HAD you asked even the most optimistic of Crewe Alexandra’s fans at Christmas time last year, none would have dared to dream they would be making arrangements for a play-off final.

But when Max Clayton’s 86th minute strike all but sealed the Railwaymen’s passage into the League Two play-offs final, the fans were left planning their first ever trip to the new Wembley.

That play-off semi final victory at Roots Hall marked the penultimate step in what has been a remarkable journey for Crewe this season and their fans can surely be forgiven for thinking that far from being on the railway line, they had instead been placed on the tracks of a rollercoaster.

There was nothing in the opening weeks of the season that may have indicated that they would be making an attempt on League One - far from it, they instead lost five games on the bounce to give warning signs that trouble may be on the horizon.

That poor run of form culminated in a big change for Crewe on November 5, when long-term manager and dedicated clubman Dario Gradi left his position. That came after a 3-0 defeat to Torquay and prompted the move into his current role as head of the academy.

Gradi’s suggestion to the club hierarchy that the job should go to assistant Steve Davis will go down as one of the turning points of a remarkable season, with Davis taking the helm while the club was struggling in 18th place.

A 4-1 defeat in the FA Cup to Colchester marked Davis’ first game in charge, but results soon started an upwards curve and since that match on November 12, Davis’ Crewe have lost only four of their 31 fixtures.

Crewe’s last defeat in the league came on February 18, when Davis’ rejuvenated side lost 1-0 on the road to Southend, so there is a wonderful symmetry in the fact that to reach the final they avenged that defeat at Roots Hall - the 18th match in an unbeaten run that has taken the Alex all the way to Wembley.