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West Ham United v Crewe Alexandra

Filed: Tuesday, 28th August 2012
By: Preview Percy

Every year the inmates at the Avram Grant Rest Home for The Bewildered have an August Bank Holiday Beano to the seaside. This year they went to Clacton.

A few miles up the road there have been sightings of a lioness walking around . Coincidence? We think not. Especially as when we left Preview Percy we noticed several members of the Essex Constabulary together with some zookeepers heading for his room. Here’s the wizened one’s look at the League Cup second round visit of Crewe Alexandra with added stats from John Northcutt as usual.

Barely has the league started than we step into cup action in the second round of the League Cup which has a new sponsor, which is nice for them. Our visitors are Crewe Alexandra, kick off on Tuesday is 7.45pm and, if required, extra time and penalties will be available to separate the sides should the scores be level after 90 minutes.

Crewe were promoted to the third tier last season by way of the Play-offs, defeating Cheltenham 2-0 in the final, a match which could have gone either way. Crewe’s opener that day was scored by Nick Powell, in what was his last match for Crewe. Man Utd paid £3m for the midfielder (rising to £6m with add-ons) which will pay the bills at Gresty Road for a bit.

The start to their league season has been a bit mixed. They currently lie in 17th place with three points from as many games. An opening day 2-1 home defeat to Notts County was followed by a 2-1 win away at Scunthorpe. Last weekend they returned to losing ways with a vengeance, going down 5-1 to Brentford at Griffin Park.

In the previous round of the League Cup they enjoyed a 5-0 home win over our old friends at Hartlepool, a match which, thanks to the way they keep missing about with the season, took place on the Saturday before the season started. That match created a new club record in that it was their 20th match without defeat, a record which the home defeat to Notts County messedup for them.

The manager is Steve Davis, who took over from Dario Gradi last November. Gradi, who has been with the club since the first time we had the Olympics in London, probably, was moved into a role giving him responsibility for the club’s youth development. Meanwhile Davis spent the rest of his season quietly denying that he was a mate of Barry Hearn’s (well you would deny it, wouldn’t you) concentrating on getting Crew through the playoffs, beating Southend en route.

In the past their first choice custodian has been Steve Phillips but I’m given to believe that he’ll miss the trip down the M6 with a knee injury. Whether this is an injury that would require him to miss the match or simply a niggle that won’t be risked isn’t recorded. This season, Scottish U21 ‘keeper Alan Martin has been no.1 (well no.13 actually, but you know what I mean). I’m sure he’ll be happy to explain that none of the five he let in against Brentford were down to him.

One of those defenders is a chap named Harry Davis. Davis is the son of the manager and is alleged to have cheesed off fellow defender Kelvin Mellor who, in turn managed to cheese off Derby boss Nigel Clough. Mellor spent some time in contract talks with the Rams and Clough claimed that the player had been angry with what he perceived as favouritism towards Davis jr (who surely ought to have been christened “Sammy”) in the Crewe managerial selection policy.

Mellor’s eventual decision to stay put confused Clough though if Mellor has been told he’ll be featuring more this season, that policy has yet to be implemented, Mellor having made one sub appearance thus far – and that in the 90th minute of the Notts County match.

I’m pleased to report that Crewe have a player with a double-barrelled name in their ranks. Mr A J Leitch-Smith is a 22 year-old striker who is generally known by the first name “Jay”. AJ L-S spent some time on loan in 2009 to Icelandic outfit Íþróttabandalag Vestmannaeyja (along with the aforementioned Mellor)who are usually well on their way to their next match by time the Icelandic Radio has finished reading their result out. AJ L-S was recalled from the loan spell to IBV (as they are known) after 18 matches to cover an injury crisis and, to this date, he remains the last thing lent to Iceland that has been returned.

AJ L-S was on target against Hartlepool in the last round as was his strike partner Mathias Pogba. Pogba is a Guniean-born striker who started his career with the Celta Vigo youth set up before moving into the French fourth division with, ahem, Quimper Cornouaille. One season with that team was enough for him to want to try his luck elsewhere, anywhere.

He upped sticks to Wrexham where he spent last season in the Conference. His 15 goals in 65 games over the two seasons he was there contributed to his winning their Young Player Of The Year award which he picked up on his way out, much to the dismay of Robins’ boss Andy Morrell who described the manner of the player’s departure as “disrespectful”. Pogba signed for the Railwaymen this summer and has four goals this season.

Another option up front is the on-loan and humorously named Harry Bunn, who is the son of Frankie Bunn, famed for his goalscoring exploits in an Oldham side that relied on an unplayable plastic pitch to level the, er, playing field. Current(ly), Bunn Jr is employed by Manchester City and is on a half-season loan to Crewe, with the smart money suggesting he’ll end up playing more matches for Crewe in his career than the Citizens.

Us? Well Saturday’s trip abroad was disappointing in the extreme. Although the 2-0 half-time score was a trifle misleading – we had more than our fair share of chances, the second half saw us stop working. We failed to keep the ball and we failed to make them work. In the end 3-0 could have been a lot worse.

The only bright spot was the first half showing from new boy Jarvis who did enough early on to suggest that if we can retain the ball and get it to him the forwards might profit from some decent crossing. There were many lessons to be learned from the Swansea match – both for team and manager, If we take those lessons on board then the defeat won’t have been in vain.

Of course none of this is particularly relevant to a League Cup match. We’ll have players not so far considered as first choices on show – Maynard and Maiga to start up front perhaps? Diarra in the middle? Notwithstanding the reshuffling of the pack all logic suggests that we ought to have too much for them. Of course we made changes this time last season for the visit of Aldershot and look what happened there (though I also reckon that few at the club were too upset at not having a cup run to distract from the main job at hand).

There are differences this time around. Last season the fringe players were those inherited by the manager and, judging by how few of them lasted with the club much after the final whistle of the Aldershot match, Mr Allardyce was not impressed. This time around the fringe players are likely to be those brought in by the current regime and so he’ll presumably have more faith in those selected to do a job.

In the year or so since Mr Allardyce took over there has been a new professionalism about the place and, for that reason I’m expecting us to put our usual frailty against lower level opposition to one side for us. Let’s stick the Rest Home flood damage repair fund (£2.50) on a 3-1 victory to put a return to the London Borough of Brent one step closer!

Enjoy the game!

When last we met: (March 2005) Drew 1-1 (h) – We rued a string of missed chances as a 90th minute Jones equaliser for the visitors cancelled out a Sheringham free-kick. Two dropped points that damaged our chances of automatic promotion. Sounds familiar doesn’t it.

Referee: Fred Graham. Based in Stanford Le Hope and supports Arsenal. This will be his third time in charge of one of our matches, the previous two having resulted in defeats at home to Burnley and last season’s nightmare at Portman Road.

Danger Man: Mathias Pogba – four goals already means that he is their form player at the moment.

Daft Fact of the Round: In Bill Bryson’s book “Notes From A Small Island” he refers to Crewe as “The armpit of Cheshire”. They haven’t quite gotten round to putting that on the road signs as yet.

John NorthcuttStat man John: Northcutt's (short) corner

They Played For Both
Dean Ashton; Rob Jones; Eric Betts; Don Travis; Vince Haynes; Nicky Maynard.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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