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League One

Andy Ritchie's Blog 33

3 April 2013

I wish Crewe Alexandra all the best for their Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final clash against Southend United on Sunday. They won at Wembley in the Play-Offs last season, and I believe they can do it again.

It can't have been easy for the side to lose their two best players, Nick Powell and Ashley Westwood, last summer but they've enjoyed a steady if unspectacular season on their return to npower League 1.

They still play some lovely football - as is their trademark - and they continue to produce talented young players, and despite being mid-table that should be regarded as a good effort in my book.

I just hope that the club sell a late rush of tickets for Wembley because if reports are to be believed they will be heavily outnumbered by Southend fans under the arch.

Having done so well to make it this far I'd love to see the local fans get behind the team, and enjoy a lovely weekend in London. It could be a bit disheartening for the players to walk out and see little over 11,000 of their own fans.

My message to the Alex fans is this; come on, dip into your pockets and get behind your team!

In npower League 1, it's as tight as ever at both ends of the table, with Bournemouth being this week's occupiers of the second automatic promotion spot. Having played more matches than Sheffield United and Brentford that might not last too long, but at least the Cherries have the points in the bag.

Brett Pitman, who has netted goals in five consecutive matches, has been the catalyst for Bournemouth's late surge - and if he can maintain his hot streak I feel they could be hard to stop.

Ever since I first saw him years ago I've always rated Pitman. He's someone that catches the eye with his skill, and natural poaching ability in and around the penalty box. He's sharp, and when he's confident, is a very difficult guy to keep at bay.

Pitman's influence is a good example to players who become frustrated at being on the bench. Earlier on this season he was in and out of the first team, but now he's the main man.

That's why it's always silly to write yourself off when things aren't going your way.

Elsewhere, I read with interest Carlisle United's chairman John Nixon bemoaning the lack of cash that's filtering down from the Premier League's TV deals. He feels that the financial strain on clubs in npower League 1 and 2 could force a return to regional and part-time football if we're not careful.

Hopefully that's a scenario that won't occur, but I don't know anyone outside of the Premier League who doesn't believe a greater share of the TV money from Sky and BT shouldn't be distributed to the lower leagues. What each club receives compared to the pot as a whole is peanuts, it really is.

If a club of Coventry City's size and stature is unable to pay rent to its stadium owners it's clear that money is really hard to come by. They might not get the attendances they used to get, but they still bring many more through the gate than most, yet it's still a huge struggle.

Thankfully the Sky Blues' 10-point penalty for going into administration won't see them dip into relegation trouble. Hopefully they can get things straight with the stadium owners, and build themselves back up slowly next term.

Last but not least, congratulations must go to Graham Westley for being appointed manager of Stevenage for a third time. It must feel as if he's come home this week.

It might not have worked out for Graham Westley at Preston North End but each time he's bossed Stevenage he's done ever so well, so I'm sure the fans are pleased to see him back at the helm.

His main priority will be to make the Lamex Stadium the nasty place to visit that it was in his second spell. Opponents were given a really rough, uncomfortable time on every visit and it played right into Stevenage's hands.

For a club of their size to compete at this level they have to make their home ground intimidating and there's no doubt Westley will be aiming to do that once more.

In the past he's stuck to the same group of players, but I sense that this time around he might have a fresh start and look to recruit a new batch of hungry, youngsters who are willing to buy into his often discussed work ethic.

Westley and Stevenage are a good combination, so I'd be surprised if things don't pick up for them right away.

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