League Two Table
Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
By: Tony Butcher
A typical autumnal night, still with the hint of a chill, in Town's bete noir of grounds. The mood amongst the usual Town 200 was dutiful, rather than expectant, though it perked up considerably when we realised what the formation would be.
Crystal Palace 0 Grimsby Town 1
24 Oct 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
One up to Lawrence there as the Palace Manager stated in his programme notes that "I don't expect Grimsby to come here and take the game to us". Think on matey boy. The programme also noted that Town struggled to score goals now after the sales of Jack Lester and Tommy Widdrington. An interesting interpretation of the facts available to them.
The teams came on to the pitch to a huge explosion and a shimmering downpour of red and blue foil. The explosion was so loud I nearly dropped my coffee. I nearly dropped my coffee again when I saw that Town were lining up in a 4-3-3 formation. Bold stuff that - certainly fooled Alan Smith (which probably isn't that hard). Palace lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with two speedy wingers and a full back, Harrison with mentionable hair - a neo-mullet combined with a New Romantic sweeping fringe (just flopping over his left eye). Someone should tell him this is planet earth. He didn't go so far as to wear a ruff, which is a shame.
Town kicked off toward the popular end (the right as seen on TV. The Town supporters were, as usual, sat underneath the TV gantry) and threatened immediately. Most of Town's attacks came down the right, utilising Nielsen's pace and aggression. The first attack, in the first minute saw a little "channel" ball down the right reach Nielsen, who was in space near the left corner of the Palace area (in a very similar position to his first effort against Blackburn). He seemed a little hesitant when the ball reached him, when he could have raced into the area, and this enabled some Palace defenders to get back and clear his cross close to the near post. A couple of minutes later Nielsen did it again, in almost exactly the same fashion, though this time he turned into the area and drove towards the bye-line. His cross was cleared at the near post for a corner as Livingstone and Allen lurked (what better way to describe Livvo).
Palace did manage to string a couple of passes together just after that Town move, after about 6 or 7 minutes and had what was their clearest chance of the night. The Town defence held the line about 30 yards out as a Palace midfielder received a pass about 5 yards inside the Town half, on the town left. He chipped a pass down the channel between Gallimore and Handyside for Freedman, who had run from behind Handyside. This left Freedman running alone on to a bouncing ball on the left edge of the Town area. Coyne raced off his line and Freedman's attempted lift over Coyne struck our mustard custodian on the chest and bounced away to Gallimore.
As far as I recall Town responded immediately with another surge down the right. A cross was zipped in to the centre of the goalmouth, near the penalty spot. Nielsen glanced a header comfortably wide of the 'keeper's right hand post. A few minutes later Livvo repeated the "miss", after Nielsen had barged his was through on the right. This was all in the first 15 minutes, with Town taking control of the match. The midfield scampered around and harried Palace into mistakes, with the back four playing as a solid unit. After about a quarter of an hour Palace started to exert some pressure on the Town goal, which all started after they broke away down the Town left, with their best player, T Black, dribbling around Gallimore and along the bye-line towards the goal. The cross reached Forssell, at the near post, who turned and his shot was deflected away for a corner. As usual Town looked a little rocky at corners, and Palace won two or three in succession. I don't remember any clear chances, just scrambles and stretching clearances, the usual frenetic play engendered by Palace's style, or should that be "style". At one of these Coyne saved at his near post after Forssell, again, turned and shot lower. It was with little power and Coyne actually trapped it with his left hand.
