Crewe Alexandra: We meet again, old friend.

Those with enough years of supporting City behind them will be familiar with Crewe Alexandra. Whilst the last decade or two our paths have only crossed briefly, before the Dario Gradi revolution Crewe were struggling Fourth Division side, much like ourselves. We met them more often than not, swapping hammerings but never escaping each others attentions for long.

We did play them during our last season in the Football League, Paul Green struck in the 47th minute of our April clash in a game we needed to win to assure safety. Clayton Donaldson shattered our survival hopes with a late penalty, but I remember feeling positive that we were one point closer to survival. It was the last point we were to win in the Football League for more than six years.

As a child Crewe were, in my mind, the whipping boys. They were the Joker to Lincoln City’s Batman, the Tom to our Jerry. The first time I saw them play was the FA Cup First Round in 1987, us a GMVC side and them in the Football League. We won 2-0, John McGinley and Bob Cumming giving us a two-goal lead. They pulled one back in the 87th minute but we progressed on a historic day. The St Andrews Stand, now the Selenity Stand, was open to supporters for the first time. Sincil Bank as we know it had started to take shape and Crewe had simply played their role. I barely noted their midfielder David Platt, although three years later both Dad and I were cheering as he volleyed past Prued’homme in the Belgium goal to push us forward in Italia ’90.

I already had them down as an easy team to beat though. In 1986 I had been given a copy of the 1985 Football League Yearbook, and I studied it religiously until it was well out of date. I was fascinated by the record wins of various teams, and after reading we had beaten Crewe 11-1 I scoured the pages to find other teams that had hammered them. Spurs record win is also against Crewe, 13-2 in the FA Cup. When I looked at Crewe and saw their record win was a measly 8-0, I was convinced they would never beat us.

That 11-1 win for City was remarkable at the time. One can be fooled into thinking hammerings of that nature were common place, but that isn’t entirely true. On the same day as our record goal haul, Mansfield Town beat Bradford Park Avenue 1-0, Grimsby won 2-1 at Carlisle and Liverpool won 2-0 at home to Derby. Okay, Wolves won 7-1 at Huddersfield but these results were not the norm, certainly not double figure thrashings. Andy Graver scored six that day and was called up to the England B squad at the end of the season, a remarkable achievement for a Division Three North player. Injury kept him out of the game, but it was still a real feather in his cap. You can read more on our record win here, if it tickles your fancy.

Allan Clarke’s 1990/91 team. ruined my birthday.

I fully expected to be revelling in the glory of Lincoln City winning as my 12th birthday approached. Saturday 17th November 1990 was once again FA Cup First Round day, and Crewe were the hopefully hapless visitors. They’d been promoted to the division above but I still felt a win was on the cards, after all this was Crewe Alexandra. I sat in the St Andrews Stand for the very first time, eager to have my last pre-teen birthday anointed with the regulation whipping of the Railwaymen.

Midfielder Aaron Callaghan gave them an early lead, but my hero ‘Stormer Lormor’ grabbed a 33rd minute equaliser to send us in level at the break. Allan Clarke was in charge at the time, but not for much longer. An awful second half, devoid of any direction, saw City hammered 4-1. Mark Gardiner, David McKearney and Scott Ward wrapped up the win for them. Clarke was sacked not long afterwards. Crewe had future England right-back Rob Jones playing for them, Craig Hignett, Neil Lennon on the bench and Kenny Swain at centre half.

Allan Clarke, who signed Phil Stant on loan just days later without having seen him play, said “We played as well as a Third Division side in the first half, we conceded two bad goals after which we were unable to get back and our performance deteriorated.” He’s not wrong, I didn’t get a City shirt for my birthday and after watching that I was delighted.

We’ve only met five further times since 1994, drawing all four league games and winning our 2005 League Cup tie 5-1. Maheta Molango scored for the Imps that evening, as did Gary Birch, Marvin Robinson and Lee Beevers. Crewe, then a Championship side, took their keeper off at half time with City 2-0 up. That worked well for them. We did play them in a friendly, one of the first under Danny Cowley, where Jack Muldoon grabbed a goal (pictured above). Friendlies don’t really count though, do they?

It isn’t a great time to be a Crewe fan at the moment, they’re struggling in 18th place. They’ve won just three in the last thirteen competitive games, losing ten of those. A fine FA Cup win over Rotherham was immediately let down by a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Port Vale.

Jordan Bowery, son of former Imps player Bert, has been one positive for them though, he grabbed a 90th minute winner against Stevenage amongst other strikes. Chris Porter and Chris Dagnall have also been amongst the goals, but a fragile defence has been their Achilles heel. It will need to be though, the shot-shy Imps have scored as many in a month as Crewe have in the last 180 minutes of football.

In an unusual turn of events, your truly is heading to a second consecutive away match, something rarely seen. Hopefully the 12-year old in me will see some sort of justice served for his ruined birthday,  something that has burned long and hard for many years.

It’s already been done to death, but the latest issue of A City United has the following travel advice:

If you get there reasonably early before the game, the supporters club at the ground allows small numbers of away fans in. There are also several pubs within walking distance of the ground. The pick of these, is probably the Corner Bar at the Royal Hotel on Nantwich Road. If you park on the industrial estate just off Weston Road, then on your way to the ground you will pass the Brocklebank Pub, a Brewers Fayre outlet, which is very popular with away fans. You can also park in their own car park which costs £2.50. For those who like their real ale then further down Nantwich Road on the right-hand side just past the traffic lights is the Beer Dock.

With regards to getting parked, assuming you’ve come off the M6 at junction 16 and taken the A5020, Gresty Road is down past the Railway Station on the left. Just before you reach the island on Weston Road, you will see a sign pointing to the right, which displays; ‘Away Supporters on Street Parking’. This directs you to an industrial estate on the right of the road (you will also see the Volkswagen dealership, L C Charles on the front of it). It takes about 15 minutes to walk to the ground from here. Otherwise at the ground behind the Main Stand is a pay and display car park which holds 560 cars and costs £3.50 for the day.

Don’t forget, Graham Burrell and I have a book out! Click here to read more or place an order. There’s still some of those limited edition prints left for the first 200 orders.