Crewe Set For County Test
Much had been made of Crewe's semi turn around under Dario Gradi, but after last weeks derby set back, the trip to Notts County will surely show just how far the team has progressed in recent weeks.
It is now 3 weeks since Gudjon Thordarson left Crewe Alexandra, after a run of 4 defeats, including that 5-3 defeat at Accrington Stanley. In came Dario Gradi as an 'interim manager`; although it has since emerged he looks set to stay for the season.
Gradi, just like most managers had his critics and his fans. He may have won a few over with the performance he got his side to produce against Rotherham, just a day after he came back for his 3rd spell as manager. Crewe twice led that game, with goals from Steven Schumacher and Calvin Zola, but defensive and goalkeeping mistakes cost Crewe. The critic would say a typical Gradi trend emerging, good attacking play however poor organization at the back. A Gradi fan, such as myself would welcome the return of good passing football and a 4-4-2 formation at home, the way football should be played.
The performance was encouraging and Crewe managed to go one better in their next game, one that was in many peoples eyes, a must win game. Crewe went to Bradford and took an early 2-0 lead thanks to two superb strikes from Calvin Zola, which took him to double figures for the season. The first will take some beating for goal of the season! Bradford came back before half time but Crewe again scored in the second half, Steven Schumacher restoring the 2 goal cushion from range. The home side did pull a goal back and put the railwaymen under pressure, but Crewe held out and overall, out in a good performance. I can't think of a better one from last season myself.
Under the new regime academy players were again beginning to shine for Crewe, the likes of Murphy, Westwood, Bailey, Miller and Shelly, all academy graduates, were showing once again why the club has such a glowing reputation for producing young talent.
Last week however was a set back, and possibly a reality check for a side, who Gradi believes can still make the play-offs come may. From the first whistle to the last we were second best against our local neighbours. The likes of Westwood and Shelly struggled against a strong Vale side. Crewe did take the lead through Miller, a player who needed that goal, but after Zola limped off with a groin strain, Crewe lacked a target up top and rarely threatened the Valliant`s goal. It was a performance that angered many, and rightly so for a number of reasons, it was against our local rivals and we didn't seem to be up for it.
So heading to Notts County tomorrow, a side that have had much attention this season, we will surely see just how far we have come and how far realistically we can go this season. County will have a strong forward line, with Lee Hughes and ex-Alex man Luke Rodgers. Crewe will be without top goal scorer Calvin Zola, with either Anthony Elding or Byron Moore set to come into the side. It will be a test, no doubt about that, but it will surely give the best indication yet if Dario can mastermind this
team to the play-offs, or if our stay in league 2 will be for a second season.