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22/03 Charlton 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
Charlton Athletic 4 Grimsby Town 0
22 Mar 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
The second half started exactly like the first. Town passed it around a few times in defence and midfield and eventually the ball was played too high or long for Clare, thus initiating periods of Charlton pressure. This time Town managed to stop Charlton scoring for an extra two minutes of the half - it took them 9 minutes to get the second. Yet again Newton was involved, with Gallimore not entirely blameless. An attack down the Town left was half cleared by Gallimore - he half passed, half controlled an attempted ball inside him for Newton. However, rather than passing to D Smith he passed/controlled the ball directly to a Charlton player. The ball was immediately played back behind him for Newton, who ran on and crossed to a position about 12 yards out, just to the (Town) right of the penalty spot. SVENSSON, unmarked, headed firmly past Coyne.
Town's response, in the 58th minute, was to take off D Smith (the usual scapegoat) and Allen came on to a good ovation form both sets of supporters. Tactically Town reverted to 4-4-2 with Black at left wing, Allen partnering Clare up front. Town, immediately looked sharper and almost dangerous. There were several moments of promise, with Clare/Allen linking well and causing difficulties for the Charlton defence. Unfortunately, within a couple of minutes of the substitution, Charlton scored again. The build up was similar to the first two goals, Town failing to clear adequately and Charlton returning the ball quickly. McDermott half stopped them on the right, but his clearance was immediately returned towards him. Svensson got to the ball first, shielded, turned and (using his greater strength and size) rolled around McDermott as he challenged. Svensson was free on the Town right and crossed towards the far post, where HUNT, unmarked, headed firmly past Coyne. There was a sense of dÃ©jÃ vu, ("..unmarked, headed firmly past Coyne"). Charlton were certainly punishing Town for any errors made, just like the game at Blundell Park. They sought a weakness and exploited any opportunity.
From this moment Charlton players reduced the level of intensity and individuals started to try to show off. There were three attempts at bicycle kicks from 20 yards. This helped Town keep the score down, as Charlton were more easily repelled, especially as they again attempted to play football down the middle of the park. Strangely, given Town's problems this season, our strength was down the centre of the park. The middle period of the half saw Town totally dominate whole seconds of the game, even getting into their penalty area. Around the 63rd minute Town actually applied what can only be described as concerted pressure. Allen and Clare linked well (with Allen releasing Clare with an overhead flick) to send Clare towards goal. The ball was worked over to Donovan, who messed up an attempted cross, but Town retained possession around the edge of the box. Pouton dribbled in to the box, on the Charlton right, cut in and dragged a shot a foot wide of the 'keeper's right hand post. A shot! From open play! Later on Clare played Donovan free, with a pass inside the full back. Being Donovan, free, near the bye line just inside the area he managed to cross directly to the instep of the sole defender in the area. A few minutes later Black did the same with a rather aimless, weightless kick into the area after Clare and Allen had nicked the ball away from the Charlton centre backs. Two rare chances to break away were wasted by poor delivery and lack of bodies in the box. The exact opposite of Charlton's approach. After 70 minutes Donovan did something, producing a superb 50 yard cross field pass with pace straight to Black's foot.
Coyne came out and caught three crosses and looked very confident and safe, he also advanced off his line a couple of times to dive at on-rushing forward's feet. From one such (very near the end) he had to receive some treatment as he'd been kicked by Kitson (who came on for the last 20 minutes). Charlton's only efforts on goal were the aforementioned showboating bicycle kicks, a couple of long range efforts that went nowhere near goal, a couple of breaks into the box (one of which saw Lever slide in brilliantly just as someone was about to shoot), and a scorching 25 yarder from the other substitute (Scott Parker - "he shot milady") which Coyne saved superbly diving away to his left. (It was a replica of the save he made from Gudjohnsen on Saturday). From the resulting corner, which was pumped high to the back post, TILER steamed in, rose above several players and headed back across Coyne and into the left hand corner. There did not appear to be anyone on the near post, for if there had been it would have been headed away easily. This was the cue for 50 or 60 Town fans to leave - like they could see Town coming back from 3 down, but not 4?
With one minute left Clare had Town's third shot of the game (I am not counting a drop kick from Coyne which would have gone in had their 'keeper fallen over. Possibly) when he side stepped the defenders on the edge of the area, centrally placed, and drove a low shot a couple of inches wide of the 'keeper's left hand post. Town nearly had an effort in the last 10 minutes when Pouton burst forward and attempted to go through a small defensive gap on the left edge of the penalty area. He was cynically blocked byâ€¦.Clare, and they fell down together in a heap, looking rather embarrassed. As were we, the paying supporters.
A couple of minutes of extra time passed with no action, though Charlton did keep on running until the final whistle. They certainly did not look like they switched off for an easy ride, they made the Town players work very hard to the end. At last it was over and the potential humiliation was merely a thrashing. The game didn't tell us anything we didn't know already, though in some respect it was encouraging (bizarre though that sounds). Coyne looked confident and positive, it didn't look like he was at fault for any of the goals (though as 3 were 100 yards away I cannot be totally certain about how close the crosses were to him), Lever and Groves did well, generally. They were both caught out by Charlton's movement and pace at attacks where it had looked like town had cleared their lines. Pouton and Coldicott formed an effective defensive wedge in the centre, and Pouton again looked dangerous when breaking from midfield. Clare received much sympathy from the supporters for he ran his socks off right to the end, even when 4-0 down in added time. He perked up considerably when Allen came on and they looked like a potential partnership. Town were much less supine when Allen replaced D Smith and caused a little concern to the Charlton defence. McDermott had a super battle with Robinson, mostly repelling him. Black was ephemeral, though he was committed. Which leaves Messrs Donovan and Gallimore. Our chubby left back did not appear to be awake most of the time, the game passing him by and (if he reacted at all) he reacted too late. It was a very, very poor performance both physically and mentally. He only made one good tackle/interception, he was generally flayed by Newton who was stronger, faster and more alive to the play then Gallimore. Newton also had the beating of him in the air, despite a 3 or 4 inch height advantage for the Grumbling Grosvenor Guzzler.
Ah, Donovan, the great enigma. The programme had a "Fan's Eye Feature" from Martin Williams, a Town fan in South London. Mr Williams' favourite player is Donovan who is "The main man in our midfieldâ€¦he can dribble, pass and score, and if we ever win promotion. I think he's one of the few who could hack it". Apart from the word hack, it will be impossible for that paean to be justified this morning. Disinterested, ambling, shuffling jellyfish would be more apt. He did embark on a couple of runs at the defence which fizzled out when he got near a defender. He even treated us to his amazing boneless man impression near the end when he crumpled as a defender looked at him.
The Town support was mostly silent, Charlton's had a party, though we were puzzled by their chant of "we want Tony Rees, we want Tony Rees". We eventually worked out that they did not want the moustachioed maestro of the back flick but were singing "We are top of the league, we are top of the league". Nice stadium, bad acoustics (not enough leg room). How can I sum up this match? We're not very tall.
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