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Crawley Town vs Crewe Alexandra Preview: Semi-final outsiders battle it out for promotion

Crawley Town and Crewe Alexandra will meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday in a highly anticipated League Two promotion play-off final.

A place in England’s third-tier competition is up for grabs as the two outsiders travel to London after pulling off upsets in their respective semi-final ties. 

Crawley, who pipped Barrow and Bradford City to a coveted seventh-place finish by the skin of their teeth, got the better of Milton Keynes Dons to book their Wembley tickets. 

Despite entering the tie as underdogs, Scott Lindsey’s overachievers swept MK Dons aside with a memorable 8-1 aggregate triumph, winning both legs via multi-goal margins. 

Unlike their opposition, Crewe’s road to Wembley wasn’t straightforward. They had to overhaul a 2-0 first-leg deficit to overcome Doncaster Rovers.

Following an abysmal home performance, Lee Bell’s side were supposed to bow down at the Eco-Power Stadium, but a quick-fire double inside the opening 16 minutes helped them take the tie to penalties. 

Polish goalkeeper Maksymilian Stryjek emerged as a hero in the shoot-out with a crucial save, putting Crewe on the cusp of a League One return. 

As a near-permanent top-seven fixture during the regular campaign, the Railwaymen head into this season-defining showdown as pre-match favourites.

Match Preview

It’s been a rollercoaster campaign for Crawley as they snatched the last play-off spot in the League Two table with a 2-0 home victory against Grimsby on the final day. 

After only winning once in their last five league games towards the end of the regular season, the Sussex outfit had no business hammering fourth-placed MK Dons in the semi-finals.

However, Lindsey’s charges have hit a purple patch at the best possible moment as they bid to return to League One after a nine-year stint in the fourth-tier mid-table. 

Crawley finished one place above dropping out of the EFL last season, highlighting the team’s incredible improvement over the past 12 months. 

Ominously for the Red Devils faithful, Crewe have been a thorn in Crawley’s side for years.

Since a disheartening 3-0 away defeat in November 2018, the Railwaymen have gone from strength to strength in this fixture, racking up six wins in their last seven meetings with Crawley (D1).

Bell’s side emerged victorious from both league clashes against this opposition in the regular season, but their telling H2H record is under imminent threat due to the team’s rough patch.

Arguably the most out-of-sorts side heading into the play-offs, Crewe had only won once in ten matches (D4, L5) before a stunning 2-0 triumph at in-form Doncaster last time out. 

Marshalled out of League One as the division’s worst side two years ago, their third-tier reunion isn’t a foregone conclusion, as they can’t rest easy regardless of their stupendous form against Crawley.

Team News

Fresh off bagging a match-winning hat-trick in the second leg against MK Dons, star striker Danilo Orsi will lead the line for Crawley.

Crewe will be without captain Luke Offord, with Mickey Demetriou expected to wear the armband in his absence.

In addition to scoring a vital opener against Doncaster, Demetriou enjoyed a superb second leg and will be essential to Crewe’s bid to uphold their formidable run against Crawley.

Crawley Town vs Crewe Alexandra Potential Line-ups

Crawley Town (3-4-2-1): Corey Addai; Laurence Maguire, Dion Conroy, Will Wright; Jeremy Kelly, Liam Kelly, Jay Williams, Harry Forester; Klaidi Lolos, Adam Campbell; Danilo Orsi. 

Crewe Alexandra (4-2-3-1): Maksymilian Stryjek; Rio Adebisi, Mickey Demetriou, Ed Turns, Lewis Billington; Conor Thomas, Joel Tabiner; Chris Long, Shilow Tracey, Aaron Rowe; Elliott Nevitt. 

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