Crewe Alexandra progressed into the northern area semi-finals of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy after defeating Doncaster Rovers 5-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw at Gresty Road.
Chris Brown netted a last-minute equaliser for the visitors shortly after the sending-off of Matt Tootle. Mathias Pogba had earlier given the home side the lead right on the stroke of half-time.
Lauri Dalla Valle, Harry Davis, Abdul Osman, Byron Moore and Gregor Robertson each converted during the penalty shoot-out while Rovers’ veteran striker Robbie Blake hit the crossbar in reply.
Manager Steve Davis made four changes for the game, including a debut for recent loan signing Brad Inman. He saw a couple of late first-half efforts denied by goalkeeper Gary Woods while Chuks Aneke and Osman similarly tried their luck.
But Blake had already appeared a threat for the visitors and went close with a firm shot against an upright. David Cotterill also struck an effort at goalkeeper Steve Phillips – making his first start of the season for the home side.
The Alex themselves were desperately near as Woods turned Aneke’s header from Dalle Valle’s cross onto the crossbar, until Max Clayton’s excellent break set up Pogba for his ninth goal of the season just before the interval.
However, it needed experienced keeper Phillips to block with his legs from Brown as the visitors sought an immediate response at the start of the second period. Tootle soon picked up a yellow card for a challenge and Brown then saw another effort ruled out after colliding with Phillips.
Crewe could still have wrapped it up with ten minutes remaining when Pogba headed Inman’s cross against a post, while Tootle was dismissed for a second caution with the contest in its closing stages.
There was still enough time remaining for Phillips to keep out Blake before Brown finally forced in a late cross to equalise and take the tie to penalties – from which the Alex kept their nerve to progress through.
Crewe Alexandra: Phillips, Tootle, Davis, Dugdale, Robertson, Osman, Aneke (Turton 76), Inman (Moore 88), M. Clayton (Colclough 82), Pogba, Dalla Valle
subs (unused): Martin, Ellis
Goals: Pogba (45)
Doncaster Rovers: Woods, Husband (Finnigan 54), Martis, Wakefield, Griffin (Quinn 65), Cotterill (Hume 54), Clingan, Meade Middleton, Brown, Blake
subs (unused): Maxted, Ball
Goals: Brown (90)
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