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12/11 Charlton 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
Grimsby Town 2 Charlton Athletic 5
12 Nov 1999, Nationwide League Division 1
No changes made by either team at half time. The drizzle became far more persistent and heavy, it was almost driving into Coyne's face. Town came out with some gusto and immediately produced the move of the night. Burnett slipped a cunning pass through the inside left channel to D Smith, who bamboozled Charlton with a half-Blackian pirouette. He ran into Lester, but fortunately between them they retained possession about 30 yards out, in the centre of the Charlton half. Lester eventually worked the ball over to Butterfield on the right hand touchline. Butterfield rolled the ball to Ashcroft, who produced a Woods-esque step over flick, allowing the ball to roll on to Lester, just inside the right hand corner of the penalty area. Lester shielded the ball and watched as Ashcroft and Donovan ran past him, either side. He chose a Reesian lay off to the Childs-like run from Donovan, heading on the outside towards the bye-line. (A flashback to 1993?) Donovan took the pass in his stride and, from about 8 yards out and a couple of yards from the bye-line, whipped in a hard low cross, as Ilic came out to block. RUFUS dived across the goal and slid into the net with the ball. It came off either his chest or arm. Who cared. It was a crowd pleasing way to complete his hat trick. Appreciative chants of "Rufus, Rufus" accompanied him to the half way line.
So Town were back level after a few seconds of the second half. The next 15 minutes were the most competitive of the match. Town suddenly started to produce crunchingly committed tackling, with man and ball disappearing over the touchline. The crowd got behind the team with some constant chanting and backing. However, although the tackling became harder, the number of chances, for either side, did not rise much above 1. Kinsella tamely drove a free kick from 25 yards a couple of yards wide, and Rufus, unmarked, headed a free kick against the post from about 8 yards out, at the far post, Findus side. Hadn't he done something similar in the first half? Some players have the memory of a forgetful goldfish.
As the Town supporters were reaching a climax, Charlton scored again. Just after the hour a concerted Charlton breakaway attack on the Town left saw the ball eventually worked into space on the Town right A Charlton player was completely free, about 15 yards out, but Butterfield threw himself across the path of the shot and it deflected off him over the bar for a corner. The corner, from the Town left, was played to the near post, about 8-10 yards out. Coyne appeared to save a flick header, but pushed the ball sideways, across the goal. MENDONCA, unmarked, right in the middle of the goal about 3 or 4 yards out, simply lunged forward and tapped the ball over the line. The "immutable law of the ex" struck again. Yet another cross not dealt with. A pattern developing. Possibly.
This goal seemed to deflate the Town players and, conversely, Charlton stepped up the pressure and really pressed to increase the lead. The pace of their attacks increased, and they piled more players forward. A scramble in the Town area saw a free shot smacked over the bar from a central position. A brief respite saw the ball played around in midfield, near Main Stand. Eventually (about 5 minutes after their 3rd goal) Charlton intercepted and cleared the ball high down their left "channel". Lever shuffled across and produced a lovely flick header for Mendonca to run onto. Mendonca collected the ball just outside the Town area on the right near the bye-line, turned and laid the ball back to the completely unmarked Hunt, inside the area, on the right about 12 yards out. HUNT simply placed the ball wide of Coyne and right into the bottom left hand corner of Coyne's goal. It was at this point that it was remarked that Lever is usually 5 minutes behind play, but at that moment it was 5 years.
At about this point Allen came on for Hamilton (aka Griffin, the invisible man). Hamilton did produce some decent cross field passes in the first half, but had been very anonymous in the second. He might have been making contributions but as he is such an identikit Buckley player, how could one tell? At least one Pontoonite was moved to remark "It's Widdo!" after one particularly awful cross-field pass to Alan Buckley. With the arrival of Bradley Allen (whom the Pontoon had been calling for since the first half) Town changed to a 4-3-3 formation, with Ashcroft in the centre, Lester on the right and Allen the left. Now that made sense, didn't it. And this tactical change made such a difference. Town played much, much worse. It was like watching a souffle crumple before your very eyes, playmates. Charlton were utterly ruthless in their pursuit of goals. They stepped the pace up even further. Their full backs, especially, pressed up further and further, taking great advantage of the spaces left by the reduced numbers in the Town midfield. Donovan and D Smith had to play much more centrally, leaving Gallimore and Butterfield with two players sprinting towards them. It was not a pleasant sight to see.
After 70 minutes Town had their first describable effort on goal. Lester chested down a ball to Ashcroft, who hit a half volley a foot wide, from 20 yards out to the left of the goal.
With 15 minutes or so left Town won a thrown-in in front of the Findus/Smiths, about 20 yards out. The ball was thrown to Burnett who lost a challenge with Jones. The ball was immediately played forward, with Charlton players running up in support, whilst some Town players dropped their heads in momentary disappointment. Within 10 seconds the ball was in Town's net. Charlton advanced up the centre, drawing in Town defenders as they did so. Eventually they reached the edge of the Town area, with just Butterfield to beat. Robinson drew Butterfield towards him, as strikers drifted off to the Town left. The left full back, Powell sprinted forward and Robinson rolled the ball into his path, just inside the Town area. Powell hit a shot/cross towards the far post, across Coyne. GROVES slid into intercept, but only managed to hit the ball against Coyne, and it dribbled in to the goal off Coyne's shoulder (I think). The Charlton supporters and players were extremely happy. Large sections of the Town support stood up and walked away. Wet weather supporters, one game per year and they go early. They don't understand it's ALL about misery. A couple of "fans" tried to have a fight with the stewards, which resulted in a steward falling over and having to be taken off for treatment. There were two such sets of disruptions within the Pontoon, which resulted in the whole of the Pontoon standing up for 10 minutes so that they could either see the (non) fights or the match. With a couple of minutes left two blokes ran across the pitch towards the Charlton end. All they did was wave their arms around.
Out on the pitch Town spent 5 minutes desperately attempting to avoid conceding another goal. From one attack first Groves, then Butterfield had to kick the ball off the line. Groves was forced to head over the Town bar from about 5 yards out, and Coyne saved a cross/shot at his near post. Town had, by this stage, no shape and were being out run, out thought, over powered and thoroughly out played. The end couldn't come quick enough. And eventually it did, but not before Town had their second effort of the night. Burnett hit a 20 yard free kick way high and wide in the 92nd minute.
Town had been ruthlessly dissected by (far) the best team they have played this year. Every flaw and mistake was punished, in numbers and at speed. Every chance created by Charlton resulted in a goal bound shot. In essence they have learnt from their time in the Premiership that they have to make the most of EVERY opportunity. They simply placed men, and the ball, where Town players weren't. And they played as a team. There was no slacking, even at 5-2, they worked ALL game, as a unit. The scoreline accurately reflected the gulf between the players they sent out against the players we sent out. And there is the lesson. Town had too many squad players filling in. Pouton, Coldicott, and Handyside were missed greatly. Our physical weaknesses down the flanks were exposed, as was Town's inability to defend in the air. Once again Butterfield was Town's best player, both defensively and offensively. When the team was announced the crowd muttered about "lack of creativity" in midfield, and a rocky defence against "them". Town didn't get away with it today, for the third game running - and now R Smith is injured and Groves in banned. We appear to be left with Lever as our only fit centre half. It hardly fills one with hope. This may be the nadir of the season, but probably not.
In summary, they were better than us. They played like we think Town play. As Mr Punch is quoted as saying "that's the way to do it".
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