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Sheff Utd Report
By: Tony Butcher
A bright clear day with a slight breeze blowing in off the Humber and over the Main Stand.There was a somnambulant atmosphere around the ground with much cheery, beery whispers of "we're safe now".There was definitely end of season feel to the occasion, no crackle as we approached the ground.
Grimsby Town 0 Sheffield United 1
The players warmed up with the Noah routine (up and down, two by two) and then ambled about for a bit. Handyside did what he always does when the sun shines - he headed for the shade under the Stones/Findus/Smiths stand. Jeffrey continued his futile shooting practice at Hyldgaard, who let virtually everyone of them in. Scanning the scattered monochromes it suddenly struck the crowd, like a blinding flash from his bald pate, that Coldicott was absent. Opinion was divided over the significance, "oh well, at least we've got Menno"
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation as follows: - Coyne, McDermott, Groves Handyside, Gallimore, Donovan, Pouton, Willems, Campbell, Livingstone and Cornwall. The substitutes were Hyldgaard, Butterfield, D Smith, Jeffrey and Bungle (sorry, I mean Clare). Usual positions for everyone, Willems for Coldicott being a straight swap.
Sheffield United played in their red and white striped shirts, white shorts and white socks. They looked a bit girlie if you ask me. The ground was quite full, with only the three corners of green seats empty, together with most of the first row of the upper Smiths/Stones/Smiths stand. Despite that the crowd was quiet, complacent even. Idly casting an eye across the crowd, I noticed the old bloke with the Alpen hat (complete with grey feather) re-appeared, to bring a smile to many.
Before the game there was an impeccably observed minute's silence for the referee who died at Southend last week.
Town kicked off away from the Pontoon. Nothing happened. The players jogged from side to side, occasionally up and down in an area 15 yards either side of the half way line. The ball went up in the air, down again, and then, very rapidly, back up in the air.
The groundsman needn't have bothered flattening the pitch out and making it look decent. Neither side looked particularly bothered, with Town looking the lesser bothered of the species. Campbell did skip down the wing and chip the ball to Livingstone's considerable head, but it was flicked on to a big space on the right, filled by no-one. Yes, that's right, the game was so poor that that counts as a Town highlight.
Pouton wellied Curle from behind in the 10th minute, and was booked. This rather confused many in the stadium - we thought there was a FIFA regulation that instructed Keith Curle to be flattened. If there isn't, why not? Has the game gone soft? After about 15 minutes the Pontoon realised that Town hadn't actually touched the ball for 5 minutes. A couple of clearances (being hoofs forward for throw ins) and accidental deflections, but no possession, not even two passes.
The Town team was immobile, like Livvo on crutches. No passing, no movement. There was a lot of shrugging, rolled eyes and pointing from the midfield, but the feet didn't move.
Town stank the place out - you won't read another thing about Town attacks until past the half hour.
Around the 20 minute mark Sheffield United visibly perked up. They started to run around a bit more, a bit quicker and generally looking like they thought there was an easy win bonus up for grabs. They started to shoot! Jageilka, about 12 yards out in the centre left of the penalty area, glanced a free header a couple of yards wide of Coyne's right hand post from a free kick on the Town left.
Two minutes later Devlin skinned Gallimore (no, not literally, that may have resulted in a booking) and crossed from the bye-line. Asaba headed 5 yards wide after diving at pace on the edge of the 6-yard box. Five minutes later Devlin sprinted past Gallimore again and chipped a low cross into the centre left of the Town area. Ford, about 7 yards out, stooped and managed to loop the ball a foot over the bar. A minute or so after that Asaba, on the left corner of the Town penalty area, barged past Gallimore and Handyside, shrugged Handyside off again, and side footed about a foot wide of the angle of Coyne's right hand post and crossbar. It was very close, but the Pontoon kept silent, hoping no-one would notice.
