League Two Table
Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
By: Tony Butcher
A clear bright day, no wind and a hint of a chill in the air. In other words perfect conditions. Fortunately, the Town fans were placed in the opposite end to which they are normally dragooned. For those who have yet to visit Vicarage Rd, this is an irrelevant fact.
Watford 4 Grimsby Town 0
04 Nov 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
For those who went this saved them a 20 minutes traipse around some allotments.
There were about 300 Town supporters in the far end of the stand to your right as seen on TV. There were some flutters of excitement within the Town contingent when Burnett was spotted warming up before the match.
Town lined up in Lucky Lennie's cavalier formation of 4-3-3. Groves played in centre midfield with everyone else in their normal positions (write your own Gallimore joke here...). There was much muttering amongst the Town supporters about this being potentially disastrous against Watford. Town would, essentially, be allowing them to play to their strengths. All that space out wide, and no Town players there.
Watford's mascot, allegedly a hornet, looked just like Bumblebee Man, Mexican comic sensation in the Simpsons. Ay Carumba! And the teams ran out to the Z Cars theme. All very strange.
Town kicked off away from the Town support and had by far the best of the opening 10-15 minutes, running the game at their own pace. Watford couldn't get the ball off Town, nor do anything when they did. Within a couple of minutes Groves flick headed a corner from the Town's left just past the 'keeper's left hand post. Town's new routine is for Campbell to tap the ball 3 yards to Coldicott, who stops the ball. Campbell then swings the corner into the middle of the penalty area. It isn't bringing goals, but it is a lot better than Black or Donovan gently stroking the ball into the 'keeper's hands.
The next opportunity fell to Town, with someone (either Allen or McDermott - someone small, anyway) curling in a low cross towards the near post from a position on the touchline, 20 yards out. Nielsen flung himself in front of the defender and missed the ball. This still forced the huge 'keeper, Baardsen, to dive at three quarter stretch (which for anybody normal size would be full length) and save the ball to his right. The ball would have floated in, so it was an important stop.
Watford did start to exert some pressure, though the mode was pretty obvious - a channel ball, hurry, some scurry and a cross. They did encamp in the Town half for a couple of minutes with Town struggling to get the ball away from the goal area, but Town largely coped. Watford were concentrating on attacking down the Town right, which was well staffed and solid. Unfortunately, they had the wit to realise they were getting nowhere with this and so switched their attacking to the Town left. Long time readers will not really need to go much further to know what this meant.
Their right winger, Wooter had spent the first 15 minutes standing alone on the touchline, and I mean right on the touchline, not just wide of centre. It took them this long to decide to switch the emphasis of their attacks and the first thing that happened was the grand return of Gallimore in Corporal Jones mode. It is true that the 4-3-3 system places great responsibility on the full backs, who occasionally get "exposed" with two players to mark. It's funny how McDermott copes but Gallimore doesn't. Gallimore decided the way to defend against the very fast and tricky Wooter was to leave him alone until he'd controlled the ball, amble over, then back off, and off, and off, until Wooter had got into the penalty area and then...praying? Once Wooter received the ball Town were in danger, primarily because he was allowed to do whatever he wanted until one of the central defenders came over to halt him (thank goodness for Peter Handyside).
After about 15 or so minutes, Watford had their first effort on goal (or at least one that went near enough to goal for me to remember it). A cross form their right (as usual time and space to pick out his man) was headed across goal by Mooney to just behind Handyside, about 8 yards out in the centre. Noel-Williams (think Emile Hesley without the style and poise. This man fell over his own feet and won free kicks!) stretched out and sliced a right foot volley way high and wide. A typical Watford attack - cross, head, lunge and see what happens. A couple of minutes later another cross from their right, about 10 yards out but behind the front players, was hit 5 yards wide by Noel-Williams, with a Collymore type overhead volley.
