Cheltenham Town 1-1 Crewe Alexandra Player Ratings: Greaves stars

Gavin Reilly celebrates opener –

Cheltenham Town and Crewe Alexandra kept their promotion pushes on track with a 1-1 draw at the Jonny-Rocks stadium. Here’s our Six Things from an entertaining encounter.

Cheltenham Town

Scott Flinders – perhaps the one criticism of Flinders would be that, while a great shot stopper at this level across the 2010s, he would likely admit that ball-playing is not among his key strengths. When Cheltenham were pressed by Crewe, they could arguably have done with a goalkeeper possessing a certain degree of vision to find passes through the lines. Beaten at his near-post for the equalizer and only faced one other shot on target. 4

Charlie Raglan – the former Oxford defender did the basics well and looked comfortable in possession; might have been caught out slightly for Crewe’s equalizer, but that was one of just nine shots the visitors managed so Raglan’s contribution to Cheltenham’s organisation should not be underestimated. 7
Ben Tozer – the captain has been playing better at centre-back in the last 10 months than he was in midfield, which shows how well he has adjusted. Launched some impressive long throws and organized the back-line well. 9
Jacob Greaves – the injury to a strong left-sided defender in Will Boyle looked potentially problematic, especially when considering the lack of defensive depth, but Greaves has excelled since joining on loan from Hull and is now keeping his fit again positional rival out of the starting XI and was key to the Robins weathering an early Crewe storm, before making some positive runs in the second half and even creating a chance for Addai. Michael Duff has clearly used his relationship with Grant McCann to good effect. 9

Sean Long – the former Lincoln right-back spent much of last season sidelined through injury; this year he looks a key part of this Cheltenham team, although this performance here was perhaps not among his best as he struggled to quell the left-sided threat Crewe posed. Long spent long periods of play behind the ball, but makes intelligent, late forward runs to enter advanced positions unchartered, as we saw for his pull-back for Varney’s big chance in the second half. 6
Ryan Broom – Broom has taken on the box-to-box midfield role very successfully this season, but Duff admitted he was not quite as influential as usual here. While the Bristol Rovers graduate is normally able to drive the team forward, here he was not always able to pick the ball up in the pockets of space he likes, although even today he was busy as usual – so perhaps the fact this could be seen as a below-par display is a sign of rising standards, from Broom and from the whole team. 5
Conor Thomas – there have been prior question marks about Thomas’ ability to handle the physical side of the game; while he appears to have answered a lot of those questions so far this season, there were moments here where he lacked a bit of confidence when pressed in possession in the defensive third. 5
Jake Doyle-Hayes – the technical midfielder was disciplined in his positioning, although he perhaps did not dictate play with the assurance that he often can. Perhaps, had he stayed on the pitch for more than eight minutes after Ng’s red card, he might have relished the kind of space Clements had and displayed more of what he can do from a technical perspective. Capable of better. 5
Chris Hussey – the technical wing-back supported play from behind and delivered some pin-point crosses into the penalty area, including one that was turned behind for the early corner, from which he delivered the opener. Quelled Crewe’s right-sided threat quite well, too. 6

Gavin Reilly – on loan from Bristol Rovers, Reilly ran in behind effectively and pressurized defences, even if he did not always get the support from behind he might have been hoping for. Played one or two lovely diagonal balls to Long which shows he is developing on the technical score, even if he sometimes struggled with the physicality of the game against Nicky Hunt. 7
Luke Varney – whenever Cheltenham went direct, Varney was the focal point – although Reilly’s presence meant he did not have to press as hard as he did when he partnered Tyrone Barnett at times last season. Lost more of his duels with Nolan than he won and may feel he’s had better games in a Robins shirt. 5

Chris Clements (on 78) – the technician was described by Adam Murray while at Mansfield as being the best midfielder in League Two; it may be fair to say that he has found it difficult to live up to that billing in recent years for various reasons, but Crewe dropping off made the dynamics of the game perfect for Clements to show just why he was rated so highly, because he sprayed the ball around beautifully in the closing stages. 8
Alex Addai (on 72) – the energetic forward has not yet been able to shake off the ‘impact substitute’ tag this season and as he is yet to start a league game, but again made a key contribution here with his direct runs down the right flank, teeing up Broom for a big chance towards the end. Can still improve on his finishing. 8
George Lloyd (on 90) – the withdrawn forward did not quite have the time to impose himself on the game.

