Bradford Review, Vale Preview
It`s been a while since I`ve written anything of note for Crewe Vital, in fact it`s been a while since I`ve felt compelled to write anything of note. I`ve had stuff to say but nothing more than the usual gripes, why is Thordarson still here, where has the money gone and why could the club not care less about the supporters etc; the stuff that has been done to death hundreds of times on the message board over the last few weeks/months/years.
I came away from Bradford last Saturday with a few feelings I had rarely experienced leaving a football match this season though, or last season for that matter, which has made me pop my head up from under my shell and get on my soapbox. After Bradford I was elated, ecstatic and, and this may sound daft, for the first time in ages I was proud of the team. Forget the stats, (for the record Bradford were ten unbeaten, Crewe had lost the five previous games) the lads worked their socks off, gave their all for the cause and were a credit to the badge on the shirt and the supporters who travelled to follow them.
They played in front of eleven and a half thousand expectant Yorkshireman, while usually the likes of Westwood and Shelley are used to is a scattering of people at Reaseheath on a Saturday morning, they all rose to the occasion and once again proved we can cut it with the supposed 'bigger boys` of League Two and that when channelled in the right way, we have as much quality as anyone in this league.
With the return of Dario comes much expectation after the annus horribilis under Thordarson, but also comes the return of entertaining football and at times some of the football last week rolled back the years to the days of the Championship, some of the crisp one touch passing and scintillating counter attacking play was lovely to watch.
Personally I think the victory has been very much understated, football is amazingly fickle like that sometimes and although I`m not now saying we`re going to win the league, it was a massive step in getting our season back on track and I feel the lads deserved more credit. Not necessarily more credit from the media but from the Alex faithful themselves, even though it`s easy to see why the majority will take a lot of convincing after our dreadful start to the season.
To say our victory was understated against an in form Bradford side is the opposite too the fall out from the game played last week by our opponents this Saturday, Port Vale. A 1-0 victory against, what seemed to me when we were at their place a few weeks ago, a very organised but average Shrewsbury side and the Vale suddenly think they`re world beaters - again, fans can be very fickle, but those from the Potteries would put most to shame.
I`m looking forward to the atmosphere on Saturday, a rarity at Gresty Road of late, and the promise of a good game, but to me it`s all about the three points. The team has improved ten-fold under Dario but I`m desperate for us to salvage the season and make a real fist of making the playoffs, forget our so called rivalry, three points at home to cash void teams of the immodest calibre of Port Vale is a must if this team is to progress under Dario.
The Vale seem to see Saturday as some massive game, a chance to get one over on one of their "rivals" while their team is at its peak, and I think that`s where the problem lies for those from North Staffordshire. The Vale may be doing well but I think they see a victory over Crewe as the potential highlight of their season, where as I see victory against the Vale as a vital 3 points, it will make me smile if it happens, don`t get me wrong, but if we lose I will be more gutted about the lack of points gained, rather than a few of Burslem`s finest hamming it up on the radio after the game.
I`ve actually seen Vale play this season, as an impartial away supporter when they beat Sheffield Wednesday in the league cup by a single goal at Vale Park a few weeks back. It would be easy for me to say the Vale kicked lumps out of them and the Wednesday boys were blinded by the home fans that had travelled straight to the game from work and left the lights on their miner`s helmets on etc (insert your own Stoke related stereotype here) but to be honest I was very impressed.
Vale were the most organised I`ve seen them in years, they were a big threat down the flanks with two tricky wingers and the big man Richards in the middle battered and barged the defenders all over the place and gave them a torrid time. They`re never going to pass the ball as well as we have since Dario`s return, but they gave the more than capable Wednesday second string with the likes of Tudgay, Jeffers and Tommy Miller in the starting lineup, a lesson in wanting to win a football match. One nil certainly flattered Wednesday who were simply awful on the night but the Vale certainly seemed to have evolved from a kick and rush, up and under outfit that we all expect.
Saturday certainly seems like it will be an open game, Vale seem solid in defence yet are struggling for goals, where as we can find the net at will when Zola and Grant are on form but are still leaking far too many at the back. The only thing I`m worried about is being bullied out of the game, the Vale are never going to out pass or out think us and although I saw them play well earlier in the season, I`m sure their emphasis will be more on frightening us than playing too much pretty stuff.
That said, after last week we have no need to fear anyone and if we stick to our mettle and keep playing the football Dario has insisted on then I can`t see anything other than a victory for our improving side and the most important thing, another three points.
The playoffs is still very much an achievable target, as long as we don`t let the hype over the game created by the Vale fans due to their current heady league position of 14th affect us then we should be fine. That and the small fact that Dario is back, the football is back and our club is back,
(For the 1st time in a while) - Up the Alex!