Posted: 20.11.20 at 21:32 by The Editor
CREWE fans enjoyed some rare home comfort when Pompey visited Gresty Road in the early weeks of the 2016/17 season.
A record of four wins in front of their own support during the entire previous campaign - which ended in a sorry relegation - hadn't chimed well. But spirits were lifted on this hot August day as Steve Davis’ side proved good value for a point against Paul Cook’s promotion favourites.
Crewe defended well and offered Pompey little in front of goal - although it was a game of few chances at either end.
Ryan Lowe’s 40-yard speculative shot nearly caught out Portsmouth’s David Forde and the closest the visitors came was when sub Curtis Main headed over a gaping goal from a late Carl Baker corner – but that was about as exciting as it got.
But Davis had a right to be impressed and must have suspected his club was turning the corner after a couple of difficult years in League One.
“We were playing against some decent players who have played higher than this. They have got a lot of players to pick from and they can rest players and it doesn’t deter them, but we don’t’ have that luxury,” noted Davis.
“We kept our concentration and on the whole the back four was good.”
With Alex Kiwomya making an instant impact – the Chelsea loanee had opened his account on the opening day at Stevenage – and the experienced Chris Dagnall arriving from Hibernian to complement Ryan Lowe, Crewe did look to have a very potent attacking threat, if not in this game.
Of Kiwomya Davis said: “Alex is a dynamic player with terrific pace and the first thing he did was run in behind which is what I want the wingers to do. We need to get him up to speed.”
Sadly, the pacey youngster’s spell with Crewe rather petered out – as did the club’s promising start. Kiwomya, the nephew of former Ipswich striker, Chris, scored seven goals in the opening months of the season – and then no more.
The England youth international joined Doncaster the following year and is now plying his trade in the National League with Chesterfield.
It is not a unfamiliar story and it is rather sobering to see the turnover of players in four years with only Charlie Kirk left from Crewe’s starting XI that day and defender Jack Whatmough from Pompey’s.
Dagnall - who had a decent one in three strike rate in two campaigns with Crewe - featured in the National League play-offs with Yeovil in the summer. But, aged 34, time is drawing in and he has since joined Ashton Town in the Northern Premier League.
Strike partner Lowe has, of course, moved up to the management game, and did so soon after Dave Artell replaced Davis five months after this game, when taking up a player/coach role at Bury.
Several other names on the team sheet that day have drifted out of league football altogether with opportunities reduced under Covid-19. But Harry Davis (Morecambe), John Guthrie (Livingston) and Billy Bingham (Bromley) are still going strong as they near or reach their 30th year.
For Pompey, winger Kyle Bennett was highly rated at the time, but has dropped back down to League Two, on loan from Bristol Rovers at Grimsby. Veteran Irish midfielder Michael Doyle is with Notts County.
While striker Main has made a fist of Scottish football with Motherwell and Aberdeen and Kal Naismith and one-time Alex loanee Gary Roberts are still with Wigan.
A footnote on Roberts, a true veteran at 36, is that he may be one of the few players suffering a case of mistaken identity on the clinically-reliable online stats site Soccerbase.
The keen-eyed will have been baffled by his entry of two stints with the Alex, one from a trainee in 2003. What Liverpudlian Roberts, who around that time was turning out in the League of Wales, has to say about being confused with the former Alex academy starlet of the same name would be interesting to say the least.
Crewe 0, Portsmouth 0. League Two. August 16, 2016
Crewe: Garratt; Turton, Davis, Guthrie, Bakayogo; Cooper (Kiwomya), Jones, Bingham, Kirk, (Ainley), Lowe, Dagnall
Subs: Udoh, Saunders, Ray, Nugent, Richards.
Portsmouth: Forde; Talbot, Burgess, Whatmough (Barton), Naismith; Baker, Doyle, Rose, Lalkovic (Main), Roberts, Smith (Bennett). Subs: Chaplin, Hunt, Buxton, O’Brien