League Two Table
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West Brom Report
By: Tony Butcher
A pleasant spring-like afternoon in the grey capital of Britain, though the wind was occasionally strong and wafted straight down the ground from behind the Town supporters. Another year, another road to get to the same turnstile, this time caused by a stand having been knocked down.
WBA 0 Grimsby Town 1
Town warmed up with a new routine - they ran up and down in two lines, under the watchful eye of drill sergeant Cockerill, zigging and zagging, ducking and diving. Formation trotting, in other words. After the usual arbitrary kick about the substitutes tried shooting practice against Big Uncle Mort, who stopped everything (though Livvo cheekily sneaked a few pot shots which fizzed in - a sure sign he'd miss barn doors during the game). There were around 250-300 Town supporters squeezed into the far corner of the stand behind one of the goals, who were in fine pre-match voice.
Bad hair day - Sneekes, of course, but that's too easy, like shooting fish in a barrel. Though someone did observe that Hughes would be ginger if he wasn't bald, which has a certain logic.
Town lined up in the all red kit, in a 4-4-2 formation, as follows :- Coyne, McDermott, Groves, Handyside, Gallimore, Donovan, Pouton, Coldicott, Campbell, Cornwall and Livingstone. The substitutes were Hyldgaard, Butterfield, Willems, D Smith and Jeffrey. So the same team and same formation as against Watford. Continuity! Just what we've always wanted.
Town kicked off, reluctantly, towards the Town support. The referee placed the ball on the centre spot and no Town player went up to take the kick-off. There was then of those embarrassing pauses when no one would admit it was them. Livingstone eventually trudged towards the ball and off we went on an uncontrollable roller coaster. The first thing to say is West Brom were awful, comically awful. They kept passing the ball out of play, falling over and generally running into each other. Thoroughly enjoyable for the huddled hundreds in the corner. Town were not that much better, though better organised. From up high you could see the Town players stood in the three lines of 4-4-2, West Brom had players in little bunches (like Sneekes hair) dotted all over the pitch.
The first goalmouth action happened sometime in the first 10 minutes, and it followed a Town free kick, which was belted into the West Brom area. The ball was headed on to beyond the 'keeper's right hand post and Groves crept around the back, unmarked, and hooked a sliding cross low through the centre of the goal. It was missed at the far post by Livingstone. It didn't matter as the linesman had flagged for an offside. That does give you an indication of the direness of the game though. And bring me neatly on to the pervading memory of the first 20 minutes - the linesman working the half which Town defended. As an example of his ineptitude in one 10 second spell he allowed two of the most blatant foul throws, followed by a West Brom player controlling the ball out of play and, from the resulting cross, Fox miss-kicked the ball out for a â€¦. corner. As I didn't buy a programme I don't know who the referee was, but I think I'll call him Mr H Simpson. Barely a decision went Town's way, though curiously the big decisions were correct. After about 15 minutes, Taylor pushed Groves when chasing a long high bouncing ball. As Groves fell he "accidentally" punched the ball back to Coyne. The Baggies supporters bayed for blood but Town got the free kick.
West Brom's other attacks were similarly constructed, chips forward into the spaces between and behind the Town defence for Taylor and Hughes to chase. Not rocket science, and today, not effective. I have a vague recollection of a couple of Hughes crosses drifting over the bar (the West Brom supporters got ever so excited when Hughes beat two Town players and crossed the ball out for a goal kick), and a few scraps on the edge of the area. They had at least one long shot which went nowhere near the goal and a couple more which were blocked by bulky Town shins. Their most dangerous attack was snuffled out by Coldicott throwing himself at a shot about 9 yards out, again following infiltration down the Town left by Hughes.
Enough of West Brom, they were useless in the first half, Coyne didn't make one save. Town had a fair bit of possession and thereby controlled much of the play, but didn't create much. Livvo looked leaden footed, though he gamely attacked everything near him. It took Town 20 minutes to have a shot. The goalkeeper (who was the worst kicker seen all season, an accident waiting to happen and sub-Crichtonian in his feebleness) drop kicked straight to Donovan on the right of the half way line. He knocked the ball forward to Cornwall who took on a couple of defenders and wiggled his way down the right and then across the face of the penalty area. From about 20 yards out he tried a left foot drive, which went about a foot over the centre of the goal. A couple of minutes later Town got a free kick about 10 yards into the West Brom half on the right. Gallimore trotted over and chipped the ball into the centre of the goal, near the edge of the box. Either Livvo or Groves headed the ball into a big space to the right of the goal, about 6 or 7 yards out. Cornwall sauntered around the back of the defence, unmarked, and shaped to swing a left foot volley across the face of goal into the 'keeper's right hand side. Outrageous. Impossible from that angle. Pff, whoever doubted him? CORNWALL smacked a scintillatingly sizzling shot in off the right hand post. What a shot! The Town supporters jigged their little jig (the climbing the table hand jive and jog) and Cornwall's two mates sat with the Town supporters rang someone up and shouted "He's scored! He's scored!" down the phone. He had! He had!
West Brom's response? Wasn't one. Apart from falling over and moaning. Sneekes was taken off after injuring his groin kicking the ball. The referee stopped play for him to get treatment and Town had to kick the ball to their 'keeper (despite us having the ball). They did have one worrisome breakaway when Hughes scrabbled his way down the left, cut in , laid the ball back to a midfielder about 10 yards out, level with the near post. Fortunately, Coldicott deflected the ball up, up and away, not in a beautiful balloon but softly into the arms of Coyne. There was only one other attempt at goal in the whole half - a punt down the pitch was chased by Livingstone into the area. He managed to slip past the defender and head against the on-rushing 'keeper's shoulder. Apart from that there wasn't any football or even attempts at goal. The game would be described by Jimmy Hill as poor quality entertainment for the neutral. But we aren't neutral, so it was satisfyingly bad.
3 minutes of extra time were added to the first half, so 5 were played. The Town crowd were furious with the referee, who seemed intent on playing on until West Brom had a meaningful attack. He eventually realised that was never going to happen and a cup of tea beckoned.
For the first 15 minutes Handyside had, if not a warm thrill of confusion, certainly a space cadet glow about him; like on Saturday he seemed to be having difficulty co-ordinating the various bits of his body. Then the Rolls Royce was taken out of its garage and he purred through the game. Groves was faultless and the full backs were very comfortable. West Brom attacked incessantly down the left, but hardly got anywhere. The biggest danger they posed was from hoofed clearances for the strikers to chase. Hughes and Taylor both drifted into the spaces between centre backs and full backs very well, but West Brom had no one capable of passing to them. They simply hoofed. Town showed little going forward, but scored with a poachers goal.
Stu's Half time Toilet Talk - "They're gonna bomb us in the second half". "We never win here, it's going to go wrong, I know it, I know it". "Turn that phone off" "They don't do vegan pies here"
The report continues in the Second Half
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