Setting sail in a sieve

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

12 February 2017

Crewe 5 Patsies 0

The sky was dark and the voyage was long, and happen what may, it's extremely wrong. In a sieve they went to sea.

In spite of what 740 Town fans could say, on a winter's morn, on a stormy day, Marcus Bignot set sail to his alma mater in search of the hero inside himself, to apply his science with his shiny new Meccano set. The gods are speaking to us, they are sending a sartorial message, for today the bird of night did sit, even at noon-day, upon Crewe Market Place, hooting and shrieking at Town playing in white socks. Who wasn't?

Town lined up in a wholly holey holy mish-mash-mess 3-5-2 using the Whyte Notation System of just-counting-the-wheels-as-they-come-off formation as follows: McKeown, Pearson, Gunning, Collins, Davies, Osborne, Comley, Clements, Andrew, Yussuf and Dyson. The substitutes were Boyce, Mills, Disley, Bolawinra, S Jones, Vernon and Asante. And when this sieve turned round and round, everyone cried, "You’ll be drowned".

Crewe, what a miserable place. It's like standing on Grimsby Road.

1st Half – arsled

Crewe kicked off towards their six-seater stand. The water it soon came in, it did, the water it soon came in.

Davies dawdled and Pearson was pulled as Crewe walked a waltz up their left, under the noses of the remnants of the Stevenage army. Cooper and Cooke practiced their Farrah Fawcett flicks and tricks around some feeble twigs and a jazzy red shirt promenaded deep into the penalty area, unhindered by monochrome. Cooper cat-walked through the calamity and calmly passed the ball under and through the sprawling McKeown from the narrowest slither of turf left before he ended up on platform 4.

Some Town fans were still on platform 4. Turn back now. Go home, switch off your generic fruit-based devices (or combustible chocolate bar competitors). Turn, turn, turn, this is a time to laugh, a time to weep. Weep don't tweet.

So to keep them dry, Town wrapped their feet in a pinky paper all folded neat, and they fastened it down with a pin. And they passed down the right in a crockery-jar and Osborne wellied from afar straight at the keeper. And Osborne volley-dipped low and the keeper slipped for show. A moment when something almost clicked. There'll be no more, no nevermore 'til the never seen sun has set.

It was their attack against our non-defence, a gentle training game for these Cheshire Strollers. Andrew and Davies betwixt and between, never where they should, always where they aren't. The three amoebas in the centre huddled under the Statue of Liberty, hoping for sanctuary. Comley and Osborne, they ran, they tackled, they were alone on the burning bridge of a burning boat.

A chip, a shot. A cross, a block. Them. Very them. Us and them? There is no us.

Panicking, crumbling and a complete thesaurus of pain and woe. Their keeper wellied a free kick from deep, deep in their half. Bread and butter puddings all round as this soggy chip dipped into the far left of the penalty area. While Gunning mis-nodded, and Andrew was caught napping, suddenly there came a tapping. As of someone gently rapping, rapping at Town's door. Dagnall rolled and ambled into an avoidable void to hook a bouncer down into the bottom left corner.

Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long, Marcus never can think he were rash or wrong, while round in our sieve we spin. Yussuf and Dyson, utterly irrelevant, without presence, physical or mental. They did not exist in any form, not even as a hypothetical. I only mention them to place facts in the shop window of truth: a fake news report insisted they had been selected and were on the pitch.

Crewe passing through Town's alimentary canal. A cross over-hit and their lumbering beanpole centre-half did a step over and stumble, rolling the ball under his feet and performing the slowest back-heel in history, having sent a telegram in 1938 to his winger alerting him to his intentions. Town were shocked by this wizardry and balls followed. A clip, a chip and Bowery arose on his toes above Andrew. Jamie Mack flew low to finger-pluck a scoop off the line. Scrambles followed this egg and a rather thin brown deposit remained in Town’s frying pan. It may have looked clean but there was still dirt in Town's pot.

A corner, or cross, or something, just balls flying thither and hither as a big bloke trotted around the derrière and crinkled a crumple across the face of goal with 20 toes tapping. Town should be four down already and we’ve only had 20 minutes.

The droogs of little Alex danced around in a grim ballet. Unchallenged by the Town trainspotters, they flicked and lobbed and rolled and giggled and gurgled around like a tiny tots' tea party. Osborne slid across some bloke, 20 or so yards out. Hey, a free kick. That means a goal. It’s the law. The wall. Well, I say wall, I really mean a set of cuttings under a flimsy cloche, stood vaguely between ball and net. Dagnall did that brand new dance that's going around, bumping Dyson aside and Cooper caressed a coil over and through the vacated airspace and into the bottom left corner.

