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18/08 West Brom 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
No changes were made by either team at half time. Well, last April, West Brom bombed Town from the start of the second half, the tone being set by a chance within a minute of the restart. Guess what happened?
West Bromwich Albion 0 Grimsby Town 1
18 Aug 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
Within a minute a ball over the top, down the Town centre left saw Dobie shrug off the Town defender (I think it was Beharall but as they were over 100 yards away and he looks a bit like Groves, I couldn't tell) and be alone, in front of Coyne, 15 yards out level with Coyne's left hand post. Dobie paused for a second, making Coyne commit himself, and then swung a wild right foot shot that sliced a foot wide of the angel of the left hand post and bar. Head in hands by Dobie, cheers of relief from the Town 200.
A minute later Taylor reprised his first half turn and shot, this time hitting it low to Coyne's right. Easy pickings for the Laddie in Grey. After 10 or so minutes the "something" we expected happened. On the left side of Town's area Dobie received the ball with his back to goal. He turned quickly and attempted to surge through two Town defenders (it seemed to be Gallimore and Beharall) . He kicked the ball a bit too far and crumpled in the huge gap between the two Town players, a la Lester. An obvious dive, so an obvious penalty. Beharall was booked for complaining about the referee's competence. In which case 200 Town supporters should be booked too.
We sank back in our seats glumly, resigned to a defeat to hum-drum opponents courtesy of a poor referee. Coyne never saves penalties, we know that, he saves everything but penalties. It was hardly worth watching. Coyne jumped up and down, waved his arms, danced from side to side and resembled a manic Mr Motivator, or as was remarked to my left, a prototype Nintendo 'keeper.
I thought the penalty taker was hairless, though others thought it was the hirsute old man Taylor (who just keeps rolling). Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. The penalty was rolled to Coyne's left and magically Coyne leapt to his left and blocked it.
Up went the Town supporters. Down went the Town supporters as we saw Fox steam in with Coyne on the ground. Coyne jumped up and forward to majestically tip the resulting shot over the bar. Up went the Town supporters again. Wildly, ecstatically. Lucky, lucky Lennie. It doesn't matter whether he knows what he's doing, 'cos he's lucky.
So maybe we'd get lucky in attack? For another 20 or so minutes it didn't look that way. Town were completely redundant as an attacking force. After about an hour, Pouton did have a shot after a neat breakaway down the left. Jevons collected a "channel ball", turned inside and rolled the ball to Pouton, 25 yards out on the centre right. Pouton tried a delicate and audacious right foot curling chip into the top right corner. It looped softly a yard wide with the 'keeper dismissively turning to get a ball from the ball boy almost as Pouton hit it. Town had one other shot in the game; near the end Jevons turned and hit a right foot half volley miles over from 20 yards out. Town just didn't attack, because the old habits returned. It was a typical 2nd half away performance. The players retreated towards Coyne, the clearances became desperate, the forwards couldn't keep the ball when they did, occasionally, get near the ball, and it was a siege.
There was one difference though. We have been used to seeing high ball lumped into the box and the opposition winning header after header. This didn't happen at all, West Brom won a couple of headers but they were soft and non-threatening. There were scares and one chance, but they all came from long distance. There was one exception, a West Brom break down the Town right resulted in a player getting to the byeline, pulling back a low-ish cross towards the near post and a player heading firmly towards the opposite corner. Coyne stepped across and tipped the ball over.
The Baggies chances? A low Sigurdsson shot from 20 yards, across Coyne, on the Town centre-right skidded off the pitch and our own Danny Invincible could only parry the ball out towards the centre of the penalty area. Fox followed up and it seemed an easy tap in to the big open goal. Coyne got up and flung himself forward at Fox and blocked the shot at point blank range. A minute or so later a West Brom player was near the right corner of the Town penalty area and appeared to set himself for a deep cross. He then dinked in a cheeky left footed shot towards the bottom right had corner. Coyne raced across and half caught the ball at the foot of the post. He picked the ball up just before a West Brom player slid in on the follow up.
Mmmm. Ermm, what else happened? Nothing much apart from a couple of scything, hooking tackles from Pouton, one Willems tackle which would have sliced the West Brom player in two if he hadn't, thankfully, missed in Widdrington-esque fashion. Jeffrey replaced Rowan with 20 or so minutes left. Rowan had been less lively than against Crewe, looking small, weak and slow. He isn't built to act as the strong man up front. Jeffrey hardly touched the ball, but he was getting nearer, at the end the ball was within inches of his body, rather than yards. Next week he may even touch the ball.
