Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
By: Richard Lord
A clear but cool evening under the starry skies came the visit of Wimbledon, led by what star, I don't know. The ground slowly filled up, but bits of red in each stand were exposed as the fixture failed to grab the Grimsby folk's imagination.
Grimsby Town 1 Wimbledon 1
13 Mar 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
Some supporters had taken up the offer of the open seating corners for just Â£5. The following Wimbledon away contingent rivalled our 91 back in December at Selhurst Park. However, part of the away stand looked full due to the club's Â£5 offer, which many chose to sit out in the Osmond stand. As the players ran out onto the pitch (greeted with the usual funny music and chants of 'Wales Number One'), the squads were announced. No Danny Butterfield. Shock. Horror.
As the fans settled, the first of what was to be a kind of comedy show started over my right shoulder. The tannoy announcer concluded: "Enjoy the match and let's get behind the Mariners" someone behind me replied: "Why?" Also later, during the second half, his friend commented that if we had two Livvo's, we'd be pushing for promotion. One Livvo will do us, thank you. The usual groans of displeasure began before a ball was kicked when the teams lined up so Town would be shooting towards the Pontoon in the first half. The match was refereed by 25 year old Mark Clattenburg, the youngest official in the Football League, who had a relatively good game.
Coyne started in goal, and Enhua returned for Handyside in defence. Coldicott replaced Willems in midfield and the unknown quantity of Luke Cornwall started alongside Allen up front, the Londoner making a welcome return to first team action.
Grimsby showed their intent early on, Campbell did well down the left and won a corner in the very first minute. It was his cross that swung to the far post where Groves rose the highest, but placed his header wide of the upright. There was some neat passing to follow, although Wimbledon didn't have a clue how to pass the ball, and it was all Town in the opening exchanges.
Then Holloway's long ball down the right found Hughes who ran to the by-line before cutting back a cross, which AGYEMANG (above) bundled into the net on 6 minutes. Apart from a one-minute spell in the second half, that was all the Dons had to offer. A match between Wimbledon and Huddersfield would have been fascinating.
So, after a great start, things weren't going so great. We found ourselves 1-0 down against a team that couldn't pass to stay in the division. Credit to the Mariners though, they nearly got back in it almost straight from the centre kick with a long ball (what's this? Not Wimbledon??) which caused Kelvin Davis in goal to come out of his area and head the ball away. He seemed rather pleased with his clever bit of ingenuity there, but he had reason to soil himself ten minutes later when another Town clearance came his way. It brought the keeper out of his area once more, but the ball this time bounced straight over his head and his defence got back to clear the remaining danger.
In between these two incidents, Campbell was running Holloway ragged, who just had no clue. Apart from his ball played down the right to set Hughes on his way to create the Wimbledon goal, Holloway's Championship Manager rating would have fallen from a 7 to a 4. Without doubt. Campbell won a free kick, which was played back to Gally who swung the ball into the area menacingly, but it was headed away to safety.
On 10 minutes Luke Cornwall showed some good touches for the first time in the match, but he didn't find the space to show off his best attributes. Minutes later both Campbell and Donovan won corners, but a familiar pattern was beginning to emerge, rooting from the Alan Buckley days. We were no threat from corners. Bradley Allen tried a weak shot from the edge of the area moments later. He showed a good first touch and held the ball up well when played to feet. On 18 minutes Cornwall nearly intercepted a Wimbledon back-pass (probably played by Holloway) but Davis in goal spared any embarrassment for the defence and collected.
As so often with matches in the past at Blundell Park, fans turn their attention to something other than the action on the pitch, previously the colour of the sky, unusual Pingu noises, certain smells that drift across the park etc, but on this occasion the opposition were so shocking, that they actually made Town look good. If it wasn't already Holloway's worst performance in a snotty-coloured Wimbledon shirt, it was confirmed after he fouled Campbell for the third time in the opening 22 minutes. He received a yellow card and kept his head down for the rest of the match.
