League Two Form Guide
Question of the Week
What should happen to the EFL Trophy next season?
By: Tony Butcher
An atrocious day by the Thames. Wet, windy and then even wetter. The big decision facing the Town support was Â£13 to stand on an open terrace and be soaked, or Â£17 to sit in a corner. Be meanly wet, or aristocratically dry. About 100 opted for the cash saving and 200 went for non-drip clothing.
Fulham 2 Grimsby Town 1
25 Nov 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
There wasn't any pre-match entertainment as the weather was so wild. The programme promised a live performance of Fulham's new anthem "We Aren't Real Madrid" on the pitch at half time. Guest vocalist is Mohammed Al Fayed. We, of course, looked forward to that.
Town lined up in the new red away kit, in a 4-4-2. The Town supporters' hearts sank when they realised Handyside was absent, with Livvo and Groves at the centre of defence. Fostervold played as an orthodox left back, Butterfield wide right, Campbell wide left, with Donovan partnering Nielsen up front
It was wet, windy, miserable, with a dodgy team and we were playing opponents who had won every home game. Take a guess what the pre-match mood was.
The game kicked off at 2.57, which rather contradicted the programme's assertion that kick-off was 3pm sharp. Town kicked off towards the left as seen on TV (and, therefore, away from the Town supporters) and Fulham were sharp (so that's what the programme meant). As the game started a blizzard of leaves blew across the pitch from the corner of the ground where most of the Town supporters were sat.
Within a minute or so Fulham had infiltrated the Town area with some slick passing and movement down the Town right, which saw Fernandes drive into the area and cross from the bye-line which, fortunately, resulted in the strikers being crowded out by Groves, Livvo and uncle Tom Cobbley (who was lending a discreet hand). This formed a template for the Fulham attacking in the first half. They "passed and moved" with one twos on the right hand edge of the area, seeking to play either Fernandes or Finnan into the space between Livvo and McDermott. Town required one of the midfielders to track the Fulham "runners", which Coldicott and Burnett did mostly (though Butterfield was conspicuous by his ambling at these moments, often leaving poor old McDermott with two fast players advancing on him).
I say poor in the sense of pity for his workload, his play was top-notch again. In the 8th minute he stopped one of these extremely dangerous incursions when he ran across a Fulham player and allowed himself to be brought down, thus winning Town a free kick near the edge of the 6 yard box. At about the same time Town had their first effort of the game - Nielsen was brought down about 20 yards out, just to the left of centre. Campbell curled the free kick low round the wall, but the Fulham 'keeper saved easily to his left.
The game was mostly Fulham probing at the Town defence, mainly on the right. They were kept about 25 yards out and the back 4 were keeping a solid line at the edge of the penalty area. This was a dangerous tactic as the Fulham players were lightning quick and adept at one-twos inside the full backs. Boa Morte and Hayles were giving Livvo and Groves a most testing afternoon, receiving the ball with their back to goal just inside the area and spinning their marker. Groves dealt adequately with these moments, though Livvo struggled when tested for pace. Now does this surprise you? He tried hauling the Fulham players down but was not strong enough. This resulted in two or three really panicky moments when Fulham strikers got to the bye-line, inside the area. Town were both fortunate and professional in these moments. Groves, McDermott, Burnett and Coldicott all managed last ditch blocks or challenges to stop Fulham getting shots in on goal from inside the 6 yard box.
After one such scramble, after about 25 minutes, Livvo gave away an indirect free kick about 15 yards out, just to the right of centre. It was probably a correct decision, but it still surprised everyone in the ground as obstructions are never given, are they? Town pulled everyone except Nielsen behind the ball and into the wall. McDermott stood at the far post (Coyne's left) and all the Town supporters started to grumble and mumble that he should be on the other post. The Town support behind the goal started to jump up and down and shout the same thing (or they could have been cold). McDermott trotted to the right hand post and waited. The ball was tapped back and one of the Fulham players blasted the ball through the wall toâ€¦.the right hand post, where McDermott did a brand new dance that's going around, yes the Bump, he did the Bump. He "hipped" the ball away disdainfully.
