Russell's last stand

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Peter Hopgood

14 February 2018

The last time I was here was our first match as a non-league side: a sunny day, lots of rowdy Town supporters packed into the terracing. Today: a lower mid-table League side, freezing cold, driving drizzle and not quite 250 scattered Town supporters. Us seated posh ones housed in one end of a giant wedding marquee; the standing sturdy ones forced up into the top steps of a shallow terrace to stay reasonably dry.

As Macca was out I recognised nobody in the Town squad; they were as anonymous as the Crawley players.

I always enjoy watching the warm-up, you can tell a lot from it. Warrington’s session with Killip showed a steady keeper good on shots and crosses, probably just needing some match experience to steady him. Him or Macca will be worth a decent fee one day.

Warrington could have got himself a cup of Bovril for the strikers warm-up; he would not have spilled a drop. It was an embarrassment of misses, soft and scuffed shots; in fact Warrington gave Killip a harder work out. Perhaps we should play Warrington up front? The rest of the squad looked like the supporters; we could all have been doing something much more interesting and enjoyable than having to go through with this.

First half

For some reason, whoever won the toss decided to play arse about face, Crawley attacking their end in the first half, like watching a film in reverse. For the first 20 minutes Town looked on top. For some reason Crawley were holding back, treating us like a team that scored goals for fun. Then, as it dawned on them that we didn't, it evened out.

Jackson was a threat if he got the ball to his feet or the couple of times the 'boomball' dropped over his defender, but he couldn’t control it. Wilks I expected great things of after reading about his speed and attack. Unfortunately Russ had had another week to coach that sort of thing out of him and he was a disappointment. Vernam looked the one player who might do something. Confident enough to try the unexpected but sometimes too lightweight to prevent big Crawlers knocking him off the ball. But still he was too good for Russ who took him off in the second half; we don't want his sort playing like that.

Woolford? Oh dear. He might have experience but he just does not have the pace now. The spirit is probably willing etc, etc. Summerfield has the energy but possibly not the leadership we need in midfield at the moment. Berrett: who? To be fair there was somebody else running around the middle of the pitch.

Clarke and Osborne were solid enough in the first half. Dixon and Mills likewise. In fact Mills had possibly the best chance of the first half running into the area. Us wedding guests had the perfect view as we saw the very second he should shoot and score. Unfortunately Zak was probably thinking about Russ yelling at him at half time that he had loads of strikers who could do that sort of thing - putting the ball in the net - and what did he think he was doing? The second passed and so did the opportunity.

Then a Crawler scampered into our area, Osborne fell one way, the Crawler the other and Summerfield slid under him. Penalty. Goal. Half-time.

Second half

Kewell's half time team talk went like this: Sorry chaps, I got the fixtures mixed up. It's Luton on Tuesday, this lot are Grimsby. So forget everything I said about tactics, trying to hold them and a draw would be a great result, just go and fill your boots. Now who wants a tea? Russ meanwhile wanted to show that he could use his whole squad and replaced Wilks with Kelly.

The second half can be summed up by comparing it with a Some Mothers Do Have 'em sketch: Frank (Russ) ends up standing surrounded by dust and wreckage as a house collapses around him. Shock may have made him send on Hooper for Vernam. Crawley cut loose and scored twice more. After the second Town supporters started leaving: no rancour just resignation.

Mercifully the game ended before we all succumbed to frostbite. Town players clapped the supporters, the supporters clapped back. Again no anger, just a stunned, resigned nothing. We are going down unless somebody does something.

Nathan Clarke did a circuit of the Town end of the pitch applauding us when he probably just wanted to go home like we did. It's the little things like that that matter. And Karleigh Osborne jogged over to the far side of the pitch to talk to some Town fans and was still there when I left the ground. Again it's those small things that help.