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11/03 QPR 1st Half
By: Tony Butcher
Queens Park Rangers 1 Grimsby Town 0
11 Mar 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
A very bright, warm day in the salubrious surroundings of Shepherds Bush. Around 350 - 400 Town supporters congregated behind the goal to your right, as seen on TV. The pre-match entertainment was the QPR mascot, "Jude", a black cat, strolling around waving generally to children of all ages (possibly fun for all the family too). Very entertaining. The referee wore black and Town wore their normal first team kit. A few colour clashes going on with QPR's blue and white hoops.
Immediately prior to kick off the Town players nicked the ball and started their circular, one-touch passing warm up. As usual the ball was lost when Lever knocked it out of the circle. They then kicked the ball off the pitch and the referee had to ask for another one. Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation. Groves played at centre half, with Butterfield at right back and Pouton centre midfield.
Coyne wore an all red ensemble, which would have been fine but for his socks being pillar box red, whereas his shorts and shirt had a deeper, more crimson tint. A small point for the sartorially aware, but nowhere near as bad a Mikkel Beck's hair. As a Town fan remarked - it looks like something has fallen out of a tree onto his head. The sombrero wearing QPR supporter (last year's entertainment) seems to have traded it in for a smaller, less distinctive cone shaped hat. A little disappointing on the hat front, I feel.
Town kicked off away towards the QPR end, with Coyne thus defending the goal right in front of us. Town totally dominated the first minute, winning 4 throw-ins, two of which were foul throws by Gallimore (though none was given by the referee). The game started at a relatively sedate pace with a sedated crowd - the only noise emanating from the QPR fans was from the school-kids to our right. "Where's your woggle gone" sang some cheery Town folk to a troop of boy scouts. Town started quite well, with Clare (after about 5 minutes) dribbling into the QPR penalty area, on their left and crossing to D Smith at the far post. The cross was a little too high and D Smith only succeeded in heading it high, backwards and away from goal. A couple of minutes later a Town high ball was half cleared, about 25 yards out. Clare got between QPR defenders and managed to bring a high bouncing ball under control. He turned a defender and ran in to the penalty area, on the Town left. He hit his shot a yard over the angle of post and bar. Immediately prior to this Pouton had surged down the left beating a couple of players on a 30 yards run. He eventually got to the bye-line, just inside the area, but his cross was blocked for a corner.
Up to this point QPR had done absolutely nothing at all. They then should have scored when Wardley, 6 yards out in the centre and totally unmarked, met a set piece from Town's right with a thumping header straight down into the ground. The ball bounced gently over the bar. Five or so minutes late a QPR corner on Town's left was swung away from goal to a position 3 yards out, next to the post. The central defender (Ward) got to it before Groves but smashed a free header a couple of feet over the bar. The Town support were debating how we weren't 1-0 down for several minutes after this. Coyne seemed to be remarkably unconcerned by the event. QPR only had one other chance in the first half, when, following a break down the Town left, Beck headed a cross against the top of Groves' head past Coyne's left hand post for a corner. Apart from Coyne catching a Beck cross at his near post (after which Beck gave a wonderful continental gesture of despair at his misfortune. He shouldn't have - his cross was rubbish, not unlucky) I cannot recall Coyne having to do anything else. The Town defence was solid and kept QPR away from shooting or crossing positions. The centre, especially, was impenetrable.
Town produced the best move of the first half when Donovan intercepted a cross field pass inside the Town half. Clare advanced, drew the last defender and knocked the ball to Donovan on the right. The pass was just a little hard and so forced Donovan a bit wider than he wished. Donovan advanced into the penalty area and hit a cross an inch or two past the 'keeper's right hand post.
That was it for the first half. It was devoid of action for long periods. The crowd was very quiet, quieter even than Blundell Park. Even the referee had a decent half, with no obvious mistakes, so neither set of supporters could moan too much. He did, however, miss Lever push a central defender at a QPR corner (it was right in front of us, and the referee) and did not do anything when Lever intimidated a QPR midfielder (Langley) by gently putting his studs in Langley's groin and swearing at him from 2 inches. The first half had some moments of interest but resembled an enthusiastic pre-season friendly. Defensively the team was very solid, with Butterfield playing skilfully (even flipping the ball over a winger's head and running of with it a couple of times). In attack Clare was busy, bustling and played as a target man. Nicholls was very poor. He did one good lay off and several bad passes. Most of the time he was second to a challenge, looking disinterested and physically weak. 0-0 was the right score at half time, and both sets of supporters were, frankly, bored.
The Town supporters were most amused when Beck was outpaced by Lever. Now that's something we haven't seen for many a year.
The half time entertainment consisted of three people running up to a cone, going round it 10 times and taking a shot from the edge of the penalty area, with the mascot as the goalie. Of course they all fell over after they had done the 10 turns. It was a lot more entertaining than the football.
Half time: Queens Park Rangers 0 Grimsby Town 0
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