Crewe Alexandra back on the right track ahead of Mansfield Town trip

CREWE, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Crewe's manager David Artell looks on during the pre-season friendly match between Crewe Alexandra and Stoke City at The Alexandra Stadium on July 30, 2017 in Crewe, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
CREWE, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Crewe's manager David Artell looks on during the pre-season friendly match between Crewe Alexandra and Stoke City at The Alexandra Stadium on July 30, 2017 in Crewe, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Former Mansfield Town defender Dave Artell has his Crewe Alexandra side safe already after five years of relegation battles.

But he knows ahead of Saturday’s return to the One Call Stadium that, had their dreadful away record of earlier in the season been anywhere near as positive as their strong home form, they would be challenging for the play-offs right now.

The Railwaymen were careful not to make too many bold predictions or publicise targets in the summer, because it has been a few tough years at Gresty Road.

But quietly they will have been hoping to make a bid for the top seven, and look to be falling short of that at the moment,

To reach 50 points in mid-March is a definite step-forward and most Crewe fans are fairly satisfied with an improved campaign.

But there is a feeling it could have been better, despite Artell having one of the smallest budgets in the fourth tier to work with.

As always, Crewe have talented young players coming through.

Right back Perry Ng looks a shoo-in for their Player of the Season award and has a bright future in the game.

An all-action and fiercely-competitive player, he is defensively strong as well as dangerous on the counter, and can play anywhere across the back four as well as in midfield.

Charlie Kirk, who plays wide left in a front three, has been involved in more Crewe goals than anyone else this term. He’s bagged eight himself, scoring one and having a hand in two last time out.

Like Ng, he’s another product of the club’s youth academy and is starting to show the potential his coaches’ have long been hinting at.

Captain George Ray, a key central defender, will serve the second of a two-game suspension on Saturday.

Crewe have an otherwise fully-fit squad, although midfielder Tom Lowery turned an ankle in the warm-up before Saturday’s win over Crawley and could not take his place on the bench. He will be assessed.