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It’s been seven years since Steve Davis took over from Dario Gradi on November 10th 2011, midway through a less than impressive League Two campaign and guided the club to a Wembley play-off final win, via a nineteen-match unbeaten run stretching from February to May. But could history be about to repeat itself with Dave Artell’s class of 2019?
Back then, the squad boasted the likes of Nick Powell, Ashley Westwood and Luke Murphy, who all went on to be sold for millions of pounds, two of them even graced the Premier League. So, can the current crop really manage to hit the same dizzying heights as a team which boasted such incredible talent? Or are Crewe fans getting ahead of themselves after one defeat in six matches in a poor division?
Goals Pay the Rent!
In the club’s last successful promotion campaign in League Two the team finished the season with 67 league goals and a +8 goal difference, the lowest GD in the top seven. In contrast, The Alex have scored 31 goals and conceded 36 after 29 matches so far this season, leaving Dave Artell’s men with a -5 goal difference at present.
Crewe currently average 1.06 goals per game in League Two whereas during 2011/12 they averaged 1.45 goals per game, a better return but by no means incredibly high-scoring. The worrying thing is if The Alex carry on at their current rate of knots, they’ll only manage 49 goals altogether this season and in the remaining 16 matches, they’d only score another 18 times! The defensive record has been much better this season, but the team would hardly be able to concede at all were they to go on and reach the play-offs unless they start finding the onion bag more often!
In terms of goalscorers, in 2011/12, Crewe had Nick Powell to thank for 14 league goals (and one more screamer in the play-off final,) Byron Moore and AJ Leitch-Smith notched nine apiece, Luke Murphy got eight and Shaun Miller bagged five, the top five goalscorers accounted for 46 out of 67 goals scored that season.
Whereas in 2018/19, so far, the top five league goalscorers are as follows, Jordan Bowery, Charlie Kirk and Chris Porter, all boast six each and Callum Ainley and James Jones are the next highest, scoring four each. With 16 games still to play, there’s no reason why these stats can’t be the same or better than the class of 2011/12, it might just be a case of sharing the load around a bit more rather than relying on one player.
Consistency is Key
The last time The Alex won promotion from League Two, the team didn’t lose another game after matchday 29, embarking upon a stunning sixteen game unbeaten run to sneak into the play-offs by two points! To replicate that, the team would have to go between now and the end of the season without losing again, pretty tough for a side who have only won two away games all season.
That said, Steve Davis’s side only won two away games from matchday 29 onwards, drawing the other five, the momentum gained from maintaining an unbeaten run proving to be invaluable in winning promotion through the play-offs. If the current squad can manage to turn the away losses into draws and nick the occasional win on the road, given the team’s fantastic home form, there’s no reason why the play-offs couldn’t be a possibility.
In fact, Crewe Chronicle Sports Editor and BBC Radio Stoke Match Summariser, Pete Morse, said on Twitter this week that he didn’t believe Crewe would need the same level of consistency in order to mount a play-off charge in this campaign, largely due to the poor standard of League Two this season.
You Build a Team from Back to Front…
Crewe conceded 59 goals in 46 matches in 2011/12, they’ve so far conceded 36 in 29 outings this term, meaning they let in an average of 1.24 goals per game in comparison to the historic Davis side’s 1.28 per match, they actually boast a slightly better ratio which is very encouraging, if they can start firing regularly, the world is their oyster!
For years the Alex faithful have been crying out for a better defensive unit and just when the tables finally turn, a club who never usually struggle to score goals, simply haven’t scored enough of them. The important thing to remember is that this side does create chances, it’d be a lot more worrying if they weren’t doing that! If the attackers find their shooting boots, this season could yet prove to be a successful one.
Lady Luck Needs to Shine!
You don’t go sixteen league games and three further play-off matches unbeaten without getting your fair share of luck and if The Alex are to play any matches following the regular season this year, they’ll need to get the rub of the green more often than not.
But lately, with penalties being won and scored, goalmouth scrambles dropping nicely and being converted and a goal which has lived a charmed enough life to bring 10 clean sheets in 29 matches, who’s to say that The Railwaymen’s luck hasn’t changed?
Looking at the stats, there’s nothing to imply that Crewe couldn’t make a run for the play-offs this term, their defensive record is good enough, their home form is good enough, if they can improve their away form and start putting more chances away then there’s no reason why seventh place shouldn’t still be within The Railwaymen’s grasp.
In the last five seasons, the team in seventh place has amassed 75pts (17/18), 70pts (16/17), 75pts (15/16), 71pts (14/15), and 71pts (13/14) if Crewe were to get to the lowest of those totals (70pts), they’d need another 32 points from 16 matches, the highest total (75pts) would require 37 points from 16 matches but given the quality of the league this season, it’s safe to say it won’t take 75 points to make the play-offs!
Draw your own conclusions fellow Railwaymen! But if the January reinforcements are bang on the money and goalscoring woes, travel sickness and crippling inconsistency become things of the past, who knows where the next four months could take us. It’s going to be a rollercoaster and we certainly won’t do it the easy way but would you ever expect anything else from your beloved Crewe Alexandra?