Jules Hornbrook: Classy Alex have the look of a Wembley team
KICKING off at 5.30pm on a Saturday will never sit easy with Alex fans.
It's a schedule reserved for the prima donnas of the Premier League.
However, for once it meant the TV cameras were dotted about Gresty Road catching every moment of our classy performance against Southend.
The Alex were a cut above, standing tall and repelling anything that the visitors threw at us.
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Nick Powell was shackled, but others took the opportunity to shine.
Byron Moore and Ajay Leitch-Smith led the charge and wouldn't have looked out of place in a Championship side.
And yet the decisive goal came from our defensive rock Adam Dugdale, who marshalled the defence in David Artell's enforced absence.
The final minutes were tense, but once again the Alex ground out the result their dominant possession deserved.
It was a near-perfect first-leg performance, giving us the edge we needed ahead of tonight's encounter down south.
Manager Steve Davis should also be applauded.
He kept the players going until the final whistle, employing a cautious but professional approach in the closing minutes.
Many were screaming for the Alex to go all-out attack, deploy gung-ho tactics to grab the extra goal.
But Davis made sure we didn't open up and leave ourselves susceptible to the counter attack.
That was spot on, stifling the visitors – and their confidence will have been dented ahead of the return leg.
They are a team used to scoring goals and winning.
There should be a decent following in deepest Essex – especially with the London Alex Exiles able to take in a relatively local game.
Many others, however, will enjoy the rare luxury of another televised Alex match to watch the drama unfold.
Living rooms and pubs around Crewe will be rocking one last time before, we hope, a magical day out at Wembley on May 27.
The two-leg contest is still too close to call, but surely the lads won't buckle now?
A score draw is possible and perhaps a sensible wager, but I'm not entertaining any thoughts of Southend overturning our lead.
If the new-look Alex we have come to love in recent months show up at Roots Hall, we should have nothing to worry about.