Mikael Mandron’s second half goal was enough to halt Andy Butler’s unbeaten start to life in charge of Rovers.
Crewe started the better of the two teams but despite their dominance on the ball, they didn’t test keeper Louis Jones in the first half. In fact, it was Rovers who appeared to have taken the lead just after 15 minutes when Jason Lokilo’s corner kick evaded everyone and hit the back of the net – but it was ruled out for a foul on the keeper.
Injuries were the story of the second half and there was less then a minute played before John Bostock was forced off with Reece James following 15 minutes later. Mandron’s winning goal was scored between these two incidents. Rovers probably finished the game the stronger but they were unable to find the goal they needed.
Andy Butler made two changes to his side that recorded a victory over Plymouth Argyle on the weekend with Omar Bogle missing out completely while Jason Lokilo replaced Josh Sims who dropped to the bench. With no recognised striker in the squad, Madger Gomes was deployed as a false nine.
There was a quiet opening to the game with corners proving both sides best opening chances – Crewe probably edging the best of them - but neither keeper was tested.
The false nine role created made for plenty of willing runners and at times the bodies piling forward caused the Crewe defence all sorts of problems. A sublime through ball by John Bostock into the run of James Coppinger which the no.26 knocked just over the bar was a warning of the quality both players wielded and moments later Brad Halliday’s effort was deflected towards the back post with Taylor Richards when close to tapping it in before Reece James forced a good save from keeper Dave Richards.
Rovers did have the ball in the back of the net just after quarter of an hour when Jason Lokilo’s corner kick delivery evaded everyone and went straight in but referee Ben Speedie spotted a foul on the keeper and ruled it out.
Two minutes later, Luke Murphy squandered a golden opportunity to put the hosts ahead. Some good build up by David Artell’s men down Rovers’ right saw Charlie Kirk whip an inviting ball across the danger area between keeper and defenders – but Murphy’s miscued it wide.
This kick-started another good period of possession for Crewe but for all of their pressure the Rovers defence blocked shots and closed down chances leaving Louis Jones without a save to make.
Butler’s men carried a threat on the break and the willing running from the full backs caused dangerous overloads bombing forward. James had another chance – similar to his first - just after the half-hour mark with Taylor Richards finding him free at the back post but it was well blocked by Rio Adebisi.
Crewe continued to create chances. Owen Dale sent an effort wide from just outside the box and his effort from a free kick was straight in the wall. Murphy hit another dangerous ball across the box and important glancing touch from Tom Anderson was enough to take it away from the queue of Railway men waiting at the back post.
Both keepers had saves to make early in the second half. Rovers played themselves into danger early – and under hit pass gave Crewe a really early chance but Murphy’s effort was weak and straight at Jones who did his job.
At the other end, Coppinger forced a save from Dave Richards when Scott Robertson – who came onto replace an injured Bostock just after the restart – found the no.26 at the back post. And Lokilo sent his effort from a free kick awarded just outside the box into the wall.
Jones pulled off an excellent save to deny Omar Beckles' header, but he could do nothing moments later when Mandron turned and smashed the ball in from close range.
Coppinger forced another save from Richards – the keeper was clearly expecting the no.26 to cross hit the ball into the box but he chose to shoot towards the near post and very nearly caught the shot-stopper out.
Things went from bad to worse for Butler when just after the hour-mark he lost another player to injury. James hobbled off and was replaced by Cameron John.
With twenty minutes remaining, Rovers turned up the heat and forced a lot more chances sparked in part by fierce running and chasing by Taylor Richards who had adopted the no.9 role when Gomes was replaced by Josh Sims. Sims was inches from being played in by both Robertson and Matt Smith, but John went closest racing to meet a ball which he hit just wide of the far post.
Coppinger’s effort from distance was skewed wide, Smith's volley was blocked and Richards had his effort snuffed out at the edge of the box. Lokilo's corner into the back post was met well by John but saved well by Dave Richards. It all came to nothing in the end and Crewe's unbeaten record at home was extended.