Crewe Alexandra – Match Report vs Plymouth Argyle 15/02/20

Crewe narrowly lost 2-1 to Plymouth in a meeting between two of the best teams in League Two. Crewe lined up in a 4-3-3 formation against Plymouth’s 3-5-2 in a match hampered by the wet and windy weather conditions. Crewe went ahead through a great effort from outside the box from left-back Harry Pickering but Plymouth responded soon after with a header from Luke Jephcott to equalise. Crewe then should have taken the lead but Chris Porter shot comically wide of an open goal and this cost them as Antoni Sarcevic went on to score a penalty to win it for Plymouth.

Ratings

  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, rewatch
  • D – Below average, don’t follow up

Perry Ng

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 24
  • Date of birth: 17/04/1996
  • Current Club: Crewe
  • Career: Crewe, Hyde (L)
  • Position: Right-back
  • Preferred foot: Right

Ng played most of the game as an inverted wing-back, giving Crewe another option in the midfield area as they looked looked to build from the back. He is composed on the ball and got forward at every opportunity, often making underlapping runs to exploit the space between the Plymouth left centre-back and left wing-back.

The Crewe captain has great technical ability and picked his passes well when given space but struggled when Plymouth pressed high, often opting for a long pass that was ineffective due to the weather conditions. He saw more of the ball than any other Crewe player and is a good ball carrier, able to drive into the opposition half and keep possession high up the pitch.

Defensively he was strong 1v1 and won the ball back well in the middle of the pitch but he struggled on a few occasions when under pressure in the box. In these situations his decision making was poor and he lacked spacial awareness, this went unpunished in the first half but not in the second as he gave away a penalty. He didn’t react quickly enough to a loose ball and was clumsy in trying to put the attacker off with a shove in the back.

He was, however, a big threat offensively and he frequently worked the ball into good attacking positions, including the Crewe goal where he provided the assist with a cut-back to the edge of the box. Although only 24, he was one of the more experienced players on the pitch and led by example.

Rating: A1

Clearly a key player in this Crewe side, he is excellent at progressing the ball up the pitch and has the technical ability to contribute effectively from advanced areas. Needs to improve defensively when under pressure but undoubtedly has the ability to play at a higher level.

Ryan Wintle

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 13/06/1997
  • Current Club: Crewe
  • Career: Alsager Town, Crewe
  • Position: Centre-midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right

Wintle was excellent in midfield, sitting the deepest of the three and impressing both with his ability on the ball and his defensive play. He played almost in a quarterback role, getting on the ball in deep positions and dictating the tempo of the game. He was able to spray passes all over the pitch and displayed great passing range.

His tall, slim build combined with his balance and agility gives him a grace and elegance on the ball that is great to watch. His ball progression was accurate both through the midfield and out wide to the wingers and he was able to evade pressure well so rarely lost possession. As the conditions made playing the ball long increasingly difficult, Wintle’s ability to play through a congested midfield became very important to Crewe’s game plan.

He protected the back four well, constantly screening to collect loose balls and making a number of important interceptions. He is not the most physical player but uses his body intelligently in defensive duels to pin his opponent and get a touch on the ball to dispossess them.

Rating: A1

Wintle is a technically gifted player, calm in possession and able to make difficult passes to move the ball into dangerous areas. I expect to see him showing his quality in a higher division next season.

Charlie Kirk

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 22
  • Date of birth: 24/12/1997
  • Current Club: Crewe
  • Career: Crewe
  • Position: Left-winger
  • Preferred foot: Right

Kirk had a quiet game on the left but sparked into life a few times and looked exciting going forward. He is a creative, skilful player who is two-footed and has great close control. His deliveries into the box from out wide were dangerous but his attempts to cut inside onto his right foot to get into shooting positions were unsuccessful.

He struggled to get on the ball and create openings for large periods of the game, partly due to the majority of Crewe attacks coming down the right side but also because he did not position himself close enough to striker Chris Porter to link the play effectively when Porter received passes with his back to goal. As a result he drifted in and out of the game and his impact was limited.

He did find success when running in behind and looking for a pass over the top. However, he missed one-on-one with a left-footed shot into the side netting when he might have been better opening up his body and using his right. He is difficult to defend against as he has the ability to suck his opponent in to challenge and then use his quick feet and agility to beat his man.

Rating: A2

Kirk showed that he has the creative spark to make things happen but could not quite get it going consistently in this match. He would have caused problems for the Plymouth defence if he had been able to get on the ball more.

Stephen Walker

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 19
  • Date of birth: 11/10/2000
  • Current Club: Crewe (on loan from Middlesbrough)
  • Career: Middlesbrough, MK Dons (L), Crewe (L)
  • Position: Centre forward
  • Secondary Position: Right-winger
  • Preferred foot: Right

Walker played on the right wing and was lively throughout, using his pace and directness to run at the Plymouth backline and look to create openings. He displayed good close control in tight spaces which could have won him a penalty in the first half when he was brought down inside the box.

He was much more effective with the ball at his feet than when looking for a pass as his final ball often let him down. He showed great confidence when dribbling at defenders and had a number of efforts from range but needs to impress his shooting accuracy as all were off target.

However, he worked hard off the ball, tracking runs from deep and allowing Ng to push forward. He was difficult to mark as he could vary his attacking position, knowing when to stay out wide to receive a pass and when to drift inside to support Porter up front.

Rating: A1

Walker should have won a penalty and had an assist had it not been for Porter’s open-goal miss. An impressive display that suggests he could be ready to play a part in Middlesbrough’s youth project.

Harry Pickering

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 21
  • Date of birth: 29/12/1998
  • Current Club: Crewe
  • Career: Crewe
  • Position: Left-back
  • Preferred foot: Left

Pickering put in a solid performance and scored a great goal from range to put Crewe ahead. Like Ng, he also played as an inverted full back when in possession and it was a run inwards that allowed him to pick up a promising shooting position on the right corner of the box. He possesses great quality when crossing both from set-pieces and from open play and is comfortable using both feet.

He has a sleight build but positioned himself well in defensive duels to make a lot of tackles. The risks that come with full-backs pushing high up the pitch were shown with Plymouth’s equaliser, a counter-attack down the right side with Pickering out of position. He gave away possession cheaply a few times with inaccurate passes but was largely comfortable on the ball and combined well with Kirk down the left.

He is definitely an attack-minded full-back but that is not to say he does not also possess defensive qualities and his tenacity and aggression make him difficult to get past.

Potential: A2

Pickering look very strong offensively, creating a number of chances, scoring and hitting the post. He needs to improve his defensive discipline to find the right balance between attack and defence but at 21 he looks to have a very bright future.

Luke Offord

Player Profile:

  • Nationality: English
  • Age: 20
  • Date of birth: 19/12/1999
  • Current Club: Crewe
  • Career: Crewe, Witton Albion (L), Nantwich Town (L)
  • Position: Right-back
  • Secondary Position: Centre-back
  • Preferred foot: Right

Offord is not naturally at centre-back but did not look out of position, playing slightly deeper than Michael Nottingham and using his pace to act as a covering defender. We did not get to see much of his ability on the ball as Crewe looked to build their attacks through the full-backs.

He does not have the physicality that is typical of League Two defenders but what he lacks in strength he makes up for with his speed and athleticism and he was able to use his body intelligently to outmanoeuvre rather than outmuscle opponents.

Potential: B1

Offord grew into the game after a slow start and looked comfortable and composed at this level, a mature display from a young player just starting out in senior football.

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