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Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
26/12 Barnsley 1st Half
By: Tony Butcher
Grimsby Town 0 Barnsley 3
26 Dec 1999, Nationwide League Division 1
A bright, clear day with a wickedly cold wind blowing from the open corner between the Pontoon and Stones/Smiths down towards the Osmond Stand. The ground was very full with even the "temporary seating" full of happy holiday people. Cleethorpes was full of groups of wandering Tykes looking very cold and very unhappy at closed pubs and unopened fish and chip shops.
The pitch looked like it would start to cut up quite quickly, and the sheltered bit in front of the Findus/Stones appeared to be particularly heavy.
Town lined up in their usual 4-4-2 formation. Barnsley lined up in a 5-3-2 formation with 3 big centre backs, 2 stocky full backs, 3 chunky midfielders and a little and large front two. And their goalkeeper, Miller, was extremely tubby - his backside was (almost) literally hanging out of his shorts.
So, a big crowd with loads of once a year merchants dotted around. We know what usually happens in those circumstances.
Barnsley kicked off towards the Pontoon and the crowd noise was almost audible. The first 5 or 6 minutes were very even with no chances, though the referee had already penalised Lester 3 times for "holding" and Livingstone twice for over physical challenges. Only one of these "decisions" appeared correct. It was already clear that Town would not get the "rub of the referee". After 10 minutes the linesman on the Findus/Stones side joined the referee in the pantheon of hate by failing to notice two Barnsley offsides. The omens were not good.
In the first quarter of an hour Town had one attack of any note, when Gallimore's through ball was allowed by Livingstone to run on. Lester collected the ball and spun to the Town right and drifted a cross over to the far post, where it was chested out for a corner. The corner resulted in a bit of a scramble at the near post and a blocked shot. Barnsley had a couple of breakaways which were stopped on the edge of the area and a chip from Hignett which went 2 yards over the bar.
On the quarter hour Barnsley attacked down the Town centre and right. The first move was half stopped, and the second resulted in a switch of play to Town's left. As usual the Town players had "tucked in" and the Barnsley right wing back was all alone. He advanced and the first attempt to cross was half stopped. The ball went out of the area to a position about 30 yards out , near the touchline. Adam Buckley was very slow to get back to cover, then slow to react to the ball going near him, then slow to run towards the ball. He missed his challenge, Barnsley advanced, whipped in across to Hignett, centrally placed about 15 yards out. HIGNETT controlled the ball, moved it to his right foot and slammed a shot inside Coyne's left hand post, about 4 foot high. The ball hit the inside of the post on the way in.
One minute later Town got their first free kick of the afternoon.
The pattern of the game continued for the next 5 minutes or so, though I recall Pouton having a shot during this period (a wild swirling drive from the edge of the box, on Town's right. It went 12-15 yards wide). The next Barnsley attack was a bit of a calamity for Coyne. The Barnsley 'keeper kicked the ball down the middle of the pitch. Coyne came out of his area to fly-kick the ball away and got the slightest of edges that ballooned to 1st slip. Fortunately for him R Smith ran around and booted it out for a throw in, 20 yards out on the Stones/Findus side. The throw in was taken short and a cross was floated over to the Town left, near the edge of the 6 yard box. As Gallimore was unmarked, and right underneath the flight path nothing could go wrong, could it. Gallimore missed his half attempt at a header, the ball fell to a Barnsley attacker who controlled the ball and got to the touchline. The cross was diverted past Coyne at the near post by HIGNETT, from about 6 yards out. The Town sections of the crowd were baying for an offside flag as the ball was floated over Gallimore. The people in line with play being the most vociferous. Town never got any decisions from this linesman all afternoon (apart from one offside near half time, when Sheron quite clearly wasn't offside and Town had the ball anyway).
From this point Town's general play disintegrated. Town did respond, principally through Pouton, who fired in a screaming left foot half volley from 20 yards, after a corner was half cleared. Unfortunately for Town it was straight at the 'keeper, right under the crossbar. His second effort was a curling right foot free kick from about 29 yards out, near the edge of the box on Barnsley's right. Again it was straight at the 'keeper. The free kick was given after Lester had turned and been brought down. Town had no other efforts on goal in the first half, though we got half a dozen corners, which were all aimed at Lever's considerable head at the near post.
Barnsley, on the other hand, nearly scored two more, both after one two's on the edge of the area exposed the full backs. The first was after a corner when it was played short to a man just outside the box. A centre forward spun away from Lever and the ball was played inside Gallimore. Coyne came out and blocked superbly at his near, left post. The second instance, near half time, was almost identical, except it was on the Town right and from open play. Again Coyne blocked superbly. Barnsley's only other effort on goal was a Hignett chip from 25 yards which went 5 yards over the bar.
Town were booed off at half time and (as Glenn Hoddle would say), rightly so. Barnsley were very well organised, played to a simple plan and were generally committed. Barnsley had obviously done some homework on Town. They noted that Donovan doesn't like cold days, and opponents who say boo. They noted that Lester likes to turn and fall, and that the referee took an instant dislike to Lester. The defenders took it in turns to "work" the referee, politely pointing out what Lester was "doing". Above all they knew how Town are organised defensively, so played into the spaces between and over defenders. Town were defensively stretched all the time. McDermott was just about coping, but appeared to be on the limits of his physical capabilities. Gallimore was day dreaming. R Smith was getting rockier and rockier as the game progressed.
Town's principal problems were down the wings. Neither Buckley nor Donovan did anything offensively or defensively. They were always in the wrong position. Much of Town's attacking momentum was lost through Pouton being unable to play the pass he wanted as there was no width. And as for movement - you must be joking. Town had a short period of pressure after the second goal went in (during which they had the two free kicks mentioned earlier). Three times within 30 seconds Pouton had the ball in space and looked to play someone in behind the defence. On all three occasions he was forced to pass back to Lever as there were 5 Town players stood still in the middle of the pitch.
The second half was not anticipated by the Town sections of the crowd with anything other than apathy.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Barnsley 2
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