Another weekend and yet another calamitous result for Crewe Alexandra. Their latest disappointing loss was a confidence quelling 5-0 self-destruction on the road at Brentford. The Bees punished the visitors with two goals either side of half-time which effectively diminshed the Alex's prospects of returning north with anything to show for their endeavours.
The disheartening defeat thwartened their opportunity to extricate themselves from the constraint and pressure of being in the drop zone. That Brentford's five goals came in the space of just 30 minutes, from the 43rd minute to the 73rd minute, highlights the deficiencies prevalent within the current crop of players.
The Railwaymen enjoyed unanticipated success earlier in the year as they enjoyed a successive victory at Wembley, winning the Johnstone's Paint Trophy against Southend United. In spite of this the feel-good factor surrounding Gresty Road has long been suppressed as the Alex languish in the relegation zone with just 13 points from a possible 48. The cautious optimism which existed in pre-season has been completely vanquished as they recently became dubbed "the whipping boys" of League One by some fans.
Crewe have only four more points now than they did at the same stage when they were relegated into League Two in 2008-09. 16 games into that campaign, they had drawn three times and won just twice. It took until the 20th game that season when they began to confront the battle and turn around their form. The reaction was profound as they lost just 10 of the remaining 26 in comparison to the 14 losses from 20 previous games. This though was insufficient, as they were relegated with 46 points, just four points from safety.
For Crewe Alex to stay in League One this year, it is likely they will need to hit the infamous 50 point benchmark. Only one team has survived without hitting that mark since Crewe were last relegated from League One, that was Walsall who stayed up with 48 points in 2010-11. Though this was only by the skin of their teeth, as Dagenham and Redbridge were relegated in the position below them with just one point less than the Saddlers.
In addition since 2008-09, only one team to have reached 50 points has been relegated. Kent-based Gillingham reached the tally but were starved from safety by Hartlepool due to having a worse goal difference. Of all the teams to narrowly survive the drop, they lost no more than an average of 21.4 games. As Crewe have already lost nine, it means they have to begin to transform their disconcerning defeats into draws and eventually wins if they are to avoid returning to League Two football next term.
Furthermore, Crewe must gain at least 37 points from the next 30 games, an average of 1.2 points per game if they are to reach the coveted 50 points which has kept so many other teams up in recent years. Their 13 points from 16 averages out at just 0.8 points per game, which means an immediate improvement is necessary.
If the Alex continue accumulating their current rate of 0.8 points per game, by the 46th game of the season they will have ascertained approximately 36.8 points, which whilst obviously impossible to gain the 0.8, shows that drastic enhancement is requisite as a tally of below 40 will almost certainly see them relegated.
On home turf, they have taken eight points from eight games, averaging one point per game. Meanwhile their away form is drastically inadequate, With a win and a draw from eight games and four points from an available 24 assembled, they have averaged a infinitesimal 0.5 points.
Therefore Steve Davis must recognise that a positive upsurge in points gained away from home will be crucial if they are survive, with another 14 games on the road awaiting his side this season. Including these are trips to high-flying Wolves, Peterborough and a tough game away at arch rivals Port Vale.
Not only that, they face away games at teams challenging for a play-off place such as Bradford and Rotherham, all of which will prove stern tests to Steve Davis' side. Though their home fixtures do not look much kinder as they are yet to face thriving sides such as Wolves, Preston, Leyton Orient and Brentford. Obtaining points against these sides will be all the more vital for to solve the deprivation of confidence amongst the squad.
Their start has come somewhat as a shock to all, as Crewe finished comfortably in mid-table last season. At the same stage of their return to League One last season, they were seven points better off despite having played nine teams that would eventually finish above the South Cheshire club's 13th spot.
By 16, they had conceded 21 goals in comparison to this season's monumental figure of 36. In response they had converted 15 goals which meant that they had a goal difference of -6, this year however that has spiralled into a tremendous figure of -24. They unfortunately posses the worst goal difference of all the 92 teams within the English leagues, with Crystal Palace and Barnsley both penultimately on 15.
Whilst they had only kept one more clean sheet by the 6th of November 2012, this season's defensive performances have dramatically decayed. The defeat to Brentford was the 10th time this season in all competitions that Crewe have failed to score in a game and also the 10th time that they have conceded three goals or more, from just 20 games.
42% of these goals have come in the 15 minutes before or after half-time, which clearly exemplifies the time in which Crewe are at their weakest. Meanwhile only 22% of their goals come in the first half-an-hour, showing that Crewe do have a slight resilience. However their goals against tally clearly suggests it is not strong enough to hold out for the full 90 minutes and once they concede the first goal, the "flood gates" open.
It is clear that confidence is abject in the camp, the downcast dejected expressions painted upon the faces of the players once conceding demonstrates this. Their results have been threateningly inauspicious, considering they have been beaten twice by teams rock-bottom of the table with the with seven goals against them in those two games and none in their favour.
The Railwaymen's supporters will hoping for a run similar to that between 24 November and 1 January of last season which saw the Alex pick up 15 from 18 points. A string of positive results could subsequently see an upturn in belief that the squad could emphatically modify the conclusion of their 2013-14 campaign.
Next up in the league for Crewe is a trip to their enemies Port Vale, but before that awaits an FA Cup 1st round replay at home to Wycombe, a faily negligible tie to Crewe fans as a potential morale-boosting tie against Vale awaits just four days afterwards.
Nevertheless, the FA Cup is their last faint hope of obtaining silverware this campaign and though it is highly improbable that they will win it, sustaining a streak through several rounds could help boost morale to improve their league fortunes.
Whilst Davis pleads for the fans to stick with their side, he will inherently know that the ominous outlook to Crewe's campaign can only change once results begin to amass a positive perspective. Until then, supporters of the club will can only keep faith in the cause and pray that the manager can ameliorate their season.
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