The first round of the FA Cup proper sees the visit of the Cumbrians to Gresty Road where both teams will be hoping to progress to the next round.
This won’t be the first time the two sides have met this season as Carlisle came out 1-0 winners at Brunton Park towards the end of August. It was a hard fought game and perhaps Crewe didn’t deserve to lose, however a second half goal from Nadesan was enough to give Carlisle all 3 points.
Not only did Crewe fail to pick up a point at Brunton Park, but it also saw veteran midfielder Paul Green suffer knee ligament damage after a collision with Carlisle goalkeeper Joe Fryer. However, it is believed that Green is making good progress and should hopefully return to contention in the new year.
Despite a run of four games where the Railwaymen went undefeated, Crewe have just lost their last two games, losing 3-0 to Mansfield and 2-0 away at Northampton.
The performance at home to Mansfield seemed to sum up Crewe’s season perfectly. The Railwaymen didn’t at all play badly, but they just failed to take their chances when they were in control of the game. Mansfield were simply able to capitalise on Crewe’s defensive errors, whilst the Alex failed to do the same.
The performance away at Northampton however was a shambles from start to finish. The lads couldn’t seem to string two passes together and never looked like scoring all afternoon. Arguably no players position is safe this Saturday against Carlisle, partly down to the poor performance last Saturday at Northampton but also due to the success of the Under 23’s.
On Monday night the Railwaymen’s Under 23 side ran out 3-1 winners over a Leeds Under 23 side who topped the league table. In his first game back since injury Eddie Nolan found himself on the scoresheet thanks to a wonderful solo strike, whilst both Alex Nicholls and Lewis Reilly also impressed. Manager Artell has come out and said that:
“I don’t think that anyone who played at Northampton on Saturday and can have any complaints if they are not in the team this weekend, so there is food for thought there.”
Whilst Crewe’s good form has fallen off in the last week, Carlisle’s form has slightly improved. Despite only picking up 1 point in their previous four games, Carlisle were able to record a home win over promotion contenders Newport County last Saturday.
Despite taking an early two goal lead through a Jamie Devitt double inside 12 minutes, Carlisle found themselves pegged back to 2-2 just three minutes from time. In Dramatic Fashion Danny Grainger was able to win the game for Carlisle two minutes into added time thanks to a stunning half volley from the edge of the area.
Although Carlisle show they have the ability to score goals, just like Crewe they have being inconsistent with their goal scoring this season. Carlisle have only managed 19 goals in 17 league games this season, however that is three more than the Alex have managed.
Carlisle sit 11th in the league, seven places higher than Crewe and only four points separate the two sides.
Crewe Predicted XI:
With Artell hinting that changes will be taking place this Saturday it’s hard to predict the exact Crewe XI that will start against Carlisle, however this is the side that I believe Artell should start at the weekend. I’d personally like to see a change in system to perhaps a 3-5-2, however it’s looking less and less likely that Artell is going to deviate from his preferred 4-4-2.
Goalkeeper- Ben Garratt
Despite shipping five goals in his last two games Garratt has been one of Crewe’s best players this season, so it would be surprising to see him dropped this Saturday.
Defence- Corey Whelan, Eddie Nolan, George Ray, Harry Pickering
With Eddie Nolan putting in a good performance for the full 90 minutes against Leeds Under 23’s, this game looks to be the perfect one for his return after two months on the sideline. The rest of the backline will remain the same as the backline who lost to Northampton, mainly because Crewe lack quality depth in defensive areas.
Midfield- Callum Ainley, Ryan Wintle, Perry Ng, Charlie Kirk
Against Northampton Crewe seemed to lack a defensive minded midfielder, so with the return of Eddie Nolan to Crewe’s back four I would like to see Perry Ng operate in the middle of the park. Again Crewe lack significant depth on the wings, so both Charlie Kirk and Callum Ainley should retain their places out wide whilst Ryan Wintle should be given chance to impress alongside a more defensive minded midfielder.
Forwards- Jordan Bowery, Alex Nicholls
Despite being subbed off at half time vs Northampton, Bowery has being one of Crewe’s most consistent performers this season and is also the Railwaymen’s top scorer so will be key if Crewe want to get some goals against Carlisle. Miller who had started the last few games as Bowery’s strike partner and is still struggling in front of goal, only scoring one goal so far this season. Nicholls has already proved his ability to find the net for Crewe this season and with scoring on Monday for the Under 23’s it seems logical that he is again given his chance in the first team.
Crewe 2-1 Carlisle
Crewe have only lost two games at Gresty Road against League Two opposition this season, and this match is the perfect chance for the Railwaymen to progress into the second round. Despite Carlisle picking up a win last weekend against Newport, I just can’t see them leaving Gresty Road with a victory.
Picture Credit: Crewe Alexandra