League Two Table
Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
By: Tony Butcher
Are you all sitting comfortably? Good, then I'll begin. Today's story starts on a pleasant autumnal night with a faint breeze blowing from the west. Despite the pre-match pump priming, the crowd was not overly large (unlike the QPR centre forward, the ironically named Crouch, who is about 6 foot 8).
Grimsby Town 3 QPR 1
17 Oct 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
The Main Stand, Pontoon and Lower Stones/Smiths/Findus were fuller than Saturday, however. There were perhaps 150 QPR supporters huddled in little bunches in the Osmond Stand. Town must be their Selhurst Park - no matter what, they always get stuffed. They did occasionally make some noise, as did the Town fans whenever Nielsen moved.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. Coldicott returned to centre midfield and, therefore, everyone else was where you'd expect them to be. QPR lined up in a sort of fluid 3-4-2-1 formation, which sometimes changed into 4-3-3 and occasionally 5-4-1. Was a random number generator selecting their formation? Up front, their "1", was Crouch. Just think Ian Ormandroyd on a stick. Go on, guess what QPR's tactics were.
Horror upon horror, the referee was Uriah Rennie, normally a reliably bonkers ref. You may not believe this but he gave every decision to Town, especially when there wasn't a decision to be made. I think Town got some free kicks for "being looked at in a funny way". The linesman were in on this too as we also got everything from them. Truly weird, eh? Rennie - a raving homer.
QPR kicked off towards the Pontoon and within 30 seconds our dynamic Dane had brought the crowd to its feetâ€¦to see where the ball had gone. Someone knocked a long ball over the QPR left back, Nielsen sprinted over and, from a similar position to that which Allen hit a stunning volley on Saturday (20 yards to the right of goal, 15 yards out) smashed a dipping volley on to the opposite corner flag.
The first 15 minutes were played at a brisk pace, with Town the brisker by far, almost frisky I'd say. QPR didn't get near Coyne, their only threat being a hoof up to the head of their incredibly stretching man, aka stick-boy. Groves was marking him, but with great difficulty, and ended up retreating and attempting to read the flick ons. This just encouraged Crouch to control the ball on his chest and turn. Several slightly panicky moments were created because of this failed defensive tactic. It was noticeable that Town were far more direct than normal. Of course, in Town terms, this meant they walloped the ball forward hopefully (and often hopelessly) for Allen and Nielsen.
After 6 minutes Town had the first noteworthy effort of the game. A corner on the Town right, taken by Donovan, was cleared at the near post, but only straight back to the perky wideplayer (he was perky today, rather than pesky). He clipped the ball to just past the near post, about 10 yards out. Nielsen ran from the far post, in a shallow arc, and glanced a header towards the foot of the 'keepers left hand post. A defender swiped the ball off the line and Town didn't do much more after that.
QPR broke away from this corner and took control of the game. This was entirely due to some weak defending by Town, who failed, 3 times, to clear crosses. They simply passed the ball back to a QPR player just outside the area. Groves was the major culprit as he seems to have lost the use of his left leg and lost power in his right. All he could do was scoop the ball away 10-15 yards. All QPR did was send in crosses towards stick-boy's head. He managed only one header, which Coyne parried away at the foot of his right hand post. But Rennie gave us a free kick anyway for QPR having too many blonde haired players, I think. All this pressure resulted in Town retreating closer and closer to Coyne, so something was going to happen sooner or later, the QPR percentages would hit the jackpot.
And their lucky number came up after 17 minutes. Town, as usual, allowed a full back to curl in a diagonal cross from the QPR left towards stick-boy near the left hand corner of the 6 yard box. Fortunately Groves just managed to glance the ball away from the onrushing Phalangium opilio (a creature often found in comparatively open habitats and active at night) with a desperate diving header. The resulting corner (their first) was curled slowly inwards. Coyne stayed on his line jumping up and down waving his hands. Handyside stood on the edge of the 6 yard box. Gallimore and another defender stood with Connolly about 2 foot from the goal line, next to the right hand post. The ball dropped next to Gallimore and CONNOLLY, who stuck out a leg and tapped the ball in from about 1 foot. Coyne shouted at everyone, but should not have cast the first stone. It was his to catch, which is why Handyside didn't move. Gallimore wasn't even looking at the ball. A really pathetic goal to concede to yet another mundane and mediocre opposition. The crowd were totally silent. Silent rage. Nothing needed to be said to the players.
The rest of the half was very poor too, although Town did manage to create three half chances. The first was a Groves header from about 10 yards out, just past the far post following a corner on Town's right. Groves headed across the 'keeper who made a bit of a meal of saving it by diving full stretch to his left. The other two fell, if that is the right word, to Allen. The first came after Nielsen received the ball on the Town left, about 30 yards out. He ran across the defence and tried a low cross shot from about 25 yards out, near the corner of the penalty area. The shot was going well wide, but Allen diverted the ball just past the 'keepers left hand post. The third and final chance was the best of the lot. Groves 15 yards inside the Town half on the right, hit a low flat 50 yards pass over the centre backs for Allen to run onto. Allen, right in the centre and just outside the penalty area, hit a first time volley with the outside of his right foot and the ball flew past the angle of the 'keepers left hand post.
That's it from Town, and QPR produced less. A couple of long shots that didn't cause any trouble to anyone (not even the Pontoonites near the goal) and a few crosses that were dealt with by the defence with varying degrees of comfort and competence. You know the thing, timid tackling and clearances followed by a block or Handyside tackle. Perhaps the most alarming moment was when Coyne had to come off his line and punch the ball away from an attacker on the edge of the 6 yard box. I seem to recall Rennie gave us a free kick again (no-one could work out why), but just to be safe Coyne came out and punched the ball away, following through with a clip round the ear for the impudent hoopster.
There isn't anything else to report from the first half. It was disjointed, aimless nonsense. There had been very little passing, though the movement up front had been promising. It was a shame no-one (save Groves pass to Allen) had sufficient nous or skill. Town's tactics had been quite rudimentary and poorly executed. The game plan seemed to be "Get it forward", and nothing else. So the ball was whacked aimlessly forward, as though Nielsen's pace was enough to get anything flung towards the Osmond Stand. The midfield was a waste of space - for both sides. It was merely a place the ball landed by accident. Creativity? None. Campbell had done a couple of decent runs but generally looked like a small boy. I can't remember D Smith touching the ball at all. The one time I thought he did it turned out to be Campbell, they look alike from 100 yards. Groves had a real struggle to cope with the long, long thing he was marking. On the plus side Nielsen and Allen were energetic and seemed to be making interesting, darting, off the ball runs. Handyside was imperious. Generally Mike Channon would have been pleased with Town's plenty of balls in the box. However, the quality of delivery did not match the ambitions. Quite simply, Town were rubbish.
The crowd were silently despondent, with much talk of who should be replaced. D Smith and Gallimore were the favourites, but all agreed Livvo had to come on. We were mostly annoyed that we were losing to poor opposition and this time we didn't have the excuse of a bad/slightly dodgy ref.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 QPR 1
The report continues in the 2nd half
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