Crewe Alexandra

Will Jaaskelainen – the goalkeeper excelled at distribution – he may be among the strongest in that attribute in the division – and made smart stops in the second half including one from Broom. Seems to have got his proneness to errors out of his system through regular game-time. 7

Perry Ng – the right-back brought quality to Crewe’s attacking play, although at times his tendency to come inside to try to combine with teammates was a disadvantage for Crewe, because he came into congested areas and did not have anyone overlapping him. Sent off on 70 minutes so while Ng is undoubtedly a terrific player, it may be fair to say that he has had better games for the Alex. 5
Nicky Hunt – although a right-back by trade, Hunt is unlikely to displace Ng and, at 37, his qualities – discipline and tough-tackling – are arguably more suited to deputizing as a centre-back. Strong up against Reilly. 7
Eddie Nolan – the dependable centre-back was excellent in the air and commanding against Varney throughout. We can expect him to be a real figure of consistency in David Artell’s rear-guard. 8
Harry Pickering – the attacking left-back supported the forward play well; while many full-backs only go on the outside, Pickering sometimes drifted infield to create or shoot in central areas, showing the flexibility to respond to wherever the space is. Was helped by having a selfless wide partner in Kirk. 6

James Jones – it would be harsh to be too critical of Jones, given that Crewe shaded the territorial advantages at 11 v 11 and he was part of that. Equally, he might appear to be more naturally suited to sitting in a role more akin to that of Wintle, because while he did move into the final third as per David Artell’s instructions, he did not do so with the same confidence as midfield counter-part Lowery. With Ng and Powell preferring to come inside, Jones could have drifted to the flank more to respond to where the space is. 5

Ryan Wintle – the 22-year-old displayed astute positioning, was crisp and accurate in his forward passing and did the simple things well. Was not always given the freedom to pick up pockets in behind Cheltenham’s midfield but when he did, he played a nice pass out to Kirk which led to one of Crewe’s better first-half chances. 7

Tommy Lowery – with Jones and Wintle keeping the shape, Lowery was given free reign to press impulsively, skip forward at will and bring his attacking qualities into play – something he did well, even if he got swamped at certain points when he did not have the right runners around him. 7

Daniel Powell- the wide forward had a quiet afternoon, with perhaps a cross-shot that was nearly-turned home just before the interval being his brightest moment, followed by a blocked effort early in the second half. Withdrawn shortly before the hour mark and could be among the few whose starting place is in question for the following week. 5
Chris Porter – Crewe are somewhat short on depth up top, so they will rely heavily on veteran Porter, who was a key reference point at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium and slotted home inside the near-post just before the break. Taken off for the finale as the Alex needed a striker more adept at counter-attacking. 6
Charlie Kirk – while most wide forwards love to get involved in general play, Kirk sometimes has a tendency to curtail his runs and stay out wide to give his corresponding left-back an opportunity to shine. That selflessness often allows the academy graduate to pop into goalscoring positions unchartered, although unusually he was unable to put the finishing touches to attacking moves when his two big moments came midway through the second period. 7

Olly Lancashire (on 72) – the centre-back is known for his ball-playing qualities, but Crewe had no opportunities to play out from the back in the final 18 minutes due to playing with 10-men – so this appearance was much about the defensive basics, which Lancashire got right. 7
Chuma Anene (on 79) – the forward was brought on for Porter, with Artell hoping that he might be able to bring superior counter-attacking qualities – but because Cheltenham picked up every second ball following a Crewe clearance while Anene was on the pitch, he had no real opportunities to get in behind as planned. 6
Owen Dale (on 57) – the 20-year-old has been toughened up by non-league loan spells at Witton Albion and Altrincham, now looking set to make a significant impact on Crewe’s first team – put in a good shift in the closing stages and made some direct runs, even if Ng’s dismissal 13 minutes after he entered the fray restricted his opportunities to show his full capacity. 6