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Westwood departure given a case for defence

It was once again time for realism to rear its head at Gresty Road on Friday.

Crewe Alexandra played its role as a selling club in the competitive business world that is professional football. Barely three months after Nick Powell underwent his own multi-million pound move to the promised land of the Premier League, club captain Ashley Westwood departed for Aston Villa on transfer window deadline day.

There was an air of inevitability about Powell’s move to Manchester United, but not with Westwood, he was seemingly settled in the midfield engine room, playing all of Crewe’s opening six games, but little old Crewe were given an offer a club of its size would hold a degree of idiocy to turn down, so the midfielder left with all the good wishes the club always grants their youth products. Another player off the production line at Reaseheath, the second player sold for big money, a total figure between £6-£8 million, in one summer by a club who were last year in tier four of the footballing pyramid, a wonderful achievement by any stretch of judgement.

Manager Steve Davis did his best to remain the logician, his justification of Crewe not being in a position to keep hold of the player ringing true, yet he also failed to capture a replacement before the transfer window slammed shut late on Friday night. Some elements of support bemoaned the lack of activity, but the counter-argument, that it would be better if Davis didn’t rush in with a fever of panic and find an inept alternative was a good one. Bide the time, wait for the loan market to open in seven days and find a player with enough quality to adequately stand-in for Westwood’s midfield quality was the sensible party-line, and it was one the club towed as it headed in to Saturday’s clash with Coventry with Abdul Osman partnering Luke Murphy in a midfield notable by a certain absence.

Murphy was made the new skipper and immediately struck a surprisingly promising axis with Osman who has so far looked rather limited in his short spell as a Crewe player. Here, the ex-Northampton man looked neat and tidy, complementing his combative style with an assured vision on the ball in order to provide a base for a mobile front four to terrorise the Sky Blues’ defence. Build-up play was sublime at times; Ajay Leitch-Smith was the main catalyst in a nature that is becoming more and more usual from him, his excellent movement that belies his youthful 22 years seeing him have a shot blocked after linking up with Byron Moore, before a sumptuous turn on the edge of the box teed up Harry Bunn on the left whose cross was turned in by Max Clayton, the 18 year old who seems to be unworried by the goal-scoring mantle afforded to him at such a tender age, it was his third goal in four games.

It was rather unfortunate that his single effort was enough to beat a dismal Coventry team who find themselves without a manager just four games into the current campaign. This was of course, a club who resided in the Premier League just over a decade ago and are now at the same level as Crewe; a club constantly reminded that they simply cannot compete in the same world as the tope table clubs when it comes to the services of the players it creates. A club of the size of Coventry City, with a stadium of a grandeur scale and an impressive support that was in effect at Gresty Road, simply should not be in the backwaters of League One, but it was a stark reminder of what happens when things at a club are badly run financially. Gratefully, no matter how hard it is to see an academy player leave the club after such great service, it is worth remembering Crewe are unlikely to suffer the same fate should they continue to create players in the same ilk as Ashley Westwood and Nick Powell.

Coventry’s poor performance in which they only returned two clear chances was owing as much to a new-look Alex defence as it was the visitor’s ineptitude, Steve Davis persisted with the same back four that looked settled at West Ham on the previous Tuesday with Kelvin Mellor, again faultless, continuing at right-back, with Harry Davis partnering Saturday’s man of the match Mark Ellis at centre-half. Ellis was superb and fully deserving of his accolade, the summer signing from Torquay seemingly growing into his role with an assuredness that also spread onto Harry Davis who produced his own settled display. Gregor Robertson also shook off his own uncertain start to the season with a decent display at left-back and what resulted was a vital clean sheet, Crewe’s first of the season and an almightily vital three points after the events of the day before. Last term’s ever-excellent Matt Tootle, injured for the start of the season, also made a late substitute appearance which will further boost the squad options and suddenly the outlook over Gresty Road began to look as bright as the sun that blanketed it on Saturday afternoon.

The 5-1 demolition at Brentford was suddenly banished from the memory and the focus will be shifted to Friday’s opening of the loan market before another home game with Tranmere who sit pretty at the top of League One following an unbeaten start to the season. There will come no disillusion that despite the bright glimpses of a promising partnership between Luke Murphy and Abdul Osman in the midfield, a player will have to come in to take the Westwood mantle purely down to the amount of numbers Steve Davis is left with in that area. The manager has also spoken of getting a striker on a similar temporary move to fill the physical void left by the injury to Mathias Pogba, so expect a certain degree of activity on the eve of a mouth-watering date with Tranmere what will provide a decent gauge of where this young team are currently at so early in what is already promising to be a roller-coaster season.

You can follow me on Twitter @AdamGray1250

Article title: Westwood departure given a case for defence

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