Before my visit to Valley Parade on Boxing Day, I could have written a novel full of superlatives to describe Crewe Alexandra’s start under new manager Steve Davis. However, after a truly dismal display, I will keep them locked in a chest and possibly throw away the key.
Bradford was not a fun trip. Over the last few seasons, I have seen some terrible games away from home. The Alex had a shocking run last season which saw us lose 10 away games in a row. I was there at the majority and I therefore feel as though I can judge how bad an away day has been.
I left the living room with the blazing fire and warm turkey sandwiches to embark on a 3 hour drive to pick up my companions and head up the M6 to Bradford. The ground itself is spectacular for a League Two side. Once a Premier League venue, Valley Parade is built into a hillside and is quite a view for a Crewe fan. I approached the game feeling optimistic about the 90 minutes ahead; under Steve Davis, the team had started to look like a decent outfit who could finally defend and grind out results. After a solid draw against top of the league a week before, I genuinely thought I was going to see my team take all three points from a struggling Bradford side.
Ninety seconds into the match, Crewe’s defence exploded, as did my expectations.
A “fluke” goal had not been the start I was hoping for and the game had a feeling of… “What’s changed?” Crewe competed, but the same weaknesses (Defence) were being exposed by the opposition who deservedly lead at the break. The team came out of the dressing rooms with extra belief, we attacked their goal with flare, but then a penalty turned into a nightmare for us. I say this, as it completely changed the game. Great work by Nick Powell on the right and after a slight touch (debatable) he flung himself onto the grass and the referee pointed to the spot. Cue celebrations by the Crewe fans. Not all though, including myself, who knew full well of Crewe’s record of converting penalties.
What followed could be described as one of the most painful 30 minutes I have ever watched. After a long delay, Lee Bell struck the penalty onto the underside of the bar and down onto the line. The ball was cleared and the chances of Crewe coming away with anything disappeared. After this, the Bradford fans were in full voice and to cut a long story short, they scored two goals and inflicted a first league defeat under Steve Davis.
What was positive to come out of the trip was the players reaction at the end of the match. Bell and Tootle both raised their hands to apologise, the team seemed devastated. This is a side of the team that has not been shown before. Steve Davis walked right over to the fans to applaud them and it genuinely seemed like their performance was a total one off.
The problem Crewe have is goals. Last season they were the top scorers in the division and would just outscore teams. However, after big names left in the summer only 5 teams have scored less. The January transfer window will be interesting. Crewe won’t spend money, but I expect them to be busy in the loan market. A centre forward and centre back need to be brought into the team. We have the potential to be up there at the end of the season competing for the play-offs. Davis has brought fresh ideas to the team which have been welcomed. Just an extra 25% needed to be that team who will be making a late surge come the second half of the season.
Written by Hugh Wilson, We Are Going Up’s Crewe Alexandra blogger
Hugh tweets at @Hugh_Wilson