Report by: deadbat_db
Manager Clough, who had watched the Academy side’s draw with Charlton in the morning, was introduced to the crowd before the kick off and stood side by side with Chris Morgan as the game began. United made two changes, with King in for Coady and Lappin for the virus stricken Brandy as the home side reverted to a 4-4-2 formation. Crewe left out forwards Aneke and Clayton; with Pogba out long term with injury and were looking to bounced back from a defeat at home to Stevenage in the week.
The game began with United looking to move it forward quickly with Maguire purposefully striding out of defence and Taylor full of energy. Doyle had one wayward shot and there were few chances and it was the visitors who had the first real moment of note with a long throw cleared. McMahon’s dithering led to a free kick award for the visitors. From the delivery a header came in from skipper Osman but Long moved across acrobatically to tip over. After this let off Clough had words with his skipper, Doyle and slowly United started to control proceedings. McGinn and Doyle started to win loose balls and Crewe were being pushed further back.
McGinn made a clever run and drew the foul as he knocked it past the full back. From the delivery from in between the corner flag and the 18 yard box, McGinn drilled it in and MAGUIRE stooped to nod firmly down into the goal.
Good work from Flynn saw the ball played back and Taylor made a yard with some neat touches before stinging the palms of Phillips. Lappin could not convert the rebound heading at the keeper
Ray cleared from King as united upped the pressure further. From the resultant corner, McGinn was the architect again as he this time hit a far post delivery to the back post and MAGUIRE headed across the goal beyond Phillips and past the men on the line and into the corner. Maguire moved onto 4 goals and was the leading scorer!
The Blades continued to control the game and although they did not create further chances saw off any threat from the Railwaymen to go in comfortably two goals to the good.
The second half saw a chance for Crewe after some lovely interchange down the left saw a clever reverse ball and a cross that looked all the world a goal but Osman blasted over when he should have scored. It would have changed the course of the game.
United were still enjoying most of the possession and McGinn prompted a run from Taylor who chose the wrong option on this occasion. United were determined to get the killer goal and it came from one of their wide men.
FLYNN, who had swapped to the left, was able to pick up the ball and drift inside before hitting a low shot that seemed to catch Phillips unawares and nestled into the corner at the Kop end. That seemed to be it as Clough and Morgan exchanged high fives on the sideline.
Aneke came on for Turton as Crewe looked for any kind of impetus in a game that looked lost. King nearly got on the end of a Taylor flick from Lappin’s cross but was denied at close range by Phillips. Not long after this the veteran was replaced by Miller who came on and had a shot saved soon after.
Crewe gradually started to win more ball in midfield and from one move they won a corner that eventually saw Aneke hooked a fierce volley which struck Long’s bar and then bounced up and behind. It was a let off for United who were conceding possession for the first time in the game.
CLAYTON came on and went straight up top and it was not long before he made an impact. The substitute got in and away from the centre backs and left Collins standing before poking it past Long despite the United keeper getting a hand on it.
Coady came on for Taylor who had run himself into the ground as united now tried to stiffen up the midfield as the visitors were finally now having a good spell.
United were now struggling and Crewe were threatening to get another and make it a difficult ending. Cuvelier came on for Lappin but United were now just wanting to see things out. A series of passes nearly saw Moore in but Hill made a good tackle. Just before the game; entered four minutes additional time Coady brought down but Aneke’s effort was woeful and hit the wall. The game petered out after this as Clough could celebrate three points and a winning start.
United – It was a well deserved win. We were not scintillating but overall we controlled the game for long spells. For the first 70 minutes it was mostly United although Crewe actually started game ok and had a good chance and were well in the game. After we went ahead we had a lot of the ball and did have opportunities to score more even outside of the goals we actually got. I felt the key was we pressed them high up the field and made sure they did not have time on the ball. McGinn and Doyle were excellent and they controlled this area allowing us to get it forward and create things. Taylor worked exceptionally hard and whilst on the ball things did not always come off, he put the defence under lots of pressure. Flynn and Lappin also got up and down and United were often first onto the ball or nicked the loose stuff. This meant Crewe never really settled and United were able to force errors. The goals came from excellent deliveries from McGinn and two good headers and also a good, low shot from Flynn who showed if you have a go, things may happen.
As for the style of football and shape; it is hard to pin things down on a manager when he has only been here a few days but it was an orthodox 4-4-2 with Lappin slightly more withdrawn on the left than Flynn on the right but two up top. Doyle and McGinn were both in a similar type position with neither particularly further forward than the other. Clough has said he wants to play 4-4-2 though and says we need two up front to score goals at this level which is good to hear.
The style was more of a follow on from last week. After a flat opening spell we gradually got on top and pressed high up the field. When we had it the style was quite mixed with some short stuff and some long stuff but the chances and goals came from us pressing and forcing errors (free kicks) as much as great football although Flynn took his goal really well. We could have had a few more and you felt it could be a 4 or 5-0 which would have flattered us but as the game was effectively over we took our foot off the gas and slowly they came back into it instead of us keeping going.
