England Under-18 international Nick Powell produced a moment of magic to set Crewe on the road to League Two play-off victory against Cheltenham yesterday.
Powell – one of nine products from the famous Gresty Road academy in Steve Davis's starting line-up – is the subject of transfer interest from a host of Premier League clubs, and his spectacular turn and shot after a quarter of an hour will have done his prospects of a big-money move little harm.
Davis admitted Powell's Wembley goal was probably his parting gift to the club. Manchester United are believed to be leading the race for his signature and Powell showed why Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to spend around £4m on him with a stunning strike to put Crewe on their way to promotion back to League One.
"We've not had any solid offers," Davis said afterwards. "But I think it will come. Next week we may see something develop."
Assuming Powell does move on, he gave Crewe the perfect leaving present in the 15th minute. Receiving the ball on the edge of the area, his first touch was sublime, shifting the ball from his right foot to his left while escaping the attention of two defenders. His second was simply stunning, a dipping volley which flew over Cheltenham goalkeeper Scott Brown and into the corner of the net.
"I've said all season he's a huge talent," added Davis. "He's a special player who produces special things, he's a big-game player. He's done that many times this season and that was his 16th goal. I think he can go to the Premier League, he's a very capable lad."
Powell himself was modest about his goal. He claimed: "I just whacked it to be honest. I just want to enjoy tonight with the boys and celebrate, I'm not concentrating on the future."
Cheltenham will look back on a host of missed chances to equalise. Jeff Goulding rattled the crossbar only moments after Powell struck. They were also denied by goal-line clearances from Powell and Ashley Westwood, while goalkeeper Steve Phillips kept Kaid Mohamed at bay after the break.
Crewe made sure of victory eight minutes from time when Byron Moore exchanged passes with AJ Leitch-Smith before scoring their second.
It has been a stunning second half of the season for Crewe. They were languishing in 18th when Davis took over in November, but a 19-match unbeaten end to the campaign put them in the play-offs at Oxford's expense. Yesterday's win means they are back in League One three years after they were relegated.
For Cheltenham, who finished five points ahead of their opponents after 46 games, another season in the basement division beckons. However, manager Mark Yates was more proud than despondent after their impressive season came to a close. "That's life," he said. "They scored two and we didn't. One was a wonder-strike from a prodigious talent that you can't do anything about.
"Then we created chance after chance, but when we had two in 10 seconds cleared off the line it probably wasn't going to be our day. But I'm very proud."
Scorers. Crewe: Powell 15, Moore 82.