Question of the Week
What should happen to the EFL Trophy next season?
Ooh ha! Over Ehua
By: Tony Butcher
At Blundell Park it was a clear but deeply cold day with an occasional wispy breeze blowing through the open corner between the Stones, Findus Stand and the Pontoon. The Mighty Mariner was in a red Santa hat!
Grimsby Town 2 Norwich City 0
16 Dec 2000, Nationwide League Division 1
The Salvation Army band seated in the centre circle, playing various carols, variously, provided the pre-match, pre-Christmas entertainment. It was either them or Jonah Lewie
Zhang (who looked to be the same height as Groves) partnered Groves in the centre of defence, Fostervold returned to that left sided position nominally called "left back", the rest were where they were against Wimbledon (except in Grimsby, not South London, of course).
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon to general groans. The game started quite briskly, but rather raggedly. Norwich had the ball more often than Town and that wasn't too surprising as they played a 3-5-2 formation. Burnett was crowded out a couple of times early on, mainly through the initial pass to him being overhit and/or inaccurate.
I am pointing a finger at Donovan already. Zhang made a couple of good early tackles and interceptions. He looked like a "reader" of the game, rather than a Lever-like "man and ball" tackler. His distribution was Handyside-esque in its accuracy and perception (though he did try fancy flicks a couple of times in very deep, dangerous positions).
Apart from a couple of Norwich crosses scrambled away, nothing of note happened in the first 10 minutes. Then Town should have scored. A long "channel ball" over the centre backs was chased by Nielsen on the Town left. The Norwich defender headed back towards the 'keeper far too weakly and Nielsen nipped around him and was alone, about 8 yards to the left and 6 yards out from the goal. As he shaped to curl the ball around the 'keeper Nielsen slipped and simply scooped the ball softly into the 'keepers midriff.
For the next 10 minutes Town had the better of the game, rather overpowering a shambolic Norwich defence (3 big blokes who kept being out jumped by Nielsen and were Fostervoldian in pace). From 40 yards (yep, count them, 40) Willems tried a shallow clipped chip over the 'keeper, which went a foot or two over the centre of the goal. We "oooed" at his audacity. Five minutes later, from a central position 35 yards out, Willems blasted a dipping drive (which took a slight deflection) straight down the middle. The 'keeper was forced to arch back and spectacularly tip the ball over the bar, thus enabling Town to chip the ball into his hands from the resulting corner. Now Town's corners from the left (and we had loads today) were generally rubbish. They made their way to the 'keepers hands via Campbell kicking the ball one yard to Willems, who stoped the ball, Campbell then swung the ball into the 6 yard box.
After 20 minutes, a Town corner was cleared to the Town left, about 35 yards from their goal. Butterfield harried the forward who knocked the ball back, and it was then swung over to the vacant right back position where the left wing back, Llewellyn (who was comically poor all day, making only one successful pass - and this was it) cantered down the wing. There was, literally, no one within 20 yards of him. When he was about 10 yards out, near the edge of the penalty area, he crossed the ball low to the centre of the goalmouth. Roberts (again totally unmarked) side-footed the ball to Coyne's right. Coyne threw himself at, and across, Roberts. The ball deflected off Coyne's legs and over the bar. Great miss.
Town went down the other end, with a neat three man passing movement down the centre. The ball eventually reached Donovan about 20 yards out, to the right of goal, who shimmied and shammied, then drove the ball a foot wide of the 'keepers right hand post. Town were looking dangerous, despite Donovan having one of his dreadful, dopey Mavis Riley days (three times in one minute he lost the ball through being, and there is no other word to describe it, pathetic). But somehow Town didn't look like they would score. As it turned out, we needn't have worried about Town's capacity to score goals.
After 23 minutes, another promising raid by Town resulted in Nielsen (I think) playing in Coldicott on the centre right edge of the penalty area. Coldicott had a clear view of goal, but fell over the ball, which squirmed to the (goalkeeper's) right, about 12 yards out, level with the right post, right next to a defender. Nielsen moved to run behind the central defender, which was seen by the perceptive Fleming. He looked at the 'keeper, who pointed at Nielsen and shaped his body for a left footed whack down the pitch from the expected back pass. So FLEMING, facing the Pontoon about 8-10 yards out, flicked the ball with the outside of his right boot to the 'keeper's left. The 'keeper remained on his line on the right of the goal and watched the ball roll gently past him into the left hand side. Cue argument in the Norwich defence. Cue laughter from Â¾ of the ground. You should go out of your way to see a video of this goal, it's that good.
The rest of the half was a midfield barging contest. Norwich got a bit more feisty in the tackle after the goal, with (surprise, surprise) Iwan Roberts getting booked for a crude hack at Butterfield. A minute or two later he tried to set up a counter attack by punching the ball. The referee went to his back pocket and...saw that it was Roberts, so told him off for being naughty. Norwich had a couple of long shots (a free kick from about 25 yards hit straight at Coyne, and a turn by Roberts on the edge of the area which he again hit straight at Coyne) and a few dangerous high-speed breakaways which threatened until the final pass (nice to see other teams having a touch of the Towns). The most worrying moment came after a period of concerted pressure from Norwich ended with the ball out on the Town left. At this moment the thought "whither Fostervold" crossed my mind, as he ...withered. A Norwich player belted a loss cross from the left edge of the penalty area. The ball flew through the 6-yard box and out for a Town throw in, as Zhang jumped over the ball at the far post.
Apart from a Donovan shot from the edge of the penalty area, which went a foot wide of the 'keeper's right hand post, that's your lot for the first half. A bit scrappy, with periods of Town disorganisation, primarily down the wings. Neither full back looked safe, and there were huge gaps down each flank, especially when Norwich counter-attacked. That's when the company of strangers that is Grimsby Town looked at their weakest. It appeared that half the team didn't know where they were supposed to be. The centre looked rock solid, with Groves being efficient and Zhang looking like a fine footballer. The forwards were occasional threats, mainly Nielsen. Donovan was more of a threat to the crowd's blood pressure. He induced some primal screams of despair at his lackadaisical, effete performance. Poor old Knut looked very uncomfortable, like he was pining for the fjords. We'd like him to enjoy his Christmas at home in Norway. Tell Knutty that it's nothing personal, it's only business.
Half time: Grimsby Town 1 Norwich City 0
The report continues in the 2nd half
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