Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The last match in reverse: the Mighty vs Crewe Alexandra

Gonna get one of these. They look fun

What the actual fuck? The same side from Saturday. I'm *astonished*. Maybe the selection roulette wheel is broken? Maybe Big Gaz leaned on it a bit heavily or dropped some kebab meat into the intricate workings and despite Mike Garrity working overtime with some WD40 and a can of compressed air it just couldn't be fixed...?

Who knew we could do this? I was beginning to think that part of the rules of football were you had to make a couple of changes from the week before. But hey! It's been working to the point where I'm now wondering if an unchanged side might have the same unsettling effect that changes have. 

That makes literally no sense. What makes sense anyway? We're all looking for meaning aren't we? Just trying to find a story that makes sense of our short time on this rock. What the fuck am I talking about? I don't know either. Quick. Think of something footbally to say. I'll say this. It's a happy Critchday to Critch and his beautiful child Critchball. At it's best Critchball is purposeful and professional and maybe last week was our best performance yet under the twinkly eyed maestro in the big coat. 

The Crewe game in October wasn't the low point of Critch's tenure, but it was redolent of the problems we had early on. We passed it sideways, we passed it back, we passed it too and fro, we ran about a lot but we looked about as dangerous as a piece of soggy quiche. I think tonight will be a really interesting test and I've come to expect much more from us, we're more street wise, more purposeful, more able to mix it up and crucially, more adaptable. The bench looks full of menace. CJ, Demi, Embleton all excite me in different ways and wee Neil seems to have found his substitution mojo in the last few weeks. 

COME ON YOU POOL!  

(I am expecting an update around 6:57 to state that a meteor has struck Bloomfield Road and tonight's game will be rescheduled) 

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This is a night game of first class potential. It's a cold crisp evening, the twin scent of winter crispness mingling with the heady sensual musk of spring. The lights render everything brighter giving a clarity to the experience. Night games are dreamlike, the stadium a glowing bowl that blots out everything else, beyond the walls of the ground there is nothing, only blackness. For a brief while, this is EVERYTHING. How I wish I was there. How I wish we all were. It should be a proper night. A decent away following, a loud home crowd. A perfect pitch and two sides in good form. 

Pool are off to a comedy start and look awful for 60 seconds but manage to gather themselves and try to calm it down. Crewe though, aren't just a house on fire, they're a raging inferno ripping through a city.. They're charging everything down and giving us no time to play. The look like we look like when we're good but able to sustain it longer. Canny in possession but physical in the tackle. Colin Greenhall helpfully lets us know that both teams possess 'legs' 

Crewe's kit looks the remains of grease and burn marks from some kind of disasterous chip pan situation. That fashion disaster doesn't stop them cutting a clearance out and getting it forward quickly to Chris Porter who strikes it well, just inside the box, drawing a terrific stop from Maxwell, leaping, throwing an arm up and diverting it over. 

Crewe continue to show real intent. They're very sharp, they move it quickly, purposefully, dangerously, they look very well drilled and full of confidence. A long ball is brought down by Porter, who twists and turns, he beats Ballard but stabs it past the post. The game is summed up by Crewe moving it so fast that Sullay and Stewart literally run into each other. The move cuts a swathe through us and Crewe have it in the net, but are offside... 

Donavan Daniels is surprisingly galloping down the wing for Crewe, his cross finds Porter who beat Ballard again, but nods wide. Lowery for Crewe is a little magician. I'm watching the way he spreads play with envy. The best we manage in response is a bit of chest control and a juggle of the ball from Thorniley before he knocks one clear. 

Even Anthony Evans doesn't look shit.

They're just getting more men forward than we are. When they go, they all go and it's notable how well they defend the break, cutting it out in our half. We look knocked off our balance, stretching for the ball, hurried. Sullay is dancing side to side, hopefully shadowing play but making no difference. Jerry is charging around but getting no where near it. Stewart is chucking himself in, but not disrupting as much as his effort shows he wants to. Thorniley is being targeted. He like to play the classy centre back, but he keeps getting his clearances cut out. That said, his header in Crewe's next attack is brilliant, timing a clearance under the bar to perfection. 

Finally we have a shot. Virtue threading a nice ball, Simms peeling off his man and shooting from an impossible angle but none the less drawing a stop. Next, Ward reminds us he's playing and indeed, that we can use the width of the pitch, by beating his man wide, it's nice skill to win a corner. The ball is delivered to the far post, Ballard goes to the post, Thorniley round the outside and the former leaps high, nodding it wide when the latter might have been in place to bury it. 

A nice move next, Virtue to Kaikai, to Garbutt, all across the face of the box, Garbutt crossing deep and the ball falling for Virtue on the snapshot... it's deflected behind. Two corners follow and from the second, Ballard goes to the near post, springs and glances it home. YES! How are we in front? I don't care! 

There's time for Crewe to score another offside goal but aside from that, the sting seems to have gone from their play and we're much more comfortable. 

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Have we just weathered the storm and come out dry? Crewe played as well as anyone we've played for a while there but there is a sense that they can't keep that up. I couldn't help feel we missed Kenny Dougall but maybe the more progressive players will come to the fore if Crewe tire as surely they must. There were times when it seemed our only players were out centre halves and Ellis Simms but Virtue has used the ball well on a couple of occasions and Stewart slugged it out in midfield and tried to get things going. 

If I were Critch, I wouldn't be writing this shite and instead I'd be saying 'Oi, Thorniley, put your laces through it first time, forget about the Baresi stuff' but I'd probably keep it as it was for now, with CJ, Demi and Embleton poised to come on at the first sign of Crewe fatigue. 

