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Careless in Cheshire - Crewe Report
By: Tony Butcher
A CLEAR, breezy day in the netherland betwixt Birmingham and Manchester. Breezy? A stiff, cold wind blew straight down the pitch into the faces of all the people sat behind the goal on the left as seen on TV. The stand with 6 rows of seats and nobody there.
Crewe Alexandra 2 Grimsby Town 0
19 Jan 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The usual couple of hundred Town fans were ushered gently to their fate by kindly, jolly stewards. Their fate being to sit in a tiny stand on the side of the pitch (underneath the TV gantry), with the setting sun blazing into their eyes.
Town warmed up with the standard bunny hops and jitterbugs between cones, whilst Crewe played a lazy one-touch practice game, then recreated the Royal Tournament by doing some fancy formation running. Today, Matthew, Sodje was wearing a black headscarf, with contrasting red tinged boots. Lovely. The first thing the Town fans noticed was that Coldicott was jogging around, then another, bigger Coldicott. Ah, thatâ€™d be Robert Taylor then, a man who looks as though his head has been shrink wrapped onto his body. Heâ€™s big and bulky, totally atypical for a Town player. Of course there was much mirth when Coldicott and Taylor stood near each other, with many a "mini-me" reference.
The big Railtrack (In Railway Administration) Stand was about a third full at most, so there was little atmosphere. As Crewe have no easily definable traits (ie itâ€™s not in Yorkshire) the massed choir of twenty teenagers were unable to think of any insulting songs to sing. Or perhaps "Your stadium sponsor has recently gone bust" wasnâ€™t a catchy enough jingle. Why does every team in red have the same mascot, only with a different animal face stuck on the front? They all have a red furred, four legged mammal. Bear, dog, lion, theyâ€™re all the same, only the plastic face is slightly different. Maybe itâ€™s the same costume which follows Town around, with the same sad and surly student inside.
Enough trivia, Town lined up in a vague 5-3-2 formation. Butterfield reverted to right back, which pleased the support - "Itâ€™s good to see you RIGHT BACK where you belong Danny". He couldnâ€™t fail to miss that, as he was a mere 10 yards away when that kind word of encouragement was bellicosely bellowed at his right ear. Everyone else was where youâ€™d expect them to be too.
Crewe kicked off towards the empty end and it was instantly noticeable that the Town players were slower in foot and mind than their opponents. There was much dillying and dallying, hesitancy and disinterest. Within a minute Crewe nearly scored through some lackadaisical defending by Ford and Butterfield (especially Butterfield, who generally played as though he resented being away from the midfield). From about 30 yards out, Crewe knocked the ball over the top of Ford beyond the far post, with the ball rolling away from goal. Butterfield couldnâ€™t be bothered to even jog back, so a Crewe player managed to run perhaps 15 yards, turn, and hit a low cross into the heart of the 6 yard area. The ball was uncomfortably cleared by Groves, eventually.
Townâ€™s game plan at the start seemed to be to hit it high to Taylor. Unfortunately, they are not schooled in such subtleties and kept missing him by miles. Even worse they also tried to hit it high to Jevons, who just didnâ€™t feel like wrestling with large men. The result was an ugly, shapeless start, with Crewe pouncing on any loose ball and surging forward, causing panic in the Town defence. What was worse was that there were huge gaps between the Town defence and midfield, and also midfield and "attack", which meant that Crewe simply made our statuesque midfielders piggies in the middle. Whenever a Town midfielder did get the ball at his feet he was immediately surrounded by three little bears. There were two or three very uncomfortable moments when Crewe surged forward at pace through the immobile monochrome midfield, towards the flapping threesome at the back. Fortunately Crewe players kept running into a defender, or totally overhit through passes.
After 8 or 9 minutes Crewe were given a free kick way out on their right, about 15 yards inside the Town half. Everyone stood in a line just inside the Town penalty area and the ball was swung into the middle. It was headed out about 10 yards to a Crewe player, who immediately clipped it back in towards the far post, about 10 yards out. Ford, who had been marking Sodje, stopped marking and watched the ball, which allowed Sodje to sneak around the back and head about 5 yards wide, totally unmarked. Willems shouted at Ford, who had clearly lost concentration. A few seconds later a catalogue of errors effectively threw the game away. Coyne wellied the goal kick down field towards Jevons, who didnâ€™t bother to challenge for a header, even the though the ball was within a few inches of his head. The ball was knocked forward over the Town midfield, dropping between Burnett and the retreating defence, just inside the Town half in the centre. Burnett ran back and headed the ball towards Ford. Oops, the header was a little under powered and Ford made no attempt to run forward, leaving it to Burnett, who had, of course, assumed Ford would come forward to control it. A Crewe player zipped forward into the huge, huge gap and headed for goal, drifting slightly to the (Town) left of goal. As Coyne came out to narrow the angle he placed the ball very carefully along the ground in to the centre of the goalmouth to THOMAS, about 10 yards out, who tapped the ball under Coyne. A dreadful third division mistake, brought about through timidity and fear. It totally deflated the barely inflated Town support. Cue the sound of hands slapping into faces, heads shaking and deep sighs.
