Crewe boss Dave Artell may have sold Perry Ng to Cardiff on Tuesday but he could later pay tribute to two remaining members of his backline for their roles in an enthralling victory against Bristol Rovers.
Olly Lancashire’s diving header clinched a hard-fought 3-2 success for the Railwaymen, moving them up to seventh, after Rovers had hit back after the interval to cancel out the home side’s two-goal lead.
Lancashire, out of favour at Crewe earlier in the season, also played his part in shoring up the rearguard, along with centre-half partner Omar Beckles.
Artell said: “I thought Omar (Beckles) and Olly (Lancashire) were outstanding and they are the reason we won that game.
“We had to dig deep, but it is a real big win. Anyone who paid a tenner to watch that (online) will have got value for money tonight.
“The players showed their character and courage. We work on a lot of set-pieces and it is pleasing when it comes off like that.
“We’ve drawn games recently, but when you win at home like that the draws look like good points now. We’re nine games unbeaten and we’re going along OK, but to be honest I don’t know where we are in the league.”
As well as selling club captain Ng, Crewe have fended off Blackburn’s interest in Harry Pickering and it is not hard to see why Championship clubs are eyeing up their prized assets.
But they had to do it the hard way after surging into a two-goal lead midway through the first half. After crafted finishes from Charlie Kirk and Ryan Wintle, it was an old-fashioned diving header from Lancashire that proved decisive.
Kirk finished with aplomb after Tommy Lowery dinked a ball in behind as Rovers were caught out by a quickly taken corner. Wintle’s deflected effort followed after good work by Kirk and Oli Finney.
But Max Ehmer finished off Luke Leahy’s set-piece header and Luke McCormick blasted in Rovers’ equaliser from a 20-yard free-kick.
Lancashire, though, cut a determined figure when diving in at the far post to head home Lowery’s free-kick, his first goal for Crewe and his first since September 2017.
Bristol Rovers boss Paul Tisdale said: “The end result was frustrating, but it was a hell of a football match played at break-neck speed with umpteen opportunities at both ends.
“We were 2-0 down at half-time but had played really well in the first half and I was proud that we pressured Crewe. We didn’t sit back and defend, even playing one striker up front.
“Crewe’s first goal was fantastic, but at 2-0 and to come back the way we did showed great resilience. But their third goal was the one I was most cross with as you could see with our positioning that we were going to give them a chance.”