In to the second half and the game did improve, not to a point where it could have been classed as entertaining, but enough to prove that the players wanted it. The first ten minutes or so were just more of the same, so Danny tweaked things. Tom Pett came on, Harry Anderson came off and we seemed to go to a 4-3-3, tucking Bruno and McCartan in around Akinde. After all, it hadn’t really happened for us from the flanks, so why not try something new?
There was an instant impact and if you want the goal back, which I urge you to do, you’ll see Akinde involved twice. Crewe didn’t clear their lines after an initial effort and courtesy of a couple of won headers, the ball fell to Pett who rifled an effort at goal. Garratt, who had been in excellent form all afternoon, got a hand to the effort but such was the venom it had been hit with, it trickled over the line. Sincil Bank erupted and the game presented itself for us to take.
That wasn’t what happened though. Not long after a stinging Crewe volley called Josh Vickers into action, but the stopper was alert to the danger. They had resorted to having pop shots from 25-yards, failing to find a way through our packed defence. Again, the two centre halves were dominant, allowing us a certain wastefulness up front. That isn’t complacency, but we know that we can rely on the back two in most situations, even if I did think Bozzy looked a bit like a dog who had gone for an operation and come back partially shaved and partially shaggy.
The warning was there and as expected the game began to open up a bit. Bruno Andrade had a stinging drive that tested the keeper from nowhere, but Garrard was equal to it. At the other end, Neal Eardley got caught out by a bouncing ball and Charlie Kirk found plenty of space, but his shot was tamer than my Mum’s cat. Had that not been the case, it could have been 1-1 but Eardley turned and trotted away as though little of note had happened. Lucky let off.
Bruno had found some space in the latter stages of the game, maybe the Crewe legs tired, maybe the game became stretched as Crewe chased an equaliser some felt they deserved. Either way, he skinned Kevin O’Connor and the 23-year old dragged him to the floor. It was as cynical as they come, but there was no card produced. I guess rookie referee Paul Marsden felt a 2-0 deficit would be punishment enough. Lee Frecklington likes to live dangerously, so he passed a Gareth Southgate-esque penalty at Garrard to set up a tense final few minutes.
City hung on, as much a testament to Crewe’s lack of attacking power as to our own play. I’m trying to subtlety say it was one to forget, one where picking a Man of the Match was almost like picking the lesser of thirteen evils. Michael O’Connor got it, fair enough. Tom Pett was nominated by the caller on BBC Radio Lincolnshire by virtue of the goal, which is usually the sponsors method of picking it. Me? I would have plumped for Jason Shackell, purely because him and Bostwick looked the most composed of all our players.
I don’t think we were terrible, but make no mistake we weren’t good. Crewe did very well, they were robust, organised but they lacked anything up front at all. If they had a striker, maybe Matt Green or John Akinde, they’d be on the fringe of the top ten on that showing. I’ve heard at times this season they’ve been excellent, then on the flip side they’ve also been incredibly poor. Yesterday they were alright.
As for us, as soon as the whistle went I wanted to forget about how we got the three points and concentrate on the elation of seeing a league table with four points separating us and the nearest challengers. It’s a nice feeling, not only being safe for the next game no matter what, but knowing that we’ve been on top for six weeks or so now. We’re the team to catch and whilst the top side changes every week in the Championship and looks like doing the same in League One, in League Two we’re setting the pace. okay, we lost in midweek when we should have won, but in the main we’re winning when we play badly, winning when we play well and all the other times, finding ways to win.
Just imagine when this team clicks properly, when our corners begin to land on player’s head again, when the wingers get free rein, when the patterns of play become second nature and of course, when Big John Akinde gets his eye in. If we’re four points better than everyone else right now, imagine what we could be like.
That’ll get you through until next weekend’s trip to Port Vale.