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Report: Crewe 0 Rovers 1

Danny Graham's goal the difference between the two teams, as Rovers book their place in the third round of the FA Cup

13 December 2017

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Danny Graham scored the only goal of the game, as Rovers booked their place in the third round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory over Crewe Alexandra.

The 32-year-old was on the scorersheet when the two teams played out a dramatic 3-3 draw at Ewood Park 10 days earlier and his first-half goal proved to be the difference in the second round replay at a snowy Gresty Road.

The goal arrived on 24 minutes when Derrick Williams intercepted a pass, before playing in Graham, who coolly stroked home his fifth of the season.

Graham almost added a second moments later, but his unbelievable effort from outside the area cannoned off the top of the crossbar.

Rovers dominated from start to finish, but they too had the woodwork to thank in the second half when Chris Dagnall's header bounced back off the frame of the goal.

But it was a rare foray forward from the hosts, as Rovers safely secured their passage through to the third round, where they will meet Championship side Hull City at Ewood Park.

Ahead of the game, Rovers boss Tony Mowbray made seven changes to the side which secured a fifth straight league win at Peterborough on Saturday.

Graham and Joe Nuttall were brought in to lead the line, whilst Willem Tomlinson was rewarded with only his second senior start after impressing off the bench in the weekend win.

Rekeem Harper, who was sent off when the two sides met at Ewood, returned after serving his suspension, while Richie Smallwood was handed his 250th career club appearance.

Paul Downing, Marcus Antonsson and Ryan Nyambe were all given the night off, which provided a place on the bench for Under-23 duo Lewis Hardcastle and Lewis Travis.

There was a familiar face in the Crewe line-up, as Rovers Academy graduate Eddie Nolan, who scored in the reverse fixture, started for the hosts.

As the game got underway, the snow started to come down heavily at the Alexandra Stadium and it took less than eight minutes for the white matchball to be replaced by a yellow one.

The first chance of the game went Rovers' way on 10 minutes, when a corner was played short and Craig Conway's cross was headed straight at the Crewe keeper by Elliott Ward.

Conway created an even better opening for Rovers nine minutes later, again crossing from the left, but this time Nuttall headed just over from 10 yards out, after getting in front of his marker.

The goal Rovers' dominance deserved arrived at the midway point in the half.

George Cooper's misplaced pass was seized upon by Williams, who played in Graham and - just like he did when the two teams met 10 days ago - the striker coolly slotted into the far corner.

It was almost 2-0 on the half-hour mark when Graham fed Nuttall, but his shot across goal defelcted into the side-netting.

Moments later and Graham almost provided a truly magical FA Cup moment when he went for goal from an improbable position just outside the corner of the area, but his stunning first-time strike clipped the top of the upright.

Straight down the other end and Crewe registered their first attempt at goal, but Callum Ainley's long-range effort was comfortably saved by Jayson Leutwiler.

Rovers came close to doubling their lead just before the break when Graham's cut-back fell kindly for Conway, whose fierce strike went just over the bar.

Having been booked in the first half, Harper was replaced at the interval by Travis.

Mowbray made another change on 56 minutes, bringing on Sam Hart for Conway and the substitute came close to doubling Rovers' lead just before the hour mark, but Ben Garratt did well to save his low drive and Nolan cleared the loose ball off the line.

A minute later, Hart almost turned provider, delivering a corner from the right, which Williams glanced on at the near post, but again the ball was cleared off the Crewe goal-line.

Rovers were in complete control, but with only a one-goal lead to show for their efforts, Crewe remained in the game and they almost equalised on 62 minutes.

Substitute Charlie Kirk delivered a pin-point cross from the left and the unmarked Dagnall saw his free header bounce back off the post.

Rovers were quickly back in the ascendancy, with substitute Bradley Dack twice firing over the bar, before the visitors ought to have put the game to bed nine minutes from time.

Hart's cross from the left was inadvertently sliced towards his own goal by Nolan, forcing Garratt into a smart save and then he somehow kept out Nuttall's follow-up from point-blank range.

The hosts applied some late pressure, with substitute Jordan Bowery curling a shot inches over the upright on 90 minutes, before Perry Ng saw a shot saved in added time, but Rovers saw the game out to book their place in round three.  

Up next is a visit from Charlton Athletic to Ewood Park on Saturday, when Rovers will look to secure a sixth straight League One win.

CREWE: Garratt, Ng, Bakayogo, Raynes, Porter (Reilly 79), Dagnall (Bowery 70), Cooper, Nolan, Ainley (Kirk 41), Lowery, Pickering.
Subs not used: Richards, Walker, Stubbs, Grant.

ROVERS: Leutwiler, Caddis, Ward, Mulgrew, Williams, Conway (Hart 56), Tomlinson, Smallwood, Harper (Travis 46), Nuttall, Graham (Dack 63).
Subs not used: Raya, Wharton, Hardcastle, Samuel.

Goal: Graham (24)
Booked: Harper, Ward.

Attendance: 2,241 (669)


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