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Match Preview :- Crewe Alexandra - Tuesday January 17th, 2006 (19:45:00)
Next up at Bower Fold is Crewe Alexandra for a Cheshire Senior Cup semi-final on Tuesday with a 7.45pm kick off. This Championship team are unlikely to play their first team, but the players that have been appearing in the cup have been enough to cruise past Altrincham and Stockport, contrary to their league position that sees them rooted to the foot of the table, three points adrift and staring relegation in the face.

Crewe have won just one league game away all season (and only three at home), and are on an eleven match run without a league win. The last win they had was back at the beginning of November when they beat Millwall 3-1. They have drawn three times in the league, but the other eight games have been straight losses. To top this off, they were also dumped out of the FA Cup by Preston North End a fortnight ago, going down 1-2 at home with a late goal from Preston.

Their most successful campaign so far has to be the Cheshire Senior Cup. In the first round they took on Stockport County and eased past them with a 2-0 win going on to face Altrincham. Though it was a side made up of reserves and fringe players, Alex demolished an injury depleted Altrincham side 4-0. Though they may be having defensive and scoring problems in the league, it appears not to be the case in the reserves. Both games were at home, so it is yet to be seen whether the team travel well.

Thus far in the competition Crewe have found the net six times, and conceded none. Their leading scorer with three is Eddie Johnson, with Ben Rix right behind him with two, and the sixth goal scored by Mark Rivers.

Celtic are no slouches in this competition though, and the Crewe Reserves may find themselves in a slightly harder match on Tuesday night. In previous rounds of the competition, Celtic have beaten a strong Northwich Victoria side 1-0 at their ground, and demolished Cheadle Town 7-1, again at their ground. Thus far, therefore, Celtic have scored two more goals than Crewe, but also conceded one more. Celtic?s scorers in the competition were Phil Eastwood with the only goal at Northwich, and braces for Paul Sykes, James Turley and Steve Garvey, plus a goal for Ben Smith at Cheadle.

The team that lined up against Altrincham in the last round of the cup was:
1. Stuart Tomlinson
2. Richard Sutton
3. Mark Roberts
4. Ade Moses
5. Chris McCready
6. Justin Cochrane
7. Mark Rivers
8. Mike O?Connor
9. Pav Suhaj
10. Eddie Johnson
11. Ben Rix

Stuart Tomlinson is expected to start again, given that the usual reserve keeper Ben Williams is in hospital with suspected viral meningitis. Out of the players that turned out against Altrincham, Eddie Johnson and Chris McCready have made the most first team appearances, with seventeen each; Ade Moses has twelve, Mark Rivers eleven and there are five first team appearances between the remainder.

With Jody Banim back into contention for Celtic, it is possible he will start against Crewe to get his fitness levels up; the same may be true for Darren Hockenhull whose loan move to Woodley Sports has been put on hold whilst the Celtic squad is so thin on the ground. Chris Price will definitely be missing as he will be serving the last game of his three match ban.

In the 1-0 win against Solihull in the FA Trophy, Celtic lined up as:
1. Paul Pettinger
2. Grant Black
3. Mark Barnard
4. Farrell Kilbane
5. Mark Haran
6. Scott Maxfield
7. Steve Garvey
8. Paul Sykes
9. Lee Ellington
10. Jody Banim
11. Neil Prince

The performance against Solihull was disjointed, and symptomatic of Celtic being without a competitive fixture since that start of January. Hopefully the last of the cobwebs can be shaken out of the team in this match ahead of the real business of the league which restarts for us on Saturday when Leigh RMI visit. Whilst the Cheshire Senior Cup is a distraction from the league, a winning habit is nice to have, and should we win we would gain a measure of revenge for the 7-2 thrashing we received off them at Bower Fold in the Cheshire Senior cup back in 2002.
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