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Fulham Report

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 16/05/2001

The following is the final Division 1 report for this season presented by Tony Butcher. The Fishy Team take this opportunity to record their thanks to Tony for his reports throughout the season and his support of the Mariners with his lady Sue as season ticket holders and kit sponsors of players..

How Life's Meant To Be!

A clear bright day with a warm sun and wicked wind blowing from the North. The pitch looked green and flat and the opposition big and fat (in financial terms). The whole of the Osmond end was jam-packed with chirpy, cheeky Cock-er-nee types tasting normal life for the last time. Goodbye real world, you're leaving us today, enjoy life on planet ponce.

Division 1 - Grimsby Town 1 Fulham 0

The pre-match warm up was a mystery to me as I didn't get in until all first XI had left the pitch, leaving just Hyldgaard, Croudson, D Smith and Jeffrey milling around like wallflowers at a party.

Rumours abound regarding Burnett's trousers - allegedly "clam diggers" or "peddle pushers", whatever those are. It turned out to be baggy tracksuit bottoms with the legs cut off below the knee. He looked ridiculous, but stylishly ridiculous, of course. Cornwall was introduced to the crowd before the game and was given a lively round of applause. A non-too subtle attempt to woo the youngster with some Lincolnshire Love.

As usual Town slightly cocked up the occasion when the announcer tried to build up the atmosphere for the teams as they ran out. He wound up the crowd to "get behind the Mariners" a full minute before the teams emerged - so the cheers and roars had ended way before they appeared.

Town lined up in a 4-5-1 formation as follows :- Coyne, McDermott, Groves, Raven, Gallimore, Pouton, Butterfield, Willems, Campbell, Donovan and Livingstone.

At first Pouton played on the right, with Butterfield as the holding player in the centre. Donovan appeared to start behind Livingstone as a forward midfielder. It was clear that Town were going to try and stifle the Fulham midfield through sheer weight of numbers - something that won warm nods of approval from the huddled masses.

1st half

Fulham kicked off towards the Pontoon and the first "action" was a cracking tackle from Gallimore, which deposited the ball, and Lee Clark into the Main Stand. The referee gave a free kick, which was extremely harsh as Gallimore had won the ball. Clark just happened to be in the way of arguably the best left foot in the division (copyright programme writers' standard copy). Nothing came of the free kick, thankfully.

Fulham were not lying down, nor were they at full pelt, but they weren't interested in getting injured. Town were snapping and snarling into tackles, which displeased a couple of their players. The number 40 (yes, 40), Stolcars, looked particularly unwilling to have his leg broken.

Town had the first shot of the game after 4 or 5 minutes. Gallimore, about 25 yards out on the left, chucked a long throw towards Livingstone near the edge of the penalty area. The ball was headed out to Campbell, about 20 yards out near the corner of the box and he hit a first time half volley a couple of feet past the 'keeper's right hand post. It brought the crowd to its feet, so served as an hors d'oeuvre.

Five or six minutes later Pouton surged down the right after wining the ball through sheer strength of personality. He stepped over and passed inside the full back for Donovan, who sprinted behind Phelan and crossed to the far post. The ball hung slightly in the air and Campbell hit an acrobatic scissor-kick from 12 or so yards out, just past the far post. The goalkeeper saved at the foot of his right hand post.

So far so good and quite exciting. Town had bullied Fulham off their normal calm passing possession football, hunting in packs with Pouton as chief wolf. Incredibly (and only those who were in the ground will truly believe this) Butterfield was an amalgam of Pouton (step-overs) and Burnett (shimmy and 50 yard inch perfect pass to Donovan) not once, not twice, but three times. Incredible.

After 15 minutes Fulham got round to attacking. And what an attack, showing us why they have run away with the division. 30 yards out from their own goal a midfielder collected a short pass from defence, spun around and rolled the ball forward to a team-mate, 5 or 6 yards inside his own half, near the centre circle.

Another spin and first time pass 25 yards down the pitch between Groves and McDermott for Boa Morte to sprint on to. Boa Morte was standing 5 yards in front of Gallimore when the pass was made and ran between Gallimore and from behind Groves. It was all done without any thinking time, pure instinct. Boa Morte carried the ball to the right of the Town area and, from about 8 or 9 yards wide of the gaol and 10 yards out, hooked a left footed shot three or so yards wide of Coyne's left hand post. Huge relief in the Pontoon, which was made flesh by some appropriate gestures towards Boa Morte. First attack, should have scored.

The next 10 minutes had most of the goalmouth action. Town pressed forward down the right with Pouton carrying the ball towards the edge of the area. He laid the ball out to Donovan, hugging the touchline like a favourite toy. Donovan dribbled past Phelan and fizzed in a low cross to the near post where Livingstone threw himself in front of Melville and glanced a header towards the far post. The ball hit Melville on the head and flew away for a corner. Willems curled the corner in to the centre of the goal where the 'keeper caught it and stumbled behind the line.

None of the players appealed for a goal, but that didn't stop a section of over-excited Lower Smiths/Stones/Findus-ites.

A couple of minutes later a throw-in about 20 yards out, in front of the over-excited Lower Smiths/Stones/Findus, was looped in to Livingstone, about 8 or 9 yards out, near the corner of the 6 yard box. Livvo then produced one of those trademark sublime, dainty turns on the smallest of sixpences and hooked a shot across the face of goal and inches past the 'keeper's right hand post. A very "Oohsome" moment.

An "Oohsome" moment of a very different kind followed almost immediately.

Again Fulham created danger from deep inside their own half with quick incisive football. Two passes and it should have been a goal. A pass was played up to Boa Morte on the half way line in the centre circle, he spun to his right and played a perfectly weighted straight pass inside Groves, who stretched and stretched and missed the ball. Saha, about 30 yards out, right in the centre was alone and scampering towards Coyne.

From just outside the area Saha tried to clip the ball over Coyne, who was by now 15 yards from his line. The ball struck Coyne's big chest and flew out to the left. Saha kept on running and tried to scissor kick the ball in from a position about 8 or 9 yards out, 6 or 7 yards to the left of the post. Fortunately it went a couple of inches wide of the angle of post and crossbar. Even more appropriate gestures emanated from the Pontoon with audible "phews". Perhaps it was going to be Town's day after all?

I've ignored a shot from Goldbaek, which dribbled slowly to Coyne as it was rubbish. Even Goldbaek turned away in disinterest after he hit it, so you won't be interested either.

After 26 or 27 minutes Town again pressed down the right. McDermott swung in a cross to the centre of the penalty area towards Livingstone. The ball was half cleared to the edge of the area, then headed further out by a Fulham player. Groves, about 30 yards out, stepped in front of Saha and headed back to Livingstone, right on the edge of the area in the centre.

Livvo shielded the ball, shimmied and shammied, then tapped the ball back to Groves, about 25 yards out, just to the right of centre.

GROVES thwacked a first time shot through a thicket of players on the edge of the box, the ball flew through and appeared to go between the 'keeper's legs and into the centre left of the goal. Goal, goal, goal, goal ,goal, goal, goal, goal, goal, goal, as I believe they say in Brazil.

The stadium erupted (well, except the Osmond Stand, of course) and Groves ran down the touchline in front of the Stones/Smiths/Findus soaking up the adoration. The crowd had been through periods of defiant singing and apprehensive silence. Now it was noise city.

The rest of the half was played out on an emotional high, but with very little goalmouth action. Fulham had one very dangerous moment after 35 or so minutes when a cross from the (Town) right went to Boa Morte just beyond the far post. He cut inside Gallimore and Groves and just as he was about to shoot both defenders flung themselves at him, blocking the ball back to the Fulham striker. Boa Morte laid the ball back to Goldbaek on the edge of the area. Again Gallimore raced towards him and the less-than-great Dane spooned the ball risibly over the bar.

I can't remember anymore Town chances. So the half ended with Town roared off with a standing ovation and a deafening "The Town are staying up".

Pouton was simply wonderful. Here, there and everywhere. Stopping them and starting us. Surging and stepping to his hearts content. In one magic moment he did three step-overs near the corner flag and finally gave away a free kick when he literally stepped over a Fulham defender. He was so confident he did a double step-over in the Town penalty area to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick.

Groves and Raven had played very intelligently. Neither had the pace to match Saha and Boa Morte so they did not try to out-sprint them - they concentrated on reading the through passes and (with only one exception) were faultless in intercepting them.

It would, however, be wrong to single out any particular player in the first half. They were all quite marvellous. The tactics were absolutely perfect and each cog did exactly what it was supposed to. Fulham didn't have any time on the ball and were, essentially, hustled back towards their own goal. Or deposited in the advertising hoardings.

As the half time scores in the other games filtered through, the ground buzzed and rocked

Stu's half time toilet talk

Silence. No-one was speaking, No-one could believe it. No-one wanted to tempt fate.

The report continues in the second half

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