Crewe Alex: Upwardly mobile Crewe to get tough Rhodes test
STEVE Davis is hoping Crewe's encounter with Huddersfield hot-shot Jordan Rhodes tonight will steel his side for their League One campaign.
Rhodes dominated the division last season, scoring 40 goals in all competitions as the Terriers were promoted via the play-offs.
The 22-year-old is set to start in tonight's friendly at Gresty Road (7.30pm) – which is just the challenge the Crewe manager wants for his young side.
He said: "Jordan Rhodes has scored a lot of goals in League One. He's not proven in the Championship, so will be looking to get a lot of goals again.
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"But whoever the strikers are, as you climb through the divisions they get better and your defending has to get better to accommodate that.
"I remember playing at that level myself.
"You never have an easy day. All the teams have good strikers who are capable of ripping you apart if you are not on your game."
Centre-halves Adam Dugdale and Mark Ellis coped impressively at home to Bolton on Saturday as Kevin Davies had a quiet game in the 1-1 draw.
Crewe boss Davis, below, is hoping for another stern test this evening having deliberately targeted Championship opposition.
Crewe will complete their friendlies with another second-tier side when they entertain Barnsley on Tuesday.
Davis said: "We wanted to play Championship teams because that is our next level. It is what we are trying to aspire to.
"We weren't going to play any other League One teams and didn't really want to play Premier League teams.
"So the Championship is the next level and is a good benchmark for us to see where we need to be.
"Even though they are only pre-season friendlies you get an idea of the difference in quality."
Striker Ajay Leitch-Smith will miss tonight's game after suffering a hairline fracture of his little toe against Bolton.
That could give Michael West a chance in the forward line following his arrival from Ebbsfleet.
However, Davis expects Leitch-Smith to be fine for the Barnsley game.
He said: "It is one of those things that you can play on with if you have the bottle to do it, and you can put up with a little bit of pain and discomfort. That will be a test for him. Personally, it wouldn't bother me too much, but you never know with one or two of the boys.
"We won't risk him against Huddersfield, but he will be okay."
Huddersfield will give a debut to new signing Keith Southern, who joined them from Blackpool last week for an undisclosed fee.
The 31-year-old midfielder spent a decade at Bloomfield Road and will return there to play for Blackpool one last time in his testimonial against Everton on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Huddersfield are determined to hang on to star striker Rhodes, despite reported interest from West Ham, Fulham, Reading and Celtic.
Huddersfield rate the Scotland international at £8m and have their man under contract for the next three years.