Ford and, particularly, Burnett went to pieces after this, with Burnett making a series of underhit back passes/headers to the defence which merely set up Crewe attacks. Burnett hardly made a pass all afternoon, and certainly never attempted anything longer than 10 yards. Ford had great difficulties coping with balls played over the top to where his right wing back should have been. Ah, Butterfield, the Jogmeister general. There he was harmlessly passing away his time in the grassland. Watch out, Danny, there may be dogs about. Youâ€™d better stay at home at right back and do as youâ€™re told.
Any tangible Town response? Jevons - always Jevons. All moves seemed to fall apart when the ball went near him. Mostly he failed to make any kind of challenge, simply standing with arms waving, mouthing complaints to his team "mates". Occasionally heâ€™d fall, attempting to win a free kick, sometimes heâ€™d shoot. He had at least three shots in the first half, all miss-hit, from outside the area, and on each occasion he was simply greedy, selfish and utterly wasteful, as he should have passed to an unmarked chum. And mostly he should have passed back to Taylor, who held the ball up well, played some interesting passes and moved into dangerous positions. What a pity his strike partner just couldnâ€™t be bothered. Taylor kept making flicks to where he was used to team-mates being. Not being at Town long enough, he didnâ€™t realise that no-one knew what to do.
There was the merest hint of a method to Town after about 15 minutes. The ball was often played up to Taylor, who controlled with is chest and held off a couple of defenders. Willems kept sprinting from left midfield beyond Taylor up to an inside right position. Taylor showed awareness and perception by playing excellently weighted passes to where Willems was heading. Willems was then stuck, as Campbell was clearly unfit and was rarely up in support, and Jevons had strolled off to the far post. Only the most optimistic of souls would believe that Willems would be able to play perfect 40 yard crosses with his right foot with his back to goal. It didnâ€™t seem to occur to Jevons that the near post was the most likely destination of any attempted cross.
As the Town fans got crosser and crosser with the disjointed, inconsistent wallowing, Crewe continued to cause problems on the break. Jack was sent free down an inside right channel, Groves creaked across to force him wide, with jack unleashing a screaming right foot volley form the edge of the box, which went a yard or two over the top of Coyneâ€™s left hand post. There were a couple more crosses from the Crewe right which caused varying degrees of panic in the goal mouth and finally all hope was extinguished in most bizarre circumstances after 25 or 26 minutes. Crewe got a throw in on the Town right, about 10 yards from the bye line. The throw in had resulted from them chucking a long pass over from their right to left into a massive gap. Why the gap? Because Campbell was physically unable to move faster than a trot. The throw in was taken quickly and simply thrown down the line to a small midfield player (I canâ€™t identify them and most had the same haircut and were the same size - hey! much like us then). This small man let the ball bounce off his chest and then turned his marker on the bye-line, hooking in a huge, high cross from about three or four yards wide of the penalty area. The ball disappeared from view (the roof of the stand was very low) then re-appeared in the centre of goal. Groves, somewhere near the 6 yard box, with Ashton lurking behind and preparing to head into a virtual open goal, leapt up and headed the ball away firmly with his....right hand. It wasnâ€™t subtly either, he leant back and back punched the ball away. The reaction of the crowd, referee and players was one of stunned disbelief. Open mouths and silent, wide eyed looks in the direction of Groves by everyone. After a few seconds the Crewe crowd started to shout "Off, Off" as the referee walked towards Groves. Yellow card, which objectively was a very poor decision, as Groves had deliberately stopped Ashton from scoring. SMITH ran up and whacked the ball at head height down the centre left. Coyne had dived to the right. We might as well have gone home there and then.
Town almost immediately switched to a 4-4-2 formation, with Chapman moving to a wide left midfield position. Town were defensively more solid after this (maybe solid misrepresents the position; less shambolic would be a more apt description). And there were even hopes of a shot on target. Town players started to move, especially down the right where Campbell and Butterfield suddenly clicked and linked well with Taylor, causing difficulties for Crewe, especially when Willems made his diagonal runs. There were a couple of old fashioned Town moves...and they foundered at Jevonsâ€™ feet. After some neat interplay and "Town triangles " by Campbell and Butterfield, the ball was played into Jevons, about 8 yards out and 8 or 9 yards wide of goal. He spun and looped a lovely gentle pass into Bankoleâ€™s arms. A few minutes later, again after interplay down the right, Taylor drifted across the face of the area and dragged a left foot shot low a few yards wide of the â€˜keeperâ€™s left hand post via Jevonsâ€™ ankles (Jevons appeared to try a "Zola", but sent the ball even further wide).
Half time: Crewe Alexandra 2 Grimsby Town 0
Apart from another attempted overhead kick by Jevons which curved comfortably, and very, very softly, into Bankoleâ€™s arms, that was it for the first half. Unless you are interested in Jevons falling over. Town were poor, and were losing to a team who were not much better, as they had a penchant for passing the ball directly out of play. But they, like every other team in professional football, had more ideas up front. Pace and movement, a method and some esprit de corps. All lacking from Town, who resembled a hotch-potch of friends, neighbours and vague acquaintances. Campbell was not fit, Burnett frit. Taylor was not utilised properly as he clear has a footballing brain to go with his bulk. A few youngsters tried to start a chant of "What a load of rubbish", but were shouted down by others who tried to get behind, and encourage, the team. Jevons excepted; his get out of Anfield jail card has finally expired.
Whatever changes were done at half time they were too late, The game was over wasnâ€™t it? And some considered the season too.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Taylorâ€™s a proper striker, he wonâ€™t last long with us then".
The report continues in the second half.
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