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02/10 Ipswich 1st Half
By: Tony Butcher
Grimsby Town 2 Ipswich Town 1
02 Oct 1999, Nationwide League Division 1
A grey day with a breeze blowing down the pitch. The Town players warmed up in their usual way and then disaster struck. They mingled together and formed a circle, then started passing the ball between them in turn. After 30 seconds of half hearted passing Cockerill called them over and the players jogged across the pitch (again half heartedly). Then they started some amateur calisthenics. It was all done with little enthusiasm, and that, as it turned out, was a portent for the game itself.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation. Groves played at centre back with Lever, everyone else was where you'd expect them to be.
Town kicked off from left to right as the Town support saw it (and right to left as TV viewers see it). The ball was played back to Groves who whacked it forward, in the air, towards Allen, who was unable to out-jump someone 8 or 9 inches taller than him. This was one of Town's better moves. Although Ipswich had 80% of the possession on the first 15/20 minutes they did not actually have any shots. But slowly they got nearer and nearer the goal. They were greatly assisted by the linesman directly below the Town fans who only gave Ipswich offside once in the first half (and then when they weren't - a lone exhortation from the Town support seemed to elicit a raised flag). As the Town fans were congregated on the side, from about 5 to 35 yards out from the Town goal, they had a perfect view of the "offsides" not given. They were not pleased as it seemed that Ipswich were offside most of the time.
But don't allow this to be an excuse, Town were increasingly unable to cope with Ipswich's speed and organisation. Coyne made his first save after about 20 minutes when Naylor poked a shot through several static Town defenders, from about 15 yards out. It went straight to Coyne. A couple of minutes later a corner on Town's left was flicked on at the near post to the unmarked Johnson, about 5 yards out. His flick header was turned over the bar by Coyne. A few minutes later another corner was headed, from the Town right, high across goal. Coyne tipped it round the post for another corner.
Town's response was a surging run down the right by Coldicott, who produced a swerving cross across the face of the goal. Lester dived in at the near post and the ball flew through everyone. A couple of minutes later Allen, with his back to goal, turned quickly to his left, about 20 yards out, and hit a swiveling half volley, which went straight to Wright.
The less than mighty Mariners were becoming increasingly panic stricken and error strewn, especially Messrs Lever, Gallimore and D Smith. Ipswich began to exploit the disorganisation on the left of Town's defence and penetrated the penalty area at will. This produced corners and blocks, mainly. D Smith in particular was guilty of awful positional play. He was constantly "in the hole" between Ipswich players, a real piggy in the middle at times. The right wing back and Stockwell literally rang rings round him, and Gallimore was thus exposed to two players attacking at pace. Now as we know Mr Gallimore is not blessed with exceptional pace at the best of times. These were not the best of times as he was on the wrong end of a crunching tackle in the first minute that led to him receiving treatment off the pitch. When he returned he was limping heavily and he did not move "freely" all afternoon, I can't recall him running faster than a rapid trot. It didn't aid his recovery when Johnson stamped on his ankle after Gallimore had cleared a ball down the line. This was a very late challenge, the ball was already 30 yards away when the studs landed.
On 35 minutes Ipswich had a series of corners which eventually resulted in a goal. From the third (I think), taken from the Town left, the Ipswich left wing back, CLAPHAM, took a quick short corner and received the ball back. No Town player had gone out for the short corner and, therefore, Clapham managed to get to the corner of the penalty area unimpeded. He burst in to the area between two defenders and curled a left foot shot over Coyne and into the top right hand corner of the goal. Quick thinking from Ipswich and a fine shot brought the goal. Town will, no doubt, view the goal as laziness at a set piece.
Ipswich continued the pressure on Town and nearly scored again 5 minutes before halftime when a ball over the top for Johnson (the supposedly injured Johnson - who the Town supporters decided will "never play for Scotland/Ireland/Wales/England/Jamaica" - there are so many to choose from), just inside the right of the Town area left him free. It was half blocked by a combination of Coyne and Groves (who had been wrestling manfully with Johnson for 10 yards), but the rebound fell for Johnson who hit a shot inside Coyne's left hand post. Fortunately, though he had positioned himself too far over to the left of the goal, Coyne managed a sprawling save with his right hand.
Coyne was also forced to save at his left hand post after Naylor turned Lever and rolled into the area after another ball over down the left hand side. Coyne stood up and made himself "big" like Schmeichel used to, and the ball thudded off his chest for a corner. He also easily caught an overhead kick from a corner.
Town's response to the goal was a free kick from Burnett, about 25 yards out which he curled straight into Wright's hands; and a Pouton shot which was deflected to Wright (it was going wide anyway).
Then the whistle blew and we were glad to be only 1-0 down at half time. I have only described the actual shots from Ipswich which required action from Coyne, the rest of the time it was mainly Ipswich pressure, particularly down the Town left. They had obviously done their research and exposed the Gallimore/D Smith combination incessantly. D Smith was about 20 yards too far away from his wing back, and even when he got near he was not fast, or strong, enough to deter the forays from Stockwell. There were many panicky moments, especially down the centre with the Ipswich forwards rolling and turning like Town fans think Lester does. Lever was getting more and more jittery and Groves was having a very difficult time physically.
Town played with very little shape, and whenever possession was gained it was handed back immediately. There was no play through midfield at all. Ipswich pushed up very tightly on the middle 4 and this encouraged the back players to hit long balls down the "channels". Lester slipped seamlessly into the form he showed against Portsmouth. He didn't control the ball once, let alone pass it. He started to pull his own shirt, pleading for a foul before the ball was played to him. In short he was a waste of space. Allen was, yet again, always moving and "showing" himself, being available for passes. And he did have Town's only shot from open play. Pouton had only once got past the wing back using one of his tricks (a Beardsley-esque step over), most of the time he was attempting to keep the ball in play from a Coyne kick. My memories of Pouton in the first half are of him leaping on the touchline trying to head the ball back.
Town had been really poor in the first half, mainly down the left. The supporters, numbering about 150ish, expected a couple of changes at half time. D Smith off, maybe Lester. The ball was being given away too much from the back, and the players seemed to be playing with fear of the opposition, like they expected to lose.
Half time: Grimsby Town 1 Ipswich Town 0
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