Crewe 0-5 Carlisle Five Things: outstanding Cumbrians

Left-back Grainger netted a brace –

Thanks to a wonderful second half performance, Carlisle United hit five past Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road. Here’s five key talking points from the game.

Cooper misused

George Cooper has been excellent for Crewe with his quality in possession, but rarely have his performances suggested suitability for a physically demanding left wing-back role. Zoumana Bakayogo, arguably a more natural contender for that remit, sat on the bench as Cooper was doubled up on by Kelvin Etuhu and James Brown. With no-one overlapping to the left of him, Cooper did not have the space to execute his usual pinpoint deliveries. Because he was so far forward due to his attacking mind-set, there was a yawning chasm between him and left  centre-back Eddie Nolan, which Carlisle exploited for the first goal. Brown played a simple ball down the line for the selfless Shaun Miller, and when Crewe tried hard to close out that right channel, space appeared on the other side for left-back Danny Grainger to shoot into the far corner.

Crewe in-limbo

Carlisle scored that goal and created other openings on the break because lots of players had the energy to break forward into dangerous areas. Crewe by contrast had too many midfielders who didn’t look defensively aware – perhaps missing the protection of Billy Bingham from last season – nor were they getting into goalscoring positions. Chris Porter, a natural finisher, often dropped short to link play and the team worked so hard to create overloads in the middle third that there was nobody in the box. When the ball went wide, Ryan Wintle swung in a couple of inviting crosses but there were not enough Alex players pressurizing the centre-backs to try to make contact.

Carlisle’s outstanding pressing

The Cumbrians’ organization without the ball in the second half was a joy to behold – as good as anything this blog has ever seen. Even though they were protecting a lead, the midfield trio of Etuhu, Mike Jones and Luke Joyce pressed with so much intensity that Crewe were forced back inside their own half. The incessantly tenacious Reggie Lambe hassled centre-back Michael Raynes, who then tripped him to concede a penalty, Grainger doing the necessary from the spot. Raynes’ miserable afternoon against his old club continued when he inadvertently touched in Grainger’s corner.

Soft and disjointed Crewe

As good as Carlisle were in the second half, questions must be asked of the home side’s management team, who gave too many players roles that didn’t suit them. When Cooper finally moved to a more natural position, the midfield duo became Tom Lowery and Callum Ainley. Both are young academy graduates with plenty of will, but they were sent out like lambs to the slaughter against experienced, battle-hardened professionals. The hosts should have played damage limitation late on but were instead hit by two more breakaway goals, Lambe racing onto substitute Jamie Devitt’s through ball to slot home before another sub, Hallam Hope, added a fifth.

In summary

This was a worryingly Steve Davis-esque performance from the Railwaymen, when it looked last season like they would never be so tactically naïve under David Artell. The visitors meanwhile showed great unity, buoyed by a party atmosphere in the away end. This was only one game – and Keith Curle’s side only climbed to 15th – but it felt like an afternoon in which the experienced players came to the fore and the whole team rallied to show their true capabilities. It might just kick-start their season.