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29/01 Crewe 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
Grimsby Town 1 Crewe 1
29 Jan 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
Nothing of great consequence happened in the first 5 minutes of the second half, it was very like the first. Pouton did have a shot on target, after he stepped over the ball giving himself space about 20 yards out. His shot was extremely weak and barely reached the 'keeper. It would be more accurate to describe it as an attempted shot. Crewe had made a subtle tactical change by switching Rodney Jack to their left, putting him against McDermott. Jack had failed to better Gallimore.
In the 50th minute Town attacked (always our most vulnerable moment at home) down the left. Black was half set free on the edge of the area but dallied too long before pirouetting. He eventually played the ball back to Gallimore on the touchline under the Findus. Gallimore's cross went behind the Town players straight to a Crewe player on the edge of their area, a bit to the left of centre. This bloke ran forward 5 yards and rolled a pass to Jack, who was on the (Town) right of the centre circle facing his own goal. Jack let the ball go past him and spun past McDermott. Macca had read this and simply stood his ground, ready to intercept the ball. Unfortunately the ball squirted past his shin (it look like the ball hit a divot just before it got to McDermott) and Jack was free. He ran forward 10 yards and slipped a ball inside Lever to an onrushing midfielder. LUNT took the ball on to the right hand corner of Coyne's area and clipped the ball under him and into the centre left of the goal.
Town then disintegrated for 5 minutes, during which Black was replaced by Clare and Town went to a 4-3-3 with Clare on the left side of the forwards. Clare's appearance was greeted warmly, as was his limbering up near the Pontoon. The first thing that happened after Clare's re-introduction to Grimsby Life was a Lever header from 30 yards which went out for a Crewe corner. The corner, from Town's right, was hit to the far post and headed back across goal. Livinigstone headed away from the line. A couple of minutes later a Crewe corner from the other side was pushed on to the face of the bar by Coyne and scrambled away haphazardly for another corner. I don't recall Crewe having another chance after this, though they did, sporadically, attack on the break.
Town huffed and puffed for another 15 minutes or so and they did look a bit more threatening, especially through Clare and Donovan. Clare seemed more aware of colleagues and passed to them. He didn't do one of his trademark head down puppy-like runs with the ball into blind alleys. One particular link between them was quite sublime, with Clare back heeling a return pass through the legs of a Crewe defender, releasing Donovan down the right for one of many dangerous moments. There were, though, no chances created in this period. The nearest Town got was a couple of crosses that were scrambled clear at the near post. It was getting very frustrating - all the 50-50 tackles, blocks and rebounds seemed to go straight to a Crewe player. Some of it was luck, some of it down to poor reactions and positioning by Town players. Town basically abandoned the left hand side after Crewe scored and everything was coming through Donovan and McDermott, with Donovan looking the most likely source of a Town goal. Some concerted pressure from Town was ended after a Clare cross went to Donovan about 8 yards out, 10 yards wide of goal, with a clear view of the goal. He shinned it 5 yards wide, or it could have come off his ankle. Maybe he shankled it wide.
After 70 minutes Pouton was replaced by Butterfield. This necessitated a big reshuffle. Groves went to centre midfield, Coldicott went to left of the midfield, Gallimore to centre back, Butterfield to left back (yes, I know Ben Chapman was on the bench, but Butterfield did play very well in the 20 minutes he had), and Clare and Allen switched sides. Within a minute Groves had glanced a free header, from near the penalty spot, a yard wide of the 'keeper's right hand post. This followed a Town build up down the right which released Donovan. Town pressed more and more and more, with Crewe retreating to the edge of their penalty area, rarely getting into the Town half. It was beginning to get like a siege.
With about 10 minutes left the wind died down and Town really stoked up the pressure. Livingstone hit a shot a yard wide after a superb piece of control near the edge of the 6 yard box (though he was flagged offside anyway). After 87 minutes Town should have been given a penalty - a cross from Clare (I think) was clearly handled by a Crewe defender. The referee was only 3 or 4 yards away, with a clear view. It just did not seem like Town's day, and more "supporters" started to walk off to the exits (to sotto voce strains of "you support us when we win"). In the 88th minute Clare crossed to Allen, about 12 yards out in the centre of the box. Allen turned one way, then the other, then turned back. He had three or four Crewe defenders around him and his pass/shot was blocked. Allen was on the ground, slightly to the (Town) left of centre, near the penalty spot and the ball was loose. ALLEN (like a footballing Inspector Gadget) swung an extendable leg and the ball rolled gently into the goal to the 'keeper's left, with the 'keeper motionless. Allen ran up to the Pontoon and held his arms wide, milking the applause of his people. I am still trying to work out how he managed it, it looked impossible.
From the kick off, in the 89th minute Town got the ball back and won a free kick on the left edge of Crewe's penalty area. The ball was clipped to the far post where Livvo, from 6 yards, headed across goal and a couple of inches wide of the 'keeper's left hand post. In the 90th minute Donovan got to the bye line and crossed to the far post. Livvo was about 6 yards out, just to the left of the post and headed firmly down to the 'keeper's right. The ball was going inside the post but the 'keeper flung himself across and produced a great one handed save at the foot of his post. But wait, as a bad comedian once said , there's more. In the 91st minute Donovan collected a clearance about 20 yards out, just to the right of centre and hit a dipping half volley a couple of millimetres over the bar. And then it ended.
So a point won in the end, and, bizarrely, nearly a win. In the words of an English cricket coach "We flippin' murdered 'em, for 4 minutes". On the whole a draw was a fair result, as Town had been woeful for huge chunks of the game. However the longer the game went on the better Town got, and the more opportunities were created. There definitely seemed to be a "spirit" there as they battled back. It was the same spirit shown last week at Fulham, but an offensive rather than defensive one. Clare looked better than when he went so, hopefully, the loan has worked. He played as a team player. Allen scored, what more could one ask. They are battling and fighting now. New Year, New Town.
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