Carling Cup Curse Strikes Again
Attendance: 3, 778
Derby County`s League Cup curse struck again at Gresty Road with Crewe Alexandra becoming the sixth side to put The Rams out of the competition in the their first game in the last eight years as Shaun Barker`s unfortunate own goal proved the difference between the sides. The game was played in the right manner with both sides knocking the ball around well and Calvin Zola caused The Rams backline a number of problems in an entertaining encounter. Derby enjoyed some long spells of possession but couldn`t fashion as many chances as on Saturday against a resolute Crewe defence who held on to the goal they were handed on the stroke of halftime to add another chapter to Derby`s wretched league cup story over the last few years.
Nigel Clough made three changes to the side who were victorious at Elland Road on Saturday with Dean Moxey, Ben Pringle and Chris Porter coming in for Gareth Roberts, Russell Anderson and Rob Hulse respectively, there was also an early return to Gresty Road for John Brayford and James Bailey. Crewe began the match brightly and Clayton Donaldson brought the first save of the match from Stephen Bywater in the opening minutes. Derby responded and some neat footwork from Kris Commons saw him escape the attentions of two Crewe men before firing in a long range effort that Rhys Taylor palmed away in the Crewe goal.
Both sides were attempting to play some neat football although they were not helped by a bobbly looking pitch and despite some end to end play there were no clear shots on goal until Chris Porter headed a Commons` cross over the top just before the half hour mark. Commons again threatened minutes later but his cross-shot flashed across the goal with no-one able to get a touch. It was an entertaining encounter with both sides looking to attack and Taylor palmed a Barker header over the top when Tomasz Cywka picked him out from a corner in the last minute of the half but it was the home side that made the vital breakthrough in injury time. A hooked cross into the area put pressure on The Rams backline and, under pressure from Calvin Zola, Shaun Barker`s back header beat Bywater and nestled in the bottom corner for the only goal of the first half.
Nigel Clough made the first change of the match at halftime bringing on Rob Hulse in place of Chris Porter and he almost made an immediate impact bursting into the area but Taylor save bravely at his feet before he could get a shot away. Derby continued their pressure and James Bailey`s low effort was held by Taylor but Crewe nearly caught them on the brake as Shaun Miller`s curling effort from the edge of the area crashed back off the post with Bywater beaten.
Kris Commons again tried his luck from long range but his effort was saved by Taylor and The Rams made another change brining on Gareth Roberts in place of Shaun Barker with Dean Moxey moving to the centre of defence. Crewe were giving it their all and getting plenty of men behind the ball to deny their visitors time and space and it was working well as despite enjoying a spell of possession they were not able to forge clear cut chances and unduly worry the Crewe backline.
In a final change Conor Doyle was brought on for his competitive debut in place of Ben Pringle. Kris Commons made room for himself before aiming an inviting cross at Rob Hulse on the far post but he was levered off the ball by Danny Blanchett and the referee waived away appeals for a push. In the closing moments Derby threw everything forward and John Brayford very nearly made a dream return to his old club but was again denied by Taylor at close range. Nigel Cough`s side just couldn`t make that vital breakthrough and Crewe`s solid backline stood firm to earn themselves a cup upset and a place in round two.
Crewe Alexandra: Taylor, Tootle, Blanchett, Westwood, Artell, Ada, Donaldson, Murphy, Zola, Miller (Moore 81), Bell
Subs: Fogler, Grant, Mitchel-King, Leitch-Smith, Dugdale, Powell
Derby County: Bywater, Brayford, Barker (Roberts 69) , Leacock, Moxey, Savage, Bailey, Cywka, Pringle (Doyle 83), Commons, Porter (Hulse 46)
Subs: Deeney, Buxton, Martin