DON­CASTER ......1 Pen miss costs club pro­mo­tion

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Chris Dunlavy

TEN months, 46 games, end­less twists and turns. And in the end it came down to one sin­gle kick.

The clock in the cor­ner of Grif­fin Park had long passed 90 min­utes when Toumani Di­agouraga tum­bled in the box and ref­eree Michael Oliver blew to give Brent­ford a de­bat­able penalty.

Score, and the Bees were in the Cham­pi­onship. Miss and op­po­nents Don­caster were up in­stead.This was drama whit­tled to a fine point, sport at its purest and most vis­ceral. Bums squeaked, eyes were averted.

In the Don­caster dugout, Rovers striker Billy Payn­ter dropped to his knees in prayer, un­able to watch the defin­ing mo­ment of Donny’s sea­son.

And then Marcelo Trotta stepped for­ward and picked up the ball. Quite why is any­one’s guess. Skip­per Kevin O’Con­nor is the Bees’ reg­u­lar taker and was No.1 choice on the day. But de­spite his protes­ta­tions, Trotta wres­tled the ball from his grasp, clearly be­witched by the prospect of a place in his­tory.

Then he missed, thun­der­ing his kick against the bar. Grif­fin Park erupted in fury, Donny broke and just sec­onds later James Cop­pinger swept home to heap mis­ery on the hosts.

It was telling that, in the af­ter­math, few Brent­ford play­ers moved to con­sole the tear­ful Trotta.

And though he kept his anger in check, it was clear that Bees boss Uwe Rosler held the striker ac­count­able.

“What do you want me to say?” said the Ger­man. “We don’t hang play­ers out to dry here. We as a group have to deal with that sit­u­a­tion. It will be dealt with in­ter­nally and I will hold peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for that.”

Pressed on whether Trotta should have taken the kick, Rosler said: “No. He was not first choice.We had three tak­ers. Kevin O’Con­nor was first, Harry For­rester was sec­ond and Trotta was third.When we were awarded the penalty, I thought we would score.When I saw what hap­pened out there, I wasn’t so sure.”

For a Don­caster side who came to de­fend and did it won­der­fully, the sea-change was just as dra­matic. Had Brent­ford scored, the York­shire out­fit would have been fac­ing the play-offs hav­ing been in the top two for all but three days in 2013.

But with Bournemouth only draw­ing at Tran­mere, that late goal from Cop­pinger – tapped into an empty net af­ter a break from Payn­ter – snatched the League One ti­tle with the fi­nal kick of the sea­son.

“It’s 20 years to the day since I got pro­moted with Wrex­ham,” said Donny boss Brian Flynn, who took charge when Dean Saun­ders de­parted for Wolves in Jan­uary.“But this is just as spe­cial.

“One minute we’re stand­ing there look­ing at the play-offs. A minute later we were cham­pi­ons. You couldn’t write a story like that could you? We didn’t know that we’d won the ti­tle un­til we got back in the dress­ing room. If you’d of­fered me sec­ond six weeks ago, I’d have said yes. And I’d have taken it at the start of to­day. But hav­ing that let­ter C be­side your name just makes it that lit­tle bit more spe­cial.

“It was fran­tic out there. It was fren­zied. It wasn’t a clas­sic be­cause of the oc­ca­sion. They tested us to the full but our ex­pe­ri­ence showed.”

Brent­ford had their chances – an early Bradley Wright-Phillips shot that was cuffed against the post, a cou­ple of head­ers from cor­ners – but Donny and Flynn de­serve great credit for a sti­fling job that worked to a tee. At times they pushed the lim­its of games­man­ship but their de­fend­ing, track­ing and cov­er­ing was noth­ing short of im­mac­u­late, es­pe­cially from skip­per Rob Jones.

It helped though, that Brent­ford played into their hands. Renowned for keep­ing it down, the Bees too of­ten launched it for­ward. With McCombe and Jones both on the thick end of 6ft6ins, it was never go­ing to work.

“We played very much with our heart, but not with our heads,” ad­mit­ted Rosler. “But we will learn from that. We are al­lowed to feel sorry for our­selves.” STEVE Davis was quick to share the lime­light with for­mer man­ager Dario Gradi af­ter Crewe signed off the sea­son by field­ing a start­ing XI full of acad­emy grad­u­ates.

A Luke Mur­phy penalty and a late Chuks Aneke goal saw the Rail­way­men claim a fi­nal-day vic­tory over Wal­sall, made all the more spe­cial with the fact that ev­ery one of the starters started life at the club.

Crewe’s em­pha­sis of youth dates back to Gradi’s ar­rival 30 years ago and al­though he is no longer at the helm, Davis wasn’t about to let the club le­gend’s in­flu­ence be ig­nored.

“It is bril­liant to field the acad­emy grad­u­ate play­ers and this is what the football club is about,” Davis said.

“Gradi deserves to be out here with us, be­cause he’s played as much of a part as we have.

“He should take great credit with the work he has done. This is the re­sult with what he has done with the play­ers.

“They were brought to the club and he helped them with their de­vel­op­ment and now they are play­ing.

“When we started the sea­son, I could never have dreamed of us get­ting 64 points. We knew it was go­ing to be very tough, but grad­u­ally we have im­proved and adapted to the league’s re­quire­ments.

“With a lit­tle bit more con­sis­tency as in­di­vid­u­als and is very dis­ap­point­ing, be­cause I have just seen the in­ci­dent and it is not a penalty,” he said.

“I thought we played very well on a re­ally, re­ally tough pitch. Both teams tried to play the right way and it is great what Crewe Alexan­dra have done. All the work that goes on and the mo­men­tum we want to try and take into the fol­low­ing sea­son is un­done by a poor de­ci­sion.

“It is un­for­tu­nate, but I take great pride in the run that we have had and what the play­ers have given me all sea­son. But full credit to Crewe – they fielded a team full of acad­emy grad­u­ates.”


LOAN STAR: Crewe’s Chuks Aneke


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