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05/02 Swindon 1st Half

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 24/06/2000

Swindon Town 0 Grimsby Town 1
05 Feb 2000, Nationwide League Division 1

A bright day with a steady breeze blowing down the pitch into the open end. The Town fans were placed at the side, right in the corner next to the open end (on the opposite side to the TV cameras). The Town players warmed up with a gentle jog up and down the pitch, a few stretches and then lined up in a 3-4-4-2-2-1 formation to knock the ball around.

The pre-match entertainment was the usual dozen 14 year old girls dancing with pom-poms. Although I noticed that they had changed their name from the "(Provisional) Rockin' Robins" to the "(Continuity) Robinettes". They were still embarrassing and they all kept their coats on. It wasn't that cold! And then the mascots waddled out, oh sorry that was Jimmy Quinn waddling out, the mascots came out later. The teams were announced and Quinn had named himself in the substitutes - we all grumbled that "we can see what's going to happen". And then the mascots did waddle out. The principal mascot looked, from a distance, like a Mutant Ninja Turtle. When it got closer it looked like a duck. The other one looked like a crow.

Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation. D Smith was at left back, with Lever and Livvo back together - at last! No worries there then. The matchday magazine claimed in its "head to head" factfile that Lever "effectively makes progress when dribbles with the ball". Mmmm.

As the game was about to start the players stood around the centre circle for a minute's silence. It was never announced who this was for and the crowd were all mighty puzzled by this request to stand. We all assumed it was a minute's silence for Swindon Town FC. Or perhaps it was a chance for the players to contemplate life in general and meditate on spiritual matters.

The stadium announcer then rather feebly attempted to whip up some enthusiasm by asking the crowd to get behind "The Town". No, no, no sir - Swindon are "A Town", Grimsby are "The Town".

Swindon kicked off towards the open end. The big clock at that end showed the time as 2.56. Swindon's method became apparent within a few seconds as they lumped it down the channels for the big man. Fortunately their big man, McCammon, was useless. He had the co-ordination and agility of broken stick making Lever look almost balletic by comparison. Lever won every header against this bloke and generally had him in his pocket.

I might as well get Swindon's contribution to the first half out of the way. They had a couple of breakaways and crosses that were not dealt with very effectively by Town, but as Swindon were just so bad, there was little danger. On one occasion the centre forward helpfully bumped into his own player at the far post when only McDermott was around. Lever still managed to panic by hacking the ball away when Coyne was about to pick it up. After some careless play by Town down the left, principally by the pusillanimous Black, a cross was curled into the near post, on the edge of the six yard box. The Swindon striker attempted to steer the ball past Coyne on the volley, but only succeeded in passing it gently into Coyne's midriff. I have a vague recollection of a couple of long shots and Coyne came out and caught a cross. Swindon also got a free kick right on half time, again down the Town left when Livvo missed an attempted clearance and wellied the Swindon player instead. The free kick was floated to the middle of the goal and scrambled away by Town. Yes - that's Swindon's attacking, mostly balls knocked over the top of the full backs for the big bloke, or balls into the box which were cleared, though often in a laboured fashion. Livingstone was the major culprit in the lackadaisical stakes.

Within 5 minutes Town had carved Swindon to pieces down our right twice, with McDermott and Donovan roaming around at will. It was all too easy with our rightists playing give and goes, and making effective triangles to isolate the left back. McDermott won a couple of corners with his surging runs. Within the first 15 minutes Allen had missed two easy chances. He looked as though he was trying not score (and he succeeded). The first came after a corner on the right was half cleared and Donovan returned the ball in a big, high loop. Ashcroft looked yards offside, but wasn't "flagged", so, from a position about 6 yards out beyond the far post, headed back across goal to the unmarked Allen. Somehow Allen managed to knee the ball 5 yards wide. A little later, after a long ball down the Town left was allowed to run by the defence, Ashcroft powered past the defence and rolled the ball across to Allen, in the centre of the goal about 15 yards out. Allen side-stepped one man and had a clear run/shot at goal. He dallied so long that a defender came sliding in and his shot hit the defender's chest and rolled away.

The Swindon 'keeper, though on his line, missed a Donovan volleyed cross from the bye line and it just evaded a Town player (Groves I think) at the far post. A fine Town link down the right and centre eventually resulted in Ashcroft rolling the ball out to Black, about 12 yards out, just to the left of goal. He blasted the ball over. Allen controlled a clearance inside the Swindon half, turned and advanced 5 yards and hit a dipping shot from 25 yards out which cleared the bar by a yard.

And Town had a goal disallowed. Coldicott won a challenge just inside the Swindon half on our right. The ball was played to Allen who knocked the ball over the defence to the on-rushing Ashcroft who, from 15 yards near the right corner of the Swindon area, firmly drove the ball across the 'keeper and into the right hand corner of the net. Being 80 yards away and at the side it was impossible to make any comment on this particular decision. However, some of the other offside by the same linesman were so obviously wrong I am prepared to throw an element of doubt on the decision. He once gave Ashcroft offside when Ashcroft ran across and behind a defender, when yet another defender was 3 yards nearer the Swindon goal. He had a tendency to flag when a Town player got the ball and was free, which resulted in some late, wrong, decisions. They defied logic and the laws of geometry. The referee started ok, but gradually became more and more tolerant of Swindon's swinging boots, with Ashcroft (in particular) coming in for some rough treatment. But only a couple of free kicks were awarded. The Swindon defence took it in turns to kick Ashcroft from behind, and I am sure they enjoyed it too.

At 3.42 on the big clock (ie after 46 minutes play) the 4th official put up the board saying 3 minutes of extra time. So 4 were played. Just enough time for "that Lever moment" when he totally misjudged a long punt and glanced a header, rather fortuitously, with just enough strength to reach Coyne. In the last minute Donovan sliced a first time shot just over the angle of the 'keepers left hand post/bar, from about 20 yards, after a Town break down the left was worked across via Ashcroft and Allen. Compliments, or even medals, must go to the Grimsby Town players. They did the impossible in "holding" Swindon to 0-0. It took a mighty effort, and no little skill, to avoid leading Swindon, who are a team begging to be put down. The general malaise at Swindon seemed to seep into the Town players - as the half progressed they played more and more like a training game. It all seemed a little too easy.

When Swindon played at Blundell Park their players looked as though they couldn't be bothered. The players they put out today looked very bothered, but incompetent. Town should have been 3 up at half time

Grimsby Town
D Smith



Half time: Swindon Town 0 Grimsby Town 0

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