Three subs were seen removing their tracksuits.

Threatened by the callow, exposed as shallow, Town an embarrassment of emptiness on the right. Davies too far forward, Pearson too far out, not waving to each other, but drowning in red. Plenty of disarray in the desert. Red strolling, stripes crown green bowling; a gentle jaunt and hauntingly simple cross across the face of goal. Gunning and Collins flapping nowhere, a huge hole at the near post. Red toes stretched, McKeown finger-tipped and dumpy Dagnall slid the ball in from a yard out at the far post. It's not even half past three.

Three subs put their tracksuits back on.

A Town shot. Possibly. This has no meaning in life. It had crossed the mind of many a Town fan that, perhaps, Town were not going to win today.

Loads of themness, all the time, in incessant waves of the walking reds. What more do you want to know? The many little things that were magic from their perspective, or just the most major bits. They had many a free kick, and many a moment. Let us take one example as simply reflecting a greater whole. Coiled and dipped and bundled off the line by someone, probably Davies. Hands and fingers may have been involved. The referee was a merciful man, declining the opportunity to reduce Town to ten or fewer "men" with some flying elbows and aggressive gurning left to float into the ether. Town were the subject of pity by professionals.

Hardly anyone could be bothered to boo.

What is this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore? Where was the beef? Where the heart? Crewe didn't tear Town apart. They weren't irresistibly magnificent. They just played normally, professionally. They just walked through Town at will. The formation left space for a 4-4-2 team to wander into, no-one filled in the gaps, and only a couple of players tracked back and tackled. Everyone in the world knows Crewe have fine individual footballers, Town just let them show what they could do when playing against a neglected garden wall in a derelict house.

Our heads were green and hands and air were blue, as Town went to sea in a sieve.

2nd Half – trick of the tail

What was the point of the second half? Do they want to reach double figures?

Let's get this over as quickly as possible. There are trains to catch and you, dear reader, must have something better to do in your life.

Yussuf, Dyson and Andrew were replaced by Asante, Jones and Bolawinra. Town lined up in a oh-no-it-isn't-really 4-4-2 formation with Collins at leftish back, Clements at leftish wing and Jones at centre-forward.

Nothing happened for quarter of an hour, which was nice.

A slippery pass through the twilight zone, Bowery turned and McKeown brilliantly claw-pawed aside a curling lofter. Jamie Mack caught the corner, walloped upfield and Cooper, on the half way line, swivelled and launched a howitzer. McKeown scribbled and scrawled back and magnificently flipped the ball over the bar.

Mmm, now all the available literature informs us that Jones is fine facing the opposition goal, but terrible with his back to it. Playing him at centre-forward is a masterstroke then, the sort of thing that only top-notch coaches with badges and things can see. A double triple bluff. I bet Marcus is a big fan of Death in Paradise.

There were shots, there were attacks. These things occurred, for there was movement towards the Crewe goal. Tombola added zest, if not much else. Jones thwackled and the keeper spluttered aside. Asante stretched and a red boot stretched better. Collins, the raiding overlapping full-back coiled delightfully through the penalty area. Asante let the ball kiss his thigh and sliced woefully over from six yards under pressure from Tombola.

Clement avoided shooting, probably. His ambles down the left always ended with a slow drag to his right foot. Still, he did chase a lost cause once, right in front of the Town fans. He was seen running.

Nope, nothing happening. They made changes. Nope, nothing happened.

As the moments that made up a dull day ticked away, a Crewe punt failed to roll out of play. Mckeown rolled past the chaser and ambled upfield, oblivious to the possibility that said chaser might decide to carry on chasing. He carried on chasing, disrobed the dawdling blueman and, well, something should have happened but didn't. Which rather sums up the second half.

As home fires and twitter ires beckoned, Collins dillied-a-dally after a chain reaction of tosh started by Clements with a droopily daft cross-field pass. Mugged by a floppy hairboy, Town retreated a respectful distance and allowed said mugger to twizzle and twirl, and choose which of his unmarked chums to roll a perfect pass to. Cooke, 20 yards out, approached the gentle rumbler and carefully stroked lowly into the bottom right corner.

Pity poor Jamie Mack, someone had turned off the deflector shields before they set off from earth.

A red man ran at Gunning and Gunning carefully adjusted his body to ensure that red chin hit monochrome shoulder. Yellow card, free kick, McKeown saved the powderypuff plopper.

Three minutes were added – we can get the earlier train home if we rush.

Marcus Bignot: this is your Hartlepool, your Oldham, your Port Vale, your Braintree, your Halifax. This is your Waterloo. How does it feel to have created a bore?