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Duff in the Afternoon
By: Tony Butcher
On an extremely hot day with a packed and vocal away end, the traditional opening day disaster for Town took place, with the Mariners going down 2-1 at home to newly-promoted Preston. Livvo managed a late consolation for the Mariners in the dying seconds of the game.
Grimsby Town 1 Preston North End 2
12 Aug 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
An extremely hot day and a packed away end, with the green seats in the
corner mostly full. The Upper Stones/Findus/Smiths seemed sparsely
populated, perhaps a third full. The atmosphere was all down the Osmond end.
Fortunately they didn't bring all their atmosphere into the ground - there were at least two glass throwing incidents in the pubs prior to the game. An attempt at a ticker tape welcome from the Pontoon foundered when it all fell on one girl's hair (and stayed there all game). The first thing one noticed about Raven was that he looks like Livvo's slightly prettier brother. He is also a strapping lad who should be useful in the air.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation. D Smith played at left back, Livvo at centre back and Jeffrey is our new number 9. Preston played in a vivid red outfit with large blue flashings on the sleeves. The officials wore very strident green shirts. Fashion show over.
Town kicked off towards the Osmond end and that's probably the most positive thing I can report from the first half. Preston were organised and very busy in midfield, closing down Town players very quickly.
Consequently Town were a complete shambles. Within 2 minutes Town had been half opened up down the centre from a throw in and a Preston midfielder had shot weakly and wide from 20 yards out. The opening was as a result of Preston quick thinking and Town slackness. After a further 4 or 5 minutes they completely opened Town up again, this time on the Town left, with their right winger alone, at an angle 6 or 7 yards out. He rather dithered and Town players got over to block. After 10 minutes, right after it had been remarked how well Groves had been playing (he'd been doing a lot of fine recovery tackles and clearing up after others had erred) he made two dreadful howlers. His first was just inside the Town box, on the centre left. He intercepted a header down from their centre forward as it trundled towards his strike partner. Groves tried to welly it with his right foot and got in a horrible position. The end product was a woeful slice arcing gently into a spot between Coyne and their other centre forward. Coyne rushed out and half blocked, the ball still fell to the Preston player who tried to roll the ball across the 6 yard box to an unmarked chum. McDermott raced over, flung himself towards man and ball, and the ball was cleared away after a scramble. One minute later Groves, in the centre circle, passed the ball against Pouton's shins (Pouton was a couple of feet away at the time). The ball rolled back to Preston who ran at the heart of the Town defence. The ball was eventually played across to the right winger, after D Smith had been drawn across to cover the centre backs. He was alone, about 10 yards out, to the left of the Town goal. His cross shot went less than a foot wide of Coyne's right hand post.
Preston had a couple more weak goal attempts from outside the Town area, both after Town had been sloppy in playing the ball around midfield. And then the first Town goal attempt of the season - Donovan dribbled past his full back (yes, first for two years) and crossed against him. The ball rolled back into Donovan's path and he clipped a flat cross to Jeffrey, about 10 yards out, in a central position. Jeffrey mistimed his jump and headed high into the air, the ball dropping on the roof of the net. The next 15 minutes were largely Preston harrying Town until a Town player miss-controlled it, and Preston broke at speed. The Preston forwards were much quicker than Livvo and his prettier brother, Raven. Livvo was playing ok, but Raven was showcasing the full range of his inabilities. Mr Raven is someone who can best be described as "being capable of making his head make contact with a football". He's like Lever without the ball skills, but with added "moments". It was less of an impression of Lever, more a caricature. He was the centre of their "penalty appeal", when a Preston forward fell theatrically in the area. It was a dive, no penalty was given and so should have been a booking.
Around the half hour mark Town had a good chance. Again Donovan beat his full back, his cross was deflected high in the air, falling to the totally unmarked Black, about 15 yards out, just to the left of centre. Despite having several hours to re-adjust his position Black decided that this was the ideal opportunity to show his all round talents by scoring a searing right foot volley. It went off his shins into the ground and finally safely into the arms of the 'keeper.
Preston should have been a couple up by then, as they had infiltrated the penalty area at will, often with players unmarked beyond the Town full backs. They had at least three opportunities in this manner, which were snuffed out by some desperate lunges. After 35 minutes the inevitable happened. From a throw in about 20 yards out, under the Stones/Smiths/Findus Appleton trotted into a huge space in the Town penalty area. Clare belatedly ran back with him and did just enough to stop his advance. Appleton played the ball back to the left winger (McKenna - swept back girly curly hair, uurgh) who clipped a precise cross to the left hand edge of the 6 yard box. The ball was headed back across goal into another huge gap (it may have been controlled and passed across into this gap). Appleton ran on and smacked a drive, from 12 yards or so, just to Coyne's right. Coyne parried the ball away to his right, about 10 yards out. APPLETON ran on and drove the ball just inside Coyne's right hand post as 2 or 3 defenders threw themselves at the ball. Appleton hardly endeared himself to the Pontoon by making an overt display of affection for his Preston shirt right in front of them.
Town continued to play dreadfully, without passion, confidence, skill or pace until a couple of minutes before half time when McDermott decided some direct action was required. He surged forward from right back, played a one-two with Jeffrey and smashed a 25 yarder straight at the 'keeper. In the 5 minutes of injury time Town had their only decent period of play in the first half. Donovan ran at, and across, the Preston defence, about 20 yards out. From a central position he drove in a low curling left footer, which the 'keeper only just tipped around for a corner. Town had 3 corner's one of which resulted in Donovan hitting a right foot volley form 25 yards which appeared to be going towards the top left hand corner of the goal until a Preston head deflected it just wide for another corner.
And then it was half time. You have read about absolutely every Town attack, but not every Preston one, as there were far too many to remember. Ah, just remembered another - after a one touch passing move across the face of the Town penalty area a forward curled a first time shot straight into Coyne's midriff.
Town, generally, had been atrocious. Pouton was awful as an attacking force, rarely seen. His only contributions were the occasional crunching tackle in midfield. Groves had started well, but after his early mistakes had seemed to slow down and the game passed him by. Donovan had shown a couple of signs of attacking promise, and also one superb tackle after tracking back, which probably saved a goal being conceded.
In attack Town lived down to everyone's fears. Clare was totally ineffective, producing only one promising flick, which went straight to a Preston player anyway. Jeffrey hinted at producing an opening, but only hinted. He hasn't the strength or pace to capitalise on any of the bits of skill he produced. He again looked to be a useful link player, occasionally drifting into space, but there was no-one with the perception, or skill, to pass to him. Jeffrey is a bit like Woods, but without the enigma. He is definitely a Town player, as he doesn't look as if he'll score. Town didn't make it easy for the front two with the number of balls played up to their heads for flick-ons. Not surprisingly Preston's big centre-backs had no problems with this tactic. Preston's defence, as a unit, looked very vulnerable to pace and movement. Good job they were playing Town then.
D Smith had had a good half, clearing up after others and making some fine last gasp tackles. Oh yes, and finally Cyril, Coyne caught a corner.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Preston North End 1
Click here for the 2nd half report.
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