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Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Inside Line: Crewe Alexandra (26/04/2014)

A third successive win at Stevenage on Easter Monday has propelled City into the top half of the table and left even the most realistic and pessimistic of fans wondering what might have been.  I personally don’t think it’s as simple as that and will explain more in my end of season review, but no-one can deny that the last dozen games has been an enjoyable and productive run of results, the like of which we’ve not had in more than five years. 

With two games to go it would be great for the likes of Bobby Reid, Joe Bryan, Liam Kelly and Wes Burns to be given their chance to shine in a positive, confident team, ahead of perhaps the likes of Barnett for instance who I can’t imagine is a viable option in the summer, or even Wade Elliott who has surely done enough to prove himself worth a deal, whilst Stephen Pearson has already talked of the importance for his future of the next 180 minutes.

Yet another relegation contender (how huge would all these games had been without this run of results?!) arrive at Ashton Gate on Saturday desperate for at least a point to help their cause and with Crewe Alexandra, you can at least be assured you’re likely to get a decent game of football to watch.

Stu Radnedge caught up with journalism student Nat Holland, to get the low-down on the Railwaymen’s battle against the drop:

You’re just a single point above the bottom four with games to come away at City and home against Preston. How difficult could these final two games be?
The possible relegation is definitely looming close, but we have that one point to keep us above and you're right Bristol City and Preston are two very difficult games in this league, but I think every game is a tough one this year.

How difficult a challenge do you believe it will be obtaining a win in Bristol, bearing in mind we’ve only lost one in ten and it’s our final home game of the season?
Our away form recently has been quite good with wins at Gillingham, Crawley and Shrewsbury, as well as the Walsall draw, so it will put us in good preparation for the trip to Ashton Gate. However it will still be a tough game even although City have nothing to play for.  Three points will be priority but I believe the other teams around us will continue to slip up so maybe a draw will be alright on the day.

How would you describe Crewe’s season in three words, with an explanation for each answer?
Frustrating - With all the problems from pre-season seemingly settled in November, it’s frustrating that, with the players we have, we haven't put a run of good form together and secured safety earlier in the season. 

Transitional - We have lost some big players in recent years, (Ashley Westwood, Nick Powell, Luke Murphy) and Steve Davis signed a lot of players, who haven't learned their trade with the club. It was always going to take time for the signings to settle, but many of them haven’t settled at all. 

Lee Molyneux and Thierry Audel are big examples of this, going out on loan to Accrington and Lincoln respectively. Saying that, after a shaky start, Anthony Grant has turned into a contender for player of the season.

Tense - We have been blessed with two great seasons prior to this campaign but we never do anything the easy way, so a tense finish to the season keeps the fans interested (if not worried) at least.

If you beat the drop, can you see major changes to ensure survival next season? If so, what changes are required?
No, I don't think major changes are needed.  Steve Davis is still a top class manager and we do have a very competitive squad on their day, but maybe it’s time for a few players to move on.  If we can keep Matt Tootle and tempt Chuks Aneke to stay, then nurture the talents of Liam Nolan, Billy Waters, Jon Guthrie, Ben Garratt and Ryan Colclough, then I think we can aim to finish mid-table next year.

City's transformation has been somewhat miraculous since Cotterill took over – as an outsider, do you have any views on why this is?
I don't really know.  Some managers just work well with certain clubs. I have always liked Cotterill, he has managed some good sides at all levels and he knows and understands the lower leagues. If he can get City promoted back to the Championship next season, he will write himself into the history books.

A lot of City fans were clearly impressed by Luke Freeman's performance for Stevenage on Easter Monday – which opposition players have you seen whom you would like to see Crewe gaffer Steve Davis sign in the summer?
There are a lot of good players in League One this season. We have missed a goal scorer this year so Sam Baldock would have been great in South Cheshire this year! 

Rotherham's Kieran Agard and Freddie Sears have both caught my eye, Agard due to his tenacity and finishing, whilst Sears' was head and shoulders above the rest of the Colchester side on Monday. Orient's Moses Odubajo is a tricky winger as well and would look very at home at Gresty Road.

What do you predict the score will be on Saturday?
Ideally a win would be amazing so my heart is saying a 3-1 win with Grant, Ellis and Pogba all scoring. However, taking in form and league position, I suspect City may just pinch it 1-0.

My thanks to Stu and to Nat for taking time out of his revision for the answers.

The Exiled Robin

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