Crewe Alexandra are third in League Two – can they maintain their promotion challenge when they host Colin Calderwood’s Cambridge United?

 

Crewe’s strong form

Crewe Alexandra’s 2-0 win at Grimsby last week was a very impressive result – even if they needed a penalty save from Dave Richards.

There is a real fluency about the way the Railwaymen are playing at present, which may stem from the loyalty they have afforded manager David Artell and the continuity on the training ground.

Rather than having set duties for players, their game is primarily about getting players to anticipate space and react accordingly.

Conventionally, for example, full-backs will attack on the outside, but we are seeing Perry Ng and Harry Pickering willing to make inverted runs if their corresponding wide men, Daniel Powell and Charlie Kirk respectively, are hugging the touchline.

Midfielder Tom Lowery, who scored the opener last time out, is on paper positioned to the right of Ryan Wintle and Paul Green in the three-man midfield, but he pushes very far forward to link-up with target man Chris Porter, who represents the glue – the reference point – in Crewe’s attacks.

Charlie Kirk, meanwhile, has the ability to curtail his runs and thus he always finds himself at the back-post at the end of attacking moves; he has made huge strides over the last nine months and as we saw last week, is starting to show the poise in front of goal that we would expect from somebody at a much higher level.

 

Encouragement for Calderwood

Cambridge’s 1-0 home defeat to Forest Green Rovers last time out means they have lost their last three league games.

Although, there were positives to take from their performance last week, with signs of Calderwood’s 3-5-2 setup working.

Leon Davies and Paul Lewis struck up a decent partnership on the right, with wing-back Davies making inverted, driving runs and wide midfielder Lewis drifting towards the touchline to find space.

Samir Carruthers dictated play from deep, Liam O’Neil pressed well along with on-loan Reading striker Sam Smith, who is determined to prove himself after a mixed stint at Oxford – Smith got into good goalscoring positions but was not quite able to find the target.

One of Smith’s chances came from a left-wing cross from Luke Hannant, who later hit the bar from outside the box in a lively performance – one of Hannant’s main selling points is his energy and adaptability which allows him to fit into lots of different positions and systems, which Calderwood clearly recognises.

 

The defining factor

Cambridge showed enough last week to suggest that they might carry a threat here and potentially enjoy some tidy passages of play.

However, the Yellow and Black Army have only won one game in which their main striker, veteran Marc Richards – who saw a penalty saved last week – has not found the net, which was the 3-2 win over bottom side Scunthorpe.

By contrast, Crewe have won four games in which their front-man, Chris Porter, has not bagged a goal, which hints at a more diversified goal threat.

The Alex are on another level to most teams in the division currently and, at narrow odds-on quotes, should be backed to get a sixth victory of the campaign.

Tip: Crewe to win

Any odds mentioned in this article are correct at the time of posting

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