Or am I too cruel to Iron Mike, after all he did have a part to play in the only other thing that happened in the game. With 15 minutes left Town did something very strange. They started to pass and move down the right hand side, with midfielders supporting the forwards, rather than sitting back to defend the expected counter-attack. Pouton, Butterfield, Willems and Jeffrey played little triangles around the West brom left back, resulting in Jeffrey being set free by Willems near the bye-line, 12 yards to the left of the goal. Jeffrey clipped over a cross to the far post with Campbell sprinting in. The ball went over Campbell with him ending up in the back of the net.
A West Brom defender ambled over to towards the corner flag and (I don't think it went out for a throw in) kept the ball in, passing back to one of the centre backs, just inside the area, 7 or 8 yards in from the bye-line. Campbell disentangled himself from the net and sprinted over to the defender, who had absolutely no idea that a very bright coloured object was hurtling towards him at speed. Campbell jumped in front of him, and attempted to take the ball back towards goal. The defender (Sigurdsson, I think) pulled him down. Penalty!
"Who's going to take it?" was the question. "Pouton" was the answer. Oh, he can't shoot. That Birmingham penalty was a fluke. He's bound to miss. It must be something about the West Midlands air that breeds pessimism and lugubriousness, even in the occasional visitor. How could we doubt lethal Al? After a delay caused by West Brom making a substitution (cheap gamesmanship that the referee shouldn't have allowed) POUTON raced in, curled his long run like Gary McAllister, and rolled the ball calmly into the bottom right hand corner. I can't remember if the 'keeper went the right way or not I was ball watching, I admit it, just like the West Brom defender. The difference being, I'm now happy and he isn't. Pouton and most of the team raced over towards the Town fans behind the goal, celebrating wildly. Pouton did his funny high stepping run and arm jig, followed by those determined air punches.
There isn't much to add, West Brom had the ball and did "Beharall" with it, with young Mr B doing a passable Handyside impression. As the game wore on more and more West brom players passed the ball out of play and they started to argue amongst themselves. There was a lot a falling over, principally because of the rain. In one comic minute everyone who went near the ball fell over. Well I enjoyed it, anyway. With over 5 minutes left the West Brom fans began pouring out of the stadium, which, of course, added to the glee of the Town supporters.
The occasional song did then spring from our lips, which alluded to their early departure from the ground. Four minutes of added time were announced, much to the incredulity of emboldened and euphoric Town supporters. In the 6th minute of added time West Brom were given a free kick for diving, which came to nought. Lawrence spent two minutes trying to get Bussher on for Willems, succeeding after the free kick was taken (and headed out by West Brom for a goal kick). With the very last kick of the game Busscher touched the ball for the first time in professional football. Game over, Town fans happy as can be, Town players came over and celebrated like they did towards the end of last season. Now that's team spirit for you.
Overall we looked defensively sound. Beharall looks comfortable within the team, like a part of the club, rather than a short term hired hand. Gallimore played well, Butterfield even better, Pouton was energised by scoring and, despite being obviously not fit, always gave his all. Town looked like a solid (if rather dour) team, with nothing up front. Town almost bored them into submission. Some things never change, eh? The usual worries occurred, with West Brom always seeming to have a player fee on the wings, as Town defended "narrowly". Fortunately West Brom (like most teams in this rotten division) hadn't got anyone with vision or the ability to pass accurately over 3 or 4 yards. Their problem, not ours.
So only 44 more points needed then. Still a lot of "ifs" to go until April, the biggest being the avoidance of injuries. Like last week, don't get too carried away. Town ground out a fortunate win against limited opposition who were missing their best striker and their best player. The difference between the teams was that Town are a team, West Brom were a bunch of similarly clad employees. Coyne should have been sent off (given that the referee gave a free kick). The resulting free kick hit the bar and bounced back off the line. They missed a penalty, Town didn't. It was clearly a game that would be won by the team scoring first. One day our luck's going to end.
Nicko's Man of the Match - despite his penalty save and the other two good blocks I will avoid giving Coyne man of the match. Butterfield played very well, as did many others at the back. On the balance of play it has to be Stuart Campbell. He fizzed up and down the wing, bursting forward, dribbling on long, long runs down the touch-line, a bundle of energy. His perseverance resulted in the penalty for Town, and he also made some excellent covering tackles and clearances in defence. So there you are Fizzing Stu, it has to be.
The referee Scott Mathieson performed perfectly adequately until he had an important decision to make, then he was a bit of a weasel. If Coyne handled, then he should have been sent off (and he wasn't even booked). The West Brom penalty was an easily spotted dive. I was surprised when he gave Town's penalty, even though it was clear. He failed to give Town a couple of free kicks when Campbell and Jevons were scythed down in the second half. Both were when they were bursting through the middle towards goal and the West Brom defenders slid in at 90 degree angles and legged up our little yellow scamperers. He managed to get both sets of supporters raging at his inconsistency. Very, very poor. On Nicko's scale of refereeing competence I give this man 4.2.
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