The free kick was whipped in by Campbell and Enhua rose at the far post just as Groves had done earlier in the game and the result was very similar. Although on 25 minutes Cornwall put the ball into the back of the net, but the whistle went for off-side just 5 hours earlier. Because it had been so long since Town had actually scored, some fans cheered as the ball nestled into the back of the net.
Seconds later Davis saw the sea of black and white approach once more, Holloway by this time had his head up his backside and was crawling around on all fours looking for the light switch. Campbell exploited the extra space down the left and set up Coldicott for a shot on the edge of the area. But Stace, overwhelmed by the idea of having to shoot, went all light-headed and dizzy at the opportunity, and skewed his shot tamely wide of the goal.
Just after the half-hour mark, Campbell, who had the freedom of Blundell park in Holloway's absence, played a nice one-two with Cornwall who shot, but the rebound fell back to Campbell wide of the goal and he volleyed across to the back post where the jellyfish arrived and his pull-back was pushed out for a corner. You'll be surprised to learn that the corner created no excitement.
Finally, after nearly half an hour of becoming a spectator, Coyne finally touched the ball as Wimbledon actually discovered the joy of kicking the round, spherical thing into the opposition's half. Coyne was so overjoyed at the occasion that he decided to drop-kick the ball into a Wimbledon player (possibly Holloway) 40 yards out, just to add a little more excitement to the game.
Then Town tried to play Wimbledon at their own game before half time. Not only did they play the long ball (mainly through Groves), but they also began to give the ball away just as cheaply as the Londoners. The comments going around the ground at this point were along the lines of "How are we losing to this pile of poo?" and also "one shot, one goal". More like "One attack, one pass, one goal". "How are Wimbledon mid-table - they can't pass!" I recall Wimbledon winning two corners before half time.
Before the players came out for the second half, we were treated to more comedy from the man himself: Mighty Mariner. I'm not sure what his preferences are, but touching up the goalpost and performing pelvic thrust motions at a stick of wood aren't going to settle any curiosity. Also he was holding a little sign which read: "Who's your daddy???????" and he kept on slapping his bottom. Carrying on from where he had left off from the Wolves game we presume. But tonight he didn't treat us with the buttock-clenching thing. The team formerly referred to the "pile of poo" emerged first, with Town players following soon after.
The second half, on comparison with the first was less pressure, slightly more chances. In the first minute either Coldicott or Cornwall shot over the bar, I couldn't quite tell as both of them seemed to get in each other's way, hence the rather pathetic shot which went height and wide.
On 47 minutes a lower Smith's supporter earned himself a comment on this report when he fell through the advertising boards after returning the ball for a throw-in. I think the very same throw-in led to a foul against a Wimbledon player just outside the area (probably against Holloway) which was moved forwards 10 yards when a Dons player argued with the referee (probably Holloway). If anything, this didn't help Gally as he lined up to shoot. He blasted the ball into the wall and Wimbledon escaped. Donovan by this time was playing sweeper, as he was our last man to clear the ball away from the advancing Euell just outside our own area. (Yes, Wimbledon threatened an attack)!
On 52 minutes Campbell again was left to roam down the left hand side. By this time Holloway might just have discovered the Scotsman was actually right-footed. Anyway, Campbell crossed into the area where it was headed up into the air and it fell to Donovan on the right who shot first time. It was partially blocked but the linesman flagged for off-side.
A few minutes later Donovan was again having joy down the right. His good skill and pace won a corner which was taken and headed away. Since the Dons took the lead in the 6th minute, I fail to remember them having a single shot at goal. It was a long time in coming for the away fans, but one finally arrived before the hour. I hadn't bought a program so I was unfamiliar with who was what number for Wimbledon, but number 7 tried a soft shot from the edge of the box (almost as soft as one of Stace's previous efforts) but Coyne got down easily to collect.