These were indications that Watford had "sussed" Town out down the left and an opportunity to tighten up was presented after 20 or so minutes. Allen was left in a heap, after a robust whack from a defender and was replaced by Donovan. It was a straight swap and Town retained their formation, rather than reverting to a more defensive 4-4-2.
Watford continued to apply pressure and eventually forced Coyne to make some saves. A cross from their left was curled into the 6 yard box, at the near post, where a midfielder flicked on a header. Coyne punched the ball over high to his right. A little later, following a cross from their right, the ball was half cleared to the right corner of the Town area. Mooney steamed in and burst through a double tackle by McDermott and Coldicott. His cross shot hit Raven (I think - it may have been Groves) bounced up and over Coyne towards the far post. Coyne ran over and punched the ball out for a corner. At about the same time Nielsen (their Nielsen, Allan) scored from close range, but was offside (by at least 2 yards). Town then reasserted some of their possession football, won a corner and nearly scored themselves. The Town "routine" was whipped into the middle where Nielsen (THE Nielsen, not A Nielsen!) flick headed to the 'keeper's left. The ball was whacked off the line.
After 30 minutes Watford played the ball down their right "channel". Noel-Williams wrestled with Handyside and got away. He bundled on to the touchline, about 10 yards to the left of Coyne's goal. His cross hit a defender on the back of the leg and bounced up over Coyne and some defenders to NIELSEN (A) alone at the far post, who headed in. I don't recall Mr Gallimore being anywhere close as his position was attacked. A typical Watford goal based on physical strength and planning - a percentages type goal. It was, in effect, against the run of play, and more than Watford deserved as in general play Town had outwitted and out-played them.
Three minutes later they scored another. Town failed to deal adequately with a "dead ball situation" on our right (the free kick was given for a non-offence, a continual complaint all game. These officials were shocking homers). Watford overloaded with personnel on the Town left. For some reason that no-one could understand, Gallimore was seen chasing the ball on the right corner of the Town area. So Watford simply whacked the ball to their right to Wooter, all alone in so much space I cannot think of an adequate metaphor. The eventual cross was headed in by MOONEY at the far post, high over Coyne. We felt 0-1 was undeserved, but 0-2 was a travesty. Though a travesty waiting to happen with Gallimore in full panic mode and Watford actually realising the fact.
There weren't any more clear cut chances for either side in the first half, as far as I recall. Certainly Watford continued to attack at speed down the Town left, though Coyne didn't have any saves to make (A couple of long shots which went high and wide, together with crosses and through balls.) I think Mooney sliced a shot wide of Coyne's right hand post from about 10 yards out, to the right of goal, but there were plenty of bodies between him and the goal. Town broke away, continued to play impressive one touch football, and got in some decent crosses. This only created "moments of danger", though the Watford 'keeper was the worst kicker I have seen yet, having even more comedic potential than Kolinko at Palace. In the words of Glenn Hoddle "He's a banana skin waiting to happen". Quite. Just before half time Raven collapsed in agony holding his knee. He had quite a bit of treatment, but eventually hobbled back. Campbell rather wasted a high speed breakaway just before the break when he slightly scuffed a shot straight at the 'keeper from 25 yards. And then it was halftime. The Town support were a little confused about how to react. Town had actually played well, with the exception of Gallimore. We didn't feel that Town deserved to be losing, but recognised that it could have been even worse. Sounds odd, but true. There was a tactical deficiency, which Watford exploited ruthlessly. The fact that this was obvious to us before the match, and became obvious that Watford realised it during the course of the game, made it very galling. Or is that Gallimoring.
A word on the refeering up to this point. Poor - somehow Town players held and pushed, whilst Watford challenges were merely "firm". Nielsen got flattened early on with a pretty obvious run-through and forearm from behind, so obviously only a throw to Town. The referee seemed to give a free kick depending on the decibel level of the Watford supporters. If they wanted something they got it.
The sight of Livvo tracking back to act as an auxiliary left back tells you something - perhaps Lennie's luck was running out.
Half time: Watford 2 Grimsby Town 0
The report continues in the 2nd half
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