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Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
By: Tony Butcher
A beautiful, cloudless day with a windless chill in the air.The pitch looked to be on the verge of cutting up, especially on the Smiths/Stones/Findus side and there were pock marks dotted around. The Osmond Stand was very sparsely populated - the census counter on my right counted 103 Crewe fans.
Grimsby Town 1 Crewe Alexandra 3
13 Jan 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
The rest of the ground wasn't overpopulated either, though the temporary stand betwixt Pontoon and Stones/Smiths/Findus was full of identically clad under-10s. They obviously weren't regulars as they were excited and tried to get the famous Blundell Park rumble going by drumming their feet on the floor. Perhaps they misunderstood - that's the famous Blundell Park grumble.
The players warmed up in their usual way and the "missing in action" were quickly noted - no McDermott, no Handyside. Nielsen had found his golden boots again and Fostervold's hair had grown another couple of centimetres. Far, far away in the distance a curious sight was observed - one of the Crewe players was wearing a red headscarf! Of course, it was Sodje (his name, not a curse).
Town lined up in Lennie's favoured formation, 4-3-1-2. Butterfield, thankfully, played as a normal right back and Donovan played in his hole.
Fashion show corner - Coyne wore his lemon top, which contrasted nicely with the referee's green and black "number". And the referee was the smallest I've seen, there is obviously no minimum height restriction for Association football officials then. The Crewe goalkeeper, Bankole (former bench sitter for Town) wore an extravagant purple top with a broad white stripe across his chest.The Pontoon pondered long upon the appropriate description of his top. Someone came up with "grape", though we were unsure what variety. Finally it was decided that it was Ribena coloured. I'm sure he'll be passing that shirt on to his children and his children's children.
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon and boy what a start. Town harried, hassled and pressed Crewe from the off. Within one minute Bankole had gathered the ball and calmly thrown it out to Jack, out on their left. Butterfield ran up and intercepted this lazy throw-out and crossed towards Livingstone at the far post. The ball passed over the Lumpen One and rolled out towards the touchline. Campbell ran across in front of a Crewe player and crossed toward the near post. The ball was half cleared out of the area and Donovan attempted a shot from 20 yards. It hit Livingstone and dribbled out for a goal kick. A minute later Bankole finally got around to kicking the ball (every goal kick took a minute as he slowly walked round his goal, picked up the ball and walked back around his goal the other way to the opposite side).
A minute or so later Nielsen tricked and barged his way past Sodje near the corner flag between Pontoon and Main Stand. He crossed low to the near post, too close to the 'keeper, so no-one challenged. Then Bankole dropped the ball so Livingstone slid in and hurt himself and became the lumpen, limping one. It was already obvious (after 4 minutes) that Livvo was having one of those frequent "Livvo" days when he is always a yard too slow in foot and brain. Willing, but unable. Crewe got in to the Town half once in the first 10 minutes. Probably by mistake with a misplaced clearance. They were truly awful, by far the most inept team to have visited Blundell Park in many years (and I am including Town on a bad day and Carlisle). It is no exaggeration to say they didn't string two passes together. Town's pressure play (literally running up and harrying the Crewe player in possession) resulted in Crewe simply passing the ball to Town. Bankole, despite being massive, couldn't kick the ball far or with any power or accuracy. This resulted in Town getting possession back before the half way line.
The Pontoon were chortling to themselves how easy it was and how many goals Town were going to score (four was the favourite). Then, after a dozen minutes, Rivers, under the Stones/Findus/Smiths stand, tapped the ball past Gallimore, ran round him and sprinted off down the wing. Enhua ran across and bundled the ball off the impertinent midlander. The next 3 or 4 minutes saw Crewe almost spring the offside trap - only badly directed passes stopped the big centre forward, Hulse, running free at Coyne. As against Sheffield Wednesday, Enhua believed merely raising his arm would deliver an appropriate response from the linesman.
