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16/10 Blackburn 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
Blackburn 1 Grimsby Town 1
16 Oct 1999, Nationwide League Division 1
Town started the second half brightly with Donovan and Gallimore attacking well down the right and left. Blackburn defended "narrowly" leaving the wings relatively free. Unfortunately the crossing was not very good, especially from Butterfield (who unerringly crossed on to the head of Jeff Kenna, no matter where he was). Town started to pepper Filan with shots, however they were Town "shots" which meant they had no power at all and were generally straight to him.
The half was, as you'd expect with a numerical advantage, mostly Town.
However Blackburn were still very dangerous on the break away, and always
dangerous at set pieces (as they were so big). Blackburn's efforts in the
second half were :-
Despite their ever reducing numbers one always felt that they would run off and score, most likely from a corner. Fortunately they were so intent on defence they didn't really press at set pieces, and Groves and R Smith were solid under any pressure.
Lester caused increasing difficulties for the remaining Blackburn defenders with his rolling turns, winning numerous free kicks. He also opened up the centre of the defence with his new found willingness to let the ball move across him (the defenders are obviously instructed that he holds and rolls all the time). After a flowing Town move involving Coldicott and Ashcroft, Lester turned on the edge of the box, in a central position, giving him a free run at goal. Seeing the vastness in front of him he hit a first time shot very weakly, straight at Filan.
After about 15ish minutes of the second half Lester gathered a long pass and rolled around the substitute centre half (he had come on just after the first sending off to "bolster" the defence),right on the edge of the area. Lester eventually fell over, into the box. The ref gave a free kick, right on the edge and sent off the sub. Filan was most fortunate not to be booked as he threw the ball at Lester in anger (well Lester did dive this time). The free kick was charged down and eventually Burnett hit a drive from 20 yards straight at the 'keeper.
As against Crystal Palace last season, many of the Town players took the opportunity to stop working when the opposition went down to 9 men. Suddenly there was no movement, play became very static and the ball started to be given away, or lost, in midfield. The constant refrain of "Move, Move, Move" was heard from various parts of the stand, and it was not a surprise when D Smith (a supreme occupier of space) was replaced by Pouton with about 20-25 minutes left. This change gave Town impetus and, in quick succession, three chances were created. Firstly Town broke quickly with Donovan, Ashcroft and Lester, who rolled the ball to the unmarked Pouton, on the right edge of the penalty area. Pouton scooped a right foot shot 15 yards over the bar. The close up on TV showed him describing the effort in similar style to those around me. Secondly, an almost exact replica of the move saw Pouton alone inside the area, in the same position. He advanced and tried a low right footed drive from 12 yards. It went straight at Filan. In the third instance Pouton, from the same position tried a cross which went straight on the head of Kenna. Did someone once say Pouton can't shoot ?
Ashcroft took a free kick 20 yards out on the right edge of the area which was destined for teh top left hand corner. However it slapped against lester's thigh and looped out for a goal kick. Ashcroft also made Filan produce a diving save to his left when he tried a little low curler from the right hand side of the box. Again there was no power in the shot.
With about 10 minutes left Allen (who received appreciative chants when he warmed up - which he overtly appreciated) replaced Burnett and Town went to a 4-3-3 formation. After a bit of a scramble Allen laid the ball back to Donovan, about 15 yards out. His first time drive was hit firmly through a thicket of players, but went straight at Filan who parried it out. With a couple of minutes left a cross from the right was dropped by Filan, Gallimore whacked the loose ball with his trusty right foot across goal, with Lester missing the ball as it fizzed a foot wide and high.
In the last minute of injury/sending off time a cross shot from the left was diverted into the right hand corner by Allen. For about 0.09 seconds the Town fans were ecstatic, but the linesman was flagging for offside. From behind the goal it was impossible to test the accuracy of this decision (but that linesman had been useless all game, making a couple of decisions that were impossible to understand).
I seem to have missed out an important fact - R Smith's sending off. The feeling was that Town would not end with 11 men and about 15 minutes after the second Blackburn player was sent off the referee was given an opportunity to send off R Smith. Jansen (I think) advanced from the half way line and R Smith tackled head on. Jansen fell theatrically and R Smith didn't bother waiting for the referee to get the card out, he knew the ref was waiting to do it. R Smith had played superbly again, he will leave a massive hole.
The noise in the ground was quite something. After the second Blackburn dismissal the Blackburn supporters chanted "You're not fit to referee". When Smith went we sang the same, plus "Stand up if you hate the ref". The whole ground stood, and the last minutes were a unanimous chorus of "The referee's a w****r" - bonding between the supporters is so nice to see.
As for the Town players, it is difficult to criticise too much, the game was completely wrecked by the referee and it had a rather surreal atmosphere. Butterfield defended very well, but his distribution (especially his crossing) was poor. Groves and R Smith were rock like, Gallimore was relatively untroubled too. Coldicott worked tirelessly to destroy Blackburn (and cancel out Carsley, his Blackburn clone). After an awful start Lester and Ashcroft got better as the first half progressed, but were a little lazy when it was 11 against 9. Coyne didn't make any mistakes, except one. He nearly produced a comedy goal when he came out to collect a loopy cross and let it go between his legs. Fortunately no Blackburn player was around.
As they played most of the game with more players, Town should have gone on to win. They did create opportunities but the chances fell to the worst shooters (Pouton, Lester and Coldicott - who had three shots, none of which were too close). In some ways a point was acceptable as it was such a weird game anything could have happened.
Oh yes - the referee. His name was K Lynch (despite his performance he wasn't Kenny Lynch), but he did look like Captain Mainwaring. His pompous, strutting, officious style was in keeping with his lookalike. His over-emphasised mannerisms were amusing at first, but any smiles were wiped away by his incompetence. In the end he made my head hurt with rage.
Just look upon this as a game we have gotten out of the way - the way it started it could have been a tonking.
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