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Sheffield Utd Report

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 19/11/2000

A cold day with a persistent breeze blowing down the pitch from behind the Town supporters who, as usual, were placed at Bramall Lane end. Many smiled happily & complimented the Sheffield folk on the competitive pricing structure & comfortable seating. Only £18 to sit on a wooden bench, marvellous.

Sheffield United 3 Grimsby Town 2
18 Nov 2000, Nationwide League Division 1

The pre-match entertainment was a dozen pre-teen pom-pom dancers who were entrancingly immobile. They didn't move their feet once and the sole "routine" was to shake their pom-pom at various heights, very, very slowly. They weren't moving in slow motion, more freeze frame. As someone pointed out, they'd never get warm moving at that pace.

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 warmed up in the usual fashion, though some were distressed to note that Nielsen warmed up with his tracksuit bottoms on. Like it never gets cold in Denmark? His one warm up shot ended in the Town support - that's in the second tier. By contrast, Livvo was lethal, curling many a shot around Croudson and just inside the post. Like he always does that during a game. Yeah, right.

Grimsby Town
Grovesred card


D Smith

Town lined up in a basic 4-4-2 formation. The back four were, as you'd expect. Coldicott played on the leftish of midfield, and Donovan on the wide right. Every player was cheered as his name was read out over the tannoy. Even Jeffrey, though I detected a faint chuckling cheer when Gallimore, Donovan and our number 9's names were mentioned. There didn't seem to be anything special for McDermott, nor even a more lusty cheer. Town wore the double blue-hooped monstrosity and Coyne wore his lemon top. The referee wore all black so we would have the opportunity to sing an old terrace favourite. According to the programme the referee was Mr. T Jones. Note that name down.

1st half

Sheff Utd kicked off towards the Town support and passed it around for all of 5 seconds before hoofing an aimless punt to Coyne. Looking around at the Sheff Utd players it was noticeable how huge their forward line was - they had three tall, physically imposing strikers - D'Jaffo, Santos and Bent. We didn't wonder what their style would be.

The first action of the game came after 3 minutes when United broke up a Town attack and played some direct football up the Town left. The right-winger, Devlin, easily tricked Gallimore with a little shimmy and nutmeg, outpaced Mr G down the left touchline and cut into the penalty area. Groves sprinted across to close him down then, after glancing behind and noticing three Blades unmarked, ran back across goal. Devlin carried on and, from about 8 yards to the left of Coyne's goal and 12 yards out, dragged a right foot shot across the face of the goal for a goal kick.

I don't remember them having another shot for half an hour after this. Loads of long, high balls down the channels, winning many throw ins. And of course they had a long throw specialist. However, for once, Town were extremely well organised and there were no scares whatsoever as a result of the succession of long throws - Burnett, principally, intercepted at the near post or tidied up when the ball fell loose.

The next shot came after about 5 minutes. Nielsen fell under a challenge and the referee awarded Town a free kick 35 yards out, just to the left of centre. We didn't realise at the time that we should savour that moment of fairness and competence from the officials. Gallimore looked a little unsure whether to kick it to their 'keeper or just chip it out directly. Whilst he made up his mind, a Sheff Utd player walked forward and stood about 5 yards away from the ball. The referee eventually persuaded the Blade to go back another few feet. Encouraged by elements of the Town support to "have a go and put all your weight behind it" Gallimore retreated 4 steps and simply wellied the ball straight at the goal. The 'keeper tipped the ball over the bar near his top right hand corner. Donovan took the corner. Enough said?

Around this time the Town support realised the referee was looking upon Sheffield United rather like a kindly uncle would a scamp of a nephew. He seemed to understand that "it's a man's game" and the surface was a little slippy so they just couldn't help running into Town players a little late. They were, after all, taller, so they would accidentally catch Town players with what would look like high challenges. Would he be consistent? What do you think? After 8 minutes Burnett slid in full length for a tackle on the Town left touchline halfway inside the Town half. The Blade slid in too, but stayed down. The referee had no hesitation in booking Burnett.

