Crewe Alexandra will meet League Two Southend United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final at Wembley Stadium on 7th April, despite nearly throwing away their three-goal advantage late on from their first-leg at Coventry City.
The Alex dramatically conceded twice during injury-time as Mark Ellis scored an own-goal and Leon Clarke immediately added another in front of an eight-thousand-plus crowd at Gresty Road.
But it wasn’t to prove enough for their opponents and Crewe still progressed through to face Southend in the final after they also completed a 3-2 aggregate victory over Leyton Orient.
Coventry had arrived under the caretaker management of development coach Lee Carsley following former boss Mark Robins recently exiting the club for Huddersfield Town.
He soon witnessed Clarke heading an early opportunity wide while former Crewe midfielder James Bailey drove over the crossbar. Brad Inman had a shot blocked at the opposite end before home goalkeeper Steve Phillips first denied Carl Baker and then Clarke.
Alex skipper Luke Murphy struck wide following a 30-yard free-kick while Gary McSheffrey then flashed a dangerous delivery across the face of goal in reply.
Gregor Robertson also blocked well from Clarke ahead of the break before the hosts responded with Ellis heading over a Murphy cross and AJ Leitch-Smith finally forcing City keeper Joe Murphy into action upon the restart.
However, the visitors should have reduced the deficit when Baker dragged a McSheffrey cross wide while Robertson made another timely clearance as they continued to chase a way back into the tie.
Substitute Callum Wilson was the next to threaten for them from distance before both Clarke and Baker were similarly wide of the mark.
And even when Ellis headed a long ball forward beyond his own keeper in added time it appeared far too late for the visitors, until Clarke nodded in Baker’s cross moments later – only for them to fall just short and it’s their opponents who march onto Wembley for the second successive year.
Crewe Alexandra: Phillips, Mellor, Ellis, Dugdale, Robertson, L. Murphy, Osman, Aneke, Inman, Pogba, Leitch-Smith (Moore 82)
subs (unused): Martin, Davis, Turton, M. Clayton
Coventry City: J. Murphy, Dickinson, Cameron, Christie, Wood (J. Clarke 58), Baker, Jennings, Bailey (Fleck 74), McSheffrey, Elliott (Wilson 67), L. Clarke
subs (unused): Dunn, Thomas
Goals: Ellis OG (90), L. Clarke (90)
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