Crewe Alexandra: Max Clayton's contribution can kick-start his season, says Steve Davis
MAX Clayton's first goal in three months will help his self-belief that he can thrive in League One, says Crewe manager Steve Davis.
Big things have always been expected of youth graduate Clayton, but he has had to be patient for his chance in the first team this season.
The 18-year-old's start in a 1-1 draw at Leyton Orient on Saturday was his first since a groin injury and drop in confidence saw him taken out of the firing line in October.
Davis was impressed with his performance that day, and even more so when Clayton changed the game from the bench when Crewe played Bradford on Tuesday night.
The Johnstone's Paint Trophy northern semi-final was a cagey affair before Clayton replaced Ajay Leitch-Smith and converted Byron Moore's cross with a glancing header.
The teenager had a similar effort ruled out for offside minutes later as Crewe won 4-1, and now he is in contention for a start, weather permitting, when MK Dons come to town in League One on Saturday (3pm).
Davis said: "I thought Max played quite well at Leyton Orient. His movement was good without having the scoring opportunities; that's all his game was missing.
"He's young and he's going to have games when not everything goes his way, and perhaps he lost his confidence a little bit.
"Nick Powell played his football in League Two and found it easy, but we've asked Max to come in at a higher, tougher level.
"He's got the talent and we all know it's just a matter of time for him to shine. Hopefully the goal and his play against Bradford have given him new belief."
Ground staff at Gresty Road have been unable to cover the playing surface to protect against frost since opening the pitch to the elements on Tuesday.
The covers had helped ensure referee Nigel Miller gave the nod for the Bradford game to be played, but the same treatment would not help the pitch thaw out.
The temperature dipped to minus 3C last night, but is predicted to rise a little today and tomorrow, when snow is expected to fall in the town.
Club spokesman Rob Wilson said: "It's early to make any guesses about the MK Dons game at the moment, but we can't put the covers down on the pitch after they were removed for the Bradford game.
"They've given out snow for Friday so that should mean the temperature rises a little bit.
"Hopefully the pitch will be okay and we can get the game on. Obviously we will know more over the next couple of days."
Bradford manager Phil Parkinson reckoned it had been against the odds that their match at Gresty Road was given the all clear.
He explained: "If we're honest, the game probably shouldn't have been played. Both Steve Davis and I both wanted it on, but it was touch and go.
"I asked the ref before the game if he'd looked at the pitch and he said he'd seen it in the afternoon when it was nice and soft. I told him he'd obviously not been out there in the last hour because it was by then bone hard.
"It was as difficult a surface as I can recall."