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Shirtless Jerry starts a big collective, 'c'mon lads' and the team clapping echos round the ground. We respond to the snipers encouragement by starting much better, Simms linking well with the main man, then Stewart winning a free kick 2 yards outside the D. Garbutt goes for low shot, that is more like a snooker pot than anything which the keeper has to go down and stop just inside the near post before the white ball rolls into the pocket. 

Virtue threads a lovely pass, but Ward's cross is poor. Sullay goes past his man but checks back inexplicably. Garbutt swings a free kick in that's headed away. Ward then goes down the right and puts a ball that is every bit as good as the previous one was bad. Somehow it eludes Yates before dropping to Kaikai who smacks it, the ball bounces back to him, he goes for it again but can only drive the air and the ball rolls away from danger. 

We've done quite well so far but Critch is rolling the dice. On comes Demi for Sullay. I might have used Embleton for his physical strength but Demi's pace is always welcome. On also, for Ellis Simms, comes the one, the only, CJ HAMILTON!!! who looks to be playing up front with Jerry which is exciting stuff. 

Chissy wishes the linesman well as he goes down with what looks like a very painful ankle injury. I decide Dave Artell, dressed all in black and bespectacled, looks a bit like a low budget stage magician. I imagine him coming to kids birthday party, fucking a load of tricks up, then muttering "what do you expect for £30."  Critch has some banter with the flag as we wait to replace the linesman. There's a wonderful moment as Chissy anounces he's thinking of offering himself as the missing fourth official. Oh, how he teases us. 

Another chance is created by CJ putting pressure on and causing a slip in the Crewe defence. The ball breaks to Virtue who rolls it inch perfectly for Ward to take it and cross in his stride. The ball is good, but the finish just isn't there. 

Crewe have come into it a bit more though. They've mustered a corner and a break that looked good until they were over elaborate. My impression of Artell as magician is furthered as he has to operate the digital mystery of the subs board sans 4th official. 

Then Crewe block a Yates clearance, work it into the box, lash a shot into Thorniley, the ball loops up and Maxwell has to race across and make a good save sprawling back and palming it out. Pool respond with a long raking ball for CJ to chase. Chase it he does, then despite being second to it charges the defender off it and drives it across goal where it strikes a Crewe man and loops to their keeper. This is a good game...  

Gabriel goes down the right, and crosses from level with the edge of the box, it's a low ball that cuts across the turf and skips up perfectly for CJ but he's rusty and the ball just hits him and rolls to the keeper. Crewe cause a few flutters in response - a ball from the left that Garbutt has to head behind, then a real missed chance from the resulting corner as they get a free header, dead centre 8 yards out but put it several feet over the bar. 

Crewe are having a second wind. They're putting pressure on, almost rushing Maxwell into a mistake. Artell looks basically buzzing his tits off to be using the subs board again as they bring more subs on. I really, really want Mike Garrity to have a go. I bet he'd absolutely love it. It would make his week. 

Crewe pick up where they left off. A long ball, Ballard has stepped up, Walker gets beyond him, takes it, turns,jogs through and slips it past Maxwell. It's either offside or really poor defending. It hurts, but it's really what Crewe deserve. 

With ten minutes of injury time indicated, Powell drifts through the defence and puts it the wrong side of the post. Crewe look fresher. Why no subs? Are we not wanting to do our own board? We're slipping, we're fouling. They're zipping it about like they were right at the start. They play beautiful football on the left, get it across and see it curled half a yard beyond the post. 

Then we fashion a chance. Ward goes one way, then changes the angle brilliantly and, laying it inside his man, finds the overlapping Virtue, who takes it right to the touchline and pulls back. Yates, flicks it up and then he leaps like a slice of toast from a particularly enthusiastically sprung toaster, he twists and sets himself for a brilliant volleyed goal, but sees the ball blocked away... 

There's time for some more attacks from both sides but I can't take any more... Crwere have the ball in the quadrant ready to take a corner when the whistle goes and frankly, it comes as a mixed blessing. We needed three points, but we could have got none.  

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It has been a fantastic game and it would be churlish to say Crewe didn't deserve a point. They're probably the most engaging side I've seen us play this year and they made it very difficult. I don't think we were at our best. The left hand side of the pitch, whether Demi or Sullay offered little and Yates didn't really have a clear cut chance all night till his effort at the death. I thought Ward offered a bit more on the right, Virtue played well and Stewart is probably one of the key reasons why we weren't a goal down. 

This was basically the game at their place in reverse. They made the early running this time, but then conceded and got themselves back in it late on. I was very impressed with their energy and the way their subs pepped them up. Whereas I couldn't think of a Charlton player who stood out, I could name 5 or 6 Crewe players who looked very good. 

Hindsight make you question whether taking Simms off was the right move but as Ward was doing ok, it really was the only way to get CJ on the pitch and there were a few moments, not least when he was pulled up by the ref, close to the end, baring down on goal after dispossessing his full back, where actually, it could have been a dream comeback. 

We really could have done with 3 points, but I can't think of many sterner tests this year. Maybe we needed more changes, maybe Embleton in particular could have got on. Equally, hindsight makes you wonder if stiffening the midfield might have been wiser than throwing on overtly attacking players, but hindsight shows you many things. Fucking hell, with hindsight, I could have done so much with my life and won the lottery many times over. With hindsight, I wouldn't be writing this shite hardly anyone reads, for free, I can tell you that. 

It was a good game. You don't win them all. There's a truism that says sport is best when it's evenly matched. That the individual quality doesn't matter, it's the competition. This game kind of spoke to that but I'd rather have won and not deserved it, than be spouting reasonable and terribly sporting stuff at the end of the blog. 

Onward. 

utmp

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