Meet Town's opposition: Ex-U's strikers will be a worry for Blues at Crewe
- Credit: Photo: Steve Waller. www.ste
Football writer Carl Marston casts his eye over Crewe Alexandra, who play host to struggling Ipswich Town in a League One tussle this weekend...
When Ipswich Town edged past visiting Crewe by a slender 1-0 margin at the end of October, all was looking fairly hopeful at Portman Road.
True, Town had been indebted to a fine display of goalkeeping from Tomas Holy that afternoon, the Czech custodian making a number of fine saves especially during the first half.
But target man Oli Hawkins settled the issue with a 62nd minute header, his first and so far only goal for Town (in 18 appearances) since his summer switch from Portsmouth, to leave Paul Lambert's men as joint leaders of League One.
Town and Peterborough United had both accumulated 22 points from their first 10 games, the Posh on top by dint of a slightly better goal average. Crewe, by contrast, were down in 15th slot, 12 points behind the front two.
Speed on three months and things have changed dramatically - and not for the better, if you happen to be associated with Town.
While the unfashionable Railwaymen have been in fine form, taking 27 points from the 16 outings since their defeat at Portman Road, Town have slumped to new lows with a mere 13 points gathered from their last 12 games.
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Hence the two clubs go into this weekend's clash, at Gresty Road, with Crewe now a point ahead of Ipswich, in ninth slot, albeit having played three more games.
A 'small' club on the rise, against a so-called 'big' club on the slide.
No wonder Crewe will start this weekend's match as the favourites, in many people's eyes.
HOME SWEET HOME
Only Peterborough United and fast-improving Doncaster Rovers can boast better home records than Crewe in League One this term.
David Artell's men have struggled a little on the road, ranked only 18th with just three wins, but it's been a very different story on home turf in Cheshire.
A big haul of 24 points from 13 games, including seven victories, has also yielded 21 goals.
Only Charlton (in September), Lincoln City (in October) and Gillingham (in November) have left Gresty Road with away league wins, while the trio of AFC Wimbledon, Fleetwood and Blackpool have each taken a hard-earned point from their visits.
Although Crewe's unbeaten run of 10 matches was ended by the 4-1 defeat at Gillingham in midweek, they have not lost at home in seven.
THE COLCHESTER CONNECTION
Mikael Mandron and Chris Porter, who both used to ply their trade as centre forwards down the road from Ipswich at Colchester United, are important members of Artell's squad.
In fact Frenchman Mandron is the club's top scorer in all competitions with nine goals in 24 appearances, six in the league.
The 26-year-old has never been known as a prolific goalscorer, managing just 12 goals in 95 appearances for Colchester, but his hold-up play has always been exceptional and his workrate outstanding.
Porter, meanwhile, is nearing the end of his career but is still a very useful option to have up your sleeve.
The 27-year-old target man, best known for his spell at Sheffield United earlier in his career, scored at a healthy rate for Colchester before turning down a new contract to sign for Crewe on a free transfer in the summer of 2017.
Since then, Porter has contributed 12, 15 and 14 goals in three full seasons at Gresty Road, although this term he was hindered by a thigh injury early on. He scored his first league goal of the season in the 4-1 defeat at Gillingham on Tuesday evening, and continues to be a menace in the air for opposing defences.
Crewe's Academy continues to produce some real gems.
Wide-midfielder Oliver Finney, aged 23, has scored eight goals in 20 outings this term, while wide-attacker Owen Dale, 22, has weighed in with six. Both have graduated from the Academy.
The likes of defenders Harry Pickering, Rio Adebisi and Travis Johnson, midfielders Tom Lowery and Luke Murphy, plus front-runner Charlie Kirk (five goals this season) also progressed through the Crewe youth team set-up.
Town have beaten Crewe on each of their last five league meetings, a run kick-started by a 5-1 win at Portman Road in 2005 when Tommy Miller bagged a brace and Shefki Kuqi, Jim Magilton and Pablo Counago were also on the scoresheet.
The last clash at Gresty Road was a Carling Cup tie, in the summer of 2010, when Championship side Town squeezed through 1-0 thanks to an extra-time winner by David Norris.
Current Crewe boss Artell was in the Railwaymen's defence that evening.