Crewe star predicts upset

HAVING seen Ipswich at close quarters, Mark Rivers is convinced that Crewe can pull off a shock result - just as they did six years ago.Rivers spent three weeks with the Blues last summer, looking for a contract, but boss Joe Royle deemed he was not up to it and the ex-Norwich winger returned to first club Crewe.

By Derek Davis

HAVING seen Ipswich at close quarters, Mark Rivers is convinced that Crewe can pull off a shock result - just as they did six years ago.

Rivers spent three weeks with the Blues last summer, looking for a contract, but boss Joe Royle deemed he was not up to it and the ex-Norwich winger returned to first club Crewe.

The 29-year-old, who has been returned to a striker role by Alex boss Dario Gradi, scored the opener in 1999 in the 2-1 win over Ipswich, which proved crucial in helping Crewe survive relegation and devastated Town's automatic promotion hopes.

Rivers scored the opener in that game before Mark Venus equalised from the penalty spot, only for Steven Macauley to head the Cheshire club back in front with four minutes to go, even though they had Jermaine Wright sent off.

Crewe went on to win home games with Bristol City and Portsmouth to clinch safety that year, after going into the Ipswich clash occupying the bottom spot in Division One.

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While they may be out of the bottom three now, survival this time could be a lot tighter. Two games remain and Crewe will drop into the relegation zone should they lose and Brighton earn at least a point at Rotherham.

Rivers is the only survivor of that Crewe side, although Kenny Lunt was at Gresty Road at the time, and he has hazy memories of the afternoon. He said: “I remember the 1999 game being pretty one-sided. I can't remember scoring myself, but I remember Steve Macauley's goal - it was from a corner and he came swooping in with his head.

“I can't see why it can't happen again, but Ipswich are in form aren't they? And we've not won for quite a while.

“But I can't see why we can't do something there. Every time we have played them it has been a decent game of football, so you're always in with a chance. The 2-2 here earlier on in the season, when we were 2-0 up, springs to mind. But, of course, Deano (Dean Ashton) was here then.

“I wasn't here for the 6-4 defeat last season, but we've done all right with them over the years so you never know.”

Apart from Darren Bent, no one particularly stood out for Rivers during his short stint, which included going on pre-season tour with them to Denmark.

He said: “Darren Bent stood out when I was training with them - he looked a real talent but, other than that, they were just a solid unit really.”

The goals have dried up for Rivers after an initial good start on his return to Crewe, when he scored eight in the first half of the season.

He has not scored since he and Ashton netted in the 2-0 win over Leeds United on New Year's Day and he admits they miss the England Under 21 striker, who joined Norwich City in January. Crewe have not won a game in 19 attempts since and have dropped from eighth place to fourth bottom.

Rivers said: “It has been disappointing since the turn of the year, but I think we've been playing pretty well actually.

“The thing is, we've been letting soft goals in and, apart from Millwall away, not scoring a lot of goals.

“I think one win would keep us safe but we've just got to get the goals and keep them out at the other end.

“I didn't think Dean leaving was going to be as significant as it has been. At the time there were some really good partnerships, with myself and Dean and Steve Jones and Dean.

“We were playing well and beating teams on merit and myself, Dean and Jonah were all scoring goals. Since Dean has gone, it has been very mixed up. I think earlier on in the season, when we had those two settled partnership, you could see the difference and it spoke for itself where we were in the League.”

Crewe face Coventry City in their last game hoping Town can do them a favour and beat Brighton on the final day.

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