FA Youth Cup – Arsenal v Crewe Alexandra
- Meadow Park, Borehamwood Thursday 19th February
- Match Report by Andrew Crawshaw
Crewe Alexandra FC are currently in 18th place in League 1 (third tier of professional football); the club was formed in 1877 and named after Princess Alexandra, they were founding members of the second division in 1892 but only lasted four years in the league. Since regaining admission in 1921 they have mostly featured in the lower divisions.
Their only major trophy to date is the Football League Trophy which they won in 2013. They are known as the Railwaymen because of the Town’s extensive and historic links with the Railway Industry.
The Crewe Academy achieved official status as a FA Youth Academy in the late 1990s. Past alumni include Rob Jones, Danny Murphy, Seth Johnson, Dean Ashton and David Vaughan.
In the final game of the 2012/13 season the entire Crewe first team was composed of Academy graduates. Sales of Academy players have also helped to make Crewe profitable in most years (a rare thing in the football league).
1 Ryan Huddart (GK)
2 Renny Smith
3 Tyrell Robinson
4 Ainsley Maitland-Niles
5 Stefan O’Connor
6 George Dobson
7 Aaron Eyoma
8 Gedion Zelalem
9 Stephy Mavididi
10 Daniel Crowley (C)
11 Chris Willock
Subs 12 Mark Bola, 13 Hugo Heto (GK), 14 Ben Sheaf, 15 Harry Donovan and 16 Elliot Wright
1 Kieran Harrison (GK); 2 Joe Kearns; 3 Chris Speed; 4 Andre Brown; 5 Joe Howell; 6 Charlie Kirk; 7 Jamie Morgan; 8 Johnny Higham; 9 Tom Lowery; 10 Jon Moran; 11 Toby Mullarkey
Subs 12 Liam O’Neill, 13 Liam Matthews (GK), 14 Matt Neal, 15 Oliver Finney, 16 George Cooper, 17 Callum Ainley, 18 Michael Pino, 19 Harry Pickering and 20 Ryan Winkle
This was the third time of asking for this tie, twice scheduled at Borehamwood but cancelled due to the pitch first being frozen then waterlogged. This time the game proceeded at a very cold and windy Barnet ground where the 330 spectators were ushered into an open stand (at least it wasn’t raining).
The pitch looked in decent condition but many of the players had problems keeping their footing as the game progressed. Come on Arsenal we need to do better than this, surely we can create a ground with spectator facilities where we are in charge of pitch preparation. The arrangements for this game were little short of farcical.
First impressions were that the Crewe players were nearly all far bigger and looked older than our players, not uncommon at this level. Our team sheet also looked light with a number of players missing. This was borne out by Jeorge Bird in his review last night. He said, “Krystian Beliek was unable to play due to registration issues, Kaylen Hinds, Chiori Johnson, Tafari Moore and Julio Pleguezelo were all injured” leaving coach Frans De Kat short of options in both defence and attack.
Crewe started brightly and on the front foot causing the somewhat makeshift Arsenal defence problems from the start. They were rewarded in the 6th minute when a defensive mistake allowed their No 10 Jon Moran to open the scoring.
The Crewe domination continued for the next 15 minutes or so when we were unable to present any kind of cohesive response; put simply we were overwhelmed and at times unable to play two passes consecutively. Crowley seemed to be playing in the deeper midfield role whilst Zelalem had the more advanced playmaker position but didn’t seem to have the appetite for the game (this has been a recurring issue for me with him at this level this year – he has seemed dis-interested more often than involved; more Berbatov than Sanchez but without the end product).
Gradually we came more into the game and in minute 37 had our first effort on goal when Crowley had a shot. Half time came and the score remained one nil.
We needed to start the second half in the same way as we finished the first, but we had a repeat of the first half instead and in Minute 48 went two down Hudddart palmed a dangerous cross which hit Stefan O,Connor and rebounded over the helpless Huddart. An own goal out of the Arsenal book but still difficult to take.
This seemed to spur our lads into action and they pressed hard to get back into the game but never really threatened the Crewe keeper. In truth for the most part Crewe looked far more likely to score a third than we did a first.
Our luck seemed to change in minute 65 when Mavididi scored from a Zelalem assist but immediately Crewe restored the two goal advantage when another defensive error allowed Andre Brown to score.
Towards the end Arsenal at last woke up a bit offensively and presses to try and get back into the game and in Minute 83 Substitute Marc Bola scored the most impressive goal of the night to make the score Arsenal 2 Crewe 3. Despite pressure from Arsenal that remained the final score and Crewe now play Manchester City in the next round.
The better team won and at times it was a pretty poor performance from Arsenal. Some of our players were out of position and uncomfortable and/or ineffective in their new roles and there is clearly a lot of work to do at this level before they become truly competitive.
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