Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Pat Bell
2 January 2018
Crewe Alexandra 2 Grimsby Town 0
You know how good teams can make the game look so simple? Well, this Town team make football look like bloody hard work.
Changes, we learnt, before kick-off. Ooh, exciting: new year, so out with the old, and in with the older. The players who might make a difference are at Solihull, Barrow and Scarborough. We no longer have a squad, just a big set of human components. We started in a 4-5-1: Killip, Davies, Karleigh Osborne, Clarke, Dixon, Berrett, Woolford, Summerfield, Dembele, Jaiyesimi and Vernon.
First half: Deflation and defenestration
Let it be said: we started well. Dembele made a dummy run, engineering space for Davies and Summerfield, probably, to exchange passes. Davies crossed from the right. Jaiyesimi stretched, met the ball on the ground and diverted it goalwards. It crawled towards the line. The Crewe keeper clawed at it and pulled it to safety. That was a chance that was.
Crewe had spied potential down our right. Their left-back Bakayogo had already drawn a foul from Dembele, a boy on a man. Now they worked the ball across the pitch, Town dallying as they appealed for a foul and found a two-on-one advantage. Bakayogo found space in the Town box and had time to pick his man. Porter rushed in unmarked and clipped the ball home from six yards out.
Summerfield fist-pumped. Others' heads dropped. Chants of "Fenty out" alternated with chants of "Slade out". Crewe continued to open up our right. Killip stood tall and beat out a high fierce shot at the near post. Then Crewe began to realise how easy it was to get in behind our back four. Two chances went begging simply because Crewe forwards could not believe the ball would reach them past our Maginot Line.
Then our luck ran out. Aiming at commanding, Killip came out to the penalty spot to punch away a cross from their right. It was a firm punch but mistimed, reaching only the edge of the area. No-one in defence reacted quickly enough and Walker was able to drill it firmly and accurately past the stranded Killip into the top corner of the net.
Two-nil was enough. Hell, one-nil would have been enough. Crewe eased off. With minutes to go until half time we were handed a lifeline. Summerfield almost broke through but the last man in the Crewe defence slid and studded the ball back towards his keeper. Garratt, under no pressure, decided to flop on it. The ref hesitated then decided he had seen a back-pass and awarded Town an indirect free-kick on the edge of the goal area.
There was the usual jockeying. A couple of dummies to try and draw the encroachment. Finally, the ball was tapped back to Summerfield. Summerfield, glory be, had clear space and time. We rose as he thwacked the ball hard and true. We rose as the ball rose above the line of Crewe defenders. The ball carried on rising, above the bar to rebound off an overhead hoarding. We'd have had that sinking feeling if we hadn't been so thoroughly sunk already.
Second half: Watching the treadmill
At half time, Jaiyesimi made way for Matt and Town reverted to 4-4-2. Strangely the change made us more sturdy in defence. Strangely as Matt played like a man in a nightmare, like a man who knew he had once known how to be a centre-forward, knew some of the moves he was meant to make but not when to make them. Vernon played better for having a partner but neither he nor Matt looked like they wanted to shoot. Dixon, especially, engineered the time and space to put in some inviting crosses. The invitations were returned unanswered: not known at this address.
Town dominated possession and territory. Dembele saw more of the ball and wriggled, but always too far from goal to be a threat. Woolford had a shot. Best of all, Summerfield strode on to a well-weighted pass from Berrett and shot from distance. He beat the keeper but the ball went the wrong side of the post. Town dominated, but Crewe came closer to scoring, ending a long spell of Town possession with a break and a shot against the bar.
The good thing about the Town performance is that, with the exception of Matt, no individual played notably badly and everyone worked hard. I feared for Killip after the second goal but he pulled himself together, got away with another punch (this time down into the ground of a crowded penalty area), and tried to use the ball well. The worrying thing about the Town performance is that although no-one played badly and although no-one stopped trying, we never looked like an effective football team. So many players look like they'd be fine if they had someone else to play off, but all we have is more of the same. Slade has shuffled his pack and found it consists entirely of low hearts.
So where do we go from here?