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13/10 Leicester 1st Half
By: Tony Butcher
Leicester City 2 Grimsby Town 0
13 Oct 1999, League Cup
A clear, still night and over 1,000 supporters wedged into the little stand opposite the gigantic stand where the TV cameras are. The players from both teams warmed up with a distinct air of indifference (except Lever, Butterfield, Black and Gallimore who were right in front of the thronging Mariners. They looked like they were attempting to look calm). As a connoisseur of hairstyles in football I was "a little disappointed" to read that Robbie Savage was injured. I was delighted to see a small figure in blue with flowing blonde locks run out, but, unfortunately, it turned out to be a 12 year old girl mascot.
Up to a couple of minutes before the kick off the Leicester supporters were nowhere to be seen, perhaps 2,000 at most. Then, suddenly, as if by magic, they appeared. The protest at their board consisted mainly of them standing up in silence holding an A4 size paper with "Gang of 4 out" printed on it. It was noticeable that the "pleb" stands were 100% participants, whilst the huge new stand had a only smattering of protesters. Perhaps they rattled their jewellery instead.
The team lined up exactly the same as against Ipswich, with Groves at centre half and Pouton wide left.
Town kicked off towards the right, as you see it on TV. The first 5 minutes were very even, with no chances, and only a little pressure from Leicester. It was mainly Town playing through midfield and retaining possession. After 8 minutes Leicester should have scored. Guppy whipped in a cross from our right to the centre of the goal, about 8 yards out. Heskey rose above his marker and powered a header just over the angle of post and bar. The game continued as it had started, with Town playing thoughtfully and comfortably through midfield, but the ball would not "stick" to Lester and Ashcroft, who started to moan to the referee.
After about 15 minutes Groves, stretching to intercept a ball "over the top", sliced the ball high into the air. Croudson came out and caught it to the predictable claims for a back pass. A couple of minutes later Groves turned the ball back to Croudson when intercepting a through ball. Croudson, standing a yard to the left of his left hand post, right on the bye-line, picked it up again. Now that definitely was a back pass and an indirect free kick was given a yard from the left hand post. Two Leicester players stood right in front of Croudson, who was stood in front of the wall, but the free kick was rolled to the centre of the goal, about 15 yards out. The Town defence flung themselves at the ball and the shot was somehow deflected wide for a corner.
A couple of minutes later, after Leicester had retained possession in the midfield and Town left, a midfielder advanced through the centre up to the edge of the area. Smith came out to intercept, but the ball was "slipped" through to Cottee, on the edge of the Town area, to the left. As Croudson came out Cottee slipped as he drove the ball a couple of yards over the bar.
Nothing much happened for the next 5 or 10 minutes and then Leicester scored. Lester lost possession easily near the half way line and the ball was eventually swung out to the Town left, where Sinclair had sprinted down the line. Ashcroft had seen Sinclair start to go down the wing, but didn't bother to run over and provide cover. Sinclair took on Gallimore near the bye-line and got in a cross, which Coldicott blocked at the near post. The ball remained in play and Sinclair returned the ball to IZZETT, about 10 yards out, centrally placed and unmarked. Izzett placed his header low into Croudson's left hand corner.
In response Town picked up the pace of their attacks and had their first effort on goal. Some quick, neat interplay involving Ashcroft and Donovan resulted in the ball being "laid off" to Coldicott about 20 yards out, to the right of the area. Coldicott's first time shot swung across the goal and just went over the bar. Ooooooh, to quote several members of the crowd. A couple of minutes later Burnett tried a first time shot from 25 yards which went about a couple of feet over. Aaaagh, to quote other members of the crowd.
About 10 minutes after Leicester's goal Town finally got a free kick for a foul by their centre back. Whilst the ironic cheering was still ringing round the stands, Ashcroft took the free kick quickly and the ball was played into Donovan, on the edge of the area. He knocked the ball past Oakes, who proceeded to "violently brush" Donovan, who fell. Penalty, loud cheers, expectation, and chicken counting a-go-go. Groves picked the ball up, strode quickly to the penalty spot and rather rushed his shot. He hit it low, straight at Flowers shins, the ball rebounded to the edge of the area where someone stabbed the ball just over the bar.
The only other attempt at goal in the first half came from Town, Coldicott driving a shot wide from 20 yards.
Town had acquitted themselves very well against a solid Premiership team. Guppy only managed one cross, as Butterfield had marked so tightly and intelligently, with Donovan doubling up when required. Heskey had been allowed one chance, and thereafter Groves had marked him superbly. If you think Lester falls easily you should watch Heskey. He falls over almost before the pass has been made. He has been coached to fall very well. It did rather backfire on him though, as the referee gave him the first claimed foul but no others. Which rather begs the question "why wasn't Heskey booked for diving ?" Heskey's preferred method of controlling the ball is to assume the long jumper's position that maximises distance travelled - ankles together, arms forward, back arched. It looks very funny when the nearest player is 2 yards away.
The one criticism about Town's first half performance would be the attack - we never got into their penalty area (apart from the penalty decision, of course), and the ball was too easily lost by Lester and Ashcroft. The midfield and defence had been the equals of Leicester, and Burnett in particular was exerting some control in midfield. The difference between the two sides, in the first half, had been the centre forwards. Theirs moved and were working tirelessly. Ours stood around and moaned when they lost a challenge. There was not a division's worth of "class" between these teams, just a decent striker.
So at half time the supporters were annoyed at not being level, and certainly not overawed by a Premiership team.
Half time: Leicester City 1 Grimsby Town 0
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