Date: 2nd August 2007 at 1:11am
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Crewe brushed Derby County aside in a rather competitive ‘friendly’ match.

Derby sent a rather mixed side tonight despite fielding much of their first team on Tuesday night against Nottingham Forest in the Brian Clough Trophy. Steve Howard, who scored 16 goals in the Championship last season, played up front for the Rams and former Man Utd youngster David Jones appeared in midfield.

For Crewe, Stuart Tomlinson started in goal due to an injury to Ben William whilst Byron Moore started on the left wing. Lowe and Maynard were given another chance to form a partnership up front.

The first half was very much Derby’s half as they pressured the goal at the Railway End but there was very little in the way of chances going their way. Their best chance came when Bob Malcolm was on the end of a little mixed up in the middle of the area, it forced Stuart Tomlinson to pull off a good full stretch save.

Maynard and Lowe up front, meanwhile, proved troublesome as always but the linesman on the far side was a little too eager to use his flag. Lowe was also a little slow at spotting Maynard’s runs and on more than one occasion allowed good attacks to break down.

The closest the Alex got was from a Billy Jones 30 yard free kick that whistled past Price’s left post and skimmed the side netting. It was a typical Billy set piece that we’ll no doubt get to see more of in the new season.

Byron Moore meanwhile impressed down the left side, showing good pace and vision to both get forward and cover at the back. Whilst he might not start the season in the side, you certainly wouldn’t bet against him making a impact before the season is out.

At half time: Steve Holland made nine changes to the side. Fon Williams, George Abbey, Julien Baudet and Ryan Lynch came into the defence, Carrington, Rix, Daniel and Bopp replaced the midfield and Miller led the attack with Maynard for the first time.

Whilst you’d expect those changes to weaken the team, we turned in a stronger performance for the second half with the us really taking the game towards Derby.

Shaun Miller’s flair and Maynard’s movement caused major problems in the Derby defence but it was possibly Eugen Bopp’s creativity and skill that created most of the chances in the second half.

The breakthrough came 8 minutes into the second half when quick, slick passing by Maynard & Miller freed Maynard down the right wing; Maynard held onto the ball just long enough to slide it across the face of the goal where Mark Carrington came clattering in to poke home his 2nd of pre-season. Unfortunately he went head on with the goal post and required treatment for a few minutes afterwards.

Derby meanwhile were causing a few problems, with Steve Howard playing a part in a lot of their attacks. The 6ft 3′ striker is exactly what Dario is searching for at the moment – and if only Howard could be cloned. He gave O’Donnell and Baudet a tough time at the back with his bullish play, an elbow to Baudet’s face nearly gave the Frenchmen a few loose teeth and towards the end of the match almost a copy of the challenge sent Danny O’Donnell off the pitch to have stitches as James Bailey replaced him.

Howard though did show why Derby paid £1million for him last summer though; regularly winning headers and you always felt a cross into the box could result in a goal with him up front, and he did make Fon Williams work once or twice.

However, with 20 minutes to go Crewe pretty much wrapped up the friendly. Shaun Miller once again played a role in it when his clever flick and run was too much for the Derby defence as they tumbled him to the floor. The resulting free kick, from about 30 yards out, gave Ryan Lynch a chance to float one in, and that’s what he did as his cross found Julien Baudet perfectly who directed it into the back of the net.

Crewe could have made in three in the final 15 minutes with Bopp re-finding his match form with each passing minute. The Ukrainian’s flicks and long range passing really did show why Steve Holland and Dario were so keen to make him a Crewe player. He nearly found the net when he picked up the ball just outside the area to the ‘keeper’s right and fired a stinger which the goalkeeper just managed to tip over.

Bopp wasn’t to be quietened down though and in the final minutes made a superb 40 yard run on the counter attack – showing a large-er frame doesn’t stop him from being pacey! Unfortunately his shot didn’t match the run as a sliding tackle from a Derby defender snuffed it out.

Eugen Bopp was probably the main plus point from the night, and with it being only his second 45 minutes since February then he can only improve and could well become a very important player in the side next season. His performance wasn’t too far ahead of Shaun Miller’s, who once again showed what an exciting young talent he is. He’s got a lot to his game and at one point showed fantastic vision to set Colin Daniel free, completely unmarked down the right wing.

New signing George Abbey too made a good impression at right back. He looked a very solid defender whilst capable of getting forward – and he’s not afraid of just sticking it in row Z!

As a whole it was a good run out for the side and things seem to be coming together nicely. Holland will be glad to see another clean sheet this summer and his emphasis on organisation seems to be paying off as the defence looked calm and comfortable for much of the evening against two good Championship strikers in Steve Howard and Jon Macken.

The midfield saw two sets of players through the evening. The first half; consisting of Gary Roberts, Neil Cox, Steven Schumacher and Byron Moore was probably outshone by Carrington, who is having a brilliant summer, Eugen Bopp, as mentioned, Colin Daniel, who looks a bright prospect and almost ready for league action, and Ben Rix who didn’t put a foot wrong all evening – and even looked strong and ‘bulky’. It’s not to say that Roberts and Schumacher didn’t impress though, and, personally, my midfield would have those two with Bopp and Carrington for a week on Saturday.

The attack is probably the most worrying aspect of the team. Lowe & Maynard don’t seem to be hitting off that well as a partnership, Lowe is naturally more of a midfielder and probably won’t be able to play the role Holland and DG were hoping. The most effective partnership of the night came from Maynard and Miller with Bopp almost in a supporting role, and it’s probably our best option if we can’t get a new striker in on time for the new season.

So it’s Stockport at Gresty Road this Saturday, the final friendly of pre-season and one final run out for the team before the season starts. I for one can’t wait to get this new season under way!

Attendance: 1,925

Crewe: Tomlinson (Fon Williams 45), Woodards (Abbey 45), Jones (Lynch 45), Cox (C) (Daniel 45), O’Donnell (Bailey 81), McCready (Baudet 45), Roberts (Carrington 45), Schumacher (Rix 45), Maynard (Farquharson 67), Lowe (Miller 45), Moore (Bopp 45).

Subs: Brown.

Derby: Price, Mears (Edworthy 76), Jackson, Malcolm, Leacock, Johnson (C) (Addison 78), Mullan (Simmons 76), Jones, Howard, Macken, Holmes.

Subs: Hinchliffe (GK), Hanson, Richards, Robertson, Ujcik,

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