After 20 or so minutes Livvo was booked for "persistent fouling" - the referee indicated 4 fouls. An interesting way of looking at life. The first free kick given to Sheff Utd was when Livvo was fouled; the second was when Livvo was fouled again (both when a defender held him down when challenging for a high ball). The third free kick was given because Livvo was relatively near a Sheffield defender when the Bladesman didn't quite land right. Only the fourth was a properly awarded free kick - Livvo caught the back of a player's heels as he ran after a bloke who dribbled out of defence. Even from 100 yards away you could tell Livvo was a little exasperated.

Nothing much was happening in terms of goalmouth action. The game had a sort of pattern to it - Town controlled the game until the edge of the Sheffield penalty area and they whacked huge clearances down the pitch. Most of the clearances ended up in Coyne's arms, or Handyside's boot, but some went behind the defence and caused moments of danger. Sheffield were at their most dangerous on the break, when Devlin had the ball. He beat Gallimore with ease virtually every time (I can only remember two successful Gallimore tackles - though both were vital interceptions when Devlin had got deep into the Town area).

Burnett and Campbell moved around at will, with Burnett beating out a rhythm with one touch cushioned passes that eased the ball forward. Donovan was irritating, as he was extremely timid. He was often found in space and alone, but took an age to control the ball and generally turned back and played short passes to McDermott. The very best moment of the first half was wasted by King Jellyfish. Nielsen won a tackle just inside the Sheffield half, on the town left. He turned and hit a superb 50-yard cross-field ball straight to Donovan, unmarked beyond the full back. Donovan let the ball go under his boot and out for a throw in.

Somewhere around the half hour Town might have got a penalty. Donavan was played in behind the full back for the umpteenth time; he jinked this way and then that. His cross hit the first defender, bounced down, then back up and hit the second defender on the hand. No chance with this referee.

After 35 minutes Coyne was forced to make a save, and a darn fine one too. After some close one touch passing and movement about 25 yards out by Sheffield (they had some decent players who occasionally forgot the script), the ball was eventually played across to the left back Wayne Quinn. From about 20 yards, to the right of the penalty area he attempted a curling shot into Coyne's top left hand corner. The man we know is Wales' number 1 leapt spectacularly to his left and parried the ball away for a corner. The very next action was a booking for Nielsen. He literally jumped across to challenge a defender for a loose ball near the half way line. A second or two after Nielsen had completed his sliding jump the Sheffield player leapt vertically, with a half twist, finally slumping to the floor in a dramatic recreation of the last act of Swan Lake.

Still nothing much was happening in either goalmouth - it was midfield pretty patterns from Town, with United hoofings. A minute before half time a very annoying thing occurred. On the Town right, halfway inside the United half, Donovan dummied a pass from Burnett, turned and hared after the ball. With time and space Donovan picked out a forehead - being a defender at the near post. The ball was headed out of the area, then slapped forward quickly to Bent, just inside the Town half. He turned and clipped a 20-yard pass out to Devlin on the Town left. Gallimore backed off, backed off and backed off again allowing Devlin to get closer to goal and bye-line. Devlin clipped a hip high cross to the near post. Burnett hesitated, as did Groves and SANTOS steamed in between them to steer the ball into the centre of the goal from about 6 or 7 yards. Undeserved. Annoying. Very avoidable.

A minute later Bent volleyed almost vertically from 10 yards out, just beyond the far post on Town's left. And then it was half time. Town had played fine as a team, though only a couple had had good individual performances. Burnett looked to have formed an instant understanding with Campbell and was making some intelligent interceptions and perceptive passes. There was a general air of calm exuding from the centre. Handyside was untroubled and Campbell industrious and a bit of a pain to Sheffield with his dribbling from midfield. Neither Livvo nor Nielsen had done anything - neither looked too chuffed at chasing long balls. And this was partly as a result of Coyne's big improvement in kicking. His was kicking so well they were going straight through to the Sheffield 'keeper, who kept kicking it back to Coyne. The referee was always wrong - he eventually booked a Sheffield defender for legging up Nielsen after the Golden Dude had tricked and barged his way past three players. He was cynically chopped from behind. Only after three Town players surrounded the referee and pointed to the defender was the yellow card produced. Even then they had to go over and tell him which one had done it.

The halftime talk was of the ease with which their right winger was beating Mr Gallimore and spread betting on how many Town players the referee would send off.

Half time: Sheffield United 1 Grimsby Town 0

The report continues in the 2nd half

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