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05/09 Vale 1st Half
By: Tony Butcher
Port Vale 3 Grimsby Town 1
05 Sep 1999, Nationwide League Division 1
A really hot afternoon, with not even a hint of a breeze. In the huge space available to them the Port Vale board have decided to build a stand barely bigger than the Pontoon with a couple of rows of Executive boxes on top. And it is only half done, so one half of the pitch has rubble next to it. There were allegedly 3,700 paying customers in Vale Park, though it appeared to be way below 3,000. In the barren acres of the first half the crowd was being counted by the Mariners cognoscenti, it was that low. As usual Town had 200 lounging behind a goal.
The omens were not good for Town. McDermott was out injured, Black was playing up front-ish with Ashcroft and the players pre-match warm up was the standing-in-a-circle-passing-to-each other routine that NEVER FAILS to bring an awful performance.
Town lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Black playing somewhere between Ashcroft and the midfield.
Of course what follows is a personal recollection of the main events as seen from behind one of the goals, Apologies if some of the details do not tally with Sky's action replays.
Town kicked off away from the Town support and totally dominated the first 10 seconds. Groves clipped a ball from the centre to D Smith, hugging the left touchline. He took the ball on the volley, skinned the full-back, and whipped over cross to the far post.
And that is it as far as Town attacking is concerned. Towards the end of the half Black blocked an attempted shot from Groves, and D Smith (after being set free by Ashcroft) pulled a cross behind everyone. Absolutely no other "moments of danger" were created by Town. As an attacking force Town were moribund. Too many times the back players merely launched long balls down the channels.
Port Vale played to a simple plan - they had two wingers to whom the ball was played as quickly as possible, and the midfield players ran into the box.
Butterfield and Gallimore were unable to cope at all with two men running quickly near them. Coldicott and Groves failed to stop the central players infiltrating the box and the result was huge holes appearing in the Town defence whenever Port Vale attacked. A very unedifying spectacle. Port Vale should probably have scored three or four in the first half, simply through the pusillanimous defending rather than their own attributes.
The goals :-
After about 20 minutes Town allowed Naylor to run behind the defence, on the left of the area. The defence had been holding a line at the edge of the penalty area and he looked (from the perfect position 20 yards behind the goal) to be offside. Naylor got to the bye-line and pulled the ball across the 6 yard line, where BENT lunged in to score, from a central position.
About 10 minutes later Bent played a little pass in between Butterfield and the centre backs, to the right of the Town area. NAYLOR ran on and hit a cross shot past Coyne from about 10 yards, the ball going in off Livingstone's shins (it was going in any way).
The near misses :-
Port Vale were obviously enthused by their goals and attempted to press for further goals by upping the pace. They had several corners that were rather poorly dealt with by the defence. One went whizzing through the 6 yard box, and they won 3 headers on the six yard box, though none were ultimately threatening.
Just after they scored their first goal Port Vale won a free kick about 30 yards out, to the Town right. It was tapped sideways and a shot was driven towards the top left of Coyne's goal. Coyne pushed the ball away for a corner with a very good save (though it was a perfect height for him). From the resulting corner the ball was played in low to the near post. The striker got a half shot in which bounced up towards the top left of the goal and Coyne pawed it away for another corner.
A deep cross from the Town right was met by Rougier, about 8 yards out, with a volleyed chip which went over Coyne. R Smith ran back and headed the ball away for a corner from right underneath the crossbar. Coyne and R Smith had been a little indecisive to allow Rougier the opportunity. In clearing the ball R Smith got both his feet caught up in the net, and he managed to unhook the net from the crossbar. The game was halted for 2 or 3 minutes whilst a groundsman tried to put the net back (with assistance from the Town support "2 to the left, 1 to the right" etc). Port Vale also had a shot cleared off the line when R Smith (I think) knocked a cross shot away from a striker 1 yard out, in front of the right hand post.
Half time and Town 2-0 down. The "performance" had been wretched. The tactics were wrong and the players, individually and collectively, had been shockingly poor. Gallimore looked to be reacting 2 seconds slower than anyone else (I could say he looked like he was playing with a hangover).
Ashcroft was not "up for it" and didn't appear to fancy playing up on his own. Butterfield looked out of his depth.
Coldicott and Groves had been watching players and the ball pass them by, and did not look physically capable of competing. All in all Town had given the type of performance they usually reserve for Swindon and Crystal Palace away, the sort of games only the committed 200 ever see. Why bother? Nobody is watching (except the tv, of course).
There was a quiet rage evident in the Town support - we would not accept another 45 minutes like that. It had been verging on the humiliating, as Port Vale are no better than they were 6 months ago. The least we expected were changes in personnel and a more attacking formation. You can imagine the highly descriptive words being used by the fans at half time. You were probably using the same ones too.
At last, Buckley changed the losing formula. Pouton and Allen came on for Gallimore and Butterfield. Pouton played in central midfield, with Coldicott at right-back; and Black reverted to left wing, with D Smith at left-back, thus leaving Allen up front with Ashcroft.
Half time: Port Vale 2 Grimsby Town 0
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