Swimming in a fishbowl: Crewe (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

22 August 2006

Grimsby Town 0 Crewe Alexandra 1

"After quite a hard climb, one emerges on a terrace. From here Mount Purgatory can be seen looming above, and the shore can be seen below. Welcome to Blundell Park."

Is there anybody out there?

Eighty-two Creweites wanted a fish and chip supper, and so they came to the home of the fish and the chip. There they are in the distance, huddling together. And here we are. We few, we unhappy few, befuddling together.

The clock is still five minutes slow.

The old new Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Croft, Whittle, Futcher, Newey, Bore, Bolland, Toner, Beagrie, not the only Jones on the pitch and Rankin. The substitutes were Harkins, Reddy, Hegggggarty, Barwick and Murray. There were six white-booted Town players warming up: name them all to win a special prize.

The blue tarpaulin returned to cover some of the empty seats in the Frozen Beer Thing Stand, like a maiden aunt embarrassed by the knobbles on her kitchen table's legs. Now, were there more pigeon ploppings on the tarpaulin than people in the ground?

Is that the Crewe goalkeeper stretching? No, it's a bag of balls and a water bottle. Reg Varney and Brian Rix are playing. Is this a 1970s farce? Hey, stop flicking to the end for the dénouement. This is a howdidit, not a whodunit. Like an old episode of Columbo, you know what the ending is, but the fun is in the journey. Fun? Wouldn't you like to have fun, fun, fun, how about a few laughs, laughs, laughs? We're beyond that now.

Cavell Coo, he plays for Crewe, but isn't playing tonight. Isn't Cavell Coo a great name. Cavell Coo, Cooo, Cooooooooooo. Where's the tarpaulin?

First half
Crewe kicked off towards the Pontoon. I really hate those white socks, don't you?

Newey pushed Lowe over inside the penalty area and the referee gave a goal kick. A minute gone and Crewe were starting to stew Town with passing and movement. Tipping, tapping, Crewe were mapping out their business processes through a series of interactive working groups and online questionnaires. Town, like the crowd, sat back and watched.

It takes only three steps - far fewer than would seem necessary - to go from the side of the valley to its floor. The valley is very lush. Where am I?

Crewe this, Crewe that. They are quicker to the ball, playing lovely passing football, to feet; the passer moving, the wall looking around, stepping over, flicking and tricking. Looks nice: Town just about coping. Just. Oh look, they've scored, but offside. Oh. Well. There's always next time, and next time can't be far away.

Blah, blah, blah, Crewe, blah, passing, blah. Flippin' 'eck! Rankin rampooling a stonking shot towards the top left corner from outside the area. Tomlinson parried aside. Go back to counting the pigeon droppings.

One of them had a shot; it went over the crossbar. Another one of them had a shot; it went just over the crossbar. O'Connor headed a free kick wide. Isolated moments of connection between human beings. Where is it all leading? Why are we here?

Jones flicked Bore free: a corner. Bore flicked Rankin free: a corner. We never score from a corner, except when we do; but it won't be tonight. Beagrie did his thing and hung a cross to the far post; Bore headed back and the ball was cleared. Sigh - an almost moment of nearlyness. Maynard sprinted into the corner betwixt beer and fear, but Croft shovelled him away, returning the ball along the touchline to Barnes. Big Phil walloped a scoopy clearance high towards Bore, who was standing on the touchline just inside the Town half. Bore nodded the ball down the line and Jones roared away using pootle power. Nothing happened in the end, but I thought you'd want to hear about Town's total football moment. You do want to kid yourself, don't you?

Crewe crossed and some bloke steered a glancing header across Barnes and a few inches wide. Has the hand of Barnes touched the golden globe yet? Another header wide. Ah, a free kick 20 yards out to their centre-right. Lowe curled it low, as he should and would, into the side netting. Beagrie punted away a long shot from in front of the left post. It's still all them, isn't it. It's a training match behind closed doors; it's not like anyone has paid money to watch this, eh? Toner dispossessed some slacker on the Town right, bundled to the bye-line and crossed. Tomlinson dropped it. The wild Bore crossed, Tomlinson dropped it. He can't kick, he can't catch. What can he do? There must be something he's hiding.

Crewe broke quickly down the centre, with Town retreating. The ball was flossed from centre to the right of the Town area. Barnes surfed out and scoppled up the ball from Maynard's foot. Well done that man.

A minute later Bolland cracked on the halfway line. Toner crunched and possession was regained. Bolland, under the Frozen Beer Thing, faced northwards and fretted about tomorrow's weather. A Creweite shook a tulip in Bolland's face and ran off with the ball. With Town splayed, Crewe played football, tapping the ball forward for Maynard, who'd run down the centre behind whichever centre-back was not moving. Newey followed; Maynard took a touch and Barnes came out, stopped, then took another couple of steps. Maynard rolled the ball under Phil the Mower and no-one was surprised. The referee could have given a free kick for Bolland being menaced by a poodle, but he didn't. Someone ran at the Town defence, Town collapsed.

Newey crossed and Toner slapped a volley a few feet wide.

The remaining ten minutes are not worth thinking about. So don't.

Tedious, but not dreadful. Town were nearly doing things, which is an improvement of sorts. Bore was a potential source of something, but Crewe's full-back had pace, which negated Bore's charms. Rankin hustled a lot and… and… and… I think it's time for my happy pills now. There's nothing new to say. Midfield? What midfield? With the Futcher/Whittle big beat combo the band plays on, but the ballroom is empty. No-one is dancing: bring back the bingo, Mr Fenty.

