After FA Cup action last weekend, the Blues return to the bread and butter of Sky Bet League Two on Saturday as Crewe Alexandra visit Brunton Park.
A 0-0 draw with Championship side Sheffield Wednesday will no doubt have given Keith Curle’s side a boost of confidence as they look to pick up a first league win in 2018.
But they will come up against a Crewe side who find themselves precariously close to the relegation zone and keen to move up the table.
We put the Railwaymen under the spotlight ahead of their trip to Cumbria:
It has been a season of inconsistency for Crewe, who are currently sat in 19th place after struggling for a real run of form – although they do still sit eight points clear of the drop zone.
Their last six games have summed up their mixed fortunes, with three wins and three defeats.
Boss David Artell will now be hoping to string together a run of good form which could well propel them up the table.
Low On Numbers
Injuries and suspensions continue to blight Crewe’s season, with manager Artell admitting that they will be “low on numbers” for the visit to Brunton Park.
Defender Perry Ng picked up a four match suspension following an off-the-ball incident with former United striker Jabo Ibehre during a defeat at Cambridge and fellow defender Eddie Nolan is doubtful with a groin injury.
Meanwhile, loanees Conor Grant and Sam Stubbs returned to their parent clubs earlier this month leaving the Alex slightly short.
Artell said he may have to put one or two youngsters on the bench this weekend, but is hopefully a couple of players will shake off minor knocks.
What Does History Tell Us?
The two sides have met regularly over the years and there’s little to separate them with United having claimed 37 victories compared to Crewe’s 36 from our 87 meetings.
In recent years it’s Crewe who have slightly shaded the meetings with the Alex having lost just one of our last four meetings.
However, the last meeting between the two resulted in a resounding Carlisle victory, as a brace from Danny Grainger, strikes from Hallam Hope and Reggie Lambe and a Michael Raynes own goals handed the Cumbrians a 5-0 triumph earlier this season.
Watch the extended highlights from this season's 5-0 away victory here:
There’s a number of familiar faces in both camps this weekend who will be keen to get one over on their former employers.
Centre back Michael Raynes will make a return to Brunton Park having left the Blues after two years this summer to make the move to Crewe.
Meanwhile in the Blues’ camp, both Mark Ellis and Shaun Miller will be facing a familiar side.
Ellis spent two years at Gresty Road, making over 90 appearances for the club during a successful spell.
Miller began his career at Crewe and was at the club for over six years where he impressed many with an excellent goal return before moving to Sheffield United.
Ones to Watch
- Ben Garratt - A product of Crewe’s famous youth academy, the young goalkeeper has now made over 170 professional appearances after bursting onto the scene in 2012/13. The 23-year-old won the Railwaymen’s Player of the Season accolade in 2015 and 2016 and has also represented England at U17 level in the 2011 World Cup. Garratt has now become a key member of Artell’s squad and will be pivotal this season - he certainly provides a reliable last line of defence for Crewe.
- George Cooper - Another player who came through the Railwaymen’s renowned youth setup, the creative midfielder enjoyed a phenomenal 2016/17 campaign. A regular starter under Artell, Cooper netted ten times and claimed a further 14 assists in his 53 appearances, with sides starting to sit up and take notice of the 20-year-old. If he can perform as well this season, then Crewe will have a real attacking threat on their hands.
- Chris Porter - Porter offers a bit more experience in a relatively young Crewe side having spent time at the likes of Oldham, Motherwell, Derby County and Sheffield United. His most recent spell came with Colchester United, where his 16 goals last season encouraged Artell to pull out all the stops to lure him to Gresty Road this summer. A physical presence and a fine finisher, Porter could be the man to fire Crewe up the table this season. And with a partnership with Chris Dagnall starting to blossom, it could see the Alex cause opposition teams plenty of problems.