Date: 23rd August 2015 at 4:03pm
Written by: Ian Crowther

Match Day Report: Crewe Alexandra vs. Bury FC, Alexandra Stadium, 3pm, 22nd August 2015.

The scene was set for a great afternoon’s football at Gresty Road as 782 Bury fans travelled down the M6 to Crewe Alexandra in the sun! The fans were hoping for a turnaround after Tuesday nights encounter with Fleetwood and a defensive show that needed significant improvement.

Crewe started the game on top, took the game to Bury who looked off the pace. Bury began with a similar diamond formation to Tuesday which at times allows too much space for the opposition winger to run at the full back when the right side of the diamond drifts out of position or loses concentration and does not cover or track back.

Inman skipped by midfield without challenge, and got in behind Riley for a cross to the far post, which resulted in a shot from King that looked to go straight through Walton and into the net to give Crewe the lead on 3 minutes. A shocking start to the game and one that was a carbon copy of the problem we had seen on Tuesday night. What is this re-occurring problem the Bury team and management is not getting to grips with?

The team’s defensive problems are an area of contention for fans. I offer an explanation here. One of the principal issues is balance of the team and the other is how the formation moves as a cohesive unit. Going forward, the Bury squad is to be feared as the goals ‘for’ tally continues to increase at pace. However, the goal ‘against’ tally has been moving at a similar rate in the last two matches, which is a major concern for all.

The balance and cohesiveness of the team is really one in the same problem. The left side of the team, Hussey and Mayor have been working together for a couple of seasons now and have an understanding. Mayor naturally stays wide and cuts in when he can, but also provides cover when under attack – more often than not this connection works but is not infallible.

However on the right side of midfield, Soares gets sucked into central play, his preferred position, which leaves Riley isolated on occasion as regards unopposed wing based attacks. This issue also arises in attack – on several occasions, Riley wanted to push Soares on down the wing when he was regularly found in a central position, so the ball goes inside to a busy part of the field rather than stretching the oppositions defence. Balance and cover needs addressing.

The team going forward as a diamond and scoring seems to be to the detriment of not supporting the defence in the usual manner. When watching, it feels like the midfield is not connecting with the defence when under attack. Cameron was constantly shouting at Tutte and Pugh as when they push forward and get caught it leaves Bury wide open to a ball breaking out from the oppositions defence and going straight through midfield or out to the wing which it did several times today.

The midfield and defensive units need to move cohesively together and provide support when under pressure. Etuhu is the missing link at the back of the diamond and was omitted from today’s line up due to a foot injury and pain injection. Etuhu knows when to push or stay, and successfully races back to provide midfield cover and defensive assistance – at times both Pugh and Tutte struggled with this marshalling role today. 4-4-2 may have been a better balance when key attributes to performing the diamond formation successfully are unavailable?

Nevertheless, going forward Bury looked exciting. On 23 minutes, Hussey threaded a neat pass through to Mayor on the Bury left, who skipped past the full back Turton dribbled the ball along the Crewe by-line, stepped inside, and shot from 6 yards underneath the oncoming keeper Garratt to equalise at 1-1.

On 25 minutes, an attack from the inside right position of Bury’s midfield resulted in a cross from Soares floated into the back post and was headed home from close range by Danny Rose – however he was adjudged to be offside. Bury were on a roll.

Sadly, against the run of play, and only Crewe`s second serious attack, came on 37 minutes as the midfield overloaded the right hand side, and from a Nugent cross, fizzed into the 6 yard box Colclough finished from close range to make it 2-1.

Bury came back battling. On 38 minutes, Pope broke through, splitting the central defenders for a 1 on 1 with Garratt. Pope wandered across the box trying to make space against an advancing keeper, but instead of bending it around Garratt for a simple finish Pope’s shot clipped the keepers’ legs and went out for a corner kick. A guild edge chance missed.

Finally, in added time, 46 minutes, the ball came out of the Crewe penalty area as Bury attacked, and Soares caught the ball well to shoot from 15 yards into the left hand side of the Crewe net to equalise for the second time 2-2. The first half ended on 49 minutes.

