Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
By: Tony Butcher
A rather pleasant winter afternoon at the very end of an industrial estate in characterless Buckinghamshire. No wind, few clouds, a hint of a chill and no rain. The ground looked fine until the groundstaff took off the advertising covers from the goals and centre circle to reveal a muddy centre.
Wycombe Wanderers 1 Grimsby Town 1
07 Jan 2001, FA Cup 3rd Round
Well actually the centre circle cover was take off by half a dozen schoolkids in comic fashion as they dropped it every 5 yards, always on the one at the back.
The Town end filled up steadily from just before 2 o'clock. Someone brought in an inflatable black and white beach ball which was batted around up to 3 o'clock. I'm tempted to give a match report on this as it was far more exciting than the game - with some impressive dainty footwork on display by a couple of the supporters (take a bow Bill Meek with a Cantona-esque back flick).
Those biffed on the nose or the back of the head will, no doubt, take a less charitable view of the beach ball game. A fully inflated Harry Haddock appeared at 2:50 and Wycombe ran out of programmes as they didn't expect so many Town fans to turn up - 622 (according to the tannoy announcer).
As the Town supporters sang "Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, we're going to Car-ar-diff". Or perhaps "Lennie's going to Cardiff, his knees have gone a bit stiff, come on you Town, we might go down".
As at Sheffield Wednesday, the players seemed to spend an awful long time warming up, not going back in until past 2:50. The last 10 minutes before the game were taken up with the official dance Troupe of Sky and the Nationwide League - the Wycombe Wonderlites. They diverted the attention of many, being 10 teenage girls who danced enthusiastically in the centre circle. One seemed to be doing an endless succession of full cartwheels pivoted around one leg. Like she was swiveling in her prosthetic leg (left). Well all the Town fans seemed to be saying "what the heck is she doing".
Ah the football.. Magic of the cup and all that. Special day blah-di-blah etc. Yawn on. Town lined up in a 4-3-1-2 formation. Wonder who the fringe players were then? Groves and R Smith were the centre backs, Butterfield played as the right side of the midfield and Donovan played in his hole. The crowd were mumbling and grumbling about Butterfield being in midfield again, with another narrow formation and Nielsen has lost his silver surfing boots. Normal black type boots with a big orange tongue (his boots, not the Dude).
Wycombe kicked off away from the Town support. It took them 3 seconds to hoof it. Their style? Unsurprisingly (with an ex-Wimbledon man as manager) it was vigorous and basic. Hit it high, challenge and pick up the rebounds. Should be no trouble to a first division team and it wasn't. Mainly.
The first effort on goal was by them, after 5 or 6 minutes. A first time shot from outside the area after a high ball had been half cleared. Their midfielder Brown hit it yards over. He did this a lot. Town dominated possession and minutes went by between Wycombe touches. They mainly got the ball from free kicks or when Coyne kicked it straight down the pitch to their 'keeper.
It was like the season we were in the second division - Town were so superior as individuals. Unfortunately, Town were not so well organised, leaving gaps down the wings, with attacks being halted by the lack of width. Donovan got in the way a lot, which was his primary role in Town's first effort of the game. Livingstone flicked on a high ball from one of the defenders towards Nielsen. Donovan got in the way and, instead of Nielsen bearing down on goal, the ball rolled back to Livvo who hit a first time shot from 20 or so yards, right in the middle. It hit Donovan and went 10 yards wide of the 'keeper's left hand post.
There were a couple of Butterfield crosses (straight to Wycombe players) and a couple of flowing moves involving Willems, Campbell andâ€¦.Butterfield. The moves then stopped. Sorry to say, Butterfield played terribly again. Town's best move ended when Butterfield tried a shot from 25 yards when McDermott was unmarked out wide and Nielsen was making a run across and behind a defender. Donovan displayed some Zidane-like trickery on the left touch-line sending his marker one way, then the other, beating the Wycombe player easily. He also sold himself the same dummy as he fell over the ball. Then produced exactly the same move to beat his marker again. Town got a corner from this as Donovan broke free and would not cross with his left foot, cutting back and a Wycombe player bundled the ball out.