After about 20 minutes, from one of Palace's corners, Coyne wellied a drop kick straight down the middle towards, and over, big Bradley Allen, Town's only player not in our own penalty box. As the Town fans were bemoaning an aimless punt that was wasting possession needlessly, the ball was left by the centre back for the goalkeeper. The ball travelled towards the 'keeper who was standing just outside his area. He shaped to volley back down the pitch but stopped and decided to control it. He seemed to be panicked by the sight of our huge centre forward trotting towards him. Allen continued forward and poked out his foot as the 'keeper appeared to miss his kick completely. The ball rolled at what seemed like a crawl towards the left hand post. It looked like the ball would stop before the goal line, so it became a desperate (and desperately funny) race between Allen and the Baltic blunderer, Kolinko (sounds like a Bond baddie to me. "When he's in town bad things happen"). Kolinko dived full length, ALLEN slid forward and just managed to toe poke the ball in from 6 inches, right next to the post. Cue roars of laughing happiness from the Town 200. A comedy goal, but somehow I think only about 200 people in the ground thought it was funny. I'm still smiling at the memory.
As an attacking force Town were a bit moribund after the goal. The game retreated towards Coyne, though the "line" was held at the edge of the penalty area. Palace's preferred method was to dink balls over the full backs for the forwards to run on to and turn, with midfielders charging into the inside left/right positions. Town were staunch (as the geezers say in the Palace Manor), with the less than super Eagles rarely getting in to the Town penalty box. When they did there were, of course, moments of great anxiety. The most "Phewsome" moment came about 10 minutes before half time when a raid down the Town right resulted in a hard low cross to the near post. Forssell, about 8 yards out, 5 yards to the right of the post, hit a first time half volley that rippled the side netting and bounced off the advertising hording to roll across the back of the back of the net. The Palace fans sitting 10 yards away were all up cheering, we were down peering at the floor in despair. O h the parallax view plays tricks, doesn't it.
About 5 minutes later the laughable Latvian almost did it again, coming off his line and almost colliding with his centre back. He appeared to perform a traditional Latvian folk dance (dip the knees to the left, then to the right and hop) with said centre back before one of them finally decide to hoof the ball away.
There were a couple more shots that hit the side net from extremely narrow angles. They never looked like going in as Superdan had them covered. And then there was his, now trademark, brilliant flying save. Palace attacked down the Town left (again), with Black getting to the bye-line and crossing flat and hard to somewhere just beyond the penalty spot, about 10 yards out. Forssell headed firmly down towards Coyne's right hand post. Coyne sailed majestically across his goal to punch the ball away from the foot of the post. A wonderful save that had the whole of the Town support leaping up and cheering.
I don't remember any more chances for either side before half time, just the usual ebb and flow of games here - Place fling forward and Town counter-attack (which breaks down 30 yards out). As the half wore on Palace were allowed more and more space and time around the edge of the penalty box, with the defence standing in the their thin black and white line 20 yards out. Town seemed, alarmingly, content for Place players do what they liked in front of them. In tactical terms the midfield was a little too far away from the defence. It meant that when Town did attack they did it in numbers, with the midfield quickly up to support the three musketeers. However there were gaps that Palace infiltrated. Freedman, especially, dropped off the front and picked up many passes and knock-downs about 25 yards out. Town were a little fortunate in that no Palace player was able to weight his pass, nor do it accurately.
No-one was having a bad game, with Coldicott having a stormer - back to being the Omnipotent Destroyer. Campbell made some fine forward runs and scurried around to great effect in defence. The centre of defence looked rock solid, with Groves making some important blocks and interceptions at crosses. Gallimore, though up against a very good player, was not roasted and marshalled Black away from danger intelligently. He also made a virtue of leaving some long Palace passes that went out for goal kicks - he left them like they were a bad pint.
The referee was very inconsistent, he didn't allow a Palace substitution for ages, then wouldn't allow one of their players to come back on after receiving some treatment for a minute or so. When he did, during open play, McDermott had the ball near the dug out. So the bloke just ran on and dispossessed him, with Macca looking most perplexed.
So half time arrived with hope in our heart. The weaknesses in Towns formation (the midfield three were all physically small and at times there were large gaps on the wings) had not been exposed by Palace, despite them playing with two old fashioned wingers. But this is Selhurst, home of Town despair. Something would go wrong, it was bound to, wasn't it. It was all going far too well.
The report continues in the 2nd half
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