Blog Updated December 31, 2005
Crewe will once again be without striker Michael Higdon when they face QPR at Gresty Road on Saturday.
Higdon's stomach injury has kept him out of the last two matches and his place is likely to go to Eddie Johnson once again.
Defender Richard Walker misses out with an ankle injury but Adie Moses could return.
Dario Gradi's side have drawn their last three matches, but they are without a win in eight.
Rangers expect striker Marc Nygaard to be fit, even though he limped out of Wednesday's 1-0 victory over Cardiff shortly after scoring the winner.
Hamstring victim Kevin Gallen remains on the sidelines along with midfielder Tommy Doherty who has a leg injury.
Stefan Moore sat out the midweek success due to illness but he will return to the squad for the journey to Cheshire. Crewe 5/4 Draw 9/4 QPR 7/4
This is Staffordshire
OPPORTUNITY KNOCKING FOR RODGERS
30 December 2005
Crewe boss Dario Gradi will have an extra headache when he sits down to pen his attacking line-up for tomorrow's clash with QPR. Spoilt for choice all season with the likes of Steve Jones, Mike Higdon, Eddie Johnson and Luke Varney all vying for a place in the starting line-up, there's now a new boy in town.Dogged by injury since his arrival from Shrewsbury Town during the summer, Luke Rodgers finally made his mark for the Alex this week in extraordinary circumstances.
Thrown on by Gradi in the 93rd minute against Coventry in a last-ditch attempt to salvage something from the game, Rodgers hardly had time to get his bearings before nodding home Kenny Lunt's cross for a dramatic last-gasp equaliser.It was the 23-year-old's first touch of the match and also broke his scoring duck for a club at which he had previously failed to fulfil his undoubted promise.And with Higdon currently out injured and Johnson's future at the club still hanging in the balance, there is no better opportunity for Rodgers to come to the fore and prove his worth.Gradi has always been a keen admirer of the 23-year-old, whose birthday is on Sunday, and Crewe had a substantial bid for him turned down in 2002 when Shrewsbury were relegated.An ankle injury prevented the Brummie, who has just one start and nine substitute appearances to his name so far, from making an immediate impact.But having now bagged that crucial first goal, he could well be vying for a run in the first team.Gradi was pleased with Rodgers's performance when thrown on in an attempt to secure a point and has always hoped that his long-term target would bear fruit."Scoring that goal will be good for Luke as he has had a tough time since coming here." said Gradi. "But he has worked hard and is starting to do well."He is an exciting player and works hard in training. He has a good attitude around the place and I'm glad he's here."
Another factor Gradi must consider is Jones's lack of confidence and the future of Johnson.Jones has not scored since he bagged a brace against Millwall at the start of November and appears to be suffering a crisis in front of goal.This was apparent when he spurned a glorious opportunity against Coventry in the 87th minute, tamely toe-poking the ball straight into the arms of keeper Marlon Fulop when one against one.Meanwhile, Johnson's loan spell from Manchester United is up at the end of the month and the young striker has yet to decide whether to remain at Gresty Road or move on to pastures new.Currently considering offers from various other clubs, the game against QPR could well be the last Johnson plays for the club.
But whoever Gradi chooses to spearhead his attack, he will be hoping his side can continue a scoring run which has seen them net in their last four games against a QPR side which has kept just one clean sheet on its travels this season.T he Londoners, however, travel north buoyed by their 1-0 victory against Cardiff on Wednesday night and manager Ian Holloway has no fresh injury concerns. Although striker Marc Nygaard, whose goal 60 seconds after the restart sealed the points for the Londoners, was substituted on the hour due to a lack of match fitness and Marc Bircham suffered tight hamstrings after the game, both are expected to make the trip.
One to watch: Lee Cook - a striker turned left winger, who has an eye for goal, bags of pace and can deliver a fine cross into the box for the powerful Paul Furlong
FIT-AGAIN WALKER VOWS TO WIN BACK HIS PLACE
BY SEAN MCFARLANE09:30 - 30 December 2005
Richard Walker has pledged to fight for his place in the Crewe back four ahead of tomorrow's clash with QPR.The 25-year-old central defender has been out for the past two weeks with a leg injury, but is now back in training and hoping to force his way back into Dario Gradi's plans. But he knows that he will face a battle to make it back into the starting line-up after Stephen Foster and Chris McCready have impressed in his absence.He said: "I have been working hard in the gym over these two weeks trying to get back to fitness and now I am looking to get back into the side. Of course, it is going to be tough as Foz (Stephen Foster) has done well since coming in and taken his opportunity well."Walker was pleased with his performances before he picked up the injury.He said: "I was having a good run in the side, so it was disappointing to be forced out of it when things were going well."It has been frustrating to be out for these two weeks but, of course, I am pleased the defence is doing well as we are a team at the end of the day."
Walker admits he may not be fully ready to step straight back into the side at the expense of Foster or McCready for the game against QPR, but is also focused on Monday's trip to Sheffield Wednesday."I am not sure about the fitness of the others," he said, "but I am prepared to come in and start and we will just have to see how it goes. I just want to be back and available for selection, whether it be for tomorrow or Monday's game against Wednesday."http://www.thisisthesentinel.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=158780&command=displayContent&sourceNode=158705&contentPK=13754453&folderPk=87662