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Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
28/11 Norwich 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
Grimsby Town 2 Norwich City 1
28 Nov 1999, Nationwide League Division 1
No changes were made by Town at half time, though Norwich did swap a centre half for another (but donkey) centre half. Town started sloppily and were on the back foot for the first 10 minutes. Again I don't recall any chances for Norwich, but the ball was in the Town penalty box a lot. The most worrying moments were when Town failed to clear a cross from the Norwich left , resulting in some head tennis around the 6 yard box. Fortunately the Norwich striker headed feebly into Coyne's arms.
On the hour Town won a free kick a few yards inside the Norwich half , on the right. Butterfield rolled the ball to Lester, on the edge of the area. Lester let the ball run through his legs and ran past the defender, into the area, again on the Town right. His cross shot was half saved by the goalkeeper, low down to his right. The ball spun up, up and away and, like a beautiful balloon, ASHCROFT turned and hit a half bicycle kick volley into the centre of the goal. It was an excellent finish as the ball was slightly behind him and spinning. Very Cantonaaaaaaa.
The goal perked Town up no end and Lester/Ashcroft started to work well as a team. For the next 5 or 10 minutes Town actually created several moments of danger. Most of Town's attacking came down the right with Butterfield prominent. One excellent move saw Butterfield roll the ball towards Ashcroft, who dummied and spun away. The ball rolled on to Lester, who hit a first time pass inside the left wing back for Donovan (I think, it may have been Ashcroft) to sprint clear down the right touch-line. Unfortunately the cross went behind Town players and was cleared easily. Another move, and undoubtedly the best of the match, saw Ashcroft allow the ball to go between his legs. He turned and ran past his marker, he then produced a low pacy cross between the goalkeeper and the retreating centre backs which Lester just missed as he slid in at the far (left) post. Apart from a Lever header from a free kick near the end Town didn't produce another effort at all.
For a period in the middle of the half Town players started to fly into tackles recklessly. Lester was booked when he slid in for a sideways block near the touch-line, as a Norwich defender cleared. It was a similar "tackle" to the Roberts' in the first half. Except Lester missed. Very "It's a Knockout" in it's execution. I suppose only a Town player could get booked for failing to foul. Lever was booked for an slight push/hold on a player. However, as he'd been let off a minute earlier when he kicked someone in the air from behind, then kicked the ball away, he can't complain too much. Coldicott was later booked for a sliding tackle where the Norwich player looked as though he made a meal of his fall. This resulted in a series of free kicks to Norwich inside the Town half. As a result the play was pushed closer and closer to the Town goal. The town defence were not clearing the ball very well at all. The "clearances" were mostly to Norwich players just outside the area. So the ball kept being clipped back into the penalty box. It was all very tense, yet Norwich didn't create many chances, despite the laxity in defence.
In the last 20 minutes Norwich piled forward and should have scored on a couple of occasions. Town failed to clear after a Norwich breakaway and on the third cross Lever finally produced the error we'd all been waiting for. He headed out, from the edge of the 6 yard box to an unmarked Norwich player about 12 yards out. The player got to the bye-line and crossed to the near post, where Dalglish (a substitute) smacked the ball a yard wide from 6 yards out. A few minutes later a high ball was played into the left of the Town area. D Smith and Eadie challenged and the ball fell off Eadie's arm. He turned and half-volleyed over the bar from a narrow angle.
In order to "stiffen" up the Town midfield Buckley took off Buckley and replaced him with Black. Black did one pirouette, gave the ball away once, and headed in at a free kick. I can't remember him stiffening anything. In the last couple of minutes Town were under considerable pressure, in one breakaway attack Norwich were stopped only by Butterfield (covering header when Lever was "outfoxed" by a bouncing ball) and Gallimore (tackling the Norwich striker who ran onto Butterfield's clearing header). In the last minute Dalgleish, on the left edge of the Town area, was played in. He took on the defender and produced a low shot across Coyne, from 10 yards. Coyne pushed the shot aside and Donovan ran in a hacked the ball away for a corner (with three Norwich players around him). After a couple of minutes of injury time the referee finally blew his whistle and Town had three points.
In essence Town played well, as an attacking force, for 5 minutes in each half. During those periods they scored. The cobbled together defence just about held together. There was very little organisation and they certainly were not a "unit", but then one would hardly expect that given the personnel. Individually the full backs played very well, Gallimore and Lever played as well as could be hoped. Gallimore perhaps more so. Lever did his best - which was enough today. Butterfield was a constant threat to Norwich and was singled out for "treatment". Coldicott was omnipresent and had to be - he seemed to be trying to do two jobs at once. Hamilton was largely anonymous, I only remember a couple of tackles and a couple of successful passes. His positional sense was dreadful. He always seemed to be the piggy in the middle. Donovan produced 3 or 4 runs at the defence which did cause Norwich anxiety and difficulties. Buckley produced a good cross, a good shot and not much else. His contribution in the second half was largely "unseen", as he was tracking back and marking all the time. Which is, at least, a contribution. Lester improved in the second half and was the major contributor to the goal. His turn was exceptional. It was exactly what his supporters claim he does. Ashcroft had probably his best game for Town. His level of commitment was very high. I haven't seen him run around like that before, and his "flicks and tricks" paid off. He also stayed in his feet more, which meant the ball didn't come back from the forwards as quickly as it usually does. He played rather perki-lee.
And Coyne ? Well as he took a goal kick the Norwich fans, displaying the level of wit normally reserved for the Pontoon, sang "You're s***, aaaaaaaaargh". To which someone in the Pontoon replied "We know, aaaaaaaaargh" Credit where it's due, Coyne was fine today.
Considering the players available, and picked, this was a decent performance. It resembled a cup match with Town as the lower division hopefuls. Town's muddling through approach muddled through fine, though long term this will not do. We won't get away with it every week.
Incidentally, Donovan is the "pin up poster" in today's programme. He looks pregnant. I send my best wishes.
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