulting corner.
The visitors were lifted by this and began to win the midfield battle, but this did not yield the better chances and the pattern of play continued into the second half.
Phillips produced two fantastic reflex saves to deny Steven Jennings after the break.
But Baker beat the keeper with a curling strike in the 72nd minute. Luckily for Crewe, Robertson had manned the back post and headed away what would have been a certain goal.
Clayton's 76th-minute introduction proved to be the turning point.
The youngster showed great composure to effortlessly lift the ball over the on-rushing Murphy after being teed up by Byron Moore, who was fortuitously found by a miss-hit pass by the impressive Luke Murphy.
The hosts pushed for an equaliser, but Crewe stood firm – looking more comfortable after switching to four at the back in the second half.
Coventry caretaker manager Lee Carsley said: "The manner of the two goals was disappointing. Obviously you can do something about a set-piece because you can set up, sometimes in open play you can be pulled around a bit, but from a set-piece you can defend it a lot better.
"For the second goal, the defence was all over the place. Their player has gone to hit a diagonal pass, it has turned into a through-ball and we were badly out of shape.
"We started well. We knew it was important to start the game fast. We made a good start, got the goal and had a few chances.
"We were positive in our play and I couldn't see them coming back into it, I could only see us winning it. We have shot ourselves in the foot and given them a leg up.
"We went through the systems they can play and we were expecting them to play something different so there were no surprises."