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Apocalypse Now

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 24/09/2000

A very warm, sunny day with a breeze blowing across the pitch from sea to land. The Forest End was not completely packed, with only a smattering of midland bottoms on the green seating. The Forest team warmed up with one of those continental routines where they run around between some cones.

Grimsby Town 0 Nottingham Forest 2
23 Sep 2000, Nationwide League Division 1

Their yellow cones looked like loo brush holders, lending a slightly surreal air to the pre-match entertainment.

As the teams waited to run onto the pitch the tannoy blared out "the Ride of the Valkyries". Charlie don't surf, but Cleethorpes does prog rock as the music was changed abruptly and the team ran out to Emerson Lake and Palmer's 1977 hit "Fanfare for the Common Man". Wow, like far out man.

Town lined up in a 3-5-2 formation with Butterfield was at right wing back, D Smith at left wing back, Groves, Raven and Bloomer the three central defenders. Pouton and Coldicott played to the left and right of Campbell in the centre of midfield.

Forest also seemed to be playing in a 3-5-2 formation with J Lester at centre forward. His reception was ecstatic in parts and very cold in others. Some sang for him, some booed, most ignored.

Grimsby Town


1st half

Town kicked off towards the Pontoon and dominated the first 3 minutes. Butterfield (twice) got behind the Forest left back (Foy, who looked rubbish), only for his crosses to be cleared for corners. I needn't tell you what happened at the corners - some things never change (except that in Donovan's absence Stacy has become the "chipping it to the 'keeper" specialist). D Smith was played through in a large space on the left but was very slow to react and the moment of danger was lost. Unfortunately, D Smith was listless all afternoon, putting in a consistently awful performance. It's probably best if I cease mentioning him now.

Forest's first attack came after about 5 minutes when the ball was whizzed over to the unmarked Rogers, on the Town right about 30 yards out. He advanced, played a one-two, and was left all alone in the Town box, about 15 yards out, 10 yards to the right of Coyne's goal. Fortunately for Town, he smacked a low drive straight at Coyne, near the right hand post. Murmurs around the ground suggested that the crowd had remembered who he is (he scored two goals in the 4-3 win last season). Ah, yes that's right. He's their danger man. Better not give him any space, eh?

Town's first shot came from the usual source, Mr Bradley Allen. He received the ball just outside the box, with his back to goal. He twisted, turned, went left, then jinked right, making room for a shot, which he drove straight at Beasant from a central position, 20 yards out. A couple of minutes later, in the 13th minute, after some general meanderings in midfield, Coldicott lost control near the centre spot. The ball rolled to the Forest right back who hit a flat pass out to the left wing, straight to Rogers. Again totally unmarked. Rogers ran towards the penalty area, turned outside Butterfield, and then ran across Raven (as Raven stumbled slowly to the floor). By this time he was about 8 yards out, near the right hand post. ROGERS waited for Coyne to come out to him and calmly placed the ball into the left side netting of the goal. As David Frost would say "the clues were there". It wasn't as though it was the first time he's done that (either today, or in past games against us). The fault (if any) lay with the formation as Town's wing backs were caught too far up the pitch, so that when the ball was lost there was always an opponent behind them (or running into the space they had vacated). As early as the first minute Forest had got a player behind D Smith when a Town attack was stopped as it began, only for the cross to be sliced into the Osmond End. Raven's stumble/fall attracted much discussion - did he run and fall like a Scooby-doo monster or a Pacman?

Town's response was more of the same. In other words nothing much. Loads of direct passes directly to somewhere near Allen and Clare's heads, or balls over the top. An up and under caused some panic in the Forest defence with a centre back trying to head back to Beasant, but heading sideways. The ball fell right behind Clare, but he was not looking. Beasant jumped over and through Clare to knock the ball away. There was a sort of penalty appeal, but it was without any conviction. After about half an hour Butterfield chipped a pass to Allen, about 8 yards out in the centre but with his back to goal. Allen fell and claimed that he had been hauled down by the defender - nothing given, presumably because Allen was dragging the defender down, rather than the other way round.