Town in a word

Second half
No changes were made by either team at half time.

Pffft, where do I begin? Should I bother? Minutes passed by and that's exactly what Crewe did to Town. For fleeting seconds Town attacked with three and sometimes four passes strung together, but it fizzled out on the edge of the area. A cross too high, a cross blocked, a pass over-hit, or an inability to control the ball. Inferior decoration. The whole house needs a makeover. Knock it down and start again.

A few minutes in, Otsemobor twiddled forward from right-back, surging into the Town half, towards the edge of the area, and pinged a skimmering shot a few inches off the left angle of post and bar. The concept of time is difficult to grasp for those who were there: a second, a year, a minute, a day, all equal in length; it's like living in a void, the twilight world between the living and the dead. Purgatory indeed. What have we done to deserve this?

Varney got on his bus, refusing to stop for passengers, before crossing low into the centre. Futcher believed he was on Earth, but Maynard, unmarked seven yards out, managed to stab a shot a few yards wide of the near post. Have I missed things out? Maybe. Probably. But what is madness but a season ticket renewed?

Come Crewe and feast from our table. Our cupboards are bare, but the fruit is for you.

I can see Town players: they are moving, they are trying, they are trying our patience. Hegggarty and Reddy warmed up, and Reddy ran off down the tunnel, presumably to wet his hair. And on he came with just over 20 minutes left, replacing the Lump, who again had contributed nothing more than a couple of flicked headers. Reddy was cheered on, whereas he'd been booed as he warmed up. How fickle, how desperate, how desperately fickle. Our saviour, our traitor, our apple pie. We want him, we want him to go, we don't know what we're booing.

Nothing has changed, with Crewe still dominant. A free kick wide, or high, or something. A cross, or a corner, or a free kick was kicked high to the left, or was it the right? Headed across goal with Barnes coming, going, neither coming nor going, and the ball dropping by his right post. Varney stepped forward and volleyed the ball over from on the goalline. Where were our defenders? Near, son, near, but far away.

What could have been seconds later, from open play of great nothingness, Crewe played the ball down their left wing. A striker was offside in the centre and Futcher momentarily stopped. Varney chugged down the touchline with Croft in medium-warm pursuit, holding him up for a while with talk of stunning views of the surrounding countryside and the potential for extending the third bedroom over the garage, subject to planning permission. O'Connor burst forward down the centre and Toner tried to keep up. He failed. Varney rolled the ball across the face of the area and O'Connor slam-dunked a slicing shot across Barnes into the top left corner. Yeah, I'm shrugging my shoulders too.

Oh yes! It's 2-0 - that's when we start to play. Some Town pressure, Bore on the right, Rankin rollin' in the centre, the ball smuggled to the left and slung in low, by Newey, into the centre. Reddy, unmarked, on the edge of the area, tried to flick-volley through his legs, but fell over the ball. He got up, turned and tanked a shot straight at Tomlinson, who pushed the ball back in to the centre, but straight to Baudet. Some more Town pressure, with Newey wafting wastefully over from 20 yards. Free kicks at last! Twenty yards out on the centre-right, Newey tapped aside to Beagrie, who wobbled a wibbler straight at Tomlinson. The keeper did some mime and jiggled the ball back into the middle of the area. Reddy pounced and prodded goalwards. Tomlinson, on the goalline, waved his arms around and managed to lift the ball over the crossbar. Why waste the precious things?

Crewe broke away, Town broke apart. Lowe sniggled past Newey on the left, cracking a low shot across Barnes, who parried aside one-handed. Or it could have been someone else; I'm past caring.

Two boys had a fight as they left the Pontoon. A small female steward picked them up and dragged them back. This is their capital punishment: more Town.

In the last minute Maynard sprinted clear and Newey pursued; Newey stretched and Maynard fell, a few yards from goal. The referee gave a penalty. Perhaps Newey got the ball, perhaps not: who cares? Lowe kicked the football to the right of the Grimsby goalkeeper and the ball did enter the net without hindrance. There were still some Town supporters in the ground by the time they kicked off again.

"What's it like to lose to Crewe?" Pretty normal, really: we've got used to losing this century.

Rankin raided and crossed, and Toner stretched to lift the ball on to the roof of the net. There you are, that was it. Three minutes of added time that felt like three years. It ended; had it ever begun? Town out, everyone down. Crewe showed us how to play football. Their pace, their poise, their perception embarrassed us. Town never, ever looked likely to score, but always likely to concede.

But in the end it isn't the result, or the performance that worries. It was the tangible taste of bitter memory, the stench of helplessness that pervades every splinter and sausage roll in Blundell Park. No-one believes, no-one desires; they just expect disappointment. There was no heart.

Nicko's unsponsored man of the match
Isaiah Rankin ran around a lot. That's enough.

Official Warning
Mr K Friend (with the silent 'r') was a pedantic whistle-happy nerk of the lowest order. This man managed to make a drudge game worse. Plagued crows shall pluck out thine eyes, oh inglorious pustule. Cast ye unto the loins of Satan with a score of 3.221.

The Others
You know, Crewe were Crewe, like someone's promising youth team. Lots of little players who moved quickly and controlled the ball. They passed, they ran quickly, they had wingers who winged. Offensively they played like Rodger's Town want to. A dodgy five-a-side keeper and a wobbly defence won't help them. Plus, you know, Crewe were Crewe; their players are all so small and wee.