Sunday, 17 April 2011

Crewe Alexandra v Lincoln City, 16 April 2011

Venue: Gresty Road, Crewe
Attendance: 3,731
Final score: 1-1
To say that Lincoln entered this match with trepidation would be the understatement of the year.  Lincoln’s recent run of results is almost biblically bad, and it is certain that Lincoln will have to rely on the poor results of teams below them to help save them.

Crewe went into the match having won their last home game 8-1 against Cheltenham, but then losing on the road at lowly Barnet.   Their home form is the one that sticks in the mind, however, with even Steve Tilson admitting this week that he was ‘frightened’ by that result.  When the manager admits that his knees are wobbling before a game, fans definitely have reason to worry.

With Adam Watts calling in sick on the morning of the match, Paul Green was recalled to the starting 11 at centre half, and also wore the captain’s armband.  Also returning to the side was midfielder Clarke Keltie, for his first game in 5 months.  The suspension of Grimes meant that Ben Hutchinson began up front alone.  City were only able to name 6 substitutes, but notable among them was youngster Karl Cunningham (son of City legend Tony), making his first steps towards the senior team and hopefully the next Lee Frecklington.

City started well, not showing any signs of the fear professed before the game.  Fuseini had a great early chance after a good run on the right by Howell.  His cross was good but Fuseini could only turn his effort over the bar when he might have had time to take an extra touch.

City’s formation was working well, and they were enjoying their share of possession.  Crewe were never going to lie down, however, and after 10 minutes Garner forced  Parrish into a good save, and Anderson hacked the ball away for corner.

The Imps soon followed up with a corner of their own, which eventually fell to Keltie, who hit the bar with a long range effort.

City continued to have the better of the openings, as Fuseini was presented with a good half chance on 28 minutes when Kelly found him with a cross, but the midfielder could once again only blast his effort well over the bar.

Shortly afterwards came the first talking point of the afternoon.  Kelly cut inside his fullback inside the area following a good pass from Fuseini.  Ada seemed to upend him, and the City players and bench all appealed.  The referee, however, consulted with his linesman and decided not to award the spot kick.  Interestingly, if not even a little controversially, post match interviews would reveal that the referee thought it was a penalty but allowed himself to be overruled by his assistant.  At least we now know who wears the trousers in that relationship!

Although Crewe saw more of the ball following the incident, they were unable to carve out any real chances, and it was City who finished the first half stronger.  The home crowd had been growing increasingly frustrated during the first half, no doubt expecting another easy victory, and booed the Crewe players off at half time.

It had been a half in which City had more than held Crewe, had created the best chances and been denied a nailed-on penalty.  There was much for Imps fans to be confident about during half time.

City started the second half in the same positive mood they finished the first, and soon took the lead.  A 47th minute corner was played back into the box by Hone, and Paul Green was there to turn it in off the post.  It was the perfect start to the second half from City and real questions were now being asked of Crewe.

Crewe threatened to reply immediately and won two corners of their own in quick succession, but City’s defence held firm.

Having a rare lead was causing City to work hard, especially in midfield, where Crewe were being given little time to breathe.  It was a big change on recent performances for the Imps, but the danger was ever present of a mistake or Crewe finally putting a good move together undoing all of City’s hard work.

In the 77th minute City were indeed undone.  A ball over the top saw Green running shoulder to shoulder with Miller.  There seemed to be no aggressive move by Green, but the referee deemed the contact enough to award the home side a penalty. City were shellshocked that such a soft penalty should be awarded, especially when compared to the one City were denied in the first half.  Clayton Donaldson duly stepped up and sidefooted the ball home.  Crewe certainly didn’t deserve to be level on balance of play, but there was now real fear that this unexpected lifeline would lead to them taking control.

Thankfully the onslaught never materialized, much to the continued consternation of the home crowd.  It was City that almost retook the lead late on, as first McCallum saw his shot blocked for a corner, then Hutchinson headed onto the roof of the net before the final whistle sounded.

Ultimately it was a game of two penalties, both decisions going against City.  I’m definitely more annoyed at the soft penalty awarded to Crewe than the one denied City, as Crewe would surely have not been able to deny City all three points without it.  The focus, though, really should be on the much improved City performance and a point that stops the run of defeats and will hopefully re-instill some confidence.

Other results today mean that City are now 6 points ahead of Barnet 23rd place with 4 games to go.  With Barnet’s maximum possible haul now 53 points, one more win would see City realistically safe.

Crewe Alexandra
13 Rhys Taylor
2 Matt Tootle
6 Patrick Ada
28 Ashley M Westwood
3 Danny Blanchett
12 Lee Bell
4 Ashley Westwood
17 Danny Shelly
7 Clayton Donaldson
10 Shaun Miller
11 Joel Grant
14 Byron Moore for Grant (59)
25 Nick Powell
for Shelley (64)
15 Mat Mitchel-King
21 Antoni Sarcevic
23 Adam Dugdale
29 Max Clayton
1 Steve Phillips

24 Elliott Parish
16 Julian Kelly
2 Paul Green
6 Danny Hone
3 Joe Anderson
8 Clark Keltie
31 Ali Fuseini
26 Tom Kilbey
15 Luke Howell
9 Gavin McCallum
27 Ben Hutchinson
10 Drewe Broughton
14 Josh O'Keefe
17 Karl Cunningham
19 Jamie Clapham
39 Scott Spencer
1 Joe Anyon

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