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19/02 Norwich 1st Half
By: Tony Butcher
Norwich 3 Grimsby Town 0
19 Feb 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
A bright clear day, with a cold breeze blowing right through the area set aside for the Town 300 (down the side in the old stand, near a corner flag). The players warmed up by meandering across the pitch in formation, followed by kicking the ball about arbitrarily. Prior to the kick off the Norwich mascots skipped over to wave at us - two Tweetie Pie-a-likes (one with a skirt) and a bloke in a yellow and blue outfit called "Spay the Cat" (or possibly "Splat the Cat"). Either way it appeared to be an instruction rather than a name.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation. D Smith played at left back, with Pouton at left midfield. Everyone else played in their usual position.
Town kicked off away from the end at which the Town fans were sat and within 30 seconds Ashcroft had an opportunity to shoot, following a long "channel" ball from McDermott. However Ashcroft tried a fancy step over and cut inside the centre back. He was easily steered away from the ball leaving him vainly appealing for a free kick. Ashcroft spent the rest of his, mercifully short, afternoon replaying this scene.
The first 10 minutes were played in almost total silence. And we thought the Blundell Park crowd were quiet. There wasn't even a low rumbling noise or the odd chitter of chatter. During this period, in which the football was generally scrappy, Town had the slight edge and looked a little more threatening than Norwich. Town's attacks were concentrated down the left where Pouton received 4 or 5 chances to attack the full back. Pouton seemed to get past him easily, but refused the opportunity to cross with his left foot, cutting back to his right every time. Pouton managed to get a couple of crosses in, one headed clear, another looping towards Allen at the near post. Allen's attempted volley was blocked. Norwich's only opportunity came after a corner on Town's left, aimed towards the penalty spot. It was missed by everyone and their centre half (Jackson) hooked a drive straight at Coyne from about 15 yards, to the right of Town's goal. Ashcroft drove a shot swinging 5 yards wide and high, from about 25 yards. Poutonesque in its execution.
After some pressure from Norwich down their centre left they tried to thread a pass through to a player standing between Smith and Livingstone, about 25 yards out. The pass was intercepted near the Norwich player and half cleared back to them in the middle of the Town half. That Norwich player was 2 yards offside, but the linesman did not flag. The ball was immediately played between D Smith and Livingstone for the on-rushing Dalglish, about 15 yards from the bye-line, and near the touchline in front of the Town fans. Livvo let Dalglish get to the ball and turn, Dalglish dropped his shoulder and shimmied to go inside, but went outside. Livvo seemed to lose two yards in one (no mean feat) and Dalglish whipped over a low, head high cross swinging away from the goal. The unmarked McDERMOTT, about 8 yards out and facing his own goal, produced an immaculate diving header inside Coyne's left hand post.
Town's game did not pick up after this calamity, if anything they got worse, with Norwich visibly increasing the pace of their attacks. For the next 10 minutes nothing particular happened, especially from Town. The attacks broke down very easily, either through aimless punting by the defenders, or through Ashcroft poncing about. He spent the whole first half trying little flicks and dummies none of which worked. It was clear there is very little understanding between Ashcroft and Allen. Ashcroft also started to play for free kicks in a most pathetic way - whenever he was touched he stumbled and held his arms out wide, pleading for a free kick. When I say touched I mean even the faintest of nudges. Town's attacking was minimal because of this "tactic" as Ashcroft (the focal point of the attacks as the ball was always being rolled up to him) lost the ball every time. He played like he did most of last season, like a dilettante. A spell on the subs bench may concentrate his mind wonderfully. The Town crowd were starting to turn against him when he got injured. Ironically, given his tragically useless attempts to win free kicks by diving (or to satisfy any libel lawyers out there - failing to stop himself falling after the anticipated push which did not happen), he was booked for moaning when he actually was whacked from behind. The referee allowed play to continue for a Norwich breakaway and when the ball went out Ashcroft was shown the yellow card.
Here are Town's other efforts on goal in the first half - D Smith had a shot from somewhere outside the area which went 4 yards wide, and Coldicott tried to volley a throw-in from the right, but it looped gently wide of the near post. Yes, that's it and the first half was Town's "better half".
Around the 20 -23 minute Norwich could have had a couple more. Firstly Dalglish received a pass about 25 yards out, on Town's left. He turned round and ran at the Town defence, beating 4 players in a remarkably straight run. His cross was palmed out by Coyne to the centre of the goal and the ball was scrambled away. Some other blond haired Norwich player did the same on the Town right after a throw in (the Town players stood around as it was taken quickly), his low cross was parried out to the centre of the goal by Coyne. Fortunately it hit the shins of an in-rushing Norwich player with bad hair and rolled back into Coyne's arms. A further attack down the Town right saw another Norwich player get to the bye-line and cross to the far post, whereupon Mackay headed against the bar from 3 yards. In this build up there had been another offside not given.
The referee gave Norwich a free kick about 2 yards outside the area, right in the centre, after Roberts controlled the ball with his hand whilst attempting to spin past Lever. The ball got stuck between Roberts left hand and Lever's left hand. So obviously that is a free kick to Norwich, isn't it. The resultant free kick was rolled sideways for a shot which was slightly deflected, to Coyne's left, which he parried away for a corner.
This was all the action in the first half. After Town conceded the goal there was not much fight, most of the players seemed to be going through the motions. They played like they had just got out of a particularly cramped minibus. Ashcroft was carried off the field at half time by Coyne and the physio - so the Town fans had something to look forward to - Clare, a player who tries. The Town defence had looked very, very wobbly, especially down the left where D Smith was exposed. His positioning was poor, as was his concentration. He stood off players, allowing them to turn and pass (ie he never got "tight"). Livvo was constantly drawn out to the left by Dalglish, yet Livvo was always 5 yards behind him. In general too much time was given to Norwich and Town failed to deal with anyone running towards them. In attack Allen was invisible (as the ball never seemed to go near him), as was Donovan. Pouton was a potential threat at first, but never received a pass for the last half hour of the half.
The respective supporters taunted each other with the most obvious and basic songs, which was really boring. Tractors, Fish, Trawlers and Ploughs. Not very inspired, just like the players.
Half time: Norwich 1 Grimsby Town 0
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