Question of the Week
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12/02 Vale 1st Half
By: Tony Butcher
Grimsby Town 2 Port Vale 0
12 Feb 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
A clear, bright day with a cold wind blowing down the pitch from behind the Pontoon into the away supporters, all 100 of them. A couple of torrential downpours during the morning left the pitch very soft, with pock marks down the middle and in the penalty areas, and clumps of divots near the centre-circle. Town warmed up with a few keen players forming that circle for one touch practice. Naturally the ball flew out of the circle when Lever touched it. The Widdrington watchers were a little concerned as he was not visible in the Vale warm up, but then again he was never visible when he actually played for us. So no change there then. And then we spotted him, his cunning ruse to avoid detection was to have shaven off his goatee. His name splashed over the back of his shirt aided in sighting him too.
The Town stands seemed quite full, with even the temporary seating twixt Pontoon and Main Stand used (about 50 freezing soles huddled together).
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation with Clare and Gallimore starting.
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon after the Port Vale captain won the toss. Captain Tommy! No wonder they were disorganised. Within a minute Town won a free kick down the right, about 15 yards out near the penalty area. Captain Tommy was seen recreating the greatest moments from his Blundell Park years - pointing up the pitch, to his left, to his right, then both left and right at the same time. None of the Vale players took any notice, but it amused the Pontoon greatly.
Not much happened in the first 10 minutes or so. Naylor tried a snap shot from the edge of the Town area which dribbled feebly wide. It was such a weak, embarrassing shot that no one in the ground made a sound. Town had started to look dangerous down the right with Donovan linking well with the new, improved Clare (with 20% less hair). Donovan was sent clear for two crosses which he put slightly behind the on-rushing Town players. On both occasions Clare and Allen had exchanged passes, with Clare releasing Donovan. Livingstone was very harshly booked after about 10 minutes when he pressured a Vale player from behind - it was a rather innocuous challenge that did not warrant a card. Moments earlier Lever had his "moment" when he cleared a ball against a Port Vale players leg, setting up a shooting chance (which didn't really materialise as Naylor sliced a wild shot about 20 yards wide from a position out on the Town right). Lever had loads of time to clear but rather dallied. Earlier still Lever had shown that his timing was a little out when he completely missed Naylor and the ball just in front of the managers dug outs, as the ball rolled slowly across him. Port Vale also made a substitution, replacing one of their right sided players who limped off after a heavy (though totally fair) challenge.
Port Vale's defence looked as solid and organised as Swindon's last week, and they didn't learn from the two Donovan crosses. After about 20 minutes, with the ball again in front of the dug-outs, Town won possession and played the ball quickly up the touch-line. Donovan looped the ball over, and inside the full back and centre back, to a position on the left edge of Vale's area, about 7 yards out. Allen ran on to the ball and hooked a first time cross back into the area, about 9 or 10 yards out, to the centre left of the goal. CLARE ran on, unmarked and hooked a first time volley into the roof of the net with his right foot. The Town play had been quick and all first time, with two players showing awareness of the position of their team mate. This was a very un-Town goal - it was the sort you see from Premiership teams. In short, ruthlessly efficient and a cracker.
Port Vale's response was a couple of long range shots, one of which went within a yard of the goal. The Town defence did not look solid at all, and was particularly vulnerable to high balls. No shocks there then. Port Vale eventually twigged this and slung in a few high balls right under the cross bar. Coyne dealt with them, though not with a great deal of conviction. His first real test came after an attempted clearance cannoned off a Port Vale player's shins and looped in the air. As the ball arced down into the right corner of his goal a Vale attacker jumped into Coyne as he tried to flap it clear. Fortunately McDermott/Lever scrambled it away for a corner. It should have been a free kick to Town, but Coyne looked nervous under the high ball. Coyne's only save of the game came after Town failed to clear two or three crosses/through balls and the ball was eventually worked to a player on the left of the area. His cross shot was fumbled by Coyne and Livvo (I think) hacked it away.
After about 25 minutes Town again bothered to attack down the right, again with Donovan being sent clear after a Clare flick of great precision. Donovan's cross was flicked away from Groves's head at the far post. As the crowd returned to their seats murmuring "Oooo" we realised that the ball wasn't going out and Black was free, near the bye-line, near the right of the Vale area. Black chipped a cross very precisely onto the head of ALLEN, about 8 yards out, level with the 'keepers left post, who calmly placed the ball inside the post and just under the bar. Allen had created the space for himself by going forward a pace then darting back a couple.
So Town were comfortably ahead of a rather shambolic collection of employed footballers after less than 30 minutes. Would they turn on the style? No. Town eased off a bit, and also some players tried to do a few too many fancy things. It wasn't that Town had been brilliant, perhaps only Clare, Donovan, Allen, McDermott and Coldicott were having decent/good games. The wind picked up a bit and Town increasingly found it difficult to get the ball out of their own half. Coyne was incapable of reaching the half way line with his drop or fly kicks, and too many clearances/passes from defence sliced out for throw ins to Port Vale. I don't recall Town having too many forays into the Vale penalty area. Although we did have a "goal" disallowed. After some Town pressure the ball fell to Black who advanced to a position just outside the area on the left. He played the ball inside the full back to Allen, who had spun away from his marker and crossed low to Clare, unmarked on the 6 yard box. Clare side footed it in. Unfortunately Black had released the pass a bit slowly and Allen was a yard offside. Clare was also released on the left of the area by Allen, with his cross being intercepted for a corner. I think that was all the Town "chances". The Clare/Allen partnership looked very good. Both were sharp, determined and always moving. Their interplay was very incisive and, with Donovan, formed a very dangerous triumvirate on the right. Donovan, in particular, seemed to thrive on the presence of Clare, being released 4 or 5 times after Clare flicks and passes. It was a pity that his crossing was a bit inaccurate.
Port Vale didn't have anymore chances, nor shots on target. The nearest they came was a deep cross from their right which Coyne punched away from under his bar at the far post, whilst under pressure from Taylor. Coyne also came off his line to collect a through ball off Taylor's toes.
And that was the first half. Not much goal mouth action to report, though Town were pleasingly effective down the right (and almost invisible down the left). Gallimore had a stinker and was almost incapable of doing anything right (though his one piece of good play saw him dispossess a winger in a break, so he wasn't totally bad). He didn't look fit, mentally or physically. Must be those "flu-like symptoms". Despite being on Widdo watch I lost him for huge chunks of play. I recall him pointing frequently, passing to Town 3 times, passing sideways to his own team 6 times and making one sliding tackle. One of his sideways passes was technically forward, but only by a matter of inches. There wasn't much tension in the Town support as Port Vale were so poor, they frequently passed the ball out of play (missing their team-mates by as much as 20 yards). At one point a plastic ball was being knocked around the Pontoon like a balloon, just for some entertainment 2nd half
Half time: Grimsby Town 2 Port Vale 0
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