We started to sit deeper and I felt out lack of fitness also was a factor. On the other hand we had worked really hard and many were simply really struggling. However you had to be concerned that so many players looked so tired by 70-75 minutes. The pressing and tackling we had done was not there as likes of Taylor, Doyle and McGinn no longer had the energy. Thus we conceded a lot of the ball and ground and they had chances and with a bit better decision making may have got another and made it uncomfortable.
Still it was a win. We were decent and like last week at least we were first to many balls and showed some passion and urgency. We got the ball into areas where there were the possibility of chances which we had not done under Weir. I think there are still a lot of improvements to be had in terms of how we play, the fitness as I alluded to and also of course the personnel. I think long term the likes of Collins, Hill, McMahon, King and Doyle (although played well today) may be the ones that may be most under threat but then Clough may not see it that way. I felt Collins looked a real weak link at one end and King at the other for me but hopefully with Baxter, Brandy and Miller coming back we may have more options going the other way but concerns me we don’t have any real options in the centre back area other than maybe Hill.
Hopefully now we can keep pulling away and with a run of games where we in theory should get some more wins we can try and aim to me around the middle or just below at around Xmas. If we can do that and bring some players into the squad in January then who knows but for now we just need to concentrate on another 2 or 3 good results and moving out of the bottom area of the table.
Crewe – Felt they were poor much of the game. They were a far cry from the rapid, footballing side with likes of Pogba, Clayton, Murphy (now at Leeds) and Aneke all causing big problems. Today they looked slow, sluggish and I felt they looked like conceding quite a lot with two slow and clumsy centre backs. They did not control midfield which traditionally has been their strong point and with the two of the aforementioned on the bench they looked a bit powder puff up top with only maybe Moore showing one or two dangerous moments.
Oddly some of their best moments came from set plays and long throws rather than clever, passing football. They actually have some really big lads and towards the end they were comfortably bigger than us. The skipper Osman is huge in the middle of the park. Until the final spell I can only recall one really good passing move that nearly led to a goal back just after half time. They actually were sloppy on the ball and at times looked very slow at the back. The basic marking on the two goals was unacceptable (although the man on the far post could have at least tried to clear it when it went past the keeper!). I felt the keeper who made a few good saves from King and Taylor was very slow down to the shot from Flynn.
They may point to a few turning points that maybe could have changed the game; Long made a really good save first half and then even at 2-0; they had a great chance after a lovely worked move when the lad fired over at the back stick.
They had a good spell for the final 20 minutes with a lot more of the ball, some decent football and won a lot of the loose balls before turning it into the final third. They hit the bar and had a few chances before an actual route one ball through the defence saw Clayton score. I actually felt they may nick another and then it may have been panic stations. However, they were second best for much of the game and the late flourish came too little, too late.
They have lost quite a few recently and confidence must be low. I think with the lack of resources it could be a struggle this season but if they keep playing football and a few underrated players, especially some of the young players; they maybe ok and might just be alright and stay in the division.
Long 7/10 – Made a great save from the header in the first half. Crewe’s other chances hit the bar and was blasted over until the late goal which he got a hand to but it was one on one and thus could not be blamed. At times was a little slow to react to through balls and often left it very late to claim. His kicking was better today both from hands and on the floor.
McMahon 6.5/10 – He started sloppily and gave away a daft free kick trying to over play and a few other times he was trying to do too much. However he got better and I thought he had a good second half with some good tackles, interceptions and runs forward.
Hill 6/10 – So, so game. His distribution is poor and he often just hits in down the line more in hope than any clever pass. His chipped cross/ball is not much better. He was steady enough defensively and made a few blocks in the final period when they came at us. Long term we need to improve in this position. It seems Aidy White may be coming in as we continue to try and find an answer in this position.
Maguire 8/10 – His best game of the season. He came onto the play and was first to the ball all game. He used his anticipation, strength and ability on the ball. He came out well and for the most part (other than a few wild punts) used it well. He scored two good headers; both textbook as they were headed down. With the two goals and his all around performance he was the stand out player on the pitch.
Collins 5.5/10 – I thought he was poor for much of the game and like night and day to Maguire. He was slow, clumsy and error ridden and often just gave it away or kicked it out unnecessarily. He was at fault for the goal as he lost his man and let him run through. He missed a few good chances at the other end too. Needs to improve as Maguire won’t be the one to be taken out if Clough looks to change things and inject some pace here.
Doyle 7.5/10 – Thought as maligned as he is; he was very good much of today. He was busy but in an effective way as he won loose balls, made tackles and used it well when he had it, both short and long. He showed a decent range of passing and cannot recall him giving it away much at all. Tired near the end as they all did. Too easy just to criticise someone every week but credit him today, he did well.
