From siren to serenity

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Pat Bell

5 February 2023

Crewe Alexandra 0 Grimsby Town 3

The siren call of Crewe. Easy to get to from any town or city in the North West or the West Midlands, but always you are being lured to disaster. Last win: 1990; last point: 1999; last goal: 2010. We travel hopelessly and arrive at nothing.

Still we came in numbers, the away side filling up until it was standing room only. Immediately after the kick-off, an elderly gent with a walking stick hobbled off to find a seat with a view unobstructured by another fan's back.

Let's hope it didn't take him long to find one. After three minutes, George Lloyd, on the halfway line, touched a clearance into the path of John McAtee who surged towards the Crewe penalty box. He took a touch or two until the ball was teed up perfectly to be drilled into the top right-hand corner of the goal. There was a pause while Town celebrated and someone in overalls unscrewed the plaque which read "Here marks the spot where Dean Sinclair scored Grimsby's last goal at Gresty Road".

Immediately on the restart, Crewe won a free kick a few yards outside the penalty area on their left. There was a pause pregnant enough for every Town fan to gestate their fears before they hoiked it over the wall but wide of the goal. It bounced off the hoardings and into the reverse side of the netting so home fans in their towering stand on the far side may have throught that they had scored, or at least come close, but Max Crocombe never gave it a moment's concern.

From that point on, the only thing to fear was superstition. Now and again Dan Agyei helped engineer the beginnings of an opening down our left. One ended when a ball struck Danny Amos and there was a crowd shout for hands. For the next five minutes the away fans amused themselves by crying "hands!" at random intervals.

The randomness extended over something more than mere intervals. Crewe could make no headway against our three-man midfield, Bryn Morris always in their way. When they lofted the ball forwards, Luke Waterfall was at his most imperious. There was a lot of back and forth between punt and header until Town realised that the game really was theirs for the taking. Alex Hunt started picking his passes: nothing spectacular, but neat and to the point.

Michee Efete and Josh Emmanuel had started out as right-sided central defender and wing back: they became something more like full back and outside right. Emmanuel has a loping stride and good control. Once he was caught on his heels by a pass he had not expected from McAtee, a couple of times he caught Town players on their heels. Give him a week in training with us and another match to get used to what we can and cannot do and he'll be a menace.

McAtee, on loan to the fourth flight, nowadays has the aura of a teenager playing among kids. Now and again there is a hint of arrogance to him: facing the touchline, he received a throw-in, turned on nothing to open out play but then swiped the ball across the pitch, yards from anyone and out of touch. Mostly he was just too good for Crewe.

Harry Clifton started buzzing between Emmanuel and McAtee, trying things that didn't always come off but scampering back to make good his mistake. He had a miscued shot or two. Danny Amos made a run that started out almost absent-minded, grew in conviction and ended with a shot just wide. Meanwhile, George Lloyd was starting to build an attacking presence fit for the heroes who were putting Town in control. There is no good playing the ball in the air to him: he'd make an ill-timed leap before bouncing off a defenders' chest. But he doesn't stop trying and if he gets the ball on the floor he sees the openings that before his arrival his team-mates had been blind to.

After half an hour, McAtee robbed Crewe on our left, just inside their half and played the ball forward for Lloyd. He raced to the edge of the area and shot into the bottom corner of the net. It is probably an optical illusion created by the vagaries of the Gresty Road conveniences or their catering, but it looked as though already some of their fans were starting to walk out.

2-0 is a dangerous lead, except that at Crewe on 4 February it was a lead you could have bet your mortgage on. Paul Hurst could afford to troll us all by taking off McAtee and Lloyd and still there was not the smallest sign of a Crewe recovery. Instead after some work by Emmanuel Thomas Dickson-Peters diverted an Amos fluff in off the bottom of the post. It was a metaphor disguised as a goal: a shambles that ended in satisfaction. Dickson-Peters was the fourth debutant to feature: one day the kitperson may insist he either grow his body or shrink his name.

Now there was no illusion about the steady flow of Crewe fans who had seen too much. We may have been in the majority by full-time. We had ventured into a land we knew all too well but discovered that this time, there were no dragons. Obviously we are still 16th: we could be outside the play-offs or above the relegation zone only on goal diference and we would still be 16th. But for now we are 16th and looking up.