Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
By: Richard Dawson
A depressing, wet, Grimsby evening greeted the Blackburn hordes as they disgorged from their many charabancs. Not rain-lashed as such, just wet and miserable. Later on we were told that there were 6500 or so of us present.
Yet again the ground looked suspiciously fuller than that, with over 2000 Rovers fans completely filling the Osmond and open corner, and the rest of the ground looking 90% full (bar the two other open corners).
Grimsby Town 1 Blackburn Rovers 4
The Town crowd felt in tune with the weather when they noticed Butterfield lining up in the centre of midfield, and Donovan posing as the third striker in a suicidal 4-3-3 formation. However we kicked off in the right direction and exhortations from 'our Danny' got the Pontoon into good early voice.
And the opening minutes produced a series of bright and breezy moves from our lads, with Livvo making himself a good opportunity before deciding to hit the goalkeeper rather than the net. Still, early days, and the ball was in their half much more than ours so we 'must be doing all right'. And for almost half an hour we kept it up. I counted 6 or 7 (OK, so I wasn't exactly counting as such) goal bound efforts from Town boots - not that they were ever really going in, but a useful metric to evidence our superiority in terms of both possession and territory. Of course I must mention Gallimore's free kick. Gallimore is, apparently, the new black. Except his penchant seems to be hard shots in to the keepers midriff, rather than the 'just over the bar' variety which has become last years model. He duly obliged.
Half an hour had gone, and we were enjoying the game. Blackburn, when they got the ball looked slick, fast, and appeared to have all the attributes necessary to be a top six D1 side. But they seem to me to lack the wherewithal to make it in the Premier if promoted. Too many old players who will get found out big time next season. Jansen was the pick of their crop - mobile, and difficult to mark. We knew he could score, but he is also a good all round player.
Not that marking his man rates very highly in the Gallimore list of priorities these days. I suspect that he and Macca had been asked to 'run the extra mile' and try to provide width when Town went forward. And Galli duly went forward often, only occasionally to return to normal duties. If young Campbell had not backtracked endlessly in to the left back position things would have been much worse. And by the end of the night it was bad enough anyway - right?
Perhaps I should mention the Town midfield before we discuss the horror and shock of the first Rovers goal. Pouton worked hard, but seemed slightly intimidated in this seven figure company. He seemed horribly one-footed, as though embarrassed to try his left foot at such a glitzy evening. Hence he sometimes resembled a puppy running around in circles chasing that elusive tail. Campbell has already been mentioned in dispatches, and had a good game throughout. The third member of this attempted triumvirate was Mr Butterfield, who flattered to deceive in the first 20 minutes or so.
Pontoonites could be heard to mutter things like "Christ, even Butters is doing all right", and so on. But, young dogs always revert to type, and the Butterfield midfield traits of endlessly jogging sideways from one side of the centre circle to the other; the gesticulations to colleagues to pick up their markers (whilst failing to close his own man down); the 'rabbit in the headlight' sideways passing; all the agonisingly embarrassing and infuriating signs of a player well out of his depth in this position soon returned.
4-3-3 was just not a viable bet in this company - too narrow, liable to be overrun by a faster, more technically adept set of opponents. What was LL thinking of playing this way? And why didn't the senior players tell him it would never work? Or even his so-silent number two who was heard to say on Humberside after the game - "4-1 was a bit harsh, but they are a good team you know". Any team can look good if you play in to their hands and let them.....
And so I have to speak of the unspeakable. A Coyne mistake, nay a howler. The last thing the Pontoon faithful were expecting - and it happened right in front of their eyes. We saw the heads drop in the back four, and poor Coyne looked suicidal. To their credit the crowd got noisily behind Coyne within 10 seconds of this jaw-dropping tragedy. But whereas Rovers had only been inching their way in to this tussle, suddenly they were a lap ahead.
Town lost their rhythm and the ball. And with possession the gap between the teams widened from a narrow ravine to a yawning chasm. We had barely the time to conjure thoughts like "lets hang on until half time, maybe LL will have the sense to go 4-4-2" before Blackburn were two up. Handyside made a good challenge to the left side of the goal, but instead of finding touch the ball unerringly found Johnson whose looping cross found a small unmarked Israeli gentleman, happy to perform a textbook header past the rooted Coyne. Naturally Gallimore was nowhere to be seen...
Despite the soaking pitch the kids played their match through half time whilst the Mighty Mariner shuffled disconsolately around. Toilet talk was all sympathy for Coyne. No-one was suggesting we could win this one now.
It got worse in the second half. Again, when we least expected it after another false dawn of a start. The third Blackburn goal was the business. A fast flowing move, beautifully weighted pass, and a clinical finish from the man. We were not at these races. Scary times, as the cricket score loomed.
To give Town their due, they dug in and tried to play their way out of trouble. LL has obviously decided these 11 were the only ones fit to don the black and white stripes tonight. So they decided to make a fist of it. For 15 minutes or so we enjoyed lots of possession and plenty of those attacks of which only Grimsby seem to be capable - flowing passing football, balls in to feet at the corner of the box, the layoff in to the shooting position, the embarrassed "I don't shoot actually" routine by the player concerned, and an agonised "oooooh" from the crowd. I suppose this is classed as entertaining, thrill-laden football, but writing about it at the thin end of a 4-1 beating, it sure doesn't seem that way to me.
But we did score one nice goal (which the Town defence attorney offers in mitigation). A nice move, culminating in a deep cross from Donovan, which Livvo firstly cleverly anticipated, and secondly headed back across goal to Cornwall who solved the conundrum of taking the ball cleanly, turning through 180 degrees, and shooting in to the net (from all of three or four yards) in no time at all. Cool hand Luke.
Town scoring seemed to jerk the game back in to reality. Sadly our reality is to lose to teams like these - heavily. So Blackburn restored the three goal difference, with another well worked goal, which ruthlessly exploited our sleepy defence.
However we did get a few minutes to savour the nervous silence which pervaded the away fans after our goal. No more songs of going up, no more taunts to their watching friends from Bolton, no more jibes about our fishing habits. By the time they were 4-1 up though, Grimsby had been forgotten in the euphoric prospect of getting back in to the top flight.
Afterwards Mr Souness was careful to give Grimsby credit for they way they fought, and felt duly sorry for the goalies mistake which changed the game in half an agonising second. But he was too magnanimous for my liking. What needed to be said was that Grimsby fought but they weren't good enough, weren't quick enough (in thought or deed), weren't disciplined enough in holding position, or picking opponents up. And worst of all they were guilty of the old crime - making half chances and then spurning the opportunity to shoot.
To complete the story - Handyside got booked, and our bench of David Smith, Jeffrey, Clare, Hyldgaard, Willems were left to fester. A pity because 'Iron Mike' at least deserved a run out.
NickO's man of the match goes to Cornwall, more for scoring than anything else. The lad tries, and is learning. Hope springs eternal.
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