Super Alex move towards Wembley return
Tue 5th Feb 7.45pm
Crewe Alexandra are on the verge of Wembley for the second successive season following a resounding 3-0 victory in their Johnstone's Paint Trophy Northern Area final first-leg against Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena.
The Alex stunned the 30,000-plus attendance with on loan Brad Inman scoring two second-half goals before AJ Leitch-Smith added a late third - to leave them as strong favourites to make the final following next week's return home leg.
Manager Steve Davis earlier made three changes with Mark Ellis, Chuks Aneke and Leitch-Smith replacing Harry Davis, Max Clayton and leading scorer Mathias Pogba, who was away on international duty. But it was Abdul Osman first sending an effort over following a break from Byron Moore.
Home striker Leon Clarke sliced wide in reply after smart work from Carl Baker while Alex keeper Steve Phillips smothered well from Stephen Elliott and then denied Franck Moussa.
The Railwaymen were coming under increasing pressure with the valiant Phillips once again to the rescue when keeping out Gary McSheffrey. Skipper Luke Murphy responded with a delivery towards the other end headed wide by Osman, while Baker, Clarke and McSheffrey missed the target as Coventry continued to press for an interval advantage.
There was then an enforced change between the posts for the home side at the break with Chris Dunn replacing hamstring-victim Joe Murphy. However, it was opposite number Phillips immediately producing a one-handed stop from Elliott.
But it was the visitors still taking a shock lead on 52 minutes when their captain Murphy prompted an exchange between Inman and Moore and when the ball was laid back across the former lashed it past replacement keeper Dunn.
As expected Coventry's reaction to that setback wasn't long in coming as Phillips reacted well to deal with Elliott's deflected effort before then thwarting the busy Baker. And when the valiant Crewe keeper was finally beaten as McSheffrey set up Baker for a low drive - the foot of an upright came to his rescue.
Even so it was the Alex doubling their advantage with twelve minutes remaining through the brilliance of Inman as he left opponents trailing before steering his finish into the bottom corner.
And seven minutes later the visitors incredibly added a third with Leitch-Smith producing a composed finish after being found on the edge of the box by Aneke, who then saw another effort gratefully turned over by Dunn.
There was still enough time remaining for recent signing Clarke to head wide in reply but it's very much advantage to the gallant visitors after the first-leg.
Coventry City: Murphy (Dunn 46), Christie, Wood, Edjenguele, Adams, Baker, Jennings, Moussa, McSheffrey (Bailey 81), Elliott (Ball 74), L. Clarke
subs (unused): J. Clarke, Thomas
Crewe Alexandra: Phillips, Mellor, Ellis, Dugdale, Tootle, Murphy, Osman, Aneke, Inman (Robertson 82), Leitch-Smith, Moore
subs (unused): Martin, Turton, Colclough, M. Clayton
Goals: Inman (52, 78), Leitch-Smith (85)
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