Crewe Alexandra: Self-believe the key to further success, says Matt Tootle
MATT Tootle says now is the time for Crewe to prove their play-off credentials as they prepare to take on one of League One's form teams on their own turf.
The Alex, sitting 11th and three points off the top six, travel to a Leyton Orient side tomorrow who have just clocked up their best winning streak in nearly 50 years.
The Os won eight games on the bounce from mid-November to mid-December and, after a couple of off days, were back to their best with a 1-1 draw at Championship side Hull City in the FA Cup.
In midweek they made it into the last four of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy after beating Yeovil Town in the southern section semi-final to set up a match against Southend.
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And in Dave Mooney, who has 10 goals in his last 12 outings, they boast one of the division's hottest strikers.
A tough challenge then, but do not write off a Crewe side who have only suffered back-to-back league defeats once since Steve Davis became manager, insists Tootle.
He said: "If we had won last week (against Stevenage) we would have gone level on points with those in the play-offs, and we've got to keep looking up the table.
"I never thought we would get out of League Two playing a style of football I'd always thought suited a higher division, so when we actually got here I didn't have any fears.
"Sometimes we perhaps underestimate ourselves, but we've come up and done well so we can go to places like Leyton Orient and show we are good enough to pick up a result."
One of the two goals from Tootle's 144-game Alex career came against Orient in the reverse fixture in September when the 22-year-old was playing on the right side of midfield.
He has slipped back into defence since then, filling in at right-back while Kelvin Mellor was in the treatment room and on the left for the past three matches.
"I think it was a shock to everyone when I scored," he added.
"The most important thing for me is to stop players scoring past us, and first things first I try to make sure I don't do anything that makes me look stupid.
"I want to make as few mistakes as possible and I don't think I've done too much wrong recently, but I've got high standards.
"Steve (Davis) makes a habit of telling me I can do better and I need to keep playing well to stay in the team."
Orient are without former Vale midfielder Anthony Griffith, who starts a two-game suspension for a red card picked up in their 1-0 win over Yeovil.
Griffith was also sent off at Gresty Road earlier this season when lunges on Abdul Osman and Luke Murphy earned him two yellow cards and an early bath.
Striker Kevin Lisbie (hamstring) is also a doubt.
The cup runs have hindered Russell Slade's Os' progress in the league, where they still sit 16th, but there should be a buzz around Brisbane Road this weekend.
Right-winger Dean Cox said: "I think the play-offs might be out of reach for us, but the Johnstone's Paint Trophy is a competition we're taking seriously.
"Some people say it's a bad season, but we're doing all right. We're still in two cups and we've got a couple of games in hand. If we win them then we're right back in the mix."
Centre-back Harry Davis (flu) is the only new concern for Crewe, with Ajay Leitch-Smith and Max Clayton battling to fill the boots of departed loanee Lauri Dalla Valle.
Adam Dugdale and Brad Inman are also vying for starting places as manager Davis ponders reverting to a wing-back system.