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22/03 Charlton 1st Half
By: Tony Butcher
Charlton Athletic 4 Grimsby Town 0
22 Mar 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
A still, temperate night in Domeland with about 200 or so well dressed Town fans crammed tightly into a very small corner of a stand behind a goal. The stewards insisted everyone sat in the designated seat, despite a huge swathe of seats remaining empty to our right. Then 5 minutes before kick off a couple of fans wandered into the unofficial seating area and a mass free for all ensued. Everyone had a double seat, and as the seats were small and the leg-room non-existent, we needed the lebensraum. It was the finest passing and movement by Grimsby all night.
Town warmed up with the infamous circular passing routine. It never fails to produce failure in the match itself. There was initial joy for the Town fans when Nicholls appeared in a full track suit, suggesting he would not be starting. We then saw a rare sight, Nicholls shooting, but he never beat Croudson in the warm up. The ground was almost full, with the home support inclusive of trumpeter who, it emerged, only knew two tunes - "When the red, red robin, lost to a Jim, Jim Dobbin shot at home" and the theme tune to "The Muppet Show" (which they played when Lever had the ball). There was an expectant mood in the Town little corner.
Town lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation as follows :- Coyne, McDermott, Lever, Groves, Gallimore, Donovan, Coldicott, Pouton, D Smith, Black and Clare. The substitutes were Croudson, Butterfield, A Buckley, Allen and Nicholls. Groves remained at centre back with Black in his customary hole. It was pretty obvious Buckley had finally admitted that Nicholls was a mistake and that Town were fearful of Charlton. We would be playing sit and hope football (just like the supporters).
Town kicked off away from the Town support and managed 5 passes before kicking it out for a throw in. The first 5 or so minutes saw Town under pressure, but with no great chances for Charlton. They started at pace and it was noticeable that when they attacked they always had two or three players around the ball. Town were stretched (and looked anxious) but just about kept them out.
After 7 minutes a ball was knocked forward from Charlton's left to an inside left position, 20 yards out. Lever came across and headed the ball sideways, away from 2 on-rushing Charlton forwards, but without sufficient pace for the ball to go out of play. Gallimore failed to move to cover the ball and Svensson ran on to collect the ball, advance a few yards and whip in a cross to a position about 12 yards out, to the left of the penalty spot. NEWTON was unmarked as he ran in and headed firmly into Coyne's top left hand corner. The fingers pointed towards Gallimore for dozing (for firstly not following the ball out of play and secondly failing to get back and over to challenge Svensson). If we have "Lever Moments", perhaps we should also recognise the "Galli dally"?
A couple of minutes later Charlton should have scored again. They were awarded a free kick in the middle of the Town half. The ball was dinked high into the air towards Coyne. The big centre half, Rufus, ran into Coyne as he attempted to punch the ball away. The result was a half punch that went to the edge of the area, whereupon it was bundled back to Svensson. He controlled the ball on his chest and volleyed the ball over an open goal from 8 yards
A couple of minutes later Gallimore dallied more. A cross from the Town right went towards the back post, about 8 yards out. Newton rose above the non-challenging Gallimore and headed high, slightly to the left of Coyne, who tipped the ball over for a corner. Around the same time a quick, direct Charlton attack saw Newton played in slightly behind Gallimore, just inside the penalty area. Only Pouton's bottom prevented a second goal as he flung himself across the path of the resulting cross shot. Again Gallimore was guilty of slackness, failing to follow his winger. Remember this is all within the first 15-20 minutes. During this period there were also a couple of scrambles, a Rufus flick header from a corner on Town's right, which went a foot wide of Coyne's left hand post, and further flutters when Svensson ran past three players before being crowded out inside the penalty area. This showed the difference between the two teams - intensity. They played at pace, in packs, and were obviously playing to a plan. Most of their attacking came down the flanks, and especially Town's left. They also attacked the ball in the air - their runs at the ball were different, again at pace and not just towards the ball but at the ball. Town were hanging on in the English way.
After about 20 minutes the game died down and Town got into the Charlton penalty box, though just once when D Smith was released down the left (after interplay with Clare). His cross was cut out at the near post for a corner. Town corner? No excitement. Charlton stopped running too quickly and attempted to play through midfield, thus playing into Town's cunning plan to bore the pants off everyone. Nothing particularly frightening or interesting happened for about 10 -15 minutes. Town were able to stop them coming through the middle, as Pouton/Coldicott and Lever/Groves held some kind of negative parity, well at least the ability to stop Charlton players going past them. Town held the ball for whole seconds, advancing towards the half way line and back several times; Charlton, humiliatingly, being unable to get the ball for nearly a minute. In one particular phase which will bring a glow of satisfaction to football purists everywhere, Coyne rolled the ball to Groves, who passed to Gallimore, who passed to Groves, who passed to Clare, who passed to Gallimore, who passed to Black, who passed to Groves, who passed to Lever, who passed to Coyne, who miss-kicked to a Charlton player 30 yards out.
In the last 5 or so minutes of the half Charlton picked up the pace again. A quick break down the Town right resulted in a cross being sent to the far post. Newton rose above Gallimore and headed high back across Coyne. The ball glanced the angle of post and bar and went out for a goal kick. Then Town had a shot. Clare fell well about 25 yard out, near the angle of the penalty box. Black curled the free kick low over the wall and Powell headed the ball away from near the line, at the goalkeeper's left hand post. After a couple of minutes of extra time the half ended.
This was the worst case scenario for the Town fans - only 1-0 down, a hatful of chances missed by Charlton, raising false hope of a fortunate draw. Why were they doing this to us? It would have been much easier if they 'd conceded a couple in the first 15 minutes, then we could sit back without hope. Town were obviously, man for man, inferior, with some more inferior than others. With the exception of Gallimore and Donovan no-one was having a bad game. Clare had a thankless task up front, effectively him against 3 big defenders. He was not helped by the Town penchant for knocking high, or channel, balls for him to chase. Unfortunately for Clare, not only is Rufus about a foot taller than him, but also one of the fastest players in the division. Black tried hard but is, as we know, just too lightweight. His first touch was also very poor, taking several yards to nearly control some passes. And of course he tended to pirouette at the most inappropriate moments. Town did have one chance to break away, when they outnumbered the Charlton defence and had 3 against one on the right. Black pirouetted back towards the Town half, turned slowly, drifted forward a couple of yards and finally played it to Donovan. By this time 7 Charlton players were behind the ball.
The second half was not anticipated with much enthusiasm by the Town supporters, and by the demeanour of the players, not by them either
Town kept the same side, though Charlton took off one big defender (Brown) and replaced him with an even bigger defender (Tiler).
Half time: Charlton Athletic 1 Grimsby Town 0
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