By Steve Sharman:
An extra time strike from Matt Bell saw Nantwich Town overcome League Two neighbours Crewe Alexandra 2-1 in the Cheshire Senior Cup on Tuesday evening.
Substitute Bell fired a low effort past Alex keeper Dave Richards in the 115th minute after the game ended all square after 90 minutes following goals in the first half from Daniel Barlaser and Harry Clayton.
Manager Dave Cooke made two changes from the weekend’s victory over Coalville as Blackpool loanee Myles Boney came in for Fabian Spiess whilst Toby Mullarkey replaced Bell in midfield.
The Alex lined up with a strong eleven with Richards, Perry Ng, George Ray and Zoumana Bakayago all included alongside former Dabbers loanees’ Oliver Finney and Will Jaaskelainen – the latter named on the visitors’ bench.
After the weekend’s comfortable win over Coalville, the Dabbers started the contest brightly as David Forbes took advantage of some hesitant defending from Ng before the Alex defender made a fine recovery tackle to prevent the striker from making his way into the box.
Forbes and Clayton were linking up well and it was the latter who could have opened the scoring on 16 minutes as he was unable to direct Sean Cooke’s cross from the right towards goal with his head.
Crewe then had their best moment of the half minutes later as Lewis Reilly headed straight at Boney after finding himself unmarked in the Dabbers’ box.
The game was struggling to burst into life as neither side was able to create any clear cut opportunities as Mullarkey became the first player to be booked after a late challenge on Ng.
But despite a slow start to the game, it was the Alex who took the lead on the half hour mark as Barlaser was put through on goal by Reilly, before firing under Boney and into the net.
It didn’t take long for the Dabbers to respond as three minutes later the game was level – Boney’s long kick was expertly controlled by Forbes whose touch found Clayton and the striker cooly lofted the ball over the stranded Richards to net his 11th goal of the campaign.
The equaliser was one the hosts deserved as the Dabbers were grateful for a fine save by Boney who tipped Reilly’s looping header over the bar five minutes before the break.
Just like the first half, the Dabbers came out on the front foot at the start of the second period as Mullarkey created space on the edge of the box before firing a left footed shot wide of the post.
Crewe then thought they had retaken the lead ten minutes after the restart but Reilly was adjudged to have been offside after heading in at the far post.
With 20 minutes to go, Nantwich were putting the pressure on and Mullarkey went very close to finding the net, heading just wide at the back post following a fine cross from Cooke.
Moments later and Jamie Morgan’s goal bound effort was well blocked by the head of Ray before Richards had to be on his guard saving well from Forbes’ low shot.
As the game entered the final ten minutes Barlaser nearly scored his and Crewe’s second but fired into the side netting after playing a neat one two with Reilly.
With extra-time looming, it was the home side who were searching for the winner as Hughes shot wide from distance, before Richards had to tip Courtney Wildin’s looping cross over the bar.
Despite three added minutes, neither side could find a goal as referee Joe Hull brought an end to the 90 minutes with the game set for an extra 30 minutes.
The first half of extra-time saw very little action in the final third with Hughes firing over the bar for the Dabbers the best chance created.
With plenty of tired legs on the pitch, Dabbers’ substitute Nathan Cotterell looked lively and offered Crewe defender Oliver Harrison a number of problems down the Nantwich left as the winger beat his man on a number of occasions, but was unable to create that decisive goal.
The Alex required keeper Richards to be alert with ten minutes to go as he blocked Clayton’s close range shot before Morgan blasted the rebound high over the bar.
But with penalties looking likely, it was the Dabbers who found the crucial goal as Bell picked the ball up on the edge of the box before firing a low shot past the helpless Richards and sending his side through to the semi-finals of the competition.
The Dabbers are back in league action this weekend as they host Matlock Town at the Weaver with a 3pm KO.
Nantwich Town: Boney, Morgan, Wildin, Stair, Bourne, Mullarkey (Bell 89′), Mwasile (Cotterell 82′), Hughes (c), Clayton, Cooke (S. Jones 100′), Forbes
Unused subs: Phillips, Spiess (GK)
Crewe Alexandra: Richards, Offord, Bakayogo, Lundstram, Ray, Ng (Harrison 90′), Griffiths (Hurst 86′), Barlaser, Reilly, Finney, Lynch (Sass-Davies 61′).
Unused subs: Jaaskelainen (GK), Barlow.
Ref: Mr Joe Hull
Photos courtesy of Jonathan White
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