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Crewe Vagrants slip into relegation zone following defeat
10:41am Monday 4th March 2013 in Sport
Crewe Vagrants 0 Sheffield Hallam Uni 3
THE writing is on the wall for struggling Crewe.
Any hopes that the memory of last week’s 8-0 away thrashing by runaway league leaders Ben Rhydding might be erased by victory at home to mid-table opponents Sheffield Hallam were extinguished by a dismal, lacklustre performance lacking in cohesion, firepower or any apparent will to win.
The result sees them slip into the bottom two of the North Hockey Division One, though relegation is far from a foregone conclusion as they trail tenth-placed Stockton by only two points.
After weathering early pressure Vagrants went close with the second of two breaks, but keeper Kassim Abbas soon had to make an acrobatic high save to keep the game scoreless.
On eight minutes, after some good clearing stickwork from the composed Chris Regan, it was Sheffield who drew first blood, slicing easily through the home defence and scoring from a neat passing move and simple tap-in.
Ed Beak countered with a fast run down the right, but there was no one in front of goal to finish and two further Crewe breaks proved equally fruitless.
Sheffield might then have extended their lead when a waiting forward narrowly failed to steer a cross inside the post into an empty net.
They rectified that mistake on 19 minutes, with the home defence allowing space for another simple pass and connecting tap-in from close range for 2-0.
From then on there were precious few signs of real determination by a demoralised Crewe to get back on terms.
All too often they lost possession going forward, allowing Sheffield to counter with ease.
Pete Cornell staged a fine run and Lewis Pantry put in a good holding dribble in midfield, but Vagrants otherwise looked ready to capitulate, lacking fire, spirit and self-belief.
As half-time approached another home cross foundered for lack of anyone to connect at the far post.
Vagrants resumed the second half looking more combative and though Beak put in a good run, passes were going astray to gift Sheffield possession.
All too soon Crewe found themselves under threat in their own ‘D’, unable to break forward.
Beak went close at the other end with a shot from the left being cleared off the line, and he further lifted spirits with another promising run down the right.
Regan might have got Crewe back into the game with a short corner, but shot straight at the keeper, and the home side again looked resigned to defeat.
Sensing the low morale Sheffield duly burst through, firing to Abbas’s right to wrap up the scoring at 3-0.
Vagrants countered with a melee of players in the Sheffield ‘D’, a fast run by Cornell and a further corner, but simply could not find the net and did not look like doing so. Sheffield, by contrast, were getting forward with ease, while Crewe kept hitting aimlessly into the ‘D allowing them to break.
Vagrants had a lucky escape when the visitors shot wide with only Abbas to beat and endured a nervy spell as they defended three successive corners, before wasting one of their own.
They showed few signs of being able to break forward and Abbas had to make two vital saves to restrict the visitors to three goals.
Cornell did make two late, dazzling runs, but on the first held on to the ball too long and on the second found no one to connect with his cross.
It was all too little, too late, and in the closing four minutes Crewe simply could not get forward at all.
The simple truth is that they did not play with anything like the fluency, passion and determination of which they are capable, and duly paid the price.