There's was a pattern emerging here. Can you spot it? The Town left. Ball after ball was whacked, without even looking, from right to left. Devlin hugged the touchline and Gallimore hugged Handyside, leaving Devlin oceans of space. Nothing was being played through the Town midfield, and Livvo was winning nothing in the air. He wasn't even able to outpace the flabby Morrison. And here it is, the moment you've been waiting for, a Town attack. 32 minutes. 32 minutes flipping minutes we had to wait. Coyne curled a miss-kick straight to Campbell on the left side of the half way line. Campbell surged down the touchline, cut inside and beat two defenders. When he reached the edge of the penalty area he smacked a low right foot shot a foot or so wide of the 'keeper's right hand post. The cheers and oohs had a large element of irony in them. And talking of irony, it sounded like the Sheffield United supporters were singing "stand up if you hate Yorkies". Either supreme irony or terrible acoustics.
A couple of minutes later Pouton gave the home supporters the moment they knew would be coming - that slicing moment. He advanced towards the United penalty area on the Town left. As he got nearer the crowd started to urge him on to shoot. The roar rose to a crescendo. He pulled his right boot back and the ball skewed towards the last advertising hoarding on top of the Osmond Stand, dipping at the last moment to hit a young boy in the penultimate row.
Around the same time Sheffield United nearly took the lead. Hesitation and idleness in the Town midfield and on the right allowed a 1-2 to be played on the right edge of the Town penalty area. A left sided Blade unmarked and unchallenged, about 10 yards out to the right of goal, curled a first time shot with the outside of his left boot past Coyne and inches past the left hand post. Again the Pontoon kept its collective mouth shut, not wishing to let on how close it was.
With three or four minutes to go to half time, Town again faffed about in midfield. No one came out to challenge a United player, right in the middle of the pitch about 30 yards out. He simply chipped the ball into the penalty area to the unmarked NDLOVU, about 10 yards out to the right of the goal, who had drifted into a space between McDermott and Groves. He nodded firmly down and across Coyne. The ball bounced less than Coyne expected and rolled underneath his left hand and into the bottom left hand corner off the post. The crowd reaction? As it always is. Sullen silence and a few isolated moans. We couldn't say that this was a travesty, unjustified or against the run of play.
Sheffield United should have been at least two up, and that without playing particularly well. They were organised with a simple method. They weren't even "up" for the game, but they were "up" more than the Bermuda Shorted strollers in black and white.
Sheffield United had another attack a couple of minutes later. Handyside and Groves stumbled and fumbled their way back towards Coyne, half fell over and Ndlovu was briefly racing clear on the edge of the area. Groves professionally collided with Ndlovu to put him off, but not give away a foul. The ball rolled safely into Coyne's arms. In extra time Devlin wriggled this way, that way and finally this way again, curling a softish shot straight into Coyne's midriff. Yes, Gallimore was going that way as Devlin went this way.
Half time couldn't come soon enough. It arrived and the team was half-heartedly booed off. The performance was reminiscent of so many this year - think Barnsley at home, think Crewe at home. Strolling, disinterested players.
Willems was awful, one paced (and that slower than an injured Livvo) and awry in his passing. Pouton didn't move, and there were several occasions when they were effectively marking each other, moving as if tied together with a broom handle. This, of course, meant that there was oodles of space and time for the opposition, and rarely any opportunity to pass through the midfield.
Campbell had flashes of determination, but at least three times stood with hands on hip rolling his eyes when a Town attack broke down. Coyne's kicking was atrocious - he kicked straight to them after 2 minutes and kept bending it out of play. His only accurate kick was the accidental one, which sent Campbell on his amazing mazy dribble that was the only Town effort of note in the half. I could go on, let's just say only Groves and McDermott were having any effect, and they were less than perfect. There was a lot of arguing amongst the Town team. Where did that team spirit go? Left in a Service Station on the way back from West Brom?
Still, half time. This is where the manager earns his corn, eh?
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk - "I never thought I'd say we miss Coldicott, but we do". "I should have gone on holiday too". "Bit different form last time". "They've run out of Cheese and Onion crisps you know"
The report continues in the Second Half
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