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Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
01/04 Hudds 1st Half
By: Tony Butcher
Grimsby Town 0 Huddersfield Town 0
01 Apr 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
A warm, sunny day, with very little wind and a completely packed Osmond Stand. The Town support was a little quiet to begin with. The Town players warmed up in scattered and disorganised bunches, though a frisson of excitement ran through the Pontoon when we realised that young Mr Nicholls (a premiership starlet - official) was not even on the pitch. A quick count up confirmed that he wasn't even on the bench. To further whet the appetite Ashcroft was in full kit practicing curling the ball round Croudson and into the Pontoon.
A rather sad little home-made banner was tied up at the top of the seats in the open corner between the Pontoon and Main Stand " Ashcroft Stay" and a little later its companion piece was tied up next to it - "Buckley Pout". Or it could have been "Buckley Out", my eyes may have been deceiving me. Don't get too excited about this "crowd reaction" - the banners were placed by 4 teenage girls and I think it had a lot to do with hormones. At the other end the Huddersfield fans tied up a huge flag with "HTFC - Hermaphrodites" written on it. It looked like that to me anyway. What a liberal bunch of supporters they must be.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation. Groves partnered Lever at centre back and Pouton came into centre midfield. Huddersfield, playing in a dark green/blue kit which rather clashed with the referee's pastel green and black outfit, lined up with 3 at the back and two strong, quick forwards (Wijnhard and Armstrong).
Town lost the toss and kicked off towards the Pontoon. As usual the ball went back to McDermott and went out for a throw in. Then, unusually, Town broke away quickly through Ashcroft (lovely first time flick), Clare (good control and well weighted pass inside the full back) and Donovan (the usual fumblings). The move, which was within the first minute, ended when Donovan got to the edge of the 6 yard box and fell over the ball. The referee considered that this contravened an obscure law of the game and gave Huddersfield a free kick. This was a recurring theme throughout the game - arbitrary and erratic decisions by the referee. At first we thought he was against Town, then we got everything, then he went weird again. His name was Mr Cowburn (I suppose I could have misread it as Mr Cowbum, which may have been more apt, if a little juvenile), his hair was Bill Clinton's.
It was obvious from the start the Huddersfield were a pretty average team, relying on pace up front. There were very few of their players who could control the ball, and their three centre backs made Lever look graceful. Their game plan was very simple - the word "Hoof". I can get the boring bits about Huddersfield's attacks out of the way very quickly. Wijnhard turned his marker and hit the post after about half an hour, but as the referee had already given Town a free kick it was irrelevant; and after 43 minutes one of their midfielders tried a shot from the edge of the box which was blocked after it had travelled less than 5 yards. They had a couple of corners which didn't result in any pressure and they kicked the ball in the air a lot, rarely anywhere near a team mate. They played like a team that was lower middle table and in danger of sliding into relegation battle, whereas Town played like they were on the fringes of the promotion battle. For once the football league was upside down.
Town played like a team, with players hunting in packs, linking well in attack and generally being committed and positive. They played at a much higher pace than they did at Barnsley (ie they were awake) and the Ashcroft/Clare partnership was just that, a partnership. Town attacked mainly down the right with McDermott a very prominent presence, instigating most of the moves, and bringing the ball out of defence superbly. There were not many chances, just a huge periods of Town pressure and "moments of danger". Town's best efforts in the first half were when D Smith danced around three challenges as he moved laterally across the penalty area towards the centre, and his shot was headed away from near the 6 yard line. D Smith also had another "shot" from 20 yards which was badly miss-hit and trickled slowly to the 'keeper in front his right hand post. This followed a Town attack down the centre right involving McDermott, Ashcroft and Clare, complete with wall passes and flicks.
From one of Towns many corners the ball was headed across from (our) right towards the left hand post, about 5 yards out. Ashcroft twisted and fell theatrically, claiming a penalty. He did look to have been touched, but his fall was so mannered that he was never going to get a penalty decision from Mr Cowbum (I mean Cowburn). Groves, about 12 yards out to the left of the goal, headed a corner a couple of feet high and wide of the 'keeper's right hand post following a corner from the Town left. Donovan was sent clear behind the left back and, from 10 yards to the left of the goal near the bye line, pulled a cross across the face of the goal. Near the end of the half the ball was clipped in from about 20 yards out near the left edge of the Huddersfield penalty box. The ball curled just beyond Ashcroft and was hooked away from a yard in front of the right hand post for a corner, as D Smith ran in. Gallimore sliced a first time running left foot drive into the Pontoon . He was about 25 yards out, to the left of goal and the ball just about stayed in the Pontoon Stand, rather than the kiosk selling various snacks at various prices near the floodlight pylon.
As you can tell, not many (if any) real chances or shots. Town had dominated the play, with Pouton and Coldicott controlling the centre of the pitch. Groves and Lever had the Huddersfield forwards in their pockets. Pouton was particularly impressive with his commitment, passing that was both accurate and positive, and a couple of terrific surging runs through the centre of the park. The sort of runs Cunnington and Cockerill used to do. The Huddersfield midfield resorted to tripping Pouton when he embarked on a run, or at least trying to as he invariably stayed upright and in control of the ball. There was much movement up front, with Ashcroft receiving and laying off passes to Clare very well. Huddersfield resorted to going through from behind, twice leaving our podgy hero crumpled face down in the dirt. It was most encouraging and at half time Town didn't have what they deserved, a goal and the lead. It was a stirring and pleasing first half performance, one which made the crowd rise up and make noise. The team even got a standing ovation walking off at half time.
Steve Bruce was constantly on his feet whinging about the referee's decisions, especially on the few occasions they were correct. The 4th official seemed to spend most of the half "ushering" him back to the dugout. Bruce certainly got the Main Stand agitated.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Huddersfield Town 0
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