MATCH IN FOCUS…CREWE ALEXANDRA V PORT VALE…
Last Season: Crewe 2-1 Port Vale
Since the recent acceleration by Stoke City that’s taken them to the Premier League and subsequently into Europe thanks to an FA Cup Final appearance, there’s been less local pride for the residents of Vale Park to shout about as they attempt to bridge the gap back towards their fiercest rivals from the other side of the Potteries.
Whilst doing that, old rivalries have had to be observed and this weekend sees the Railway Men renew their acquaintance with Crewe. With Gresty Road just 12 miles up the road from Vale Park, Crewe are a decently viable rival for the modern day Vale fan, despite the fact that Stoke will always be THE derby around those parts.
Vale have had an unsettled summer off the pitch but the recent investment from Blue Sky International promises them £5 million over the next twelve months and should see the club stabilise through their attempts to win promotion. Micky Adams’ men missed out on the playoffs last season but are again in the chasing pack, sitting in eighth place going into the weekend.
That position would have been higher but for another local game last weekend that saw them fall to a 3-2 defeat at Shrewsbury and Adams has said this week that he will be looking into the loan market in an attempt to strengthen his squad following three defeats in five games.
But with over 6,000 away fans set to make the short journey to Gresty Road, there’s sure to be a superb atmosphere to help his players this weekend.
For Crewe, a sticky start to the season has been overcome and Dario Gradi can now look forward after a decent run of late saw them make up some ground in the bid to bounce back from the wrong end of the table in which they found themselves in the early going.
The Alex were well beaten on the opening day, 3-0 at Swindon before Gillingham and Rotherham both took maximum points from Gresty Road. An away defeat at Shrewsbury set up a battle of the bottom two with Plymouth that finally brought Gradi’s men a first win of the campaign thanks to Shaun Miller’s goal.
That was the catalyst for a much better run with three victories from their next four games including last weekend’s impressive victory at Accrington. That means that Crewe are a much different prospect going into this game than they may have been just a couple of weeks ago.
There should certainly be goals with Port Vale netting 21 times already this season and Crewe scoring 8 in 4 games at home. Now I’ve said that you can stick your money on 0-0!
Elsewhere in League Two…
Aldershot Town v Crawley Town
Last Season: n/a
Aldershot reached the fourth round of the Carling Cup for the first time in their history this week by beating League One Rochdale at the EBB Stadium. The Shots are eight games unbeaten in all competitions but are in search of only a second home win in the league. Crawley suffered back to back hammerings against Morecambe and Swindon before beating Bradford 3-1 last weekend thanks to a brace from Tyrone Bennett and will be hoping to continue turning the form back around.
Bradford City v AFC Wimbledon
Last Season: n/a
Phil Parkinson has named Steve Parkin as his new assistant this week and will be hoping that the former Barnsley and Rochdale manager will help his beleaguered troops away from the lower reaches of the table. The Bantams have picked up just two points from their last four games and face an unpredictable Wimbledon outfit whose inconsistencies are making them a nightmare for betting fans! Indeed a 3-0 defeat to the Cobblers was followed by a 4-1 hammering of Cheltenham just a few days later and it’s anyone’s guess as to where this one will go.
Cheltenham Town v Hereford United
Last Season: Cheltenham Town 0-3 Hereford United
Hereford came up with a huge win at Whaddon Road last season and will be in need of similar heroics this time to help lift the gloom around another poor start to a season. The 6-1 defeat at Gillingham last weekend meant that the Bulls remained in the bottom two and they face a stiff test at Cheltenham who will be looking to bounce back from a heavy defeat of their own, the 4-1 loss at Wimbledon.
Gillingham v Burton Albion
Last Season: Gillingham 1-0 Burton Albion
Gillingham are on fire after that hammering of Hereford that lifted them to the brink of the League Two playoff places. But they come up against the league’s dark horses, Burton Albion, whose ten points from the last four games has lifted them to fourth place in the table. Justin Richards has been in fine form since joining from Port Vale, scoring six goals in his last six games and he’ll be the one to watch for the Gills’ defence.
Morcambe v Bristol Rovers
Last Season: n/a
Top club Morecambe are on a stunning run of eight without defeat since the opening day of the season and sit two points clear at the summit of the league. Goals from Danny Carlton and Stewart Drummond helped them to a 2-1 win at Dagenham last weekend and they will be full of confident ahead of their match with Bristol Rovers. Rovers have won only one of their last six games and sit in sixteenth ahead of the trip to Christie Park.
Oxford United v Accrington Stanley
Last Season: Oxford United 0-0 Accrington Stanley
There were no goals in either game between these two last season but Oxford have a top seven place to defend this time around after a positive start to the campaign. They’ll be looking for three wins on the bounce against an Accrington side without a win in four games in League Two.
Plymouth Argyle v Macclesfield Town
Last Season: n/a
After the sacking of Peter Reid last week, the responsibility lies with 31-year-old captain Carl Fletcher to lead the Pilgrims for the game with Macclesfield at Home Park. This game has been designated as the first of two “Fans Reunited” games by Plymouth that you can read more about on the excellent Two Unfortunates Blog here with fans from all over the country invited to the game to show their support. For any football fan, it’s well worth a look into the history and importance of the off the pitch activity for this game as fans from all over look to show their support for Argyle and their recent plight.
Rotherham United v Southend United
Last Season: Rotherham United 1-2 Southend United
Second placed Rotherham lost a bit of ground last weekend after letting a 3-1 lead slip to draw 3-3 at Torquay but are unbeaten at home this season with three wins and a draw from their four games at the Don Valley Stadium. Southend took all three points from the fixture last season though and have made a strong start to this term, winning five of their first nine games to climb to sixth in the table.
Shrewsbury Town v Torquay United
Last Season: Shrewsbury Town 0-0 Torquay United (Playoff Semi-Finals), Shrewsbury Town 1-1 Torquay United (League Two)
Torquay saw off Shrewsbury over two legs last season to seal a spot in the League Two Playoff Final at Old Trafford so the Shrews will be all out for revenge. After pushing Arsenal well in the Carling Cup on Tuesday night, it’s back to the bread and butter for Graham Turner who saw his side win 3-2 at Port Vale last weekend and sit on top of the form table with five wins from their last six. Torquay are on the playoff hunt again and are tenth following a six goal thriller last weekend against Rotherham.
Swindon Town v Barnet
Last Season: n/a
Swindon held a 100% record in September until last weekend’s defeat at Burton Albion so Paulo Di Canio will be hoping to steer his troops back to winning ways against Barnet. The Bees have had a stop-start opening to the season with nine points from nine games but boast the league’s leading scorer in Izale McLeod.