Deflated but defiant

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Mike Worden

29 October 2018

Crewe Alexandra 2 Grimsby Town 0

Both teams came into this game on unbeaten runs. Sadly the Railwaymen were still on that run after a dominant second-half showing. Nevertheless this was a far improved Town performance compared to form a few weeks ago, but also compared to recent visits to Gresty Road.

Historically a poor hunting ground for Grimsby with our last win at Crewe being in 1990, the last two visits were dire. Two seasons ago the Bignot three at the back experiment imploded within minutes of kick-off and the manager was left to apologise to the angry band of travelling supporters. On new year's day last season, Slade's team's performance was nearly, but not quite, as embarrassing as Bignot's. Both managers only lasted a few more weeks in the hotseat.

Nearly 500 Grimbarians took their places in the Ice Cream Van Morrison Stand, or something like that. With the first snow of the autumn falling in Cheshire that morning, and with temperatures dropping, the thought of an ice cream was the last thing the travelling Mariners wanted. Getting a cup of tea though was an impossible task. There were still people in the queue from last week's game. More stewards than at Glastonbury, but one person with a one-litre kettle to make brews for 500 cold away fans.

Town lined up with a back four of Collins, Whitmore, Hendrie and Hall-Johnson in front of McKeown, a midfield of Mitch Rose, Clifton, Embleton and Hooper and a front two of Vernam and Thomas.

First half

From the off, Town looked positive and pressed to win possession. Crewe's right winger, Ainley, looked lively and an indication of the local lad's threat was given early on when he ran at the town defence and launched a shot-cum-cross across McKeown's goal.

Town appeared to have more of the possession and more of the play was in the home half, but struggled to capitalise on that advantage. There seemed to be a reluctance to take a shot and a number of times the ball was worked to the edge of the box only to be played back to a midfielder or defender. It was as one spectator noted, Buckleyesque, but without the trickery of the master's team in the final third. When shots were hit, they were ineffective. Hooper shot wide and Embleton's free kick was easily saved. Vernam and Hooper both had shots but they were tame and straight at Garrett in the Crewe goal. Town's corner routine was fairly poor all game.

At the other end, despite the balance of play, McKeown was the busier of the two keepers. He pulled off a fantastic double save when a cross from the pesky Ainley was floated over to the unmarked Charlie Kirk beyond the far post. The Town number 1 came rushing out to stop Kirk and then got back in the centre of the goal to save the follow-up shot from James Jones.

Grimsby's best chances of the match came at the end of the first half. Thomas turned the his marker and ran on goal, both he and the referee ignoring Nicky Hunt's determined efforts to pull him back. Finally shaking himself free in the penalty area, Thomas's shot was deflected wide of the near post by the goalkeeper. The Crewe goalkeeper was called into action again in the last action of the half when he pulled off a save from Hooper.

Second half

In the second half Town's pressing and dominance of the possession started to falter and Crewe looked more dangerous as the game went on. McKeown again was called in to action to rush out and thwart Jordan Bowery who had been put clean through on the Town goal. Cook was brought on to replace Hooper with Vernam switching to left midfield. Embleton had a shot which landed on platform 13 on the station behind.

On 70 minutes, the home side took the lead. Kirk on the left cut inside and knocked a long ball to the right to the advancing right-back, Whelan, who, despite a bad first touch, composed himself to slot the ball under McKeown. Kirk had seen Whelan running. With Hendrie sucked into a central position and Vernam also out of position, the full-back arrived in the box like a surprise steam train passing through Crewe station. Manager Dave Artell revealed after the game that it was a deliberate instruction to Whelan to make such deep runs.

Pringle replaced Embleton as Jolley tried to inject some pace into Town's attacking options. However things got worse not long after when Rose and Pringle got in a tangle on the wide right trying to win back possession, and when the ball was played back to a Crewe player his penetrating cross slipped between Collins and Whitmore, allowing Miller to stoop low and head home. A killer blow and only McKeown looked animated enough to encourage the team to try to salvage something from the game with around 13 minutes left on the clock.

Clifton was replaced by Hessenthaler but it all too late. Crewe could have got a third in the final minutes but for a fine save by the impressive McKeown.

No dissenting voices from the travelling 500 at the final whistle and there was warm applause for the team's efforts. Quite a contrast to full time on the last two visits, but Town need to pick themselves up for the trip to Cambridge on Saturday. This was a game when they needed to be more decisive and positive in attack, more organised at the back and be effective for the whole 90 minutes. Without McKeown's heroics, the score could have been significantly worse.