Crewe count their blessings

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The Independent Online

Bristol Rovers 0

Crewe Alexandra 0

Bristol Rovers in blue and white and Crewe Alexandra in red may not have had the quality of players in the same colours at Anfield, but they played as though as much was at stake.

Chances fell at both ends but Crewe can count themselves extremely lucky not to be going into the second leg of this Second Division play-off semi- final behind.

Crewe, playing down the Twerton Park slope, began brightly. The game's first real chance fell to Gareth Whalley, who volleyed a loose ball from a corner in the 10th minute, only to see it stopped brilliantly by Brian Parkin.

Their dominance was short-lived, as Rovers attacked with gusto and some skill. A 30-yard free-kick by Gareth Taylor, a Welsh Under-21 international, flew just wide of the post.

Rovers' chances then came thick and fast - Marcus Stewart, Paul Miller and Taylor could all have scored. The best opportunity fell to Worrell Sterling, whose header after an error from the Crewe goalkeeper, Mark Gayle, was cleared dramatically off the line by Gus Wilson.

All things considered, the visitors were fortunate to reach half-time with the scoreline 0-0 and luckier still that they did not concede a goal to a fine diving header from Stewart early in the second half. His flying effort from a David Pritchard cross scraped the post. Moments later, another Stewart effort came to nothing when his header was cleared off the line by Danny Murphy.

A smiling Dario Gradi, the Crewe manager, said: "We have by no means won this tie just by getting a 0-0 here. But this was a good result and we are looking forward to going to Gresty Road."

Bristol Rovers (4-4-2): Parkin; Pritchard, Gurney, Stewart (Channing, 34,) Clark; Tillson, Sterling, Miller, Taylor; Skinner, Archer. Substitutes not used: Browning, Collett (gk)

Crewe Alexandra (4-4-2): Gayle; Booty, Smith (Wilson,17), Barr, Macauley; Whalley, Tierney, Collins, Adebola (Clarkson, 90); Lennon, Murphy. Substitute not used: Smith (gk)

Referee: P Allcock (Redhill).