At the half time break Bury were much the stronger team, but as with previous matches, had made several great chances but failed to capitalise on at least one or two more. If the team is going to push through a formation that lacks defensive cohesion, especially in the full back positions, then it needs to be more clinical with the chances it does create and gain a significant lead. Crewe had been clinical with chances, two meaningful attacks and two goals scored.

The second half began with no substitutions having been made. Bury remained on top and created several meaningful chances culminating in a terrific cross on 51 minutes from Hussey and an excellent volley from Danny Rose which was met by a great save from Garratt.

On 57 minutes the break through came via a counter attack down the Bury left and Hussey hit the bye-line, cut in, and centred for Rose to rifle the ball home form 8 yards high into the Crewe net with Garret well beaten. It was 2-3 to Bury who looked positive for the win.

On 65 minutes Danny Rose complained of cramp and asked to be substituted. With 25 minutes to go, the striker goes off to be replaced by a defensive midfielder Chris Sedgwick. Mayor moved central to play off Pope, and Pugh moves to left midfield.

Post changes, the team dynamic had changed. The ball came forward and was sticking in midfield; 5 yard passes to each other, very cramped, no obvious forward ball, pace was lacking down either wing and the attack lacked a cutting edge. The fans failed to understand the tactical changes. Why so defensive when Mellis and Hope were on the bench and Crewe were under pressure?

Notwithstanding the changes in formation and tactics, Bury’s creation continued but at reduced rate. The ball was being pumped up to Pope, or driven through Mayor whose final ball was lacking a killer pass.

Crewe made a tactical change and took off a defensive midfielder for the attacking Cooper who made a difference in pushing through Tutte and Sedgwick who looked off the pace now, being caught a few times on the counter. Crewe were becoming more involved in the game now.

On 77 minutes, Riley’s cross finds Tom Soares in the Crewe penalty box 15 yards out, however his header went over the bar without testing Garratt. Bury were trying to press forward now which proved to be teams undoing as Tutte and Sedgwick were not able to meet the advancing Crewe midfield on the counter attack. Inman broke free, broke tackles from Tutte and waltzed past Sedgwick, he positioned himself well to shoot from the edge of the Bury penalty box and netted to Walton’s right to equalise 3-3 on 80 minutes.

Flitcroft faced with a challenge of trying to respond and grab a winner did so on 84 minutes by reversing the earlier defensive change and taking off Pugh for Hallam Hope who looked more at home in this position and made a pace difference in supporting Tom Pope.

On 87 minutes, Soares came off for Jacob Mellis but it was too late for positive action that could ideally have happened much earlier on. Nathan Cameron missed a good header from Hussey on 90 minutes, which went over the bar. The game played out to 94 minutes without further opportunity and the match ended 3-3 and a point away from home.

Post match, there was an altercation with the Bury manager when Flitcroft came over to the Bury fans to give them assurance that he will fix the defensive issues surrounding the team.

The Bury manager approached the away supporters and was met by fans being critical of his tactics, substitutions and formation. The fans point of view is entirely fair given the re-occurring events of the past week. However, it is too much when the 3 fans turn and abuse him – this is not what we want to see.

Flitcroft should be prepared to answer the fans if he comes over to speak with them. To keep repeating the mantra of we’ll fix it, don’t worry, is great, but it’s not helping to justify the continued policy of defending narrow leads or not fixing the formation, balance or indeed individual errors.

More importantly, and as a counterfoil, the season is only a few weeks old, so let’s not get carried away and be realistic. As much as anything Bury have been a victim of their own success and buying power during the summer so expectations are high and the team are falling short of last years performance level albeit in a better league.

The expectation level of Bury fans needs to be tempered with a modicum of reality, which ought to help in releasing clear frustration shown by fans. Glass half full chaps – be critical with reason and logic yes, but please do not forget to support the team!

We look forward to Tuesday nights match in the League Cup. The fans are looking forward to the visit of Leicester City albeit with some trepidation after this past week. Ranieri’s men are on fire right now, top of the Premier League! We hope for a crowd of at least 5,000 to boost the club’s coffers and to shout the team on to what we hope will be a change in result! UTS!

Ian Crowther – 22nd August 2015.