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Nationwide Division One, 16/9/00
Crewe Alexandra
By Martin Blanc

Had people round Saturday night. Got mildly merry. Nice food. Not amazing, not the greatest or most scintillating evening of anyone's life. Pleasant conversation. But still, the day's game was not at the front of our minds, even though more than one of the people had been there too.

It was one of those games that happens, just happens, and we grind out a win, and that's good enough, and there are moments of loveliness, and moments of sloppy laziness, and it's the Hornets in Division One, and we seem to have nothing to fear from any of our opponents, past or future. It was a game in which the TV highlights may not even have numbered three. In short, it was a game against Crewe.

Not to say that we weren't good. Okay, we weren't great. But we were efficient, and without Helguson we still have plenty in the tank when we go forward. Their keeper, though, despite looking extremely small in the first half, and only marginally less so when he got closer at the change of ends, handled everything with excellent placing. It took some close-up sleight of foot from Tommy Smith, and another nonchalant rocket from Micah Hyde to put him in the back of the net, fetching the ball. (For our second goal, it seemed like everyone was in the net along with the ball.) Otherwise, we cruised it in the sense that even if Espen hadn't pulled off one of the saves of the year, and we had gone one-nil down after five minutes, we'd still have run out the winners. We struggled to put much together in the first half, but in the second, with Tommy Mooney pulled in-field from the left and Nielsen pushed out in his place, we just did our splendid new thing, and slowly reaped rewards. It was a very two-nil game, although we could have walked the ball into the net a couple of times (just took the wrong turning at the last second in the six-yard box), before Micah's last-minute strike.

A game like this puts a lot in perspective (and not just the size of the Crewe keeper). We're fans, we want our team to do well, and to win - and when they don't, well, we all have out own ways of dealing with it (all too well documented in BSaD and police records across the Home Counties). But now, we're just beginning to get used to the boys doing really well - hell, of course we are, why should it be such a surprise? - so that when they do win, but don't win well, we're still delighted, can't complain, mustn't grumble, but we realise we didn't get phenomenally excited. To many, after Blackburn, that's probably quite a relief. Calmer waters and all that. It's a different sort of contentment, the job-well-done feeling that stamps the team with a mark of quality. But since when did efficiency get pulses racing?

This was just further proof that we're covering more and more of the bases. We could have let our heads drop, in sheer bloody exhaustion, after Blackburn. We could have taken our eye off the ball with post-euphoric complacency. We didn't. And that says a lot. That's the most exciting part. We're building a sensational house - so what if not every single brick makes us gasp?