I haven't mentioned Pouton's substitution yet. So I will. Pouton was substituted in the 18th minute, with Donovan coming on in the same position and the formation remaining unaltered. The presumption was that Pouton was suffering from concussion as early on a Forest player had elbowed him on the back of the head. Of course, this resulted in a Forest free kick.

One of Town's few attacks of any interest saw Allen lay a pass off to Butterfield who clipped a hanging cross to the far post. Allen had "peeled off" his marker and tried a spectacular overhead bicycle kick. It would have worked too if it wasn't for those pesky kids getting in the way - it hit a Forest defender and went out for a corner. We never score form corners, nor even threaten, do we. Well, we sort of did from one, when a corner from the Town right was hit to a centralish position about 9 yards out. Raven and Groves rose above a Forest defender and…the ball hit one of them on the forearm and rebounded straight to Beasant.

Forest didn't really cause too many difficulties for the Town defence, the nearest they came to even shooting was when Lester wriggled his way past Raven and squirted a cross low from the right touchline. The ball ran across the goal and was fumbled clear at the far post. They also had a free header from a corner near the end of the half, which was headed very high from about 15 yards out, but by then most Town fans were slumped in their seats grumbling because the inevitable had happened. The inexorable law of the Ex had struck. After 41 minutes, again after some mundane play in the centre of the pitch, the ball rolled to the Forest right back. He zipped a pass up the centre to one of the Forest forwards and we suddenly realised there were very few Town defenders in their own half. There were three Forest players and one of the Town centre backs about 30 yards out. The Forest players played a couple of passes and the ball was rolled to Lester, about 20 yards out, with no Town players near him. LESTER fell over the ball, regained his balance and scuffed a shot under and to the right of Coyne. The crowd reaction was unusual. Few clapped and cheered when his name was announced as the scorer. Others noted with irony that he usually only scores 4 a season and the odds of him doing so against Town were therefore small. Perhaps irony isn't the exact word they used. You know how bad the acoustics are in Blundell Park.

The last few minutes of the half were played out to the sound of joyous Forest fans singing their only song (about when Derby lose and Forest win away. They sang that for the whole of the second half and it became very annoying). Only one more thing of note happened, and it should have been a Town goal. Butterfield chipped a looping pass with the outside of his boot to Allen, near the left hand corner of the 6-yard box. Allen turned his marker towards goal, played a short pass back to Donovan, unmarked and 7 yards out, just to the right of centre. Donovan leant back and thought of England, thus wafting his left footed shot well over the bar. Donovan sank to the ground, beating the turf in frustration, tears rolling down his eyes. It really hurt him to miss, as he knew what it meant to the club and the fans. Those people who pay his wages, those people he loves. Did he heck as like. He shrugged his shoulders and trotted away like it was merely a training match. Two minutes of added time. Nothing to report. Half over. Game over. Rubbish.

Forest were worse than last year, no better than Sheffield Wednesday. They were functional only. Defensively they appeared to be easily flustered, even by Town. However Town just didn't look like creating anything. Primarily because there was so little width, or organisation. A collection of 11 men hanging around in a field. The left wing back was having a terrible stinker, and Butterfield was often caught too far forward. The centre backs were individually OK, well, excluding Raven when the ball was on the ground. Poor old Raven looked like a big clumsy bloke and it was all too much for him when Forest ran at him. He was booked after 20 or so minutes for bringing down a player about to burst through and was a little fortunate not to be sent off when another Forest pass over the top resulted in Lester and him falling down. The referee interpreted (correctly) that Lester had deliberately run into him. Raven did indulge in some hand flapping with Lester - raised hands but no contact.

Town's performance? In the words of Captain Willard "I don't see any method at all sir"

Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Nottingham Forest 2

Click here for the 2nd half report.

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