Gary McGraham, AFC Crewe Sports Correspondent
The club has seen plenty of game time so far this season, but are already 3 games behind most teams in the league due to their exploits in the FA Cup, more on that to come. But it’s been an unbeaten start for the new club and one that has surprised many along the way however player manager Paul Howarth has been calming any early season overreactions:
“Of course we are delighted with the start, but we can’t afford to get to carried away at the same time! I think a few teams have underestimated us especially in the cup games, we will continue to fight for every match and see where it takes us come the end”
The league campaign started away to Nelson, Crewe started strongly passing their hosts off the park and took the lead on 19 minutes when player manager Paul Howarth tapped home from 6 yards to give them the lead. With half time approaching Dickie Pritchard managed to wriggle away with a loose ball before firing across the keeper to ensure a 2 goal cushion at the break, the second half saw a more composed performance from the hosts forcing Steve Phillips into a couple of decent saves but never really looked like threatening Phillip’s clean sheet. And on 80 minutes Howarth made them pay with his second of the game, a perfectly timed run from Paul saw him get on the end of Jake Treadwell’s through ball and slot home with ease. Howarth then returned the favor in the 90th minute as young Jake scored his first ever senior goal.
Then in the following game the Exiles hit 5 past Squires Gate before two tougher ties which saw them drop their first points of the season against Atherton Colls and also gain a victory over local side 1874 Northwich along the way.
With the results they have had Crewe topped the table up until their recent FA Cup involvement saw them fall behind in terms of games played as it stands they sit in 4th place 6 points off league leaders Runcorn Town.
As fantastic as the league is to look at, it has been the FA Cup that has really caught the eye so far this season concluding with an epic replay victory over Ilkeston, a team widely touted to humiliate this young side.
Beating Ascot was a bit of history the first FA Cup and competitive game in the clubs history one to tell the kids and grand kids ‘I was there’, but then came the preliminary qualifying round it suddenly felt much more real. AFC Rushden stood in the way, themselves a club who have started again from scratch. The hosts firm favorites to win albeit by a narrow margin as most predicted a 1-0 scoreline in the press area, a crowd just shy of 1,150 (58 away) watched on as AFC Crewe frustrated the hosts in a hostile atmosphere the home fans booing as the Crewe kids passed the ball around the pitch one man near me shouting ‘they are just kids get a grip!’ but those ‘kids’ played out a 0-0 draw much to the home fans disappointment.
798 (68 away) turned up for the replay on a warm but rainy Tuesday evening, the game was fraught from the start as the hosts looked to steal an early lead, Rushden seemed a little shell shocked by the early onslaught. After around 15 minutes the game evened out a little but just as Rushden thought they had gained some control they were hit by 2 goals in 2 minutes, first of all Howarth scored on 25 minutes, then impressive teenager Tommy Sidebottom hit them while the shock of the first was still sinking in. Their was one moment for the travelling fans to cheer when Crewe midfielder Ashley Gate was sent packing for a foul in the box on 90 mins, Nabil Shariff converted the resulting penalty but it was swiftly followed by the final whistle.
That set up a tie with Ilkeston a team 2 leagues above the Exiles and one that no one gave them a hope against, once again Crewe were on the road but the players refused to be affected by the occasion I think this is an advantage of a young team they almost have no fear at times. Ilkeston took a deserved lead on 12 minutes capitalizing on their early dominance Dexter Atkinson silencing the noisy 70 away fans (total gate 823). The young visitors then stepped up their efforts and started to knock on the door and on 32 minutes the pressure paid off as 17 year old Ronnie Garcia scored on his debut, the attacking midfielder ran to celebrate with the travelling supporters in which were his parents. Paul Howarth missed a 70th minute penalty as the keeper guessed the right way to palm his tame effort out for a corner but 5 minutes later the visitors shocked the hosts by going 2-1 up thanks to Reece Jackson’s shot from the edge of the area. Ilkeston then really got the bit between their teeth striking the post twice before finally getting back on level terms in the 84th minute through Ryan Head, and that’s how it ended meaning another replay for the Exiles at home.
Ilkeston had received some criticism for their performance in the 2-2 draw from manager Paul Holland and they started the match with real drive and determination after 24 minutes it was 2-1 to Ilkeston; Howarth scoring on 21 minutes in between goals from Anthony Dwyer 20′ and Matt Baker 24′ for the visitors. By the time the full time whistle went the score was 4-4 taking the game to extra time, Ilkeston soon gained the upper hand when Atkinson scored his second and their 5th in the 102nd minute, many including myself thought that would be that and they would at least see it out but the plucky Crewe ‘kids’ were far from done. Just 2 minutes later Jackson slotted home to make it 5-5. In total shock Ilkeston seemed to capitulate and 3 minutes later Paul Howarth completed his hat trick despite looking dead on his feet by then, and the veteran added his 4th on 113 minutes rather fortuitously when a clearance hit him and went in to the net! the game ended a remarkable 7-5 to the hosts in front of 754 (26 away) setting up a 2nd Round Qualifier against Folkestone again away from home . Following the game all supporters players and staff felt completely drained but we managed to speak to young starlet Tommy Sidebottom.
” We are all buzzing Gary, everyone wrote us off that doesn’t know us and we wanted to show them we may be young but don’t call us kids. We are all fast becoming men here at this club, it’s unique as are we … anyone who underestimates that will soon realize they have made a mistake.”
I’m sure you reading this will agree its been a very encouraging start to life for AFC Crewe, and long may it continue!
The Results So Far: