Finally Coming Together?
It's been a while since we've put a decent run together , and three weeks ago you'd never have dreamt that we'd be within 4 points of the play-offs again this season. It is four games unbeaten though, with three wins and three clean sheets.
Last nights 1-0 win at Vale won't be looked upon as a classic. We didn't dominate the game, we didn't out pass Vale and we didn't create as many chances. However, it was a performance Steve Holland can take some satisfaction out of, it was exactly what we weren't doing last season.
Derby day or not, Vale were up for it. Lee Sinnott had taken charge less than 36 hours before kick off, a new man to lead them into a new era. Sinnott made a speech on the pitch prior to kick off, only firing their fans and players up more. It would have been the same with any club, and players will always raise their game for a new manager.
We stood up to the test well though. Port Vale came out all guns blazing but the defence, which welcomed back Julien Baudet, stood firm and weathered the storm. It took a good 10-15 minutes before we got into the game but the game eventually settled and both team enjoyed a decent amount of possession and attack in the first half, but very little was offered in front of goal.
Luke Rodgers once again turned out for Vale hoping to get that chip of his shoulder, but failed to make contact with the ball on a couple of occasions when the best chances fell to him inside the box. He of course took the abuse like most ex-players of any club do - he kissed the Vale badge in front of the Crewe supporters.
Rodgers was the only player who offered any sort of threat in Vale's side. Every bit of danger around our area was down to Rdogers but Julien Baudet dealt with his admirably, rarely letting him turn with the ball and keeping his hands well away from him, knowing exactly how 'clumsy' Rodgers can be.
It will of course only fuel the criticism that Dario should never have sold him but the facts are clear. With Varney and Maynard fit and free scoring, we had no other choice. Rodgers is not your model professional, he's moody and arrogant who couldn't handle being 3rd best. Had Rodgers wanted to fight for his place he may well still be here today, but as it is he is a Vale player.
The second half was more Vale than Crewe. I don't think we've seen a spectacular second half performance this season and the trend continued. Whether it was Steve Holland willing to take the point or Lee Sinnott drumming home more passion was unclear. It was, however,a sloppy performance for most of the second half.
The midfield was careless with it's passing, which affected Church and Lowe up front. Ben Rix was source of the weak midfield, a bit of poor play and a booking got to him in the first half and he let his head drop. Steve Holland noticed this and brought on Elliott Bennett on the hour mark.
Defensively we remained, with Vale never getting behind the full backs. In fact Vale were largely left to shoot from distance and most were off target, a Luke Rodgers 25 yard shot came close but for excellent keeping by Ben Williams who tipped it over the bar.
So just as you're expecting the game to end in a nervy 0-0 for both fans, Byron Moore hit Vale on the break. It was pretty much how all our attacks got going in the second half, just feeding the pace of Moore, Church or Bennett to run at Vale. So with options, moore played the ball to Bennett inside the box and the 18 year old from Wolves planted the ball into the bottom right corner, prompting mass celebration.
However with 14 minutes left you never felt you could celebrate fully. This was a team that had let 2-0 leads slip inside 5 minutes, so a 4-1 win for Vale could still have been on.
They did try and hit back immediately, hitting the post. It was hard to see quite how they'd hit the post from the away end but it didn't help the nerves!
After that though it was a matter of keeping composure. Whilst the defence still panicked with the ball, they were just calm enough not to make any silly mistakes. At the other end of the pitch though we were still counter attacking and really could have had one or two more goals before full time. Church raced clear and fired straight at the keeper when he should have done better whilst Miller got sight of goal but waited too long to finish.
In the end there was no mass onslaught from the Vale attack and they didn't really threaten inside the box.
BR>The win has taken us up to 13th, 4 points from the play-offs, and with 5 clean sheets this season. Suddenly everything is looking rosey. The team, particularly Ben Williams, Chris McCready and Elliott Bennett, went crazy at the full time whistle. A bit of passion and maybe the team are really starting believe in themselves.
It was by no means a polished performance but it was a performance we would have given a lot for last season; battling, solid and hard for the opposition!
Saturday is FA Cup day against MK Dons, and whilst most would rather have another three points it is a game we could do with winning. Momentum is with the team at the moment and going five unbeaten is not something we've done since December 2004. MK Dons shouldn't be underestimated either, they have probably got a League One standard team and are in an excellent spell of form with 10 wins and 1 draw in their last 12 games.
Northampton are the following week, and it's a winnable game. It could put us back within touching distance of the top 6 and suddenly we've turned a disastrous start into pretty good one... but is anyone else rather worried at the game that follows? Nottingham Forest away before the month is out. That'll be the final exam on our progress.