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Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
12/11 Charlton 1st Half
By: Tony Butcher
Grimsby Town 2 Charlton Athletic 5
12 Nov 1999, Nationwide League Division 1
A surprisingly warm, but drizzly evening with the pitch retaining some surface water on the Main Stand side. The pre-match warm ups were instructively different. Mendonca warmed up with a shooting routine against Ilic whereby he ran back 10 yards, turned and shot. Charlton then warmed up as a team. Town players did their usual kickabouts, with no shooting practice as far as I could see. Croudson and Coyne just kept throwing the ball at each other, not even doing their usual "crosses and shots" routine.
Prior to the game Livingstone (resplendent in black, just like the Milk Tray man) and McDermott (wearing an anorak) walked over to the Findus/Stones/Smiths Stand. Livingstone had the trace of a limp and was reminded by several members of the crowd that that was last week's injury. His neck was naked and seemed to move freely. The tannoy announcement of the teams drew intense apathy from the crowd until the Charlton No10 was introduced. He received a very warm and cheery ovation, for which he gave a little round of applause. The Town sections of the ground were quite packed, with the "temporary seating" between the Pontoon and Findus almost full.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation (but without several of the usual players). Hamilton partnered Groves in central midfield. The rest were in their nominally correct positions.
Town kicked off towards the Osmond Stand with a slight wind and drizzle behind them. Nothing particular of note happened in the first 10 minutes, especially where Town's attacking was concerned. Hamilton's first three touches were terrible (a high kick which went backwards, and two passes that went out for throw ins), though after his first successful tackle he got better (ie wasn't awful). Charlton had more possession and the movement from ALL their players was very noticeable. Mendonca and Hunt were constantly making sideways, darting runs and feints. Their midfielders were very quick to run up and support the forwards. It didn't bring them any chances, but they were "probing" and infiltrating the spaces between the Town defenders. After 11 minutes Town got near their penalty area for the first time when Butterfield (who had been Town's brightest and most thrusting attacker) rolled the ball to Lester on the right edge of the area. Lester "rolled" his marker and won a free kick. D Smith, who seems to have become the Town free kick expert, expertly chipped the ball into the arms of Ilic. From his clearance, Charlton won a corner on Town's left. The ball was chipped into the near post, where Lever, Hamilton and two of their players managed to head the ball back to the corner taker. No Town player went back out to challenge, and he clipped the ball to RUFUS, who ran into a position about 7 yards out, just to the right of centre. He guided a relatively free header into the top right hand corner of the goal. As against Wolves, Town players didn't challenge a tall player near goal. I seem to recall Lever being somewhere near Rufus at one point. The Pontoon were utterly silent.
During the next 10 minutes Town huffed and puffed and got near goal only once. A corner on Town's left was headed at the far post by R Smith. It was going a couple of yards wide but Lester diverted it goalwards, straight into Ilic's arms. And then something odd happened. D Smith ran at the Charlton defence, after an Ashcroft flick, and was pushed just inside the left hand corner of the box. Yet another penalty to Town. ASHCROFT rolled the penalty to the goalkeeper's left as Ilic dived to his right. Against the run of play Town had equalised.
Charlton attempted to increase the tempo, but Town neutralised them (and the game). For the next 10 minutes the game fell into a midfield match, with neither side getting into their opponent's penalty area. The game went a bit flat, and then the referee (who had seemed to give every decision to Town in the first half) awarded Charlton a free kick about 30 yards out on the Smith/Findus Stand side. The ball was chipped, slowly, into the centre of the Town box, Coyne came, stopped, came again, and stopped again. Lever left it, went for it, and left it again. RUFUS jumped and glanced a header into the top right hand corner of Coyne's goal form the edge of the 6 yard box. The Pontoon managed to fall even more silent. The next 10 minutes of play were mainly Charlton, though again they didn't have any shots or chances. They were breaking quickly and with great organisation. On one particular break Hunt turned and raced forwards. Lever, who was marking Mendonca, looked at Mendonca then ran away from him. Fortunately Hunt tried to shoot and it hit Lever's bottom (which is considerably bigger than his brain), whilst Mendonca was completely unmarked on the edge of the box.
After 40 minutes R Smith was stretchered off. He seemed to fall badly when challenging near the half way line. Burnett came on and "slotted" into central midfield, whilst Groves went back to centre half. And then it was half time, with Town trudging off to a small smattering of muffled and mumbled boos.
Overall Town could not complain at the half time scoreline. The manner in which they had conceded the goals was annoying, especially considering they were very similar to ones conceded last week. A case of mistakes not having been learnt. In general it was incredible that our central defenders marked so loosely, it isn't like they don't know how Mendonca plays. Lever seemed to be "marking" Mendonca far too often for any rational mind to consider acceptable. In attack the ball kept coming back from the forwards too often. The usual problem of lack of stickability. Nothing had been created at all - the goal was a penalty and the only other "effort" of the half was a reaction header from a corner. On the other hand Charlton had had only two efforts on goal of any description. Two headers, two goals. Coyne didn't make any saves and I can't recall him catching/punching any crosses. A curious half in which, although Town appeared to be hanging on in quiet desperation, nothing much happened. Charlton seemed to have learned from last year, they appeared to be looking for weaknesses (Town ? Weaknesses? Surely none sir!), and if they found any they would gnaw at them, like a green bug eyed monster (Gallimore at the Grosvenor?) When Butterfield or Gallimore attacked either Mendonca or Hunt would immediately go and stand in the spot that had just been vacated. Only sometimes did a Town defender mark them, rather than watch play. Thus when Town lost the ball Charlton played it into the unmanned space. That seemed to be a microcosm of the difference between the teams. Charlton players were always concentrating, watching their opponents, whilst too many Town players were watching what was happening. Reactive rather than proactive. The supporters were gloomy and not looking forward to the second half.
Half time: Grimsby Town 1 Charlton Athletic 2
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