Where We Are
Following Wednesday night’s crucial win over Stevenage things are looking to be ever so slightly on the up at Coventry City. Thursday’s loan deadline saw David Prutton sign up for the rest of the season to add experience to the midfield as Adam Barton departed for Fleetwood and Billy Daniels made the switch to Cheltenham. Whilst the performance on Wednesday night wasn’t the prettiest, the brief was clear, keep a clean sheet and try and nick something at the other end. Despite the result and the clean sheet, it seemed like the team were unused to the new formation with Stevenage creating 3 or 4 chances that should have really been taken.
That being said it’s a good feeling winning and it should give the side some more confidence ahead of this afternoon’s fixture with Crewe. With John Fleck suspended it seems likely that David Prutton will be handed his first start for the club in his place. The main decision Pressley has is whether to keep the back 5 and hope that the we are able to repeat Wednesday night’s performance or go back to the 4-4-2 formation that the team is much more confident playing in.
Whilst the temptation may be to stick with a winning side, the overall performance on Wednesday night was fairly substandard and was perhaps a game that our opponents should have won. You could argue that the team would be able to improve upon that performance given some extra time on the training pitch. The question is whether Pressley sees it as a risk to persist with an unfamiliar shape for his side in a game that could effectively secure survival this season. The benefit of returning to 4-4-2 would be that it would increase our attacking fluidity at the cost of leaving us more vulnerable defensively.
Last Time We Met
If there was any doubt about Crewe being our bogey side then last December’s league fixture at Sixfields proved once again that Crewe have the hoodoo over us. With Coventry City still on a high following Chris Maguire’s brace against the MK Dons and Crewe enduring a fairly poor run in the league there was surely only one result. Crewe took the lead from Tom Hitchcock on the counter attack only for Franck Moussa to equalise before half-time from a Maguire corner. After the break Callum Wilson scored a penalty which should have secured all three points for Coventry. However a defensive howler from Jordan Clarke sent Chuks Aneke through for a simple finish which once again saw Crewe frustrate Coventry City.
Coventry’s away record against Crewe is what tips the balance in our opponents favour. The Sky Blues have only ever won once at the Alexandra Stadium in the league, a 6-1 win back in 2002. Crewe have won 5 of the other 8 meetings between the two sides in Cheshire, a win for Coventry today should be regard as a rare treat.
How Are They Doing?
After briefly flickering to life in December, Crewe have continued to struggle this season but have been able to pick up the odd result to keep their heads above water in the League One relegation battle. For manager Steve Davis this has been the first time that he’s managed a side that have struggled at the wrong end of the table and it’s been a test of his squad management skills. After initially casting bad-boys Anthony Grant and Brad Inman to the side following some questionnable off-field antics, the realities of Crewe’s struggles this season have seen the duo called back into the first-team.
It is clear to see though who will be Crewe’s dangerman this afternoon, Chuks Aneke. Taking in a second season on loan from Arsenal, Aneke has grown into the figurehead of what is the league’s youngest side. He can either play as an attacking midfielder but has been increasingly deployed in attack, Aneke is similar in many regards to another ex-Gunner in Jay Emmanuel-Thomas. However whilst the Bristol City striker prefers to float in and out of games, Aneke is less afraid to use his physicality to bully opponents but he’s also a player who possesses great skill. Given his influence over this side it seems obvious that keeping Aneke out of the game will go a long way to securing a positive result this afternoon.
Elsewhere the Crewe side is largely made up of academy graduates with a few ‘experienced’ players in their mid-to-late 20s. One to watch on the flanks will be Byron Moore, a pacey and skilful winger who is being courted by Championship clubs and could make the step up regardless of Crewe’s league status next season. In addition their right-back Matt Tootle can be a tricky customer to navigate and one who might enjoy the space afforded by a potential 5-3-2 formation from City.
The hope is that the team can take Wednesday night’s result and use it to motivate themselves for this afternoon’s game at Crewe. Hopefully the addition of David Prutton to the midfield will increase the team’s ability to keep the game under control and make sure we are able to hold on to any lead that we can take in this game. The caveat to all this is our shocking record against Crewe, we haven’t actually beaten them in the league either home or away since 2003. The only thing to counter that is that this team, especially with Pressley in charge, probably won’t care about out past record against Crewe, with only Murphy, Christie, Baker and Moussa involved in the JPT defeat from last year.
I predict that we will be able to take a point from this fixture, 1-1.