Crewe Alexandra: Fuming Steve Davis cries foul over sides’ set-piece shenanigans
STEVE Davis is prepared to launch a campaign against the “basketball-style” marking he thinks is infiltrating League One set-piece routines.
The Crewe manager said he watched in a hot temper as Stoke City scored a meticulously-planned corner in a televised Premier League match at West Ham on Monday.
Former Stoke trainee Davis believes the referee should have awarded a foul when Charlie Adam blocked the run of defender George McCartney before Jon Walters volleyed home.
Just 24 hours later, it was the Alex on the wrong end of a similar plan.
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Sheffield United’s Harry Maguire had his arms wrapped around Crewe centre-back Mark Ellis at a corner before freeing himself to convert the Blades’ second in a 3-3 draw.
Davis said: “It was a foul on Mark. He was blocked off, but a lot of teams are using that tactic now, and for some reason referees don’t see it or don’t give fouls.
“Is it a good tactic or a foul? We will do some work to avoiding getting blocked. We shouldn’t have to, but we will have to.
“I listened to Gary Neville’s analysis of Stoke’s goal (on Sky Sports) and he said it was brilliant. I say it’s not brilliant, it’s a foul.
“If you were to take that situation out of the box, put it on the halfway line and have a player marking a man and not facing the ball and he’s got his arms around him, the referee would think why are you looking at the ball? He’d blow his whistle.
“If it’s on the pitch, it’s a foul.”
Davis admits he was no shrinking violet during his playing days as a centre-back with Crewe, Burnley, Barnsley and Oxford.
But the 47-year-old is no fan of what he sees as cynical defending.
He said: “It’s been going on for years. It happened in my day, blocking players to get an advantage.
“It’s professional, but is it correct by the laws of the game? I don’t think it is. Maybe it’s something they need to look at.
“Referees should be able to identify it. All they have to do is look away from the ball and look at the movement.
“Look at the way Ryan Shawcross marks, he marks with his arms around the player. It’s like basketball-type marking when you not looking at the ball but at the man who’s going to receive the ball.
“You’re obstructing the player from making any movement and normally they both end up on the floor in a tangle.
“For me that’s a foul and we have to decide whether we are going to accept it or punish it.”
Maguire’s goal was only the fourth time Crewe have conceded from a set-piece this season, although Shaun Miller’s opener had originally come from a half-cleared corner.
The Alex themselves have scored from five set-pieces – and Ellis’s goal at Bramall Lane also came from a corner which had only been cleared as far as Luke Murphy.
No-one should expect Davis to incorporate any “dark arts” into his side’s routines, however, even if he is tempted to join the party.
He said: “We do not mark like that. We could do, but there’s no point in me saying all that then asking my players to do the mark in that same way.
“It would certainly help because everyone else does it. Maybe if we can get away with it, which everyone does at the moment, we should mark tighter with arms around the opposition.
“Unless there’s a change in the law, teams are going to do it, but we don’t because we think the referee will, or should, give a foul for it.”
Of just as much concern to Davis has been his side’s tendency to concede early goals.
It was a familiar story when Miller but the home side ahead with just four minutes on the clock in South Yorkshire.
In all, Crewe have gone behind to the opening goal 11 times in matches this season, fighting back to avoid defeat on four occasions.
Twenty of the 27 goals they have conceded in League One have come in the first half, with 16 of those coming in the first half-hour of matches.
Davis said: “I hope we can start better today (against Crawley) and give ourselves a chance rather than playing catch up.
“We can’t quite put our finger on what goes wrong in the early stages.
“We’ve been watching DVDs and often we have been the better team in most opening spells only to lose concentration at key moments and pay the price. We’ve got to improve.”