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24/04 WBA 1st Half
By: Tony Butcher
West Brom 2 Grimsby Town 1
24 Apr 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
A sunny day. Both sets of supporters were pessimistic, though the Brommie's were a bit more vocal in their desperate support. The portents were not good for Town as the West Brom players all looked big and the Town players looked far too happy when warming up. The Town supporters, of which there was a smaller than expected turnout of around 500, took the corner of the stand they are usually allocated (on the right as seen on tv)
Town lined up, in the usual 4-4-2 formation. McDermott came back from injury to replace Butterfield, and Livo (injured) was replaced by Ashcroft. Pouton was announced as being in the number 10 jersey, which on close inspection looked suspiciously like number 26. Nothing humorous or interesting happened before the kick off, unless you count Town playing in the blue hooped kit as funny.
Town kicked off away from their own supporters, and as per usual the opposition got a throw in within 5 seconds. The West Brom method became apparent immediately - hustle, bustle and whack the ball behind the full backs. Within a minute Taylor had a wild shot over the bar from the Town right, from just inside the area. He ran on to a ball over the top and got to it before Groves. After 4 minutes Flynn was put clear on the Town left, getting to the bye-line and miscuing a cross into the Town supporters. He got free after Gallimore reacted slowly to a ricochet near the touchline and allowed himself to be the piggy in the middle of two Baggies. From this moment on West Brom modified their subtle game plan - all their whacks over the top went over Gallimore. He either kicked them straight back to a West Brom player or was outpaced. All very unedifying stuff and confirmation that Gallimore has been sussed by our 1st division rivals.
Early on Groves released some frustration at his wasted year in Baggieland by kicking Sneekes up in the air. Coldicott got booked for stopping Sneekes as he ran though a huge hole in the Town defence 30 yards out, and D Smith ended up in the first row of the stand after chasing and clearing a long ball down the left (covering for Gallimore yet again). It was a slightly comical moment as D Smith disappeared from view for a few moments and then only his head appeared over the wall. It wasn't so comical for him as he was quite groggy and replaced 2 or 3 minutes later, on 17 minutes. Black came on in a straight swap, though the Town supporters were ashen faced at the prospect of a Gallimore/Black left hand side.
Town were moribund as an attacking force and the principal reason for this was the insistence on pumping high balls forward. The main culprits were Gallimore, Groves and Lever. Coupled with Coyne's inability to kick straight (his first two kicks went out for throw ins, nowhere near Town players), this led to much head hanging and groaning amongst the Town support. It was shaping up to be a typical away performance which, given the circumstances and links between the clubs, was doubly infuriating. The first 15 minutes were awful, as West Brom were not much cop, but ran around a lot, whereas some of the Town players were somewhere else entirely.
After about 15 minutes, West Brom were awarded a highly dubious free kick near the left edge of the penalty area, about 15 yards in from the touchline. Groves cleared the ball away from Sneekes, though slightly from behind. The referee, Mr Frankland, had already displayed an annoying tendency to be harsh on Town challenges, but to look kindly upon robust Baggie tackles. Sneekes clipped in a low cross to the far post, near the edge of the six yard box, where TAYLOR had peeled away to be unmarked. He dived full length to head firmly under and across Coyne into the left hand corner of the goal. Cue much groaning and wailing from Town supporters.
The goal perked Town up no end - no it didn't. Nothing had been seen of Donovan up to that point, and nothing much more would be. I am convinced he spent most of the game sat in the first row of the main stand. He probably had a blue and white scarf on to keep him warm. Town had a shot after 24 minutes when Allen (remember him?) about 20 yards out, twisted and turned near the West Brom right edge of the penalty box, before hitting a shot a yard wide. Five minutes later Town probably should have scored. A neat build up on the right resulted in the ball going to Allen and (I think) the ball rebounded to Ashcroft, about 12 yards out near the penalty spot, unmarked. He tried to scissor kick the ball from waist height, but hit the ball into the ground and to the left of the 'keeper, who was able to save easily. Five or so minutes after that Ashcroft cut in from the right and whacked a shot very wide of the 'keeper's right hand post. At around the same time McDermott wellied a 25 yarder, with his left foot, about a foot past the 'keeper's right angle of the post and bar.
In contrast, West Brom had lots of pressure but no shots, with Coyne not making any saves in the first half. His action moments were to come out and collect through balls and fly kick back passes. The bald facts appear to show Town having more of the game, but the opposite is true. They were awful, with two or three players showing a distinct lack of commitment. Ashcroft, in particular, was playing like his detractors claim. All his little flick-ons were just over-indulgent nonsense, on days like this I just wish he would flick off. He didn't show much determination and, on the few occasions that Town broke away, could be seen jogging in the centre circle. Allen was almost alone up front and was "guilty" of being 6 inches too short. Can't the man grow during a game?
The centre of midfield was ok, with Coldicott producing the sort of display one expects from him, but with added zeal. He played with the enthusiasm one would expect of a returnee. Pouton had little opportunity to attack, as the ball was constantly passing over his head from their centre backs to our defence (and back again), though he did get one "Pouton surge" in, which was stopped by Sneekes hacking him down from behind. He had left three Baggies trailing in a 25 yard run from the half way line. The centre of defence didn't do too badly, even if Lever started to look like the Lever of old. We felt a Lever moment coming on any second. Poor old Gallimore was, well, poor. He was incapable of kicking the ball to a Town player, stumbling and bumbling his way through to half time with several calamitous moments, which were cleared up by Coldicott (who seemed to be doing three jobs in one).
Town were, collectively, poor. There were at least three players who might as well not have been there for all the contribution they made. So the Town 8 had done well to keep it down to 1-0 by half time.
Half time: West Brom 1 Grimsby Town 0
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