But generally it was still all Town, to an embarrassing degree too. Campbell, in particular, was irrepressible. After 18 or 19 minutes, Nielsen (I think) robbed Sodje near the bye-line (on Town's right) and pulled the ball the ball across goal. Livingstone came steaming in at Livvo pace and, from 10 yards out, pulled a shot back across the goal, to the 'keeper's left. The 'keeper watched as the ball rolled past him, but Sodje ran across and blocked the ball on the line. There should really have been no opportunity for such a clearance as Livvo had, initially, a huge open goal - he just was too slow to get to the ball. And there's more. Donovan clipped a bouncing half volley straight at Bankole from 20 yards. Coldicott hit a firm cross across the face of the goal at head height, with no heads near. Gallimore, from 25 yards out on the left, played a curling cross towards the near post and Nielsen sprinted across his marker to glance a headerâ€¦straight into Bankole's hands. There were also two or three scrambles in the area as Crewe simply filled the box with red-shirted bodies. And Donovan smacked a right foot drive a foot past Bankole's left hand post from 20 yards
You see, it was total Town domination. But somehow it just felt that Town were never going to score. The play was concentrated between the penalty areas, with no Town players regularly taking up wide positions. Hence Town attacks were stymied by the unavailability of the wide option. There were oceans of space out on the left and right, but no striped ones' near. Then Town had a right fright. Gallimore was outpaced again down the left and Enhua had to block the resulting cross for a corner on Town's left. The corner was swung into the near post and Livingstone jumped with Hulse, about 5 or 6 yards out. The ball twanged against the bar and rebounded out past the edge of the penalty area. Whoever headed it headed it mighty hard.
A minute or so later, after about half an hour, Crewe took the lead, against the run of play, but not unexpectedly. Nothing much was happening around the half way line, on the Town left. Crewe gained possession and simply chipped the ball over the defence through the gap between Gallimore and Enhua. Enhua, as always, stood hand aloft, whilst Gallimore chugged back. Rivers sprinted down the inside left, got into the area and pulled a low cross to the middle left of the goal where HULSE, unmarked, tapped the ball in.A faint cheer was heard towards Wonderland which was the sound of the Crewe supporters suddenly believing their luck. Three sides of the ground were just silent. Totally silent. No sound. That's silent. Nothing.
Town had another attack, with Livingstone zipping a shot from the edge of the area, on the Town left, low across towards the right hand corner. Bankole tipped the ball aside for a corner. Somewhere around this time Nielsen was felled on the left hand corner of the penalty area, next to the touchline. Try as he might he just could not dive far enough into the area. Campbell swung in the free kick to the far post where Groves headed well over.
Crewe broke away after this short spell of Town pressure with Rivers again tricking Gallimore. The ball was played around by Crewe outside the Town penalty area and they finally returned the ball to Rivers who, from 20 yards, tried a right foot drive. The ball was going wide but Coyne leapt to his left and pushed it away for a corner. Oh dear. Read that bit about them hitting the bar and replace the word "bar" with "back of the net". HULSE leant into Livingstone and headed powerfully into the roof of the net. Livingstone was too weak and slow. He, and Town, failed to learn from the previous corner. It was an exact replica. If it was possible for the Town supporters to be more silent, they were. I didn't hear the usual "stand up and slag" after a goal was conceded. Just sitting and seething.
So there we are - 2-0 down after three opposition attacks and an embarrassing domination of the first half an hour. The only other things that happened in the remaining 10 minutes were that Gallimore got booked for kicking Rivers up in the air, Town had an attack where the ball ricocheted around their area and bounced back straight into the arms of Bankole and Enhua kept raising his arm.
Half time - a bit of booing, but mostly resigned but angry silence. A one sided first half with the wrong team winning. On the plus side Butterfield had played very well, keeping Jack in his pocket, and showing some exemplary skill in intercepting passes and initiating attacks. I can't believe it is Butterfield I'm talking about, but 'tis true (of his first half performance).
Crewe had two fast wingers, a couple of tricky midfielder and a forward (Hulse) who made a lot of intelligent runs behind the centre backs who, fortunately for Crewe, were not interested in what he was doing. Once the second goal went in Town started to go a bit long ball. And we all know where that leads.
The report continues in the second half
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