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West Brom Report
By: Tony Butcher
A brightish day with a stiff breeze swirling into Blundell Park from the corner between the Pontoon and Smiths/Stones/Findus stand. The pre-match entertainment was provided by half a dozen schoolgirls belting out some modern pop dirge complete with a dance routine (where they moved together as 3).
The pitch looked very green and quite firm considering the water descending on Britain over the weekend. Town lined up in the now usual exciting, gung-ho, 4-3-3 formation as follows :- Coyne, McDermott, Groves, Handyside, Gallimore, Butterfield, Coldicott, Campbell, Nielson, Livingstone and Allen. The substitutes were Croudson, Donovan, D Smith, Clare and Raven.
In other words, the exact same squad as against Palace. There was a slight tactical change in that Nielsen started on the left hand side. As West Brom played in yellow and blue Coyne came out in a turquoise top, which doesn't rhyme with anything. Turquoise porpoise sounds stupid.
West Brom seemed to have a few big players, with a bean pole in the centre of the pitch, Jordao, together with our old hairy friend Mr Sneekes. Sneekes has now just got bad hair rather than distressingly overflowing locks. Perhaps he should rename himself Samson as he was far less effective with his new Robbie Savage-esque hairstyle. On second thoughts, he looks like "3rd German on the left" in Die Hard. I suppose that would make Stacy our Bruce Willis (well the hair's the same)
Wets (oh, sorry a typo. Or is it?) Brom kicked off towards the Pontoon and nothing much happened it the first 80 or 90 seconds. Then Nielsen received the ball in the bottom right of the Baggies' area, turned and flashed past a defender and was half obstructed on the bye-line. The ball rolled out for a goal-kick. Town were playing a rather irritating hit and hope game, with lots of "passes" chipped into the corners. West Brom, on the other hand, broke at speed, with organisation and confidence. After 5 or so minutes Fox had a shot from one of their breaks after much jinking around on the edge of the area. The Pontoon were not particularly fussed about this effort. The Coynemeister was in goal, why should we worry?
I don't recall anything interesting happening in the next quarter of an hour. There was a minor scare when Handyside wellied a clearance against Hughes' bottom, the ball rebounding to Roberts, all alone about 25 yards out. Fortunately he was 3 or 4 yards offside, and even more fortuitously the linesman noticed.
The game had a very interesting 10 minutes, starting in the 20th minute with a Town chance. A free kick from Town's left, about 20 yards out, was curled over to the far post. The 'keeper wandered out and admired the flight of the ball as it sailed over to Allen, alone, about 8 yards beyond the far post. Allen controlled the ball, volleyed a cross-cum-shot to the far post. At this point the ball vanished behind one the girders in the Pontoon. The ball popped back into view close to Nielsen, at the near post, and it seemed to be bouncing slowly towards goal. A West Brom head nodded it away, so it seemed to be an "off-the-liner". The Pontoon "OOOOOOOoooed" on the assumption it was, anyway.
West Brom went straight down the other end and nearly scored. As they had three or four similar efforts in the space of the nest 5 minutes I may get the order wrong, so I'll just list them. Hughes was set free in an inside right position, got into the penalty box, about 10 yards out; 6 or 7 yards to the (Town) left of goal, and sliced a right foot shot a couple of yards wide. Hughes managed to barge his way past one of our central defenders, again on the Town left of the penalty box after a breakaway. He advanced towards Coyne, who forced him wide to the bye-line, and dinked a little loopy cross over Coyne towards the centre of the goal. Gallimore steamed in and headed the ball away. Roberts barged Groves out of the way with monotonous regularity, with the referee only giving 50% of the decisions Town's way, and I think the second Hughes chance was as a result of one of these barges.
And then there were the Coyne saves. After a long punt by the Baggies' 'keeper, Roberts bundled past Groves, on the centre left, and advanced on Coyne, who came rushing out towards the edge of the box and parried the resulting shot away. Good positioning and anticipation by Coyne, rather than a spectacular save. A little later Coyne repeated this trick. One of their little players got to the left bye-line and pulled a cross back to Roberts, about 8 yards out at the near post. Roberts tried to clip a first time shot towards the left hand side of the goal, but Coyne had again come off his line and positioned himself perfectly to cover the whole goal.
Somewhere in these incidents Coldicott hooked the ball away from near the line after Roberts and headed over Coyne. During this period Town were a bit of a mess, giving the ball away far too easily with lazy chips upfield. The midfield looked under-populated, with huge gaps on the right especially. Butterfield played far too narrowly and ambled about when West Brom broke away. It seemed to be only a matter of time before they scored, as their forwards were what professional pundits call "lively".
The West Brom pressure subsided after Town had another chance. Just as the crowd were moaning about "another aimless punt" Nielsen flicked on an incredibly accurate chipped ball to Allen, about 25 yards out, just right of centre. Allen was briefly in space beyond the last defender and tried to lift the ball over the 'keeper who had rushed out to the very edge of the area. The ball hit the keeper's chest/chin and was scrambled away. The 'keeper was far too far out of his goal, which accounted for his save. He shouldn't have been there, which no doubt surprised Allen.
Apart from a powerful Hughes drive from a narrow angle, which Coyne parried, and a truly terrible cross from Livingstone when sent free down the right, nothing else happened that lodged in my mind. That Livvo cross was awful. He looked up, picked out which head to place the ball on and missed it by 20 yards. And that was a Town highlight, remember.
The biggest cheer of the first half was when Tony Ford walked in front of the Pontoon after 40 minutes. He got a standing roaring ovation and personalised chant. Local hero indeed.
Generally Town were poor as an attacking force, relying on hopeful whacks for the front free to chase. The phrase "quality ball" could not have been used to describe the passing. The midfield hurried and scurried, but did nothing, leaving quite a large space between them and the defence which West Brom exploited on the counter attack. Groves struggled to cope with Roberts; well he didn't cope, but at least he competed enough to put Roberts off occasionally. Town were fortunate to be level at half time against a team that was reasonably organised, but supremely confident. That doesn't mean they were any good though. The Pontoon talk was of "we'll never get anywhere with this kick and rush rubbish" and that Butterfield had to be replaced by Donovan, as there was absolutely no width. The boy Butterfield tries, but is just not a midfielder. He lacks positional acumen, doesn't have sufficient awareness to read play or pass accurately. His sole tactic was to scoop the ball down the inside right channel - like a latter day Gary Henshaw.
Ah well, something always seems to turn up for lucky Lennie.
The report continues in the Second Half
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