Turned over

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Barry Whittleton

29 January 2020

Crawley Town 3 Grimsby Town 2

There is something about Crawley which kills the soul. I don't know whether it's their drab ground just off a roundabout in a nondescript part of town. Or maybe it's the fact the whole place just looks like any down-South dormitory town within a 20-mile radius of the M25. I don't know. I do know I've never seen Town win in three visits and every one has been a truly forgetable experience.

Unperturbed by last week's defeat and refreshed (perhaps a little too refreshed) by a Friday night and Saturday morning visit to Brighton we arrived at Gatwick and found our Uber to Crawley. The personable driver gave us a happy 15-minute drive to the Corporate-Sponsored Generic Down South Stadium, or whatever name they give it. The fact she charged us double the price of the one back we didn't discover until our mood had already plummeted.

We'd thought this was going to be the day. Ollie had already visited the tea bars and enjoyed a chat with the Town masses. We had a solid defence and three proper strikers and a midfield that had performed above expectation in the last few weeks. Having secured a spot to the left of the goal - a key requirement in search of away victories - we were confident of a rampant win. The 90 minutes that followed at various times had us believing it was to go to plan and at others wondering where our misplaced optimism had come from.

First half

Town started well and flashed a shot across the host's goal. We then sunk into a 15-minute lethargy which culminated in the obligatory Ollie Palmer goal against us. Why one of the few times the visiting fans were able to raise a song all afternoon to abuse him is perplexing. He wasn't really bad at Town. I'm not convinced it was his decision to leave and I can't remember him giving it the big un when he does score. Maybe I missed something.

Maybe it's just what Crawley does to you, as our usually fervent away support was for the large part moribund for the whole game. Like the team, we slipped in and out of lethargic torpor. Unfortunately the players' lapses proved more significant.

There wasn't any sign of that though for the 55 minutes after Crawley had taken the lead, or indeed the last 10. Town, shaken out of their slumber, put together 65 minutes of reasonable football. The midfield marauded forward. Vernam weaved his way past statuesque defenders at will. Clarke, with his touch, ability to hold, and pass, looked like a proper number 10. Hanson was the striker of August and September: dominant in the air and dangerous with the ball at his feet.

The keeper spilled one of his headers and the transformed Whitehouse equalised. The keeper then redeemed himself with a sharp save of a Hanson header from a quality cross only for the striker to smash the rebound past him for a 2-1 lead.

The rest of half passed by with the Mariners making it seem a matter of time before two became three and a confident half-time prediction of 4-1 was made. Not by me I hasten to add; I will spare Chris's blushes.

Second half

The assaults that took place in the home changing room at half time at first seemed to have no effect. Vernam Whitehouse and Hanson all came close to increasing the lead as the clock ticked to 70 minutes. Perhaps the team had caught the over confidence in the crowd. We had been relatively untroubled and made several good chances to increase the lead.

We were then exposed by a break. With Town pressing in the right corner, the ball broke free and a long ball found a Crawley forward wide against the touchline. A swivel a push and suddenly he was clear with Town racing to play catch-up. He squared and there was Palmer to equalise.

Wounded we sank deep. The fans fell silent(er) as the home fans found voice. A slip in midfield, a lovely ball by Palmer and a clinical finish from just inside the box by Nadesan made it 3-2 to the hosts. In 7 minutes the game had been spun on its head.

Wright and Tilley were introduced either side of what proved to be the winning goal, and Town rallied. The last 10 minutes were played mostly in the Crawley half with defenders - probably fearful of another slap -  throwing themselves in front of goal-bound shots. The obligatory denied penalty and suddenly it was over. We'd lost.

Only the long journey back to our scattered homes lay before us, without the boost of the win that had looked nailed on for so long. It was Crawley. Nothing much had changed except in the last two visits we never looked like winning. This one we should have. Never mind. Always next year.