League Two Form Guide
Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
Pushing Their Luck: Preston Report
By: Tony Butcher
A HOT, HOT, HOT DAY everywhere except Cleethorpes, where the cooling sea breeze flung itself down the Grimsby Road to see the Lennie's Aces? Odd weather, as it was hazy, occasionally sunny, and later drizzly. Hot air for a cool breeze, wish you were there?
Grimsby Town 2 Preston North End 2
25 Aug 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
The crowd was slightly less than that for the so called Battle of Lincolnshire, with Preston bringing about 4-500. The crowd was relaxed and quiet, possibly because they didn't know who the Preston players were, and none had bad hair. No easy targets equals the silence of the lambs.
Town warmed up in mis-matched kit again, with Jeffrey being 6 and 9. Who's that little shaven headed bloke over there? No, can't be! McDermott? Yes, now McDermott has gone for the Pouton cut, abandoning a hairstyle that has served the club well for 15 years.. That hair has seen several promotions and relegations, Wembley, Laws, Lyons, lesser disasters and historical victories. And no-one thought to give it a testimonial. What will it do now that it's retired?
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation. No surprises in the positions with Mr 3rd-on-the-team-sheet, Jogging Danny B, again the midfield playmaker.
Preston, playing in all yellow, kicked off towards the Pontoon and the game immediately had a higher tempo than Tuesday. The Preston front two looked very lively, constantly changing positions and moving. It didn't look like this was going to be a dull 0-0. Town had the first attack of note. The ball was chipped down the right, Jevons twisted and swept in a cross to Campbell, about 15 yards out just past the penalty spot. He tried an acrobatic overhead kick, which looped gently over the bar for a goal kick. Preston promptly broke down their right through Healy, who curled in a dangerous cross to the centre of the gaol, which was cleared by a small, short haired Town player, which only rules out Willems, Beharall and Groves. Gallimore, as ever, doesn't count.
Town had five or so minutes of pressure which resulted in a couple of efforts on goal. Although Jevons and Rowan were twisting and turning on the edge of the box, they weren't getting anywhere near enough to shoot. They won a couple of corners, which Willems tended to hit towards Beharall beyond the far post, which tended to get Town another corner. The variation on this theme came when Preston managed to head the ball out of the box, where, from 20 yards out just to the left of centre, Gallimore steamed in and volleyed onto the underside of the Osmond Stand. He didn't even hit a strip light. After Jevons tripped over the ball and fell beautifully, the referee awarded Town a free kick 20-25 yards out, about the same position from which Gallimore hit the roof. Willems miss-hit the free kick under the wall, straight at the 'keeper.
And that, sir, is that for the next 15 minutes as far as Town were concerned. Preston took control of the game as Town kept whacking the ball forward too quickly, abandoning any passing in favour of the "direct game". This means we give the ball direct to the opposition. Preston began to weave intricate patterns around the Town players, giving a lesson in team play and, especially, passing and movement. Gregan sat in a holding position 20 yards behind the strikers whilst everyone else ran around making cross runs, bent runs, zig-zags and generally confusing the Town players. Well, some of them. Most of the Preston attacks came down the Town right, which was fortunate, as it meant half were stopped. But only half. After a quick raid down the Town right Healy miss-hit a volley straight to Coyne from about 10 yards out, just to the right of the penalty area. Preston had kept possession and managed to get a "three against two" under the Smiths/Stones/Findus Stand. Another raid down the Town inside right resulted in Healy clipping a fast cross to the near post, whereupon Groves thighed the ball over the bar from about 3 yards out.
Preston should have taken the lead after about a quarter of an hour. As Town rushed out to try and catch them offside, the ball was knocked over the top down the channel between Groves and McDermott. With the Town defence performing a mass impression of Tony Adams, Macken turned and ran off alone towards the ball. He gathered, advanced towards Coyne and from about 8 yards wide of the right hand post and 12 yards out, tried to arrogantly poke the ball inside the near post with the outside of his right boot. Like a bad bowler he got his bias wrong and the ball bent away from goal, going 6 yards wide. A really poor shot as it was a sitter really. Or perhaps he was intimidated by the sight of Wales' number 7 or 8 goalkeeper.
Nothing much happened for another 10 minutes. They had the ball, we had it occasionally but gave it back to them pretty smartish. There were a couple of fouls on Jevons, which made him hobble and one of their defenders got booked for going straight through from behind. Gallimore was taken out in similar fashion and he too ended up hobbling. Town didn't even get a free kick on this occasion.
And then Town scored, which was a bit of a surprise to all within Blundell Park. A Town attack was repelled (ie a hoof towards Jevons' head was cleared easily by one of their massive centre backs) with the ball going high towards Groves just inside the Town half. He feinted to whack it forward, but laid of an exquisitely disguised pass with the outside of his right boot to Butterfield, just inside the Preston half near to the touchline. Butterfield dinked in a rubbish, aimless, hopeless pass straight to the lumbering centre half, Murdock, about 10 yards wide of the goal on the Town right, 15 yards from goal, with Jevons three or four yards away.
Murdock decided that that was the moment he would show the world his all round skills, that he isn't just a big bloke who can head the ball, he has subtleties suppressed by the rigidities of English football. He decided to head the ball down onto his right toe and dribble upfield, launching a searing counter attack. No, he resembled a nodding donkey. He headed the ball down, half tripped over the ball and Jevons nipped in front of him, turned and passed inside to the unmarked ROWAN, who calmly placed a left footed shot to the right of the 'keeper. And the crowd woke up. Well, the Town supporters did, the Preston lot sank back into their seats and rested their collective chins in their collective hands in resignation.
I cannot recall much happening for the next 5 minutes, except the season ticket holder in front of me broke his seat by sitting back too far in satisfaction. Oh, and a man with terrible hair walked by- very long and grey with a comb over so far back it started above the right ear of the man behind him. Preston got a corner on the Town left after a ball into the channel between Beharall and Gallimore was run out of play by Beharall. As the corner was about to be taken, the Town players ball watched and all congregated around the six yard box, leaving two great big blokes unmarked near the right hand corner of the penalty area.
The corner was hit low and hard to the centre of goal, 6 or 7 yards out. Beharall ran too quickly towards the ball and misjudged the flight, ending up missing the ball by a few inches. MURDOCK, The Nodding Donkey of Preston, thundered in and smashed a firm header into the top left hand corner of the goal. This was perhaps Beharall's only mistake all game, but a mistake it was. The Town supporters slumped forward slightly and let out that resigned sigh of recognition. We'd seen it a thousand times before, we still can't defend corners. We'd also half expected Preston to equalise, as they had by far the better of the game, and had been, quite frankly, better.
The game went a bit hay-wire for the next few minutes as the referee started to make odd decisions, all of which went Town's way. Little things, like unseen shoves and trips and especially goalkicks. With 10 minutes left of the half Preston had another fast raid down the Town right. A high ball was played up to Macken, on the touch-line near the half way line, facing his own goal. He controlled the ball with his right instep, sending the ball down the touch-line as he swayed his body to go back towards his own goal. He spun around and passed Groves, who was travelling towards Mablethorpe.
Macken raced down the touch-line and, when about 12 yards from goal, rolled a cross towards Healy at the near post. Healy dummied and let the ball roll on to Gallagher whose shot, from about 8 yards out at the far post, cannoned off Willems' head as Gallimore slid in. The