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Going going gone
Going going gone

Lights Out

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 04/05/2019

SO today is the last day of the current floodlights at Blundell Park. It's going to be the last day for some of the players too. Mr Jolley's comments after the Notts County game last week smacked of frustration. We've all felt that.

We have achieved the main goal of survival, but whilst I don't expect the quality of Barcelona from Town's players, the lack of leadership, direction and firepower has been consistently evident and deflating. The line-up in the previous match to Notts against Carlisle was youthful and promising, so I was personally hoping for the same today. Our opponents Crewe have spent their time in the lower reaches this season but seem to have risen from it with style.

Town's line-up on this squally day was: McKeown - Hall-Johnson, Whitmore, Davis, Grayson - Hessenthaler, Hendrie, Clifton, Wright - Vernam, Cardwell.

It soon became clear that the wind and slippery surface were going to influence proceedings. Town attacked the Osmond end with the wind behind for the first half. The teams took time to adjust to the conditions. Town threatened first on 11 minutes when Cardwell was tripped, then Vernam teed up Wright who won a corner. Hall-Johnson had a snap shot. On 18 minutes Wright broke away. Crewe's Ng could only stop him by pulling his shirt and was booked. Grayson's free-kick was lifted to Davis. The ball came back to Vernam who was unable to control the ball. Crewe were reliant on counter attacks, but the best chance fell to them when Lowery crossed to Green whose header brought out a good save from McKeown. Town retorted with a neat move. Hendrie found Vernam whose low shot forced a save and corner. Grayson's high inswinging corner looked like it was going in. Jaaskelainen in goal for Crewe dropped it, and Davis was on hand to slam the ball in from close range. Town 1, Crewe 0. 25 minutes had passed. Crewe had a good chance two minutes later when Ng was fouled on the edge of the box, but Reilly's free-kick was poor. Town played an energetic passing game and continued to battle. On 32 minutes Grayson supplied Cardwell who couldn't force the ball over the line with three Crewe defenders around him. Town won another corner. Grayson's inswingers were causing havoc. Town won a second corner on the left. Hessenthaler's cross was punched clear. Grayson received the ball outside the box, calmly beat a defender and curled an unstoppable shot into the left corner. Town 2, Crewe 0. Town were taking advantage of the conditions. Wright and Clifton in particular showed pace and skill as Town dominated. Crewe were aware of the threat that the tricky Wright was posing and were targeting him with physical challenges. Grayson then burst clear on the left but his cross was too high and hard for Vernam to control his header. The score remained 2 - 0 at half time as Town impressed with their bright, fresh passing game.

The second half was always going to be a different proposition as Crewe now had the benefit of the wind. A Wright mistake led to a Crewe offensive on 48 minutes. Five minutes later Crewe made a double substitution as they showed no sign of breaking down Town's defence. On came Bowery who immediately made an impact with a header from a cross but McKeown made a brilliant save from point blank range. Town eased the pressure by getting upfield and won a corner after good work from Clifton. Wright was then booked for piling in on Ng, exacting some small revenge for the Crewe player's earlier physicality in the process. To everyone's delight, Ng ballooned his free-kick over the top of the Osmond stand. Town's defence continued to hold out. Woolford replaced Clifton after 65 minutes. Seconds later Whitmore cleared off the line for Town with a header following a cross. The rain came down. It was cold. Town got more into the game and on 70 minutes Grayson won a corner. The ball was cleared but moments later good work from Cardwell found Vernam who forced a good save from Jaaskelainen. The weather was playing its part and at one point a Grayson clearance went high into the darkening sky and came backwards. But this was still an entertaining spectacle for the 4,248 spectators, including a vocal 329 from Crewe. A defence splitting through ball to Bowery on 74 minutes meant that the Crewe striker had only McKeown to beat but once again Town's keeper came to the rescue. Burrell replaced the hard working Vernam on 77 minutes for Town. Town were more in the game and showed endeavour but Crewe looked skilful and pacy, and more than capable of breaking open a defence. Good work from Cardwell led to a Town corner, then Lowery won one for Crewe. This resulted in a scary moment as Davis sliced the ball over the bar. As the floodlights came on for a ceremonial final 10 minutes at Blundell Park, more good team play from Crewe led to a header from Bowery, but again McKeown was alert and tipped the header over. Kirk then saw an opportunity and tried to squeeze a low shot into the bottom left corner, but Mr Magnificent McKeown got down and once again repelled the threat. On 85 minutes, Collins replaced cramp-ridden Wright as Town looked to close out the game. The impressive Lowery, who today was Crewe's answer to Messi, then ran rings round Town's defence and curled a shot from the right from outside the box. McKeown dived and managed to tip the shot with his fingertips onto the post. Kirk followed up but only succeeded in blasting his shot into the Crewe supporters behind the goal. It was Town's day. Town's youthful side played well, passed well, were resilient in defence and showed great energy. There was almost a third goal in the third minute of added time as a screaming curled shot from Hessenthaler struck the post. Hendrie slotted in the rebound but was offside. So it ended: Grimsby Town 2, Crewe Alexandra 0. Bring on next season.

Was today illuminating? It's hard to say but it was encouraging and most entertaining, in contrast to the dead rubber that seemed to feature strongly in the conversation that I half heard between my companions Andy and Ian. Hopefully the summer will provide the opportunity to get some confidence and shape into Town's team. There was plenty of this today. I look forward to the friendlies at Gainsborough, Stamford or wherever we may go in advance of the new dawn. The current season is over. Lights out.

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