- On August 6, 2018
Crewe Alexandra 6 v Morecambe 0
Saturday 4 August, League 2, Gresty Rd, 3pm.
Shrimps -Roche (c) Mills Old Kenyon Cranston Tutte Fleming Mandeville Ellison Oates Oliver subs used Wildig for Tutte, Oswell for Mandeville, Sinclair for Oates.
Alex – Richards Ng Ray Nolan Pickering Kirk Jones Wintle Green Nicholls Bowery subs used Hunt for Ray, Ainley for Kirk, Porter for Nicholls
Goalscorers for Crewe: Kirk (6), Nicholls (10, 63), Jones (72, 90), Porter (87)
Ref – A Young, first game in the Football League after being promoted from the National League. 8/10, did pretty well, a little fussy.
Yellow cards – Wildig.
Attendance 3,559 with 336 from Morecambe.
Weather, – warm, breezy, sunny, pitch excellent.
I often think that the first game of the season is the only day of the season that every fan looks forward to with both hope and expectation, with new signings, a new kit, in some cases a new manager and with summer still high in the sky, it’s a time of joy.
The Shrimps were armed with a clutch of new boys, with Cranston, Mills, Tutte, Mandeville and Oates all getting a start, Sinclair, Oswell, Halstead and Jagne making the bench, so only Mendes Gomez missing out. After a decent pre-season following on from a very tough end of the season, hopes were high for a decent start.
As we travelled to Gresty Rd for the penultimate away game of the 2017-18 campaign, it seemed very familiar, however, we were confident that we could erase the memory of that awful 1-0 loss that day.
Jim and Ken opted for a reasoned 4-2-3-1 approach and surprised many by starting with Vadaine Oliver up front. Surprising as he didn’t feature much in the last ten games of the last campaign, and didn’t even make the bench for the crucial trip to Coventry. Even before the kick off, missing Sam Lavelle at Centre back and despite the best efforts no reasonable replacement signed in time, it fell to Alex Kenyon to fill in as left centre back.
Not ideal, but he has done a decent job in a back three last season so needs must. The signing of 29 goal Jason Oswell but leaving him on the bench baffled many, but I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that little selection dilemma.
I doubt anybody expected the opening minutes of the season to be such a shambles. Six minutes in, Kenyon was down the right channel chasing the jet healed Bowery, who nutmegged Alex and pulled it back for the waiting Nicholls, his shot was blocked on the line by Cranston but fell kindly for Kirk to shoot into the roof of the net, 1-0 Crewe.
It got worse – on ten minutes Kirk became tormentor in chief, with Pickering raiding down the left releasing him he crossed to find an unmarked Nicholls who glanced a header into the bottom right corner for 2-0.
The tide was very much against the Shrimps for the rest of the half as Crewe stroked it around from the back, with often frustrated pockets of blue-shirted Shrimps players looking at one another as though trapped in stasis.
A Pickering overlap saw Kirk repay the compliment and play him in but he shot wildly wide from an angle. Barry looked bewildered as the red shirts swarmed around the box. We did break and forced a couple of corners, and Oates did have a lovely flick header go close, however normal service was resumed when Bowery went close twice but somehow we held on until half time at 2-0 down.
Things needed to change, we looked nervous and panicked every time Alex came forward, but despite Kev’s best efforts, the ball wasn’t sticking up front.
In the second period, we appeared to have steadied the ship a little without making too much headway with our toothless attack. That was until some neat build up found Nicholls in the box who had the time to flick up and volley with his left past a stranded Baz to give him his second and seal the game at 3-0.
We looked beaten, Jones hammered in a fourth from outside the box, Porter added insult with a back post header outmuscling Cranston for 5. Oliver hit the outside of the post for us, then really should have scored when Nolan misjudged a free kick and was through one on one, but shot straight at the advancing Richards.
Jones completed the rout with another low drive from outside the box to give Alex the 6-0 score they deserved.
So what happened?
We were outplayed by a well-prepared team playing a simple passing game, our fullbacks looked exposed, we were a man light in the middle of the park and our forward’s touch and interpassing was virtually non existent.
Obviously missing Sam, we were caught out early in the game, couldn’t recover and never successfully competed after halftime.
Jim’s honest postmatch analysis that we looked like a stag do that had just staggered off the plane was spot on.
I honestly cannot remember a worse opening game, and I was at Kiddie in 98 when we were 5-0 down at halftime, but we rallied and lost 5-2 that day.
Can we improve? We must, in every single area, or this will be a longer and harder season than last, but some more attacking intent and perhaps forwards who can offer a goal threat would help??
The only way is up.