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Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Inside Line: Crewe Alexandra (19/10/2013)

 Another unfortunately-timed break in the footballing schedule has seen City fall to 23rd in League One going into Saturday’s match at Crewe Alexandra.

With City’s match against Crawley postponed due to international call-ups, it was a chance for sides around us to create a small gap at the bottom; a feat Crewe managed with a 2-0 win versus Preston at Deepdale.

The win leaves the Alex three points above City in the table, but an away win (in what would be City’s first win at the Alexandra Stadium since the 2006/07 promotion season) would see us leapfrog the Railwaymen due to their extremely poor goal difference.  However, a familiar face in Bristolian pantomime-villain Steve Phillips could stand in our way...

Nathaniel Holland, @natholland1 Sports Journalism student at Southampton Solent, has kindly answered our questions.

City old boy Steve ‘Flapper’ Phillips finds himself between the sticks at the Alexandra Stadium. How has he performed since permanently signing from Bristol Rovers in 2010?
Phillips has been inspirational since his arrival. At the time Crewe had no solid number one and he grabbed the position with both gloves and made it his own. Healthy competition between Phillips, former Scotland under 21 Alan Martin and current England youth keeper Ben Garratt is a really positive sign for a club of our size.

Goals have been hard to come by for you thus far, is it a matter of strikers not taking their chances or a lack of service?
This season has been a strange one; we have the biggest squad we’ve had for a long time, and a squad full of players capable of making the starting eleven.  However, we lost Luke Murphy to Leeds in the summer and we haven’t replaced that quality in midfield.

Max Clayton has been below par this season, Mathias Pogba has been injured since Easter which is a major loss for us and our new striker Vadaine Oliver is still finding his feet.

Crewe have shipped the most goals in so far (conceding 25, with a goal difference of minus 15). Is there anyway manager Steve Davis can utilise his current crop to become tighter at the back or should he be looking at the loan market to shore up the defence?
I don’t think we need to dip into the loan market because our squad is already big enough, but our back four have had some problems.

Welsh youth international George Ray was thrown into the first team and in my opinion isn’t ready. He needs to bide his time to compete with the likes of Dugdale, Davis and Mark Ellis.
Our players just need to step up, take responsibility and improve to pull the Alex away from the bottom four.

How does Davis set up his side to play?
We try to work with a solid back four (which hasn’t occurred so far!) and work from the back; we have two central midfielders to break up play, whilst the front two and wingers add the flair and quality in the final third.

Pace is a big factor in the way we play and if there are gaps in the final third, Clayton, Moore and Ajay Leitch-Smith will look to exploit the space with their pace.

Are his tactics the reason for Crewe’s bad run of form (before last Saturday’s win against Preston, Crewe hadn’t won in their past seven league games)?
I personally cannot fault Davis.  Maybe some decisions on team selection are questionable but the off the field issues from the pre-season trip to Cornwall is lingering over some of the squad.

Crewe are renowned for having a fantastic youth set-up with players such as Dean Ashton, David Vaughan, Nick Powell, Robbie Savage et al. Who is likely to be the next fledging talent to go onto bigger and better things?
There is an incredibly long list of players who have come from our academy set up.
Currently we have Ryan Colclough emerging, a player who has managed to bag a few goals this season at only 18 years old; he is a local lad but has lost his place in recent weeks as Davis looks for that winning formula.

Max Clayton is also an exciting prospect. However, he has seen former teammates Luke Murphy, Ash Westwood and Nick Powell join Leeds, Aston Villa and Man United respectively and maybe thinks he deserves a move. As it stands, he is not showing why he deserves the move but I am still hopeful that he is destined for greatness.

Anyone else City fans should watch out for on Saturday?
Byron Moore has recently returned from injury and scored last week at Preston so hopefully he can be a problem for the City back line this week.

Finally, can I have a prediction for the match please?
Well before last week and even with City's poor start I would have said a win for yourselves, but following the win at Preston last week I think we may just grab it at 2-1 with Moore and Clayton on the score sheet.

Many thanks to Lewis and Nathaniel for their time.  It’s been a fortnight of bridge building and communicating to an increasingly nervous fanbase at Ashton Gate.  Now it’s the turn of the players to put in another Port Valerather than a Wycombe performance and get that first victory in seven months.

The Exiled Robin

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