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03/01 Sheff Utd 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
Grimsby Town 2 Sheffield Utd 2
03 Jan 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
D Smith was replaced at half time by A Buckley, which was not met with any appreciation by the crowd. There was a sustained round of booing and chants of "You don't know what you're doing". It didn't help when the first two things A Buckley did were ineffective. The first 5 minutes of the second half contained no excitement, as far as I recall, but then, suddenly the game perked up. Coldicott went firmly into one, then two and finally a third crunching tackle as the ball went across the pitch. This got the crowd going on the basic level of "Get into them". Coldicott's determination spread and other Town players started to fly in firmly (but fairly, of course. Town players never foul!). This got the crowd "up", where previously they had been silent and sullen, a Cup tie atmosphere started to prevail. It was not particularly pretty, but at least they were trying. During this period Buckley put in a couple of decent crosses. Ashcroft got down the left and into the area, and Lester started to turn the defenders on the right. However, for all the excitement, Town didn't produce a shot on goal.
Sheffield United had produced a moment of danger when, from a cross from the Town left, a forward was allowed a free header 8 yards out, which he nodded gently straight at Coyne. After an hour their best player, Bobby Ford (No 11) surged forward from just inside his own half, on the Town right. He advanced past two or three challenges as he went diagonally towards the centre of the goal. He was a little fortunate as the ball rebounded back to him after the last challenge. When he was centrally placed about 25 yards out he passed the ball inside A Buckley (who was in the left back position) to Hall, about 15 yards out to the left of the Town goal. He advanced 5 yards and his shot was saved by Coyne. However the ball rebounded off Coyne onto Hall, and bounced off his chest past Coyne towards the goal. A bit of a scramble ensued, but HALL placed a shot, from 5 or 6 yards into the right corner with 2 or 3 defenders around the line. The goal had two huge elements of fortune to it, together with a couple of bad pieces of defending. A Buckley looked a little timid in his challenge.
The crowd immediately called for Bradley Allen but had to wait another 15 minutes for his arrival, during which time Town did create some more moments of danger, especially down the right where Donovan was finding good position and Lester sometimes passed to him. Town put in loads of crosses, but they were either behind players, or Blade defenders proved too bulky. Perhaps Town's best opportunity during this 15 minute spell was when Lester wriggled free on the right, near the corner flag. His cross went 10 foot over everyone and out for a throw in. A Buckley cross was dropped by the 'keeper and no foul was given by the referee. Luckily for the 'keeper it fell by his toes and he was able to fall on the ball. The 'keeper lay down as if shot and spent an interminable amount of time "recovering". This was another example of their time wasting, as was when they substituted Hall. He took at least a minute to get off, during which time he stopped twice and applauded his supporters.
Sheffield United threatened on the break, especially through the surging runs of Ford, but I don't recall any particular chances. Coyne even came out and caught another couple of crosses and punched another 2 or 3 long throws away. In the 69th minute the referee finally booked a player for hauling down Ashcroft as he turned near the half way line. With about 15 minutes or so left Allen came on for Lever. Town changed to a 3-4-3 formation (Livvo, McDermott and Gallimore at the back, Allen somewhere between and behind Lester and Ashcroft). At first Town played a bit more directly, but after 5 or so minutes they went back to the style that had been so promising in the first half - the "Old Town way". Once again Lester acted as a wall for players to run and play off. This started to open up the flanks more and, eventually, produced an equaliser. With less than 10 minutes left Coldicott (I think) played the ball across the face of the area from Town's left to right. The ball went to Donovan, who played a short ball behind the full back as Allen ran between the full back and centre back. Allen controlled the ball near the touchline, looked up and hit a firm low cross to ASHCROFT, who flicked the ball into the roof of the net from a central position, about 7 yards out.
Town continued to press forward, with a cup tie zeal. More pressure was exerted but, unfortunately no shots. The nearest to a winner was a defensive header which drifted a few inches wide. Sheffield United caused a bit of panic when, with a minute left, a deep cross from their right was allowed to go across goal and McDermott had to hook it away for a throw in near the corner flag.
After about 3 minutes of "extra time" the referee blew his whistle and Town got the point they deserved for their perseverance. In truth there should have been 6 or 7 minutes of extra time for all the time they wasted rolling around pretending to be injured and, especially, the antics of their 'keeper. He seemed to take an age over every goal kick, he made a point of replacing every divot in the penalty box before kicking the ball. For the first time for a while their were some positives to take from the game - Coldicott's immense commitment, D Smith (when he was on), Allen's enthusiasm and positional play, Donovan trying. But most of all Town tried to play the Town way, their worst spells were when they played balls up the channels. Passing and movement is returning, gradually. A pity about the defence though, which occasionally had the grace and shape of a pregnant camel.
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