I haven't mentioned Fostervold yet. He spent the first 15 minutes standing in just about the right places, with a neat sideline in hooking his arm around Goldbaek's neck when he tried to run past him for "give and goes". He didn't touch the ball until the 15th minute, when he took a throw in. He first kicked the ball in the 18th minute and it went vaguely towards a Town player. As that player was Donovan one could not read too much into it. Donovan was being an ephemeral presence even by his own standards of ephemera. He ran away from the ball so much that I was beginning to think he was on a ball avoidance scheme (rather like YTS) until, in the 20th minute, he ran past a defender on the Town left, got to the bye-line, and dinked a cross towards the near post. Nielsen had to stretch back a bit, but still managed to power a header about an inch wide of the angle of post and bar, to the 'keeper's right.
Fulham continued to terrorise the Town defence down the right. At this point I should mention the contribution of Danny Butterfield - there wasn't one. He was too far back when Town attacked, and too far forward when defending. When the ball did go to him his control was shocking and distribution awful. One completed pass during his time on the pitch. A few Town counter attacks foundered when a player was looking to release the ball into the wide open spaces on the Fulham left, only to see Butterfield motionless 10 yards behind play. Butterfield's timidity was the prime cause of Town's only other effort in the first half (near half time) when Nielsen collected the ball in the centre about 35 yards out. He turned and shaped his body to play a through pass between full back and centre back, for there was a huge space aching for Butterfield to fill. Butterfield was stood still, almost with his hand on his hips. So Nielsen simply smacked a drive to the 'keeper's left, which was saved easily at his left hand post.
You've had all the Town attacks, now here's some more Fulham ones. They might have had a penalty when a cross hit a Town arm, Coyne held on to two long shots low to his left as Fulham strikers raced in following up, and he made what looked like a fine save just before half time. A Fulham break down the Town right saw a cross whipped into the centre of the goal, about 9 yards out. Boa Morte had a free header, which he placed just to Coyne's right. Coyne punched the ball away, two handed. Those behind the goal stated that it looked spectacular but was a save he should have made. Still, it looked great from the side. Fernandes scooped a shot a couple of inches over the bar, from 15 yards on the Town right (a first time half volley from a cross) and Fernandes tried to chip Coyne from near the right hand corner of the box, the ball landing on the roof of the net.
The most worrying moments were when Hayles span and muscled his way past the centre backs. He "did" Groves early on, getting to the bye line inside the area and advancing to within 6 yards of the goal. His "pull back" went a little behind Boa Morte and the massed ranks of the Grenadier guards managed to scramble the ball away. Just before half time he did the same to Livvo, this time on the Town left, with Livvo desperately trying to haul him down (and failing miserably). Again the cross was a little behind the Fulham forward players and sheer weight of numbers eradicated any further danger. Livvo was "done" three times and was having a very difficult afternoon indeed.
And then it was half time. Somehow Town had survived through a mixture of fortune, determination and organisation. They looked generally quite solid as a back 4, with Fostervold even taking time to organise the back-line a few times. The danger created in Town's goalmouth was through the individual excellence of their forwards and the one defensive weakness displayed by the red clad warriors - Butterfield's total absence. Burnett and Coldicott managed to hold the Fulham central players well outside the area (and tracked them on their forward runs). It would have helped if it was 11 v 11, but with Donovan in diffident mood and Butterfield being spatially unaware the Town 9 were hanging on manfully. Fostervold is big, by the way. He didn't touch the ball much, but had a kind of lumbering, brooding presence which may have frightened Fulham into attacking on the other side of the pitch - certainly Goldbaek felt his presence when he was clobbered round the neck when they "collided".
With Goldbaek, Fostervold and Coldicott on the pitch it was a reminder that every team needs someone with prosthetic foreheads on their real heads. The referee was quite excellent. I don't remember him getting any decisions wrong. Within the first 10 minutes Boa Morte had fallen in the area when challenged by Groves. Each time the referee let play continue and had a quiet word with Boa Morte. Fulham didn't bother trying to win any penalties after that. The referees name. Mr Paul Durkin.
Stu's Toilet report - Silent. Contemplative of what might have been, and what was yet to come.
Half time: Fulham 0 Grimsby Town 0
The report continues in the 2nd half
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