A couple of minutes later, Wimbledon really did cause us a bit of bother at the back. Euell seemed to be at least 3 yards off side when the ball was played over our defence (I'm not biased!) but he was allowed to run on to the bouncing ball. Thankfully, Coyne was alert and blocked well with his body as the once semi-good Euell and why-the-hell-is-he-not-in-the-Wales-squad Coyne collided. A minute on there was confusion in the Town defence and Euell hit the outside of the post when the side netting seemed to look the more likely outcome. The side netting was hit after the hour mark at the other end of the pitch when Donovan ran at the Don's defence who were backing off. Kev-Kev looked to have taken it too wide and duly struck the ball into the side netting seconds later. Wimbledon had had their chance and it was all Town once again.
A minute later, Campbell fell down after a hefty challenge (by Holloway?) but the referee shook his head. By the way, Holloway's rating had now fallen to 3. On 65 minutes Lennie Lawrence made Town's first substitution. Cornwall, who had been invisible in the second half, was brought off and Jeffrey replaced him in a straight swap. Wimbledon had a free kick at the same time, but that's not worth mentioning.
A promising move down the right involving McDermott ended when a pass was slightly over-hit, and the full-back couldn't keep the ball in play. Comments at this time were: "are we improving, or are Wimbledon getting worse?" It was difficult to tell, but Wimbledon couldn't get much worse, so credit had to go to the Mariners.
There were calls for a penalty on 68 minutes when Donovan was tripped on the corner of the area. The jellyfish was more than willing to go down, but it did look like a genuine claim. Of course we didn't get it as the fans momentarily forgot how to appeal for a penalty - it had been so long since the last. Then there was evidence that Kelvin Davis had been taking kicking lessons off Coyne when he volleyed out of his hands under no pressure straight into touch.
Soon after Burnett came off (have I mentioned him in this report at all so far?) and was replaced by Pouton. The ex-York midfielder was involved in a flowing move until the referee tried his best to get in the way of a pass into the area. It was about now that the fans really started to become restless. A minute later Pouton lifted the ball over the referee this time to pick out Jeffrey (I think) who headed goalwards, but Davis made a good save and Town won the corner. From this, Groves headed the equaliser... no he didn't, their keeper was by now annoying us as he made a brilliant save to keep Wimbledon in the lead, although how they were still winning, I just have no idea. The pressure mounted and the equaliser just had to come.
After having a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit whilst mulling over what he had to do to get into the Wales squad, Coyne finally saw some action. A ball from the midfield caught our defence flat-footed and one of Wimbledon's subs ran through on goal. Macca did extremely well to get back and prevent to one-on-one, so the ball was squared to an un-marked Euell, and from 10 yards out with a free shot on goal, he dragged the shot wide of the very same post Mighty Mariner had been getting off with earlier. This occurred after Stace had been brought off and Willems brought on. There were 4 minutes of injury time signalled, and a lot of fans were leaving the ground.
Two minutes passed without much goalmouth action. Then in the third minute, there were two scrambles, the second took place at the far post where Davis punched, a few heads went up and I think a corner was given. Frustration personified (!) Then Campbell trots across, swings the ball in, where it was headed on, and ENHUA rose to guide it across into the bottom corner of the net. Did the fans celebrate? Well, those who were still there, and had not left the ground (those people know who they are) went mad. They've been without a goal for over 400 minutes, so I think they were entitled to!
With Enhua leaving Grimsby after the game with QPR it was a great farewell gift to the Mariners.
Man of the Match: There were so many good performances, there are too many to mention. Town maintained constant pressure for over 70 minutes, and on another day they may have won comfortably. Enhua showed some excellent long-range passing, Stace in the centre battled well, Campbell was his usual self, but it would be an injustice if the award didn't go to Donovan. His performance was full of grit and determination, and showed flashes of skill reminiscent of the old division 2 days. Caused the Wimbledon defence no end of problems and showed he can still do it at this level.
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