Crewe play host to Plymouth Argyle at Gresty Road following our narrow relegation from League One last season. The encounter will be new Argyle manager Ryan Lowe’s first game in charge of the Pilgrims. Last seasosn, the Alex missed out on the play-offs by a narrow margin of six points and will be looking at solidifying fantastic home form which saw them pick up 15 wins from 23 matches last season.
Centre-back Olly Lancashire looks set to make his Crewe debut. The 30-year-old joined from fellow League Two side Swindon during the summer and will look to replace the outgoing George Ray, who left to join League One Tranmere on a free transfer.
Veteran Nicky Hunt is set to miss out for the hosts. The 35-year-old was stretchered off in his side’s recent 1-0 pre-season win over Wrexham and looks to be out for the foreseeable future.
Predicted Line Up (4-3-3)
Ng, Lancashire, Nolan, Pickering
Jones, Wintle, Green
Ainley, Porter, Kirk
Style of Play
Predominantly playing in an attacking 4-3-3 formation, David Artell’s side look to both attack and defend in numbers. Full-backs Perry Ng and Harry Pickering are tasked with balancing their attacking and defensive duties with both often surging forward out wide, allowing the likes of wingers Charlie Kirk and Callum Ainley to move centrally and increase numbers in the penalty area. The full-back duo assisted a combined 12 (20%) of Crewe’s 60 goals last season.
The partnership of Ng and Kirk on the right side proved to be rather fruitful, with the former’s surging runs forward allowing the other to play almost as a second forward at times. Kirk was Alex’s most productive player last season, scoring 11 and assisting a further 10 which accounts for a third of the goals his team scored last season. At just 21, the Englishman will surely be a target for bigger clubs if he replicates such form this season.
Alongside Kirk, veteran Chris Porter is Alex’s main attacking outlet, scoring 13 and assisting another three goals in 44 League Two appearances last season. Whilst the 35-year-old doesn’t possess any pace, he makes up for it with his height and, most notably, his physicality. The Englishman tends to sit on the shoulder of the final man, looking to get himself into goalscoring positions in the penalty area.
Last season, Porter originally found himself behind the likes of the now departed Jordan Bowery and Shaun Miller before finally breaking into the side on Boxing Day. This saw the former Sheffield United man embark on form which would see him score eight goals in his next 11 appearances.
Unlike many sides in League Two, Crewe prefer to keep the ball on the surface, using the long ball or ‘route one’ style of play as a last resort. Whilst preferring to manufacture chances from out wide, cutting in and picking out a pass, midfielders like Ryan Wintle, James Jones and Tommy Lowery are all capable of making surging runs through the middle.
Lowery in particular impressed in this sense when the 21-year-old broke into the side towards the end of the season. His surging run from the halfway line proved crucial in the build up to Crewe’s opener in their 4-3 win over Forest Green.
Star Player (Perry Ng)
The 23-year-old right-back proved to be a vital not only in terms of his defensive abilities but also his high work rate going forward last season. Ng made 44 appearances in League Two and assisted eight times which ranks him second behind forward Charlie Kirk (10). This also included two as Crewe romped to a 6-1 win over in March.
The Englishman looks to have a bright future ahead and is one of the lead candidates to take over the captaincy following defender George Ray’s move to League One side Tranmere, having taken on the responsibility on numerous occasions last season.
With a blistering run of pace, the youngster relieves the creative burden on Ainley down the right-wing, allowing him to move more centrally at times. This, coupled with his eye for a pass, could well see the academy graduate used as a temporary winger should Crewe suffer any injuries during the campaign.
Crewe suffered heavily with their away form last season, which effectively cost them the opportunity to finishing in the play-offs as they missed out by six points. They lost 13 of their 23 away games, also failing to score in the same amount, compared to winning 15 of 23 at Gresty Road.
As well as that, the Alex started slowly last season, and will be looking for a better opening to the campaign this time around. Despite hammering Morecambe 6-0 on the opening day, they went on to win just two of their next 12 league games, including 6-0 and 3-0 defeats to Colchester and Mansfield respectively.
Defensively, Crewe often found themselves caught short at the back last season, as they went a little gung-ho during games and lacking defensive consistency. Whilst they were capable of putting two or three wins on the bounce, they were just as likely to lose the same amount right after. Goals often came in flurries with 6-1 and 4-3 wins against Crawley and Forest Green, coupled with the 6-0 win over Morecambe at the start of the season accounting for 16 of the 60 goals they scored all season.
With Crewe’s home form last season, and Argyle themselves still adapting to Ryan Lowe’s 3-1-4-2 formation, it’s likely that the Pilgrims would settle for a point at the most on the road. Crewe didn’t lose many players in the summer and have a rather settled side who will already know what’s expected of them as they attempt to mount a serious challenge for the play-offs this season.
Lowe’s Bury started slowly last season, and Argyle might repeat that. The team may have to rely on Danny Mayor for inspiration and his form could potentially have a massive effect on the result. With early season nerves considered, I think a potentially a high scoring game could be on the cards with the sides playing out a 2-2 draw.