At about this time, 20 minutes, it dawned on everyone (including the players) that Wycombe were, individually, absolutely useless. They were a bog standard second division team. Well organised, with a simple method, but essentially rubbish footballers. No-one typified this more than their number 22, Bullman, who was a human dynamo, but incapable of passing the ball or controlling it. Like Coldicott, but without the silky skills.
Wycombe had a couple more long shots after long crosses were half cleared. They went nowhere near the goal. The best chance they had was when a free kick from the Town right , 30 yards out, was lumped into the middle of the box, skidded off someone's head and ran on to one of their midfielders who had run around the back. His shot sliced past Coyne's near post.
I can't recall Coyne touching the ball with his hands in the first half an hour, perhaps he caught a couple of crosses, but, generally, Wycombe simply humped the ball into the middle with Groves and R Smith being little troubled. The Town fans were amused by the Wycombe fans getting excited when one of their players ran towards R Smith when Town did a typical pass around the back. They must rarely see centre backs who can play football if they thought he was going to lose control of the ball.
The next Town break was a fine flowing move involving Campbell, Willems, Donovan and finally Butterfield, whose attempted pass across the face of the penalty area hit a Wycombe player and rebounded to Gallimore, about 15 yards out to the left of goal. The strangely calm one advanced and hit a shot across the face of the gaol, missing Livingstone at the near post and skidding a couple of feet wide of the 'keeper's left hand post. Wycombe's response? They whacked it long and gave the ball back to Town for a few more minutes. Nielsen, with back to goal about 8 yards out, tried to turn and hook a shot to the 'keeper's right. It went for a throw in. With a couple of minutes to go to half time, Town won a corner on our left. This followed a Town break which ended with a Butterfield curling cross to the far post being tamely headed out by a Wycombe defender. Town did their now usual short corner routine with Campbell tapping it to Willems then curling it into the near post. NIELSEN glided across his marker and, from 7 or 8 yards out flicked a glancing header across the 'keeper and into the net on his right-hand side. Fortunately, Wycombe didn't have anyone on the back post. Nielsen got very excited, ran towards to the Town support and started punching them on the chest in celebration. So the referee booked him. Can't raise your hands, as Alan Hansen says. Even to supporters it seems.
Town spent the last two minutes time wasting in the corner flag, winning throw ins and corners. That's it for the first half. Easy, class will out, no problems for Town. The gulf between the 1st and 2nd division was so obvious. However, it was apparent that in contrast to Wycombe (who were collectively organised with a method of play) Town were individually talented but lacking what can only be described as "shape". The midfield was a little shambolic as Campbell was buzzing around everywhere seemingly making up for Butterfield's psychological and physical wanderings.
Willems was tied to the centre to make sure someone was there and there was no width. Donovan flapped his arms around between the midfield and attack to no effect at all. Only when he drifted out to the left did he find any space and look remotely dangerous. Why he didn't go to the right is a mystery to all. Livvo looked slow, Nielsen very disinterested. The rest were fine, with Campbell having a particularly effective first half.
Stu's toilet talk
"Butterfield - AAAARRRGGHHH, Donovan - AAAAAARRRRGGHHH."
"The referee is a fussy git"
I haven't made too much of the referee yet. He was incredibly irritating. Giving Wycombe loads of free kicks for not controlling the ball. Allowing advantage, then pulling play back. Sometimes not allowing advantage. Making Town return the ball to Wycombe after an injury to a Town player, despite Town having the ball. Stopping play for a Wycombe injury, until the player recovered, but telling R Smith to get off the pitch in a similar situation. You see - inconsistent and fussy. He was far worse in the second half.
The report continues in the second half
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