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29/01 Crewe 1st Half
By: Tony Butcher
Grimsby Town 1 Crewe 1
29 Jan 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
A bitingly cold and very strong blustery wind blew the fans down Cleethorpe Road and into Blundell Park. The wind blew, mostly, through the open corner twixt Pontoon and Findus, sometimes straight into the Osmond Stand, but occasionally (at pitch level) right into the Lower Findus. The pitch had bare spots in the penalty areas and was quite cut up by the time the players ran out for the start of the game (at 2.59). This did not auger well for a fine feast of football (erratic wind, pitch full of divots). Crewe brought around 100 supporters, which is only just more than they have in their squad. The "Official Matchday Magazine" (aka the proggy) listed their squad right up to No 40. The 3 Town stands were mostly full, with the temporary seating completely empty.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation, but not the usual players. Groves played at centre half with Livvo up front with Allen. Pouton was centre midfield and everyone else where you'd expect them to be. Daryl Clare's hair is shorter, and he looks a bit stockier. It may be an optical illusion caused by his reduced hairstyle.
Town kicked off towards the Osmond Stand and started very tentatively. The ball control was poor and the passing generally underhit. Crewe attempted to play to their reputation (ie on the ground) but their players seemed a little lethargic. Neither team looked totally "up for it", with only Rodney Jack showing any great zest, but that was probably because he is a very fast runner. From the off Jack looked a threat, though overly fond of his right foot, which made life a little easier for Gallimore. Crewe had a tall bloke up front (Tait) but generally eschewed long balls and ignored this potential threat.
The tall bloke had the first, and easiest, chance of the match. After 6 or 7 minutes of terrible, awkward, football Town failed to clear a Crewe attack on the Town left (despite being given three chances to do so). Pouton (I think) passed a clearance back to a Crewe player about 25 yards out. The ball was flipped over the top of the defence to an unmarked player, about 10 yards out and 10 yards to the left of Coyne's goal. The ball was pulled back to a midfielder 15 yards out, to the left of goal, who hit a low shot, slightly to Coyne's right. The ball travelled through a couple of legs and Coyne parried the shot out to the edge of the 6 yard box, right in the centre of the goal. Tait ambled in past Lever and carefully sidefooted the ball a couple of feet over the bar. Nice.
Town's reply was a couple of raids down the right involving Livingstone, Allen and Donovan, The link play was excellent, but the end product was not even a "moment of danger". The best of these raids ended with Donovan crossing against a Crewe player's backside and the 'keeper picked the ball up. After about 12 minutes Crewe had their other shot of the first half. Again they pressured Town down the left, with Town failing to clear on a couple of occasions. The ball was eventually laid off to Sorvel, about 20 yards out to the left of centre. He sliced a woeful side footed effort 15 yards wide. Effort is probably the wrong word as that gives the moment too much dignity.
Between the 18th and 21st minutes Town woke up and had three efforts on goal. Firstly Livingstone was played through the centre by a Crewe defender slipping under his intense presence. His shot was straight at the 'keeper, but weak. Livvo had another effort from the edge of the area, but it dribbled a yard wide of the 'keeper's left post. The third effort came from Allen when he tussled and turned on the left of their area and hit a right foot shot, of moderate pace, right into the 'keeper's midriff.
For the next 20 minutes nothing much happened (except a Groves header from a Donovan cross which was blocked). Livvo kept falling over and getting free kicks. Now who does that remind you of ? His spirit lives on even if his body has gone. Livvo got a Crewe defender booked, which brought forth cries of "Cheat, Cheat" from the invisible Crewe followers (though as there were so few of them, and the acoustics are quite poor, they may have been calling out in a camp manner "Cheek, Cheek"). The Crewe defender slid through Livvo from behind and Livvo stood over the prostrate defender shaking his fist a couple of inches from his nose. Naturally Livvo was not even spoken to by the referee. A couple of minutes later Gallimore went head to head with Jack, after Jack "fell" theatrically. Both were booked.
The general play was awful, especially from Town, who were not playing as a team. The passing was very stilted and the movement often non-existent. Crewe at least passed to each other and seemed to know where their team mates might be.
Around the 40 minute mark Town attacked down the left (one of the few occasions in the game). Pouton picked up a loose bouncing ball, flicked it over his head and hit a drive from 25 yards. The ball was going inâ€¦â€¦to Harrington Street but the wind kept it in Blundell Park, it only going 5 yards high and wide. Still, that's accurate for him and he is getting closer. (In the second half he had a shot which would have been on target if a Crewe backside had not got in the way.) Just before half time Livingstone fell again near the left edge of the Crewe penalty box, about 10 yards from the bye-line. The resulting free kick was floated to the far post whereupon Groves headed it back across goal. Allen, with his back to goal a few yards out , controlled the ball with is big toe, swivel led and hit the ball on to the roof of the Osmond Stand. Whoops.
The referee blew for half time as soon as 45 minutes were up. He too was bored and cold. A few people booed Town off, but it was only two or three. The game was bad, principally being destroyed by the erratic, swirling wind. Several Crewe clearances ended up going backwards. Parts of the pitch seemed very hard, with the ball bouncing absurdly high, and others a little soft. The players on both sides were reacting to the conditions, though Crewe were reacting quicker and more positively. In short, Town were a little timid physically and mentally. Only Pouton was having a personal stinker - the ball stuck to him like glue when Town had possession (thus negating momentum) and flew off his shins when they defended. He certainly did not look comfortable in the centre.
Defensively Town were back to their old ways of standing and watching, merely reacting to the opposition. They were not helped by Coyne's refusal to leave his line. Crewe played intelligently when they did attack - dinking balls over the top of the defence that in normal conditions would run out for goal kicks. Coyne failed to take this into account and on a couple of occasion the centre backs were forced into desperate lunging clearances. Chances were not created through this, more like "moments of danger". However, this did not assist in building confidence through the team.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Crewe 0
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