Flynn 7.5/10 – Solid job for the team. Got up and down, worked hard and nearly made a goal for Taylor with a clever run and pull back first half. Second half he y played wide left initially (swapped with Lappin) and drifted inside more and moved around the field and did some good work defensively too. Scored a good low shot after he came inside.
McGinn 7.5/10 – Like Doyle, he was very hard working and won a lot of ball and then carried it on forward rather than always sideways or backwards which has been one big failing of many this season. Thought he showed what a neat and tidy footballer he was with some nice touches and clever bits of play. He too was not as effective towards the end as Crewe finally had a spell. McGinn’s reintroduction to the team has coincided with our improvements.
Lappin 6/10- Nothing spectacular and at times he made some strange decisions with the ball or was sloppy. He got better as the game went on and the positive is he could help protect us defensively. Not sure whether he is any better than anything we have and for a Premier League player (ok only Squad) I am unsure what Cardiff saw in him. I do not think we will see him stay now White is supposed to be coming in and with some of the other options we have
King 5/10 – He was poor and to me looks a combination of unfit and a player on the final stage of his career. He simply could not keep up with the energetic Taylor and was so slow to react to most things. The ball did not always stick and often shot off him. Surprised he lasted as long as he did before he came off. Ironically, he had a decent spell just before he went off with a decent chance which he took down and the keeper saved and held it up a few times. That was the only time he did this.
Taylor 7/10 – Worked very hard. Ran around all game to the point where he could not go any more! As Clough says he maybe does need to get fitter but he did never stop. He chased defenders, harried and pressed and tried to get on the end of through balls. Only had one really good chance when he showed some neat skill to work a shot which the keeper saved. Flicked on for King to have a chance second half and showed a few other neat bits of skill. Much better overall although hopefully he can get a goal at home that his work rate deserves. One weakness is his upper body strength. He gets shoved off the ball or falls to ground too easy and needs to be able to hold defenders off a bit more as he is a little brittle.
Miller – Came on and worked hard getting in the channels. Had one low shot that was comfortable for the keeper. He tried to link with others but at this stage we had less of the ball than we had enjoyed all game. He needs game time and I would be tempted to start him next game; it is not as if King is giving us much in terms of hold up or winning headers.
Coady – Brought on to stiffen up the midfield. Won a few loose balls and interceptions but then gave away a daft free kick at the end which they wasted. Seems in and out of the team at the moment and if Clough does want to play two up top; then he will have to oust Doyle or McGinn, both who did well today.
Cuvelier – Only on for a few minutes. Gave it away with his only real touch. He will now have to fight for his place back as will a few others as we have won a few.
Clough rating 7.5/10 – Good opening day. A win; a solid-ish performance and the crowd go away happy. Too early to gage him of course but a win and a team that seemed to take on board what he wanted judging from his post game comments; to press Crewe high up and ensure they did not have time on the ball. He was far more animated than I remember him from Burton/Derby and within a few minutes was rollocking and shouting a few! (in his tracksuit and white pumps incidentally for those not there!) He had a few words mid game with Doyle and chased the markers on corners (they had a few chances from the tall lad in the middle early on). He was right out of his technical area and was pointing and very involved from the off. He was totally different to Weir who often stood motionless (a lot of rubbish of course spoken about how managers should be - many want the animated, mad man as opposed to the quiet/composed type – but think it matters little to how good a manager you are).
He seemed in dialogue with both Morgan and Andy Garner (another bald headed assistant – I assume that Owen has gone now by the way) throughout with not one particular assistant leading in their assisting. He had a few chats with both the fourth official and also the Crewe manager Steve Davis in the closing stages. He seemed very disappointed with us in the last part of the game and gives him something to work on.
Praise to Morgan though (not only for the 2 previous results) for his work in assisting and preparing the team with Clough.
Officials – Referee: Brendan Malone. Thought he tried to keep things flowing and only booked one player all game; Inman for Crewe for dissent rather than a bad tackle. That was pleasing as there were hardly any bad tackles. A few grapples both ways were let go and I really cannot recall many poor decisions all afternoon. A few offsides were tight (one on Taylor) but overall as is the case with most Crewe sides the games do not tend to be overly physical or dirty.
Crowd/Atmosphere. – There was another good crowd with over 18,000 in there and Clough got a good reaction from everyone. It was an understated welcome and he signalled with a simple hand, acknowledgement before quickly moving out of the way as if he did not want a fuss. It was quiet much of the game with a small Crewe following not helping really but the game lacked any real edge and as we went 2-0 up; it kind of died out (in a good way for us as we were winning) so it kind of was a bit flat. Hopefully if we move up the league; the noise will increase and there will certainly be games where the atmosphere may be a bit better.
Report by: deadbat_db