PREVIEW: Crewe Alexandra v Luton Town
Crewe Alexandra took their first step to avoiding falling into footballing oblivion by picking up a 1-0 win at Morecambe on Tuesday night.
Prior to the game, the Railwaymen had been on a run of four straight league defeats, to drop perilously close to the relegation zone, with boss David Artell warning his side if they didn’t start earning results, they could quite easily be relegated into the black hole that is the National League.
He told BBC Radio Stoke: “We have to get out ourselves of the mire. It’s win some games, or oblivion.”
Perry Ng’s goal with just five minutes to go ensured Crewe finally stopped the rot, lifting them up to 19th in the table, although by no means out of trouble, still just three points above second bottom Barnet.
Prior to the midweek boost it’s been a pretty miserable season for Crewe, as they have not been able to shake the losing feeling for lengthy periods.
They had started fairly impressively too, losing just once in their opening six League Two matches, thumping Chesterfield 5-1, triumphing at Port Vale and also picking up a 2-2 draw with Mansfield.
However, a 1-0 home defeat to Cambridge started the plummet, with Artell’s side going on to lose five games in a row, hammered 5-0 in front of their own fans by Carlisle, managing just two goals in that time.
There was a brief respite with a 1-0 triumph over Stevenage, as the Railwaymen proved they can compete in the division, beating promotion challengers Notts County 2-0 and also knocking Rotherham out of the FA Cup with a 2-1 win on home soil.
Howver, in that time, the defeats kept coming too, including a 4-1 home loss to Lincoln, as although Crewe have won four, drawn two and lost four at Gresty Road, they have shipped some 16 goals already, with only Forest Green and Port Vale (18), conceding more.
Artell confirmed to the Crewe Chronicle that he had received support from the board despite the run of results too, while goalscorer Ng knows there is plenty of hard work needed to avoid a battle with relegation this term.
He told the paper: “We just have to get over it now and look forward and get back to winning ways, because it’s getting too far now.
“There’s no excuses whatsoever, we need to fight for everything, win all the second balls, tackles, everything, just go for it.
“It’s a very important month for us and we need to stick with it, fight for every ball and put everything on the line.
“I’ve been in positions like this as a player. It takes every single one of you to work your socks off every single day and give everything you can. You’ve got to believe.”
Team news: Luton will be without skipper Scott Cuthbert for the match as boss Nathan Jones confirmed he is out until the new year with a groin injury.
James Collins is unlikely to be risked, but Johnny Mullins and Alan McCormack are both fit and midfielder Olly Lee is available after suspension.
Top scorers: Hatters: Danny Hylton (11). Alex: Chris Porter (7).
Man in the middle: Graham Salisbury - has taken 19 games so far this season, showing 75 yellows and four reds.
Officiated one Luton fixture, the 3-0 home defeat to Swindon, showing Town skipper Scott Cuthbert a straight red on the half hour mark.
Refereed 36 matches last season, with 116 yellows and five reds, while he was in charge for Luton’s trip to Crewe, dismissing Alan Sheehan for his second yellow card.
Also had the 1-1 draw with Mansfield at Kenilworth Road, as in total, he has had the whistle for 10 more Luton games during his career, with the Hatters winning six, drawing two and losing two.
A few notable moments include giving a penalty against Cuhtbert again in Luton’s 2-1 defeat at Barnet (March 2016), plus sending off Cambridge’s Harrison Dunk as Luton won 3-1 earlier in that season.
Also dismissed Tom Naylor as Luton won 1-0 at Cambridge in September 2014 and the Hatters’ Kevin Nicholls in a 1-1 draw against Plymouth in 2004.
Referee’s assistants are Alan Clayton and Richard Bartlett, with the fourth official Ken Haycock.
In charge: David Artell - 37-year-old who had a playing career that began with Rotherham United, before heading to Shrewsbury Town, Mansfield Town, Chester City and Morecambe.
Headed to Crewe in June 2010, captaining the Railwaymen to victory in the 2012 League Two play-off final, while then turned out for Port Vale, Northampton Town, Wrexham, Bala Town, Port Talbot Town, Kidsgrove Athletic and Droylsden.
Also won also won seven caps for the Gibraltar national team in 2014 and 2015 as well.
Joined the Railwaymen’s academy staff when he finished playing, appointed first team manager after Steve Davis was sacked in January of this year.
View from the dug out: David Artell, speaking to the club’s official website: “Roll on Saturday. We will be underdogs again against Luton but we are back at home.
“We have done it before when Notts County were flying and they came to us and we beat them. If we can repeat that performance then we have every chance of causing a surprise.
“If we do our jobs properly, work hard and have those fine margins go our away again then anything is possible in this game.”
One to watch: Chris Porter - 33-year-old striker who started his career with Bury back in March 2003, and has gone on to net almost 150 senior goals.
Had spells with Oldham, Motherwell, Derby, Sheffield United, Shrewsbury, Chesterfield and Colchester, as he scored twice against Luton last term for the U’s.
Headed to Crewe in the summer and made a fine start with two on his debut against Mansfield, going on to score six times in his opening seven games.
However, went 14 matches without a goal until netting in the 3-2 defeat at Forest Green recently, making it seven in 23 this term.
Played for both: Jim Mackey – born in November 1897, Mackey was an outside right during his career.
Joined Coventry City from Newburn Colliery in the 1920-21 season, as he played for Carlisle, Notts County and Lincoln, arriving at Luton in the summer of 1924.
Netted once in 11 games for the Hatters, before heading to Crewe the following season, scoring four in 35 games, as he then left for West Stanley.
Continued his well travelled career at Torquay, Dartford, Sheppey United, Bexleyheath & Welling, Dargas Sports and VCD Athletic.
Friendly faces: Hatters defender Alan Sheehan spent two months on loan with Crewe from Leeds United in the 2008-09 campaign, playing three times for the club in League One, resulting in two draws and a defeat.
We’ve got form: Luton are ever so slowly starting to turn around their awful record at Gresty Road.
The Hatters lost the first five meetings, starting with a Division Three clash back in 1963, as it took them over 30 years to leave with even a point, drawing a 1997 Division Two clash 0-0.
That was followed by another defeat in the 1997 play-offs, before Luton finally enjoyed the winning feeling as Steve Howard’s late goal settled a Division Two contest in favour of the visitors in October 2002.
They lost the next two again, before winning last term, to make it just two wins, one draw and eight defeats in total, scoring seven goals and conceding 18.
Last time out: Ten man Luton emerged as 2-1 winners on their trip to Crewe Alexandra last season.
The Hatters fell behind to Ryan Lowe’s goal after 28 minutes, before Jack Marriott netted on the stroke of half time.
Alan Sheehan then saw red for his second yellow card shortly after the interval, but Jake Gray netted from Danny Hylton’s pass to win it for Luton midway through the half.
Hatters: Christian Walton, James Justin, Alan Sheehan, Scott Cuthbert, Johnny Mullins, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Jordan Cook (Jack Senior 56), Jake Gray, Lawson D’Ath (Jonathan Smith 56), Danny Hylton, Jack Marriott (Isaac Vassell 86).
Subs not used: Craig King, Stephen O’Donnell, Olly Lee, Craig Mackail-Smith
Referee: Graham Salisbury.