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06/11 Wolves 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 Grimsby Town 0
06 Nov 1999, Nationwide League Division 1
Town made no changes in personnel at half time, though there was one small change. Lever was handed the captain's arm band. The team lined up in a 4-3-2 formation, like the one that was so successful at Portsmouth under similar circumstances. However a middle three of Hamilton, D Smith and Coldicott may not, to some observers (ie anyone), be quite as formidable as Pouton, Burnett and Coldicott.
The supporters' fears were confirmed as Town started poorly. Possession was surrendered easily by the light weight midfield, the front two were not as "strong" as they were at Portsmouth, and the midfield played far too narrowly. Too much space was ceded to Wolves in wide positions and Town were outnumbered frequently. Wolves continued to try and play down the flanks, and to get crosses in as quickly as possible. There appeared little belief within the Town players, they played as though they knew they would lose and they were just hoping to keep the score down (this had been apparent from the first minute really). Wolves made the mistake of trying to play football for a 15 minute period in the middle of the half. They got near goal, but failed to create many chances, despite Lever's continued marking of the "little one" (Corica) whilst R Smith marked the "big one" (Akinbiyi). During this period Coyne made his only meaningful save of the match after Wolves pressure resulted in the ball falling to a player just inside the area, on the Town left. A firm half volley went through a thicket of players, and Coyne saved low at the foot of his left hand post. Lever managed to get his obligatory injury when he produced a half turning sliding challenge on the edge of the Wolves area. His tackling technique is very poor as he always comes off worse, no matter how small his foe
Town were "holding on" as Wolves came at them in waves of attacks. As soon as one was repulsed Wolves got the ball back and pressed again. I recall at least three free headers that were headed far over and wide, mainly from crosses from Town's right. These crosses were not from the bye-line, but from the support player 15-20 yards in. Time and again Wolves were allowed too much space to set up a cross. The Town defenders (and I mean every single one of them) allowed opponents to do what they wished.
With about 20 minutes left Wolves took off the "little one", Corica, and sent on a midfielder. They then went Route 0 by sending Neil Emblem up front. Within a minute they should have scored. A throw in was taken quickly on the Town left, inside the Wolves half. The ball was headed on twice and Lever was outpaced by Emblem, who ran on to Akinbiyi's back heel. Emblem seemed to be about to shoot from the edge of the area when Butterfield raced across to block. Emblem rolled the ball sideways for the on rushing Sinton, who toe poked the ball a foot wide from 15 yards. Emblem then missed two more free headers from about 10 yards, and another was glanced to Coyne.
After 78 minutes Ashcroft was replaced by Allen. Ashcroft had contributed little, but arguably more than Lester. Within a minute Wolves scored. A long punt by their 'keeper went towards R Smith and Emblem, to the right inside Town's half, about 35 yards out. R Smith rose to head the ball, but Emblem ducked underneath and allowed R Smith to roll over the top (and the ball to run on). Emblem then ran on, exchanged passes with Sinton, and the ball was eventually flung into the Town area from a position about 25 yards out and 5 yards inside the touch line on the Town right. Of course there was no Town "closing down" at all. The ball went to a position about 12 yards out, close to the penalty spot. There were 4 or 5 players near the ball, but AKINBIYI, facing away from goal, twisted and looped a firm header into Coyne's top right hand corner.
Town's response was their only shot on target all game. Allen received a pass 25 yards out, turned and hit a firm half volley low to the 'keeper's right, which was saved comfortably. The only other times Town got near the Wolves goal were a free kick 5 minutes from the end which was headed clear from a yard out, and early on in the half when a flowing (yes there was one) Town move involving Lester, Coldicott and Butterfield resulted in Coldicott rolling the ball into a huge space within the penalty area, about 15 yards out and 5 yards to the left of goal. Gallimore came waddling in and all Town got was a corner, as a Wolves defender slid across whilst Gallimore couldn't make up his mind what to do.
In the last minute a cross from Town right drifted over the defence and, about 8-10 yards out , the unmarked AKINBIYI headed in, low to Coyne's right. R Smith failed to follow Akinbiyi on this occasion. Another minute or two of forgettable nonsense followed and the referee finished the game. Thankfully for us the torture had ended.
When a defence allows a striker to be unmarked inside the penalty area, you should expect the worst. To do so three times is unforgivable. The defence was not organised at all, they played as individuals. Far too many times Lever simply stayed back and kept Wolves onside. The midfield runners were not "picked up", and the four Town wide players never closed down potential crossers. All in all Town defending was the exact opposite of what was required to stop Wolves. It isn't any secret how Wolves play - simple, direct football. To quote Mike Channon "Ball in the box", that's all they do. If you stop them putting balls in the box they are flummoxed. They are no better than previous Wolves teams - they are a physically strong team who will just miss out on the play-offs.
As for Town offensively, the centre of the park was devoid of creativity, and there was no threat from the flanks. The front two were intermittent contributors and constant whingers. Too many times Lester and Ashcroft chose to plead for fouls rather than compete for the ball. Once again, neither had a shot, though Lester (in the first half) got into a position to shoot three times but stopped and lost the ball.
Coyne was not at fault for any of the goals and the strange situation is that he is getting better as the defence gets worse. Doesn't seem to do us much good though. The Town men of the match were McDermott, Pouton and Burnett. Their stature and importance can only have increased through absence.
Are there any positives from this game ? No.
At least it's over for another season.
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