Crewe Alexandra 1 Doncaster Rovers 1 match verdict: James Coppinger goal keeps Paul Dickov’s men moving in right direction

James Coppinger celebrates
James Coppinger celebrates

At first glance, a draw at bottom of the table Crewe might feel like two points dropped.

But Saturday’s hard-earned point may yet prove to be a useful one.

Paul Dickov’s frustration that has side failed to collect all three points at Gresty Road was etched all over his face after the game.

He was disappointed his team did not make more of the chances they created, although those opportunities were not as plentiful or clear-cut as those carved out at Rochdale a week previously.

Rovers struggled to get out of second gear for a lot of this game and were restricted to efforts from distance, but they stuck at the task in hand and came away with a deserved share of the spoils.

Dickov’s post-match assertion that this was a game that Rovers would have lost six weeks ago was very telling.

Progress - at least in terms of putting back-to-back performances together - appears to have been made. Rovers are harder to play against than they were a month ago. Those back-to-back league wins still elude him, however.

This was a game Rovers could, and maybe should, have won.

Indeed, they may well have done had they scored the first goal and taken the wind out of Crewe’s sails during a lively opening to the game.

Had Nathan Tyson not fluffed his lines when he was presented with the game’s first clear opening, Doncaster may well have chalked up their sixth league win on the road this season.

But despite failing to come from behind to win their third successive league game on their travels, the point earned by James Coppinger’s late leveller keeps things ticking over quite nicely going into tomorrow night’s short trip to Barnsley. It’s not a case of one step forward two back again, which it would have been had Rovers been sunk by League One’s basement side.

In fairness to Crewe, they did not resemble a bottom-of-the-league team. Doncaster’s visit looked like it had been badly timed.

Alex’s front two - Nicky Ajose and Uche Ikpeazu - arrived at the club on loan only last week, but they clicked instantly and caused Doncaster problems all afternoon with their respective pace and power.

Ikpeazu, in particular, proved to be a serious handful, and there were some early warning signs of his threat when he picked up the ball on half way, played in Ajose, only for Kyle Bennett to appear from nowhere with a brilliant block.

Crewe’s best opening during the frantic early exchanges was sandwiched between several chances at the other end.

Tyson and Main both had early efforts on goal as Rovers started the game in very composed and confident fashion.

Crewe goalkeeper Ben Garratt then produced an excellent save to deny Coppinger from Main’s cross.

And from the resultant corner Tyson wasted a gilt-edged chance, volleying over when he had time and space.

A lull in the game followed. And out of nothing Alex seized the initiative.

Dangerman Ikpeazu was allowed to turn in the box and he drilled an effort low under the body of Sam Johnstone, which went in with the aid of a deflection.

It might have been two shortly after but Ajose volleyed wastefully wide after a mistake from Paul Keegan.

It remained 1-0 and there was a sense after the break that if Rovers got one, they might go on and get two.

The problem was getting the one, however, as Doncaster’s final ball let them down and they were restricted to efforts from range from Richie Wellens, Keegan and Bennett.

Crewe were a threat on the counter and Ikpeazu saw another decent effort saved by Johnstone after a barn-storming run from half way.

With Rovers running out of ideas, Dickov introduced Theo Robinson, Harry Forrester and Dean Furman - and the fresh legs helped give the visitors some extra zest.

Just as Crewe were beginning to think they had done enough to end a winless run of six matches, Doncaster struck.

From Forrester’s right-wing corner Garratt saved superbly from Luke McCullough but Coppinger was on hand to prod home the rebound.

Forrester and Main then flashed shots wide as Rovers threatened to grab a late winner but Dickov’s men had to make do with a point.

While Doncaster had arrived at Gresty Road with their sights set on all three points, the rescued draw keeps Rovers heading in the right direction.

And if that momentum continues at Oakwell then Rovers can look back on this as very much a point gained.

Crewe: Garratt 7; Davis 6, Ray 6, Dugdale 6, Leigh 6 (Guthrie 72); Turton 7, Bailie 6, Ness 6, Grant 6, Ikpeazu 8 (Haber 72), Ajose 7 (Inman 90+1). Subs: Shearer, Atkinson, Cooper, Tate.

Rovers: Johnstone 6; Wabara 6, Butler 6, McCullough 6, Stevens 7; Coppinger 7, Wellens 6, Keegan 6 (Furman 72), Bennett 6 (Forrester 65, 6); Tyson 6 (Robinson 59, 6), Main 6. Subs: Marosi, McCombe, De Val, Wakefield.