Crewe Alex: Baker hoping history is on Crewe's side in play-off showdown
NEIL Baker is hoping to summon the spirit of 1997 to help inspire Crewe to promotion through the League Two play-offs.
The Alex assistant manager was part of the backroom team who helped guide a side featuring Danny Murphy and Mark Rivers to the old Division Two through the back door in 1996-97.
And while he claims experience counts for little in what can be an end-of-season lottery, Baker insists good form is invaluable – and the Railwaymen have that in spades after going 16 games unbeaten.
Crewe take on Southend in Saturday's opening play-off semi-final match at Gresty Road (5.30pm), followed by the return at Roots Hall on Wednesday, May 16 (7.45pm).
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The winners will then progress to a Wembley showdown against either Torquay or Cheltenham on May 27 (3pm).
Baker said: "The two legs give us more of a chance, I think. We finished in seventh, so people will regard Torquay and Southend as the favourites to go up given their positions in the table.
"People say form goes out of the window in the play-offs, but I'm not so sure it does. We are a long time unbeaten and certainly happy to be going into these games on the back of such a good run.
"Of course, there will be twists and turns, and decisions that will have us on the edge of our seats.
"We are all in the lap of the gods to a certain extent, but you give yourselves the best chance by playing at your best."
Crewe turned on the style when they last reached the play-offs 15 years ago.
The Railwaymen had been on a run of just one win in their last five league games, but found top gear to beat Luton Town 2-1 at Gresty Road before drawing the away leg 2-2.
They went on to beat Brentford 1-0 in the final at Wembley to earn a place in English football's second tier for the first time in 101 years.
Baker said: "That play-off campaign is quite a long time ago now, but I remember it being very exciting.
"It was a really hard game down at Luton, but we did well.
"At Wembley we were exceptional – so let's hope history repeats itself."
Crewe have lost just four times in 29 league games since Steve Davis took over as manager last November – but the last time they were beaten was on February 18 at Roots Hall.
In fact, the Shrimpers' form is almost as good as Crewe's after they ended the regular season going 500 minutes without conceding a goal, missing out on automatic promotion by a single point.
It promises to be a tough challenge for Crewe's young side, but they received a welcome boost yesterday with the news that skipper Dave Artell (hamstring) and defender Carl Martin (calf) are both winning races to be fit for Saturday's match.