Ten-man Bolton Wanderers were beaten comprehensively by Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road as they exited the FA Youth Cup at the fourth round of the competition.
Liam O’Neill’s brace had already seen the Railwaymen take a 2-0 lead at the break before Alex Honeyball was sent off after bringing down Callum Ainley in the area, Toby Mullarkey scoring the resulting spot-kick.
Further goals were provided by Ainley and Charlie Kirk, while Jamie Thomas was unable to head home a stoppage-time consolation after Will Abbotts’ initial strike was saved, summing up the Whites’ luck on the night.
One of the stars of Bolton Wanderers’ third-round victory over Portsmouth, Under-16s goalkeeper Jake Turner returned in between the sticks for the trip to Crewe.
Meanwhile Jamie Thomas was the lone man in attack while there was also a start in the centre of midfield for Channing Campbell-Young.
Wanderers were on the backfoot straight from kick-off as Crewe Alexandra started confidently, having already beaten last year’s losing finalists Fulham on home soil earlier in the competition.
Crewe captain Joe Kearns had already missed a good opportunity to fire the Railwaymen ahead from a corner inside the opening two minutes, before the Whites did find themselves behind moments later.
Having seen Andre Brown burst down the right before whipping in a dangerous cross to the far post, Jake Turner was left with little opportunity to save Liam O’Neill’s subsequent half-volley as his scuffed close-range strike was hit into the ground, deceiving the Bolton keeper, before bouncing up into the net.
Restricted to only half-chances, Jamie Thomas saw a curling free-kick evade everyone in the area before drifting just wide of the far post, while Channing Campbell-Young dragged a 30-yard effort narrowly off-target as Wanderers began to press.
Alex Perry tested Liam Matthews with a long-range curling strike, but it was to be a rare save for the keeper as the hosts soon doubled their lead.
Having seen a fine Turner save keep out Cooper’s powerful volley before Ivan Wassi cleared O’Neill’s rebound off the line, the latter was not to be denied his second off the night as he put Crewe 2-0 up with their very next attack on the stroke of half-time.
Timing his run into the area well, the winger was in the right place at the right time to convert Cooper’s low cross from the left, leaving the Whites with it all to do to turn the game around in the second half.
Will Abbotts was introduced shortly after the break but any chance of a Trotters comeback was quickly extinguished as they found themselves a further goal behind and a man down on the hour-mark.
Alex Honeyball saw red after taking down Ainley in the area, allowing Toby Mullarkey to step up and scores the resulting spot-kick as he sent Turner the wrong way.
Crewe wasted no time in making their man advantage count as Wanderers fell further behind minutes later as Ainley fired across goal into the bottom corner from an acute angle for his side’s fourth goal.
Turner twice denied the hosts fifth with two good saves, getting down well to tip away a powerful strike from range before later keeping out an O’Neill effort from close-range.
However, despite Turner’s best efforts Crewe soon extended their lead further through substitute Charlie Kirk, his strike finding its way home via a combination of post and the keeper’s fingertips.
With the fate of the tie already firmly decided, the Whites could have netted a stoppage-time consolation as Abbotts forced a save out of Matthews at his near post.
However, with the goal gaping, Thomas was unable to head home the rebound as Bolton exited the FA Youth Cup with a whimper.
Bolton: Turner, Spooner, Wassi (Cvetko 66), Phillips, Honeyball, Nolan, Palmer (Abbotts), Campbell-Young, Perry, Thomas, Garratt.
Unused subs: Kennedy, Likoy-Elumba, McKenna.
Crewe: Matthews, Kearns, Neal, Finney (Pickering 77), Moran, Mullarkey, O'Neill, Lowery, Brown, Cooper (Speed 65), Ainley (Kirk 74).
Unused subs: Harrison, Morgan.