Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
Speaking after last week’s 2-1 home loss to Exeter, Crewe Alexandra manager David Artell said he would rather fans stayed away than booed their own team.
— Peter Morse (@ThePeterMorse) February 24, 2019
That was perhaps a risky comment, given that he has had a slightly rocky relationship with supporters during periods in which results were not going as well as they are now, but there is also a section of fans who believe he is in the right, so perhaps it was admirable that he had that courage to address a thorny topic.
Academy graduate Charlie Kirk was perceived by some natives to be bottling out of challenges.
However, part of the reason he has been such a key creative influence for the Alex from the left-channel, as well as popping up at the back-post to score seven league goals this season, is because he puts all his energies into attacking contributions.
Jordan Bowery also received criticism but, since the switch to 4-3-3 necessitated him moving to the right of the front-three, the former Aston Villa forward has got through a lot of graft in wide areas, without which target man Chris Porter would not have scored eight goals in his last 11 games.
Porter has recently spoken about the factors behind his upturn in form, given that around late Autumn he was briefly behind the more mobile Shaun Miller in the pecking order.
Since Christmas however, Porter has been asked to do less leg work but instead channel his focus towards getting into goal-scoring positions, in which he can use his height and goal-scoring nous to his advantage.
That has roundly worked well for Artell, who will be hoping the club produces a collectively defiant response to last Saturday’s events.
Keith Curle and Northampton Town are at something of a crossroads.
Curle wishes to introduce a direct style of football and play with a 3-5-2, having used both methods during his four-year tenure with Carlisle.
The current Northampton squad, although objectively very capable at this level, is perhaps not quite in line with what he wants.
Firstly, they do not possess a natural target man to enable them to go route one and secondly, they do not have the athletic, attacking wing-backs required to prevent 3-5-2 from unintentionally flipping into a 5-3-2.
For the previous two games, Curle has compromised on the formation by switching to a 4-2-3-1 and that has suited ball-playing defender Charlie Goode, who has produced two promising shifts since moving to right-back.
@nqntfc Wilder wil always be a comparison. Curle's move to 3-5-2 was no trial, he's meticulous & the fact it was destroyed by Col u knocked him back. The move to a simpler system helped but question marks remain if he's a manager proactive enough to trouble the top 7. #ntfc
— Tom Reed (@tomreedwriting) February 26, 2019
However, one senses they are some way away from having a coherent playing identity and it is important that, presuming chairman Kelvin Thomas believes Curle is the man to lead the club into promotion contention in 2019-20, he provides the backing required to re-shape that squad.
In the meantime, it helps that they have been able to exploit space on the counter-attack to accrue 2-1 away victories at Tranmere and Stevenage, which sandwiched a creditable 1-1 draw at leaders Lincoln, but they are certainly in transition and Crewe can take advantage of that.
Crewe to win – 23/20