Football / FA Cup: Blackburn too smart for Alex

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Crewe Alexandra . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Blackburn Rovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

AS befits a club called Alex, Crewe played some smart football, but even the sentimental observer would agree that it wasn't anything like enough. The television cameras, as well as a festive capacity crowd, came in the faint hope of a giantkilling, but, after an early flurry, shocks turned out to be keeping a low profile.

Crewe played their part as expected, weaving together neatly patterned passes in the middle of the field, but it all broke down whenever they got anywhere near Blackburn's area, which Colin Hendry and Kevin Moran defended with a ruthless combination of calmness and obduracy.

'We were playing all right,' Dario Gradi, Crewe's manager, said, 'but I couldn't see who was going to score a goal.' As the second half grew old, he threw his forwards up in the hope of finding an answer to Roy Wegerle's soft but well-taken early goal.

But only once did Crewe go close, David May blocking Steve Macauley's header on the line, and a tactical switch afforded Blackburn all the space they needed to embarrass their hosts and make the game safe.

It finished 3-0, but by the end Blackburn, and Jason Wilcox in particular, might easily have made the score doubly emphatic. Long before Wilcox's thrusting run had left Mike Newell with an open goal, Crewe's curiously named keeper, Dean Greygoose, was black-and-blue with shots peppered at him from every angle, and he turned as pink as the club shirt when his fumble gifted Moran a final goal after Stewart Evans had sliced a clearance skywards. It was all over by then, but Bobby Mimms' inactivity at the other end had already told its own story.

Gresty Road is the unlikely nursery for a number of internationals, and maybe one day the name of Gareth Whalley, an 18- year-old offspring of Gradi's youth policy, will follow David Platt, Geoff Thomas and Rob Jones along the road from Crewe to Wembley. But his immensely assured contribution was insufficient to break Blackburn's ferocious grip on the game.

'They were strong and professional,' admitted Gradi, and that's one of the things money can buy. Buying is not Crewe's business and, until a beneficent multi- millionaire like Jack Walker rolls into town, it never will be.

Crewe Alexandra: D Greygoose; R Annon, S Smith (P Duffield, 63 min), G Wilson, S Macauley, A Hughes, J Harvey, G Whalley, P Clarkson (S Evans, 63 min), M Gardiner, R Edwards. Manager: D Gradi.

Blackburn Rovers: B Mimms; D May, A Wright (M Atkins, 33 min), T Sherwood, C Hendry, K Moran, S Ripley, G Cowans, R Wegerle, M Newell, J Wilcox. Sub not used: P Andersson. Manager: K Dalglish.

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

Goals: Wegerle (0-1, 8 min); Newell (0-2, 78 min); Moran (0-3, 84 min).

(Photograph omitted)