Preview: Crewe Alexandra

4-0. Away from home.

Before we move on from a delirious Saturday afternoon, let’s just soak it up one more time.

Okay, done?

It has been a sensational first two games where fears of this team being under-prepared, lacking in physicality and goals have proven to be emphatically wide of the mark. The movement and speed of thought of our front four have made us elusive to the physicality of this division thus far. The sensational Newcastle loanee Adam Armstrong in attack has been so potent that it feels like we’ve entered some kind of cheat code into a video game.

In his post-match interview, Tony Mowbray identified Crewe as our ‘nemesis’, the one team who regardless of form or the supposed ability of the squads always find a way to beat us, especially at the Ricoh Arena. For some reason, Crewe give us the heebie-jeebies, even trying to find some way of thinking around it only serves to highlight just how big of a mental block they have been for us over the years. Perhaps though, this will steel the team away from getting complacent in what might otherwise be seen as an easy win for us.

Whilst the wins over Wigan and Millwall were pretty convincing, this fixture presents a different type of challenge for this team to overcome. We have been fast-paced and incisive in our play thus far but against a team who will be playing deeper and will regard a draw as a great result, there will be less space behind the defence to exploit. This is a game that will simultaneously test the maturity of our attacking players whilst also examining whether a defence of Reda Johnson and Sam Ricketts can be effective against a team looking to counter with pace.

Possible Line-Up
Possible Line-Up

In terms of team selection, I wouldn’t anticipate too many changes from Saturday’s starting line-up. Jacob Murphy and Marcus Tudgay both made contributions from the bench, but who on earth would you sacrifice to play them at the moment? Reda Johnson will constantly be a doubt for these Tuesday night games, but would you really want Aaron Martin playing in a game where your team’s going to be seeing a lot of the ball?

With Chris Stokes having limped around for the final few minutes on Saturday, he could well be the one change to the line-up with Ryan Haynes taking his spot. Haynes could be a useful weapon from full-back in this game with his attacking instincts forcing Crewe’s defence out wider to deal with his runs forward. His defensive game remains a concern but he can hardly be expected to improve it without further minutes on the pitch.

Last Time We Met

As referred to already, our last meeting with Crewe was an absolutely catastrophic spectacle. Needing just one point to guarantee survival, the Sky Blues conspired to take last season down to a nervy final-day showdown with Crawley. After spurning some decent early chances, Adam Barton and Aaron Phillips allowed Crewe’s Ryan Colclough the freedom of the right-side of our defence, his effort was palmed softly by Lee Burge into the path of Lauri Dalla Valle who was allowed to tap-in with the rest of our defence clearing having shared Barton and Phillips’ pre-game sleeping pills.

The rest of the game played out pretty much like the first act of Springtime For Hitler, just without the remarkable turnaround of the final two acts. It was Colclough continued his hypnotic effect over the City defence when he was allowed time and space to curl in a beauty into the top-corner whilst the Sky Blues were busy protesting a foul against Lee Burge. Crewe soaked up our Mr Burns-style flailing arms pressure in the second-half and pulled our pants down again to score a third. The farce was completed when Nick Proschwitz scored his first and only goal for the club late on.

How Are They Doing?

Typically, Crewe are off to a poor start to the season after another difficult summer where a squad that had only just scraped survival last season has been downgraded further. Steve Davis’ side drew 0-0 at home on an opening-day derby against Port Vale, they were then subsequently dumped out of the League Cup by Preston before being handily beaten by Scunthorpe in their last game.

Having attempted a more fluent, possession-based style of play in their opening few games without much success, Crewe boss Steve Davis may now be tempted to return to the niggly, counter-attacking formula that served them well the last time we played them. Young wingers George Cooper and Ryan Colclough both enjoyed fruitful afternoons against us last season and must surely be in the manager’s thoughts for this game as they look to exploit our lack of pace at the back.

Possible Line-Up
Possible Line-Up

The key summer signing for Alex has been experienced midfielder David Fox who joined from Colchester. Like recent loan signing Jacob Murphy, Fox played a key role in Colchester’s improbable survival bid last season. A deep-lying midfielder with an excellent range of passing, Fox has been brought in to provide a young Crewe side the benefit of his experience in the game.

We should be wary of the bean-pole Canadian centre-forward Marcus Haber who caused us problems the last time we played. Haber did an excellent job in occupying Reda Johnson throughout the game which provided space for Crewe’s pacey counter-threat to exploit. Lauri Dalla Valle, deployed mainly on the wing at Crewe, has proven an effective goal poacher in the past against us and should also be regarded as a significant threat.


Despite the understandable nervousness surrounding ever backing Coventry City to beat Crewe, the overwhelming mood is that of unadulterated optimism. Whilst us Sky Blues fans can be characterised as a pessimistic bunch, to continue to get excited about the club as many have been doing over the past few days says a lot about the tidal wave of optimism that is constantly lurking beneath the surface at this club. After all, we’re only two games into the league season.

Whilst we’ve had zero evidence thus far to see how this team copes with this positivity and expectation, there is equally zero evidence to suggest that we can’t play up to it. Somewhat nervously typing this as it is Crewe we’re playing but we’re surely going to win this game? 2-0?

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