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"Belisha Beacons Of Hope": West Brom Report
By: Tony Butcher
AN OVERCAST, windless afternoon in the capital of grey. After about half an hour it started to rain persistently and quite heavily and didn't stop until the Town fans left the stadium.
West Bromwich Albion 0 Grimsby Town 1
18 Aug 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
Around 200 or so Town supporters lazily slouched in the usual place (to the right as seen on TV), whilst the players warmed up in the usual way. Only it wasn't the usual players. Who's that? And that? And that? We had to await the team announcements to find out "that" was Ford, "that" was Busscher and "that" was Ermes. There was a flutter of excitement as Butterfield couldn't be seen. Until someone pointed out that he'd had his haircut. We now have half a dozen young players with same haircut, height and build. Perhaps Lawrence has insisted upon an official haircut (look out for that in the club shop, although they probably haven't ordered it yet and it'll only come in XXL size).
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. Plenty of scope for talking triple Dutch on the bench then. No surprises in the positions, with Danny Butterfield again in midfield. The groans started before the whistle, with one cruel person observing that Gallimore had already pulled a hamstring "Off Galli, off, you're injured. Save yourself for next season". Today, Matthew, Willems was pronounced "Minno Vollems", rather in the style of the English Policeman in 'Allo 'Allo.
And now the kit. Town trotted out and resembled 10 belisha beacons all in a row. Anyone prone to migraines beware, or at least take some sunglasses. Perhaps it's part of Lennie's grand survival plan. At home we have a kit so dark we can't be seen, away we play in a kit so bright the other team is glared into submission.
West Brom kicked off towards the Town supporters, immediately whacking the ball high towards two players trundling down the Town right. Nothing at all happened for 5 minutes. The ball ping-ponged between the two sets of centre backs and no-one get anywhere near goal.
Then old Bob Taylor, near the right corner of the Town penalty area, received the ball with his back to goal, shimmied, shammied and twisted away from goal, hooking in a right foot volley straight at Coyne, who was stood next to his right hand post. Nice turn, nice shot, nice for Danny.
The next 10 minutes were a bit better from Town, with the occasional break, but no-one got into the West Brom penalty area. There was a lot of one-touch interplay in midfield involving Pouton, Willems and Butterfield, but the attacks foundered when the strikers received the ball. Rowan looked leaden footed and weak, Jevons played like he did last week. Still, the midfield play was impressive and there were hints that the style of play was reverting to the golden age of pass and move; Childs, Gilbert, Rees. Tight shorts, receding perms and dodgy moustaches. Nostalgia just isn't what it used to be.
But the majority of the play was midfield clatterings and balls over the top. West Brom were not subtle and seem to have regressed since last April. Distinctly unimpressive as a team. They relied on Ruel Fox drifting into the space between the forwards and the midfield and then running at the defence. He did cause flutterings of anxiety throughout the game, but always chose to do the wrong thing. He could be relied upon to pass when he should have shot and vice-versa.
On about 17 minutes Town had their first effort on goal. Some possession play around the edge of the box saw the ball worked from right to centre left. Willems stepped to his left and smacked a hard drive about a foot over the bar. There isn't much more Town attacking to describe so I'll get it out of the way. Butterfield had an awful scuffed shot from 25 yards which went 10 yards wide. He ignored the cried of "Don't shoot, don't shoot" emanating from the knot of Town supporters. Pouton drove down the right, cut inside, playing a one-two with Butterfield and drilled a low shot across goal about 3 yards wide. The goalkeeper didn't even bother moving to cover it.
There were a couple of raids down the right which resulted in low crosses to the near post being hooked away with difficulty by the West Brom defence. Credit where credit is due - Jevons did display a couple of neat tricks in jinking through two challenges to cross on one of these occasions. Town's best effort came from Campbell, who controlled a high ball on the touchline, dribbled down towards the corner flag, cut inside and tried to hit a swirling right footed shot into the top left hand corner. The goalkeeper saved it comfortably at full vertical stretch.
That's all Town's attacks in the first half. Nothing else went near goal. Campbell was effervescent down the left making some marvellous surging dribbles down the touchline, taking on and beating two defenders every time, but nothing more than a throw in came of these. Pouton looked lacklustre (must halve been that virus) but he never gave up. He was more use defensively than as an attacker. Willems and Butterfield effectively locked up the midfield with some solid blocked tackles, with Jogging Danny B only making one mistake in passing.
After about half an hour he collected a short pass about 35 yards from the Town gaol, unmarked, with plenty of Town players to pass to. He decided that at that moment he was Glenn Hoddle reincarnated (with shorter, less curly hair) and tried to stroke a 50 yard pass across the field to Gallimore, who then, of course, would gallop (or possibly gallumph) his way down the left, swing in a vicious cross with his beautiful left foot for Jevons to score from 8 yards out with a diving header. He failed to notice Ruel Fox standing 20 yards away and succeeded in setting up Fox for a free run on goal. Fortunately Beharall sprinted across to cover and Fox decided to pass sideways when he got to the edge of the penalty area. But that was Butterfield's only mistake all day. Even his harshest critic (official) who was sat 3 seats from me agreed that young Mr Butterfield had a fine game.
West Brom weren't much more of an attacking force. Dobie looked tall, strong and with some pace. Beharall generally marked him well, though that doesn't mean Dobie wasn't useful, dangerous and impressive. After 20 or so minutes, Dobie received the ball 20 yards out, in a central position, with his back to goal. He swayed his hips, spun around and hooked a left footed volley a yard past Coyne's left hand post. The Town fans raised their eyebrows and let out a collective "phew!". Appleton blasted a rubbish shot over the bar from outside the area early on and Sigurdsson had a couple of shots blocked from long range. As you have spotted, nothing near goal yet.
That brings me on to the big incident. A long ball from West Brom down the centre was headed on down the centre from 35 yards out. Taylor was way offside but no flag was raised. Coyne came out, stopped, then came rushing out to the edge of the area. Taylor lunged forward, Coyne lunged forward. Coyne won the tackle with the ball rolling forward next to him. He tried to pick the ball up, but realised he was just outside the area, brought both his hands back above his head, got up and kicked the ball away. The referee ran towards Coyne beckoning him forward. A free kick to West Brom. The Town supporters were livid as Taylor was offside, both had gone in feet first and it didn't look as if Coyne had made contact with his hands.
The West Brom fans were, of course, of the counter view and bayed for Coyne to be sent off. The referee chickened out and didn't even book Coyne, which was ridiculous given that he had awarded West Brom a free kick, presumably for handling the ball outside of the area. This raised the noise level in the ground from soporific indifference to a seething, raging cauldron. The free kick was 20 yards out, slightly to the left of centre. The ball was tapped sideways and Sigurdsson smacked the ball, at around force 8 on the Willems scale, on to the bottom of the crossbar, the ball bounced very near the line and was bundled away from the area by Butterfield, I think, as Coyne stared at the sky wondering where the ball had gone. As in all good pantomimes it was "Behind you" Danny. Was this going to be yet another lucky day? Some day Lennie's legendary luck would break, surely?
Although West Brom laid siege for a few minutes after "the incident" they didn't get near goal, with crosses intercepted by omnipresent Butterfield, or blocked by Campbell, Pouton, Willems, Groves and Beharall. In the last minute of the half they did get behind Gallimore and whip in a very dangerous cross from the left. The players rushed in towards Coyne and Butterfield, Mr Cool, chested the ball to Coyne's right from 6 yards out. Coyne flopped gently on to the ball.
And then it was half time. Gallimore had succeeded in getting himself booked when he trundled over to a West Brom player on the touchline, bundled him over from behind, then stood over him and shouted. Now that was stupid. Willems failed to get himself booked despite some clunking challenges and at least one forearm smash. 2 hours a football and not been booked? Surely some kind of record. Pump up the Vollems, Menno.
Not great football, not even good football. West Brom had the ball too much for the game to be a feast of passing and movement. The game was very, very tense and it felt like there would be a sending off somewhere. The referee had been very good generally, but for the one big decision he had to make he was weak. Something was going to happen in the second half, you could almost feel it.
Town had defended well, with no West Brom players getting in shots within the area, no free headers, no real scares apart from the Coyne did-he-handle-so-what-they-missed incident. Coyne only had one save to make, and that was very easy. A special mention for McDermott who gave a mini-masterclass in the art of defending without tackling. In attack? What attack?
Half time: West Brom 0 Grimsby Town 0
So half time 0-0, dull day, and quite frankly a dull game. There was hope that something would turn up in the second half as Town were slowly improving as the game wore on. Still, to be honest, neither side looked much cop.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"The ref's been good, hasn't he?".
The report continues in the second half.
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