Preview: Crewe Alexandra

We’re getting closer to the stage of the season where a point, however earned, against a struggling side has to be registered as a disappointment. With the New Year having arrived, it is of course a time to reflect on just how we’ve come over the past 12 months but it also shouldn’t be used as an excuse for letting this chance to win promotion slip.

Getting a win in this trip to Crewe is important, not only to inject some momentum after a fairly poor run of results but also because we are in danger of allowing the teams above us pull away, teams that we have seen in our respective games against them are nothing special. This is a game between a struggling side and one chasing promotion, any self-respecting promotion-chasing side has to take advantage of these kind of games to keep the points ticking over.

The availability of Aaron Martin looks like being important, despite a makeshift back four acquitting itself fairly well against Chesterfield, we did concede from a set-piece. Having Martin available in our last game may or may not have made a difference for the actual goal we conceded but it just adds a greater sense of security and ease which is required for this potentially tricky fixture.

Possible Line-Up
Possible Line-Up

With recent performances having not quite lived up to the standards we have set, there is increasing scrutiny on Tony Mowbray’s team selections, particularly in continually opting to tweak the front four. In attempting to keep things fresh over the festive period, Mowbray has sacrificed continuity which has led to some undercooked performances. Mowbray seems to be overly cautious when it comes to resting players which has made most mid-week fixtures feel like they’re early round cup ties without league points at stake, leading to low-key performances with the onus on getting through the 90 minutes rather than winning the game.

Considering Mowbray’s tendency towards caution, James Maddison would appear unlikely to be giving a starting spot for this game. Along with Aaron Martin, John Fleck may well be a doubt too considering he missed the games prior to the Chesterfield one through injury. Despite rumours that he’s been recalled, it would seem Ryan Kent is available for this game. New signing Andy Rose is also nominally available too, although it seems unlikely he would be thrown in having not played since early November.

Last Time We Met

Our last meeting with Crewe felt significant; it was our first home win over our relatively modest opponents in 12 years and an indication that perhaps the hoodoo hanging over this club’s modern history was being dismissed as superstitious hokum this season. It wasn’t as easy as it should have been or what we would have liked.

John Fleck scored his first goal in over a season to cap off a dominant start to the game, Crewe equalised via an excellent strike from Bradden Inman. Whereas previous Sky Blues sides would have lost their composure, Adam Armstrong sent us back ahead after the break only for Crewe to equalise again whilst most home fans were still watching the replay of Armstrong’s goal on the big screen.

Just when it looked like bloody Crewe were going to thwart us yet again, Jim O’Brien smacked home a shot from the edge of the area to send the crowd into delirium with the promise that this year might actually be different.

How Are They Doing?

Following their annual terrible start, Crewe have improved over recent months although their past few results have been disappointing. Manager Steve Davis, once close to getting the Wolves job, has long since lost most of the goodwill that came with their JPT win over two seasons ago. Life at Crewe has been apathetic since that zenith with the team constantly battling against the drop with a team full of fresh-faced youngsters and cast-offs who look ill-equipped for the fight.

Under Davis though, Crewe have been able to at least keep touch with the lower echelons of the division when it would have been easier to give up and accept relegation. His side have on occasion been capable of gritty performances against the bigger teams where well-orchestrated counter-attacks have won them games they haven’t really the right to win. It’s been the trend over recent years that whenever Crewe have looked down-and-out, they’ve managed to inexplicably pull something out of the bag.

Possible Line-Up
Possible Line-Up

Winger/forward Ryan Colclough is looking like the next pick from Crewe’s famed academy. Having spent nearly 13 months out until last April through a combination of disciplinary and injury issues, Colclough has made up for lost time. Hard to contain and always willing to try things in the final third, Colclough provides the flair and excitement in what is otherwise a functional Crewe side.

Both of Crewe’s strikers, Ryan Lowe and Marcus Haber, tend to have a habit of playing well against Coventry and even if Aaron Martin is available, will cause our defence no end of problems in this game. Haber is a real bean-pole of a centre-forward and really niggly and nasty too, he has given Reda Johnson a hard time in our two most recent meetings. Lowe’s experience will make him tough to manage and his finishing presents a real danger inside the penalty area. The set-piece delivery of experienced midfielder David Fox will also be a threat considering recent issues in that area, there are the ingredients here for an upset.


As bad as things are for Crewe, they are not a side without threat and we have to make sure that we take the game to them early to give them little reason to believe they can get the result. With home games against Walsall and Burton upcoming, getting the result here will set us up really nicely with a chance to catapult ourselves back into the forefront of the promotion race. We’re good enough to win and the motivation should surely be there to get the win.

We all know just how much of a habit that Crewe have of getting results against us but this is a different kind of season for us and I don’t think that kind of thing has as big an effect on us than it has in previous seasons. I am going to back us to get the win here, 2-1.

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