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Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
22/01 Fulham 1st Half
By: Tony Butcher
Fulham 0 Grimsby Town 1
22 Jan 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
A clear day with a moderately strong cold wind blowing down the Thames and into the faces of the Town supporters (about 500-600), gathered behind the goal on the right as you see from Television. Town warmed up with a gentle mass jog across the pitch which they soon abandoned. They seem to have abandoned for good the 12 man circle in favour of a 4 man fluid rhombus, which as it involved Lever saw the ball squirt out sideways a lot. Ashcroft was, once again, lethal in his shooting and Coyne, once again, saved only about three shots. Mr Al-Fayed walked across the pitch three times, on each occasion receiving a tumultuous reception from at least 8 Fulham supporters. He gave up attempts to milk some adoration after a while.
Fulham's mascot waddled over to us, to some mirth. "Sir Craven" looks like a bad approximation of a Timpo knight (Teenagers ask your dad or elder brother what Timpo was - it's about the same vintage as Harry Worth) waving his magic sword. Town played in the two-tone hooped blue monstrosity with the same line up (including subs) employed against Forest. The formation was, of course, the usual 4-4-2. The pitch looked "heavy" with three or four squares of re-laid turf, making it look like a paupers bedspread.
Fulham kicked off towards their own supporters (and hence Town kicked towards us). The first 5 minutes contained no goalmouth action, which suited the Town supporters just fine. Thoughts and gazes were beginning to wander, principally to the extremely high tide in the Thames. If the game went badly we might be lucky and have a flooded pitch. Fulham lined up with three huge Welsh defenders at the back, three workers in midfield, a couple of wing backs (one good - Finnan, one indifferent - Goldbaek) and an International Divers convention upfront (Riedle and Peschisolido). Their game plan seemed to be work through the middle, get wide and cross into the near post. I say seemed as in the first half there was very little shape or form to the match.
The first thing of any note that happened was after 7 minutes when Donovan blocked a cross near the right corner flag, and the ball went back to the Fulham player, who played a one-two and crossed from the corner of the area. From about 10 yards out, at the near post, Riedle flicked a header across goal and wide of Coyne's left hand post. Donovan had fallen when blocking and the fact that he was on the ground exposed McDermott to the one-two. One couldn't blame Donovan too much for being slow to get up as a feature of the first half was the number of times Town players lost their footing, especially on the right. It looked like their studs were too short. As no-one fell over in the second half I presume they put longer studs on at half time.
After a further 7 or 8 minutes of midfield scufflings (during which Lester was momentarily free on goal to the left of the Fulham area, but a defender came across a whacked the ball out for a throw in) Fulham had an excellent opportunity to score. The ball was played through the centre of Town's defence by Clark, from a central position near the half way line. Livvo turned with the speed of Livvo and Peschisolido was free, bearing down on goal with just Coyne to beat. From around the edge of the penalty box, to the centre right (as Coyne would view it) Peschisolido carefully placed the ball, with the inside of his right foot, a couple of yards wide of Coyne's left hand post.
A further 10 minutes of meandering, rather shapeless football then followed, during which Town got into Fulham's half twice. Fulham had a long shot which went high and wide, a header from a deep right wing cross (by Peschisolido) which went a yard wide, and Town rather aimlessly cleared the ball high up to Lester and Ashcroft. The result was not entertaining, but quite heartening for Town supporters as we had started to look a bit more organised at the back, and certainly more committed in the tackle and challenge. Donovan was seen to run back and tackle, Black to block and track back, and Coldicott was "Der Panzer" in midfield - he obliterated everything near him.
By the half hour Lever had not, as yet, performed "that Lever moment", so Livvo did it for him. From a central position in the middle of the Town half Riedle turned and tried to play a ball to Goldbaek on Town's left. Livvo read the play superbly and intercepted. Unfortunately, he stood on the ball, adjusted his feet, and stood on the ball again, and wobbled across the pitch with the ball underneath his feet for 5 or 6 yards. He eventually fell over and the ball was picked up by a Fulham player, played wide and Goldbaek cut in and hit a drive from 25 yards which went directly over Coyne and just over the cross bar.
Town's next shot came from a long punt by Coyne which went straight through to the Fulham 'keeper. The Town support decided that it counted as a shot as it would have gone in if the 'keeper wasn't there. Ergo - a save was made. Town's attacking was not high on the Richter scale, barely registering a blip on the monitor. Fulham had another shot which went even higher and wider than before and another "moment of danger" when a right wing cross was headed back across the goal to the foot of Coyne's left hand post, whereupon he made a meal of smothering the ball.
Near half time Town won a free kick about 25 yards out, to the centre right of the goal. Black curled the free kick just over, and wide, of the goal. It counted as an "Oooo" moment, though it never looked like going in. Oh I forgot, Black had a shot (a bit weak, with his right foot) which the 'keeper saved comfortably at head height. This followed a rare Town break away down the left.
And that was the first half. A lot of huffing and puffing, but very little positive attacking play from Town. The first priority was defence and, in the circumstances, a pleasure to watch. Fulham had been restricted to four or five efforts on goal, and only two were inside the box. The defensive line had held well, with only the one instance of a Fulham player getting behind the defence. Fortunately Peschisolido was proving himself to be like Lester, only without the goals. Riedle started to dive very early on. His first dive was on the blind side of the referee when a ball was played from the right down the middle. He grabbed hold of Lever and fell when the referee turned round. For once the referee was competent as he ignored the histrionics and awarded Town a free kick. Riedle's second dive, in a much less dangerous position, was ignored and play went on. Half time and Â½ a point gained already. Was it too good to last ?
The half time entertainment was mainly provided by a man dressed as a Mummy. I thought this was some kind of homage to their owner but turned out to be a publicity stunt for a video.
Half time: Fulham 0 Grimsby Town 0
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