Date: 17th January 2020 at 6:30pm
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Tomorrow afternoon sees fourth play against third in League 2 with Crewe Alexandra hosting the team that replaced them in the top 3 last weekend, Cheltenham Town, at the Alexandra Stadium. The two teams drew 1-1 in Gloucestershire back in September.

So far this season, they have beaten Scunthorpe United, Carlisle United, Stevenage, Salford City, Bradford City, Plymouth Argyle, Walsall twice, Macclesfield Town, Mansfield Town and Oldham Athletic, they have drawn against Morecambe, Swindon Town, us, Oldham, Exeter City, Colchester United, Grimsby Town, Cambridge United, Port Vale. Northampton Town and Newport County while they have lost to Leyton Orient, Crawley Town, Forest Green Rovers and Plymouth.

In the cups, they lost 3-0 to Bristol Rovers in the 1st Round of the EFL Cup and lost to Port Vale in the 2nd Round of the FA Cup after knocking out Swindon in Round 1. In the EFL Trophy, they finished bottom of their group after defeats to Exeter and Newport either side of a win against West Ham United’s Under-21 side.

They’ve made 2 signings since the first meeting with goalkeeper Owen Evans joining on loan from Wigan Athletic and forward Alfie May has joined on a permanent deal.

Looking back in the archives, the two teams have met 24 times with Crewe leading the head-to-head with 10 wins to 8 with 6 draws. Cheltenham’s biggest win came in November 2016 at the Alexandra Stadium during an FA Cup 1st Round replay as they won 4-1 whilst the Alex’s biggest win came in April 2011 with an 8-1 victory at the Alexandra Stadium. Last season saw the Alex draw 0-0 in Gloucestershire in September before the Robins won 3-1 in Cheshire in March as George Ray was sent off in his final appearance for the Alex.

Who are the officials for the game?

The officials for this game see Scott Oldham as the man in the middle where he is assisted by Matthew Parry and Darren Wilding with Joe Clark being the fourth official. Here are the Crewe games that have been refereed by Oldham in the previous 5 years:

  • Crewe Alexandra 2-1 Rotherham United (4th November 2017, FA Cup) – Walker, Ainley
  • Morecambe 0-1 Crewe Alexandra (21st November 2017) – Ng
  • Northampton Town 2-0 Crewe Alexandra (3rd November 2018)

I asked Cheltenham Town supporter Dave Higgins for his thoughts going into the game and the season so far.

How would you describe your season since the last meeting?

It’s gone great so far and definitely exceeded expectations. Following the past couple of seasons and the way, we ended last year I thought we would be around mid-table. Mike Duff has done a great job in improving everyone at the club, made us tough to break down and playing some exciting football.

Which area of the squad is the one that needs strengthening the most in the January window?

It’s tough to really pick a weakness in this side as we’re well set across the board. The areas where we could do with extra cover are filled in by versatile players, but I would probably say an extra RB. Other than that, I think we’re OK!

What do you think the team will be?

I don’t see too many changes to the previous line-ups. Broom is out the only other questions marks might be returns for Doyle-Hayes and Varney or Reid up top. I would image Long in for Broom and maybe Doyle-Hayes for Clements.

I’ll go with – Owens; Raglan, Tozer, Greaves; Long, Thomas, Doyle-Hayes, Hussey; Sheaf; Campbell, May.

How would you set-up to nullify your team?

Crewe did a brilliant job at that earlier in the season and others that have given us trouble with a 4-3-3 that presses high at the top of the field; stopping us from getting out. That’s probably the best way to shut us down if done in the right way.

Who is the Cheltenham danger man?

It would have been Ryan Broom but as he’s out I’ll say it’ll be Max Sheaf or Alfie May – both have performed well in the last couple of games. May will work tirelessly, and Sheaf is an intelligent player who pops up in the right areas and has the technical ability to hurt teams.

What is your target for the rest of the season?

If we can keep players fit and rotate well, there’s no reason why we couldn’t sneak third spot. Given how tight the league is, though, and how we’ve been playing this season, I think a realistic aim is the play-offs. Anything more is a bonus, anything less is what most would have hoped for/expected at the start of the season.