Saturday 2nd December.
We’ve done it. For the first time since March (also against Crewe)
we have won at home. It’s been a long haul since that lovely Sunny
day in Sheffield back in August, and although the opposition were
hardly top drawer we have to try to start the long journey to survival
somewhere. This was a classic game of two halves, with the first
being pretty poor fare but the second finished with Town convincing
winners. Since the appointment of Macari and Jordan the work rate
of the team has improved dramatically and that feeling of inevitable
defeat has diminished, the side looking much more combative now.
The defence had to be re-jigged because of injury to Chris Lucketti,
Rob Kozluk’s premature return to Sheffield United and illness suffered
by John Dyson. Craig Armstrong returned to his left back duties
following his midfield exploits, with Thomas Heary occupying the
right back slot allowing Steve Jenkins to partner Kevin Gray in
Much of the first half was a pretty dull affair with chances at
a premium, although Craig Armstrong did have to be alert with a
goal line clearance from Mark Rivers on about the quarter hour mark.
Nico Vaesen was almost caught out of position after half an hour
just managing to punch away a Colin Cramb lob, but both sides looked
edgy and determined not to concede the first goal. With Baldry and
Thornley playing quite well there was finally some reasonable service
into the Crewe area, but the Town strikers looked a little slow
to commit themselves forward.
Once again the impending half-time whistle proved to be Town’s
Achilles heel, as Crewe waltzed through a static home defence and
a ball played through to the unmarked Colin Cramb was despatched
without hesitation from 20 yards out. It was harsh on Town who deserved
to at least head for their half time cuppa on level terms.
Under the stewardship of Mr Bruce half time team talks were about
as effective as a chocolate fire guard with Town playing worse after
hearing his words of wisdom. Not so under the leadership of Mssrs
Macari and Jordan. Town have more self belief than a month or two
ago, and thanks to this re-discovered team spirit parity was restored
a couple of minutes after the restart
. I can’t say I remember too much about the build up to the goal,
but the fact that it went in is what sticks in my mind. Much improved
Simon Baldry found himself in the penalty area under the watchful
eye of a Crewe defender, in order to work himself some space he
flicked the ball over his shoulder and lobbed the ball towards the
goal. It looked certain to clear the crossbar, but no, there it
was in the back of the net! At last lady luck had smiled on Town,
and for once it was the keeper who had to retrieve the ball, not
the ball boy.
Fired up by this stroke of luck (or genius?), Town began to take
the game by the scruff of the neck and caused the Crewe defence
all manner of problems. One player who looked seriously stretched
was Efe Sodje who was particularly noticeable for wearing a tea
towel (or pair of undies at the HTFC World web-site alluded to)
on his head. Town’s pressure was rewarded just after the hour mark
when Martin Smith rose majestically to head in a Thomas Heary cross
from the right. It was no less than we deserved and the first home
win looked to be a distinct possibility.
Just 6 minutes later the dream became a reality when a spell of
Town pressure in the Crewe penalty area caused the ball to break
to Kenny Irons about 18 yards out. He immediately shot for goal,
and whether it was on target or not matters not, because Kevin Gallen
got a little touch to the ball to take it past Jason Kearton in
the visitor’s goal. 3-1 up, and the McAlpine faithful were actually
smiling for the first time in a long time.
The remaining 25 minutes or so passed with Town well on top, yet
producing little to actually trouble the Crewe back line, they had
3 points and weren’t going to let them go. Once the referee finally
blew his whistle the crowd just seemed to erupt with joy. The 10,000
who still make the effort to visit the McAlpine were celebrating
what the win might signify rather than the quality of a win against
very ordinary opposition indeed. If we had lost today then we could
have all but mathematically kissed goodbye to this division, whereas
the win sees off the home hoodoo and stops us falling any further
behind the teams above us. Bring on the Wolves!!
There was some interesting speculation cum fact that a potential
investor into the club was watching today’s game. According to Radio
Leeds Leeds Leeds he is a Norwegian who is well up the ladder in
cruise giant Cunard. Barry Rubery claims to be still enjoying life
as a football club Chairman but I’m not so convinced, and the opportunity
to bail out would probably appeal to him especially now his best
mate’s working for NTL. Rumour has it that he only acquired a football
club to have some influence on the bidding for TV rights, and now
that is over for 3 years or so his interest might be waning.
TOWN 3 (Baldry 47, Smith 61, Gallen 67)
Crewe Alexandra 1 (Cramb 43)
Position in table – 24th
Town – Vaesen; Jenkins; Heary; Armstrong;
Gray; Baldry; Holland; Irons (Sellars 89); Gallen; Smith (Facey
77); Thornley (Gorré 89). Subs not used – Margetson; Schofield.
Crewe Alexandra – Kearton; Wright; Smith;
Lunt; Foster; Sodje; Sorvel; Lumsden (Little 67); Jack; Cramb
(Hulse 67); Rivers. Subs not used – Bankole; Street; Walker.
Referee – Trevor Parkes (Birmingham).