After Saturday’s battling 1-1 draw with MK Dons Latics play one of their 3 games in hand on 3rd place, starting at Gresty Road the home of Crewe Alexandra. The Railwaymen sit rock bottom of the division, have lost 10 of their last 11 games and have won just 2 games this year so confidence is as low as it can probably get.
That being said Latics still have a challenge on their hands tonight. The reverse fixture, which took place last month, was a frustrating one for our side as Crewe time wasted and defended valiantly for the first hour. We eventually found the breakthrough but it proved there is no room for complacency on Tuesday night.
Nothing less than 3 points will do for Leam Richardson’s side and it’s about time we really dominate a game from start to finish. This is the best chance we will get, lets hope we take it.
Latics Team News
Graeme Shinnie and Tendayi Darikwa missed out on our last 2 league games through suspensions but are back in contention now. James McClean will be back at the weekend as this is the final game affected by his 3 match suspension picked up against Fleetwood.
However, Latics face another dilemma for the next few matches brought about by a lack of discipline. Callum Lang’s yellow card on Saturday was his 10th of the campaign meaning he misses matches against Crewe and Morecambe. Replacing what many would consider our key man will be a big ask for Leam Richardson and his coaches.
There won’t be much thought about the goalkeeper spot as Ben Amos will be looking to atone for the slight mistake he made that led to MK Dons late equaliser. Amos had no shots on target to save in the reverse fixture and will be hoping for an equally quiet night this time around.
I do wonder if there will be a thought in the back of Leam’s head to keep the same formation he implemented on Saturday afternoon. 5-2-3 could be seen as too negative against a side bottom of the league but the players we have available arguably suit it more than the alternative 4-2-3-1.
The back 3 that played so well on Saturday also deserve to keep their places in the side. Assuming the trio of Curtis Tilt, Jack Watmough and Jason Kerr are all fit to play I’d like to see them start tonight. With Crewe having recently started playing 2 up front having 3 defenders to outnumber them could also be very handy.
Tendayi Darikwa returns from suspension but may struggle to get back into the side given Gavin Massey’s performances at RWB. Tom Pearce performed well at LWB on Saturday so will probably start for Latics tonight, but Joe Bennett may well come in to ease the load on Pearce after his recent injury.
Goal scoring hero from the weekend Tom Naylor put in yet another star performance in the midfield alongside Max Power and both are likely to keep their spots tonight. Graeme Shinnie and Tom Bayliss are both available if we want to rotate and rest which just shows how impressive our squad depth is. With Max Power on 9 bookings I wouldn’t mind seeing him miss out tonight in order to save him from yet another suspension for Latics.
The main change for Latics will come in the attacking area and there’s one player in particular I’d like to see come in to the side. Jamie McGrath is yet to really make a big impact since his January move and has been hampered by injury so tonight seems like the perfect opportunity to give him a good run out. His creativity could be vital in helping break down what I’m expecting to be a deep and compact Crewe defence, and his long range shooting will also be a useful tool.
With Will Keane and Stephen Humprhys ahead of McGrath there is definitely enough quality to fire a few goals past the 3rd worst defence in the league. Humprhys missed a penalty at Gresty Road in the EFL Trophy earlier this season so will be hoping for a better night this time around.
What is there to say about this Crewe side that hasn’t been said already. The Railwaymen find themselves well adrift at the bottom of League 1, 10 losses in 11 games and are conceding an average of over 2 goals per game in 2022. They have the worst home record in the division and are playing the side with the best away record in the division.
To say they are underdogs coming into this game would be an understatement.
There are obviously many areas Latics can hurt Crewe in but a clear weakness I’ve noticed in their recent matches has been their ability to defend crosses. Latics fans will remember the opening goal at the DW came from a James McClean cross headed home by Callum Lang, and that’s 1 of many goals coming from crosses that Crewe have let in.
Their 3-5-2 system can leave spaces in behind the wingbacks and the narrowness of their defence can leave them vulnerable in wide areas. There also isn’t a huge amount of height in the backline, with one centre half Luke Offord standing at only 5’7 tall. Maybe this could be a game for Josh Magennis to score his first Latics goal as we know he can threaten in the air.
Counter attacking whilst Crewe’s wing backs are high up the pitch could bring a lot of success if they do it well. An example of this was Portsmouth’s recent 3-1 win at Gresty Road.
Pompey played a 3-5-2 and won the game 3-1 which shows lining up with more defensive players doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being negative. Utilising our wing backs crossing could be a brilliant tactic for tonight’s game.
It isn’t all doom and gloom for David Artell’s side though. There are a few bright sparks in their side such as Tom Lowery and Luke Offord, both of which have come through the clubs historically prestigious academy. However, playing in a struggling side neither have managed to perform to their true abilities this season.
It looks as though Crewe will be playing their football in the 4th tier of English football unless a minor miracle happens between now and May. Hopefully Latics don’t give them a chance to kick start their survival push on Tuesday night and leave with all 3 points.
Player to Watch
This really does feel like picking a rose out from a huge amount of thorns but I’ve gone with the Railwaymen youth graduate and occasional captain Luke Offord. As previously mentioned he’s a centre half despite being only 5’7 and plays as a ball playing defender.
Offord completes the most passes per 90 in the Crewe side with 39, as well as the most clearances per 90 with 4.6. He ranks well for interceptions (1.15 per 90) and tackles won (1.08 per 90) too and is comfortably the stand out player in an otherwise poor Crewe defence.
Of course it’s not all been plain sailing for Offord this season and the 22 year old is 1 booking away from a 2 game suspension. Latics can trouble him with aerial balls but mustn’t underestimate his determination, positional awareness and passing range.
He also scored against Latics earlier last season so there’s history there…
I’m worried with how confident everyone seems to be about this game. Latics are clear favourites and everything points towards an away victory for Leam Richardson’s side but there can be no room for complacency.
I trust that won’t be an issue and therefore we should be okay tonight. Then again if it’s 1-0 or 10-0 I don’t really care just bring the 3 points home.
Crewe 0-2 Latics