Bolton boss Dougie Freedman hailed stand-in goalkeeper Andy Lonergan after Jermaine Beckford’s extra-time strike clinched a 3-2 Capital One Cup win at Crewe.
Beckford struck twice late in the tie after the Sky Bet League One outfit had taken the game to a Bolton side showing nine changes from the weekend.
But it was Lonergan’s performance which ensured Wanderers stayed in contention, although he could do nothing to keep out Brad Inman’s superb second-minute strike.
“I’m pleased for Lonners. He knows he could have done a bit better in certain games, but he was a strong character for us tonight,” said Freedman.
“All credit to Crewe for making it a very interesting tie, but I thought we were superior in extra-time. I’m happy to go through and I am pleased for one or two of the youngsters I drafted in.
“I am sure I will get their agents ringing and saying they should be playing here and there. Now they know what it’s like playing with the big boys.”
Crewe, who made four changes after failing to win any of their opening four league fixtures, were good value for their lead which Inman handed them when he cut in from the left flank past young Wanderers full-back Oscar Threlkeld and unleashed a screaming right-footer into the far corner.
Lonergan then turned around a long-range effort from Chris Atkinson and parried another Inman effort before breathing a a sigh of relief when Vadaine Oliver volleyed the rebound wide with the goal gaping.
Wanderers had barely posted a threat when Darren Pratley levelled five minutes before the break. The midfielder hung high at the far post to greet Liam Feeney’s cross with a downward header which beat keeper Ben Garratt.
Bolton were on top in the closing stages and Crewe were wilting when Beckford grabbed his first goal of the season, finishing off a Matt Mills’ flick-on inside the box in stoppage time.
Yet the Railwaymen roared back and substitute Marcus Haber headed Greg Leigh’s cross in at the far post in the seventh minute of added time to force extra time.
But Beckford sealed it with his second of the game, which he poked under Garratt in the 106th minute.
Freedman added: “I am baffled when certain sections of the crowd doubt Jermaine Beckford’s ability. I believe in him and he spreads an infectious attitude around the place.
“Thanks to our energy and commitment we worked our way back into what was a very difficult game. We were right on top in the second half and created a number of chances.”
Crewe boss Steve Davis blamed a referee switch in the first-half for disrupting his side’s early domination.
Tony Harrington was forced off with a muscle injury and Davis said: “The referee coming off didn’t help us as the momentum was with us.
“I thought we were excellent although it didn’t go for us in the end. We showed great spirit when we went 2-1 down. We had a lot of opportunities.
“When you don’t win games your confidence can drain a bit, but if we play like that in the league we will win more games than we lose.
“I thought we did enough to go through as for the majority of the game we were the better team.”