Crewe 1 Doncaster Rovers 0 - No detective work needed to solve Rovers’ loss

HELPING to impose their respective sides’ will on the football field as opposed to law enforcement is dominating the thoughts of rival managers Andy Butler and David Artell these days.

Crewe Alexandra's Mikael Mandron (centre left) celebrates scoring. Pictures: PA.

Instead of being in opposing dug-outs on Tuesday evening, these two former defenders could have instead entered the crime-solving world, with Butler considering whether to join the police force last summer.

Rotherham-born Artell has a degree in forensic biology – having been inspired to study the subject by watching detective TV shows back in the day.

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Speaking of detection work, it did not take a Hercule Poirot to work out among League One aficionados that Butler started this game without a recognised central striker with top-scorer Fejiri Okenabirhie and Omar Bogle missing and a midfielder in Madger Gomes pressed into service as a ‘false nine.’

Doncaster Rovers' John Bostock receives medical treatment after going down injured.

It showed the dearth of Rovers options and what promised to be a night which was not straightforward certainly turned out that way, with Gomes failing to get into the game. He was not alone.

On a night when a defeat would have delivered a huge blow to their ebbing hopes of gatecrashing the top-six, Crewe showed the cohesion and sharpness to keep their particular fires burning, with the visitors never getting up a head of steam in the railway town by contrast.

The goal that had been coming arrived early in the second half from the recalled Mikael Mandron, whose low finish after good work by the impressive Charlie Kirk, whose directness caused Rovers problems all night, saw him register his tenth strike of the season – and a timely first goal since Boxing Day.

Rovers huffed and puffed, with Taylor Richards – pushed up front in the second half – and James Coppinger offering a few pockets of devilment. But there was little else as Rovers suffered a first defeat of the Butler era.

A forgettable night also saw Reece James potentially add to their injury count when he hobbled off after coming off second best in a challenge from Kirk – and receiving a booking for his pains – while John Bostock also made way early in the second half.

Doncaster’s home numbers may be strong, but their away form is taking a turn for the worse. They have now lost four games on the spin on their travels and this was a tepid show.

Crewe would have been happy to be back on relatively fertile ground in South Cheshire, where they boasted an unbeaten 10-game league record stretching back to early October.

Without two bonafide attacking options up front, the onus was on others to put their hand up on the goalscoring front, something no-one can accuse James of not doing given his veritable glut of seven goals so far this term.

It nearly became eight when he kept alive at the far post to latch onto a deflected shot from Brad Halliday which deflected obligingly into his path, but Dave Richards blocked his effort.

James also steamed forward on the overlap to fire over after Taylor Richards showed awareness to send him clear.

A ‘goal’ direct from a corner from Lokilo was also ruled out for an infringement, but it was a half in which Crewe dictated for fair spells.

Their best moment came when Matt Smith was dispossessed – in a first half in which he produced some sloppy episodes – withKirk’s low centre finding ex-Leeds United midfielder Luke Murphy at full stretch, but he could only contrive to steer the ball wide with the gap gaping.

Harry Pickering also saw his deflected shot fly over, while Owen Dale fired just off target from distance with Crewe’s first-time passing football posing significant issues to Rovers, with Rio Adebisi and Dale being a particular threat.

But for all their assertion and sharp work, neither could Crewe force Louis Jones into much meaningful action and the scoreline was a benign one for Rovers in the circumstances, given their disruption up front.

Jones was finally called in action on the resumption to smartly tip away Omar Beckles’s pinpoint header, but he was picking the ball out of his net soon after.

Kirk surged clear and played in Mandron and he finished low past Jones for an opener which the Railwaymen certainly merited on the balance of play.

Getting the second goal proved not forthcoming to at least gave Doncaster a bit of heart and keep them interested. A cross-shot flew wide from substitute Cameron John, while Dale diverted Coppinger’s free-kick straight at Dave Richards, instead of either side of the home keeper.

Crewe Alexandra: D Richards; Adebisi, Wood, Beckles, Pickering; Murphy, Wintle, Lowery; Dale, Mandron (Porter 80), Kirk (Powell 88). Substitutes unused: Jaaskelainen, Lancashire, Johnson, Walker, Evans.

Doncaster Rovers: Jones; Halliday, Wright, Anderson, James (John 64); Smith, Bostock (Robertson 45); Lokilo, T Richards, Coppinger; Gomes (Sims 60). Substitutes unused: Balcombe, Williams, Greaves, Horton.

Referee: B Speedie (Merseyside).

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