Wrexham AFC claimed an emphatic 3-0 victory over local rivals Crewe Alexandra at the Mornflake Stadium to secure their place in the knockout stages of the EFL Trophy.
Jordan Tunnicliffe played an important part in Wrexham’s opener, which was eventually ruled as an own-goal, while a fine-effort from Jordan Davies and Luke Young’s penalty wrapped up the victory in Crewe.
Phil Parkinson rested the starting XI that beat Crawley Town at the weekend, with opportunities for Bryce Hosannah, Max Cleworth, Jake Bickerstaff and Liam McAlinden to get some much-needed game time.
There was a debut for 23-year-old goalkeeper Luke McNicholas, who replaced Arthur Okonkwo in the Red Dragons’ goal.
It also meant that Wrexham youngsters Liam Hall, Aaron James, Owen Cushion, Dan Davies, Harry Ashfield and Callum Edwards were all called into a competitive matchday squad for the first time this season.
Wrexham, despite the changes – started the game much brighter of the two sides and it took just minutes for the visitors to break the deadlock.
Tunnicliffe rose highest to meet an oncoming cross from Davies and direct it towards goal, but replays showed that it in fact took a deflection and was recorded as an own goal after five minutes.
Davies then doubled the advantage with a moment of pure individual brilliance. Bickerstaff released Wrexham’s number seven, who danced through the Crewe backline with a fine display of footwork which drifted him past man after man.
He eventually carried the ball into the box, closing the move off with a fine left-footed finish under pressure in the 13th minute.
Cleworth came close to making it 3-0 in the 33rd minute, with an opportunity at the back post from close-range. Luke Young found the young defender with a great free-kick delivery, having made a fine run to find himself in space within the Crewe box.
Despite his best efforts, the 21-year-old’s strike was easily dealt with after his effort was straight at Crewe goalkeeper Tom Booth.
Neither side managed to produce any note-worthy chances, as Parkinson’s side went into the break with a two-goal advantage following an impressive first half showing.
Bickerstaff continued to cause the hosts several problems in his search for a goal; McAlinden provided a great ball into the forward, but his effort was blocked after 56 minutes.
While the young striker wasn’t successful in his efforts to grab a goal, he provided a crucial contribution which ultimately made it 3-0 to the Red Dragons.
Having made yet another excellent run, Bickerstaff managed to beat Luke Offord to a loose ball. He was eventually brought down by the hosts’ captain inside the box who was shown a straight red card as the referee pointed to the spot with less than 20 minutes remaining.
Luke Young, back in the Starting XI as captain, stepped up to take the spot kick and coolly converted into the bottom-left corner to all but wrap up the victory in the 73rd minute.
The match was rounded off for Wrexham with the debut appearance of youngster Ashfield, as the 17-year-old made his first-team debut coming on for Sam Dalby in the 89th minute.
Parkinson’s side then went on to hold out for the final moments, securing a clean sheet to top off their short trip across to Crewe as they progressed to the next stage of the EFL Trophy.
Wrexham AFC: McNicholas (GK), Tunnicliffe, Cleworth, Boyle, Hosannah, Cannon, Young (C), J.Davies (James 85’), McAlinden, Dalby (Ashfield 89’), Bickerstaff.
Subs not used: Hall (GK), Barnett, D.Davies, Cushion, Edwards.
Crewe Alexandra: Booth (GK), Williams (Robinson 82’), Offord (C), Colkett, Lunt, Nevitt, Rowe, Finney, Billington, White (Nolan 74’), Agius.
Subs not used: Davies (GK), Adebisi, Baker-Richardson, Tracey, Powell.
Attendance: 3571 (1644 away)