One of the surprise packages of the current League Two campaign has been Crewe Alexandra. As the juggernauts of the league continue to battle at the top, the Cheshire side will quietly fancy their chances.
In this piece, we delve into whether The Railwaymen can realistically be considered promotion contenders after a highly impressive start, in a division full of unpredictability and curveballs.
A Positive Beginning
Although Crewe have only fulfilled 17 fixtures so far, they occupy the fifth position in the official standings whilst accumulating 32 points. To add to this, The Alex benefit from an additional game in hand on those above them in third and fourth (Notts County and Wrexham respectively), who only lead by one point, whilst holding a significantly lesser goal difference.
Picking up points against the likes of Notts County, Mansfield, Wrexham and Gillingham shows they can mix it with the league’s favourites. Furthermore, claiming 18 points from a possible 27 against bottom half opposition emphasises their foot is firmly on the gas, and conquering potential hiccups.
The additional confidence provided from their recent FA Cup triumph over League One promotion hopefuls, Derby County, suggests they’re unfazed by the level and aura of the opposition they’re facing. Travelling to Pride Park and dispatching The Rams despite trailing after one minute, highlights the resilience and team spirit amongst Lee Bell’s men.
When taking a look at the roster, it’s clear there’s a terrific blend of experienced professionals who have played at a higher level, young talent who are eager to impress their parent clubs alongside an excellent relationship with the academy system, seeing the likes of Rio Adebisi, Luke Offord and Joel Tabiner progressing through the ranks in recent years.
Regarding the summer recruitment, it can be considered as ‘going under the radar’. Mickey Demetriou has enjoyed a stellar start after making the 150 mile switch from Newport. A veteran of the league, the influential central defender not only offers vast experience but also bundles of ability. Five goals and four assist speaks for itself.
The likes of Shilow Tracey and Ryan Cooney were both signed after respective spells in League One, the previous campaign, adding additional quality to an already impressive squad. Whereas retaining individuals such as Conor Thomas and Chris Long are key, as both are more than capable of plying their trade at a higher level.
England’s fourth tier can sometimes be frowned upon and labelled ‘physical’ and the tactics described as ‘hoofball’. However, The Alex integrate this into their game when needs be, whilst still trying to be easy on the eye by dominating possession, something which previous manager David Artell instilled.
The physicality which star-striker Courtney Baker-Richardson possesses, ensures their able to play direct, whereas the technicians Jack Powell, Joe White and Aaron Rowe keep the fluidity of play to offer calmness and control.
Lee Bell often sets up in a back three, with wings back either side offering width in attack and narrowness and compactability when defending, something which is difficult to penetrate. A variation of a midfield two or three differs, which in turn lends to an attacking duo or trio depending on the formation.
This ensures that there’s always bodies in attack, as well as being able to create an overload using those wing backs previously discussed, creating plenty of chances from crosses.
There’s no disputing the terrific start Crewe Alexandra have made. It appears with each passing week, the team is getting stronger and performing more consistently, as they have won four of their previous five league games.
If they can make it to January whilst maintaining a spot in the top seven, there will be a serious case for the potential of eventual promotion. As the league begins to take form, The Railwaymen are certainly a side to watch out for.