Question of the WeekWho would you like to see in England's group?
By: Andrew Doherty
WE'RE back on track. Or so it seems. After our blip, we've picked up seven points in the last three games, and have a goal scorer brimming in confidence. What's more, the manager is strengthening the squad. It's great stuff, and today we have the chance to overtake one of our divisional rivals.
I used to work next to Crewe Alexandra's Gresty Road ground. Crewe as a place is grim, constantly grey and dominated by the railway, but their small ground was smart, and the supporters of The Alex that I knew were loyal and a good bunch. I can remember their team once being the epitome of struggle, and recall going to a game in 1977 where we won 2 ... 0 (Ford and Liddle) at which a gentleman supporting Crewe screamed his lungs out for ninety minutes in frustration. He apparently turned up every week. You know the sort. Since then, they've been known for everything that's good about youth development and have had success on the field while re-cycling their good players to wealthier clubs. I have seen Crewe since but not against Town, so that doesn't count of course. I don't know what stage they are at now with youth development, but they've made a reasonable start in Division 2 and at the risk of sounding like Roy Hodgson, this was going to be a stern test.
On this bleak, damp and breezy day, Town's line-up as we attacked the Osmond/Pontoon end with a following wind for the first half was: McKeown ... Davies, Pearson, Gowling, Andrew ... Chambers, Summerfield, Vose, Comley ... Bogle, Tuton.
Behind the goal, a banner displayed the message: Born in Crewe, Live in Crewe, Die in Crewe. Die in Crewe would have been sufficient, and saved on the cost of lettering, I reflected. But onto the matter in hand: the game was under way and Town applied initial pressure. Crosses from Chambers, Davies and Boyle failed to factor in the wind. Crewe showed their capability with slick passing, and won a free kick from 25 yards out after 7 minutes. Cooper's free kick won a corner, and shortly afterwards the same player's cultured left foot found an unmarked Guthrie close to goal. McKeown stood up well and saved the header. Town's Tuton was looking tricky, and Gowling was winning every header at the back but the wind was playing its part, and Town were unable to create anything meaningful. Crewe looked the more mobile and skilful side and in their movements their players were finding each other well. Crewe won another free-kick from 25 yards on 15 minutes after Gowling pushed Kiwomya. Chambers set up Tuton on 16 minutes without any end product. Crewe retorted with another slick attack. Town probed patiently, but laboured and lumbered, and still none of the attacks showed any signs of resulting in anything. Crewe were well drilled and knew how to blunt out Town's advances. Pearson conceded a corner and then Davies conceded another free-kick after tripping Dagnall. Crewe's left back Bakayago, who the discussion group alongside me concluded in less-than-positive tones was their version of Jamel Fyfield, was booked for a high kick on Chambers. In spite of the pressure on Bakayago's side, the perceived weak area, Town continued to look unconvincing. Mistakes augmented as the wind blew. On 28 minutes, Crewe launched a counter attack, and Turton swung a curling cross in from the right. Gowling went up and handled the ball as the ball seemed to go behind him ... penalty to Crewe. Dagnall stepped up and fired the ball to McKeown's left ... saved! The ball was cleared after a scramble. The roof was raised. The crowd was uplifted. This was the first thing Town's fans had had to cheer about. Comley tried to take advantage of this psychological boost, scrapping to win the ball and supplying Tuton, who was then closed down by three Crewe defenders. It was clear that Town had to organise themselves better to beat this well marshalled opposition, but Town's play at this point was more noteworthy for mistakes. A Vose back pass almost created a chance for Crewe, then a Comley mistake led to a corner. If the weather had been colder, Vose would have been suffering from frostbite, so little had he done to this point, but on 39 minutes he made space and broke clear across the field before supplying Bogle on the right. Bogle cut in to the left and fired a good low shot, which the Crewe goalkeeper fumbled. Tuton was following up and tapped the ball in the net. It was disallowed for offside. Town fans had now had two things to shout about. Crewe's Hollands was booked for flattening the pacy Chambers but Davies's free-kick came to nothing. Town frustratingly conceded yet another free-kick outside the penalty area on 44 minutes. This time Cooper fired the ball through the mass of players to Kiwomya whose volley just missed. Two minutes were added on at the end of the half. On 46 minutes, Summerfield made a poorly judged pass in his own half. The pass was intercepted and it proved one opportunity too many, as the ball was passed across to Cooper who ran into the box and slotted the ball with his left foot past the helpless McKeown. Grimsby 0, Crewe 1. A miscommunication between Vose and Bogle followed and summed up the half for Town. The half-time whistle blew.
It was particularly disappointing to concede so late but Town had only themselves to blame. The Crewe defence was difficult to break down, but Town were unable to deal with the windy conditions, were guilty of too many mistakes and conceded too many free-kicks in dangerous areas against a well drilled side.
The tide was in. The ships rolled by on the Humber. The second half almost started with a disaster as Summerfield won the ball in midfield, but as he tried to cross the pitch and break clear, was closed down and lost possession. Lowe went free but once again McKeown came to the rescue with a good save. On 49 minutes, Comley was pushed over 25 yards out after good work by Vose. Hopes rose as Davies, who had scored with a similar free kick against Morecambe, stepped up but his shot this time went straight into the wall. Vose started to get into the game and looked to make space. At the other end McKeown had to be alert again after a Pearson back header was almost intercepted. Pearson made amends by setting up Chambers but the move broke down as Tuton was offside. Good work by Vose to keep possession found Bogle who crossed to Tuton. Tuton claimed he was pushed as he and the defender tussled for the ball, but the referee gave a goal kick. Bogle was booked on 59 minutes after complaining following a foul. Several minutes earlier he had blown over with frustration and wasted valuable time after arguing with the referee over another foul. It looked as if Bogle had lost his focus. This apparent lack of professionalism was cause for concern. Vose found Chambers with a great cross ball, resulting in a corner. The corner was poorly delivered. Bogle had a shot on 62 minutes after wriggling clear of the defence but the Crewe goal was never in danger. Jackson replaced Tuton on 64 minutes. The enigmatic Vose tried a curling shot but the attempt was ineffectual, then Comley did much better on 66 minutes with a long range low drilled shot which the goalkeeper gathered. Town won a corner a minute later after a Bogle dribble. Pearson met it with a header and won another corner. For the first time, Town were showing heightened endeavour and imagination, but it was a fleeting passage. Crewe were still being allowed to play. Bogle pushed over a Crewe player, and then on 70 minutes Pearson conceded a corner after a battle with Lowe. Town got the ball forward but Bogle was guilty of waiting for the ball to come, allowing Crewe to intercept and set up a counter attack. The advancing Kiwomya was flattened just outside the box by Gowling, who was booked. Lowe's curled free kick fell just wide with McKeown well beaten. Town attacked but Bogle wasted the opportunity, giving the ball away in the Crewe box after a good build-up. Surprisingly Vose, who had looked the most creative of Town's players in the second half, was replaced on 75 minutes by Bolarinwa, who immediately looked lively and showed intent. Pearson fouled Lowe near the corner flag, which resulted another curling free kick from the ever dangerous Cooper. Jackson and Bolarinwa then linked up well to set up Summerfield, who fell over in the Crewe box without being challenged. Crewe showed no sign of wanting to sit back and hold on to their one goal lead, and on 85 minutes launched a counter attack in numbers. Crewe pressed and looked to breach Town's defence. After a cross shot, which Town's defence was unable to clear, the ball came out to the unmarked Jones about 10 yards out on the right. Jones's fierce shot was too hot to handle for the advancing McKeown, and the ball crept agonisingly over the line. Grimsby 0, Crewe 2. Crewe continued to press, and matters could have been made worse on 87 minutes when they had a goal disallowed for offside after another slick passing move. Come in Grimsby, your time is up... Five minutes were added on but the situation was hopeless. Bogle had a cross run and a blocked shot. Jackson tried a back flick and Pearson undid his own good work with a poor pass. These were just gestures. It had been like witnessing a slow and lingering death. The game ended: Grimsby Town 0, Crewe Alexandra 2.
This was boys versus railwaymen. Crewe had pace and skill, supported each other and were well coach coached in all departments. Town were like rabbits in headlights, naive, unstructured and prone to mistakes against a team which was only going to be broken down by imaginative tactics, fluidity of play and solid teamwork. None of these qualities applied. This defeat was self-inflicted. It's back to the drawing board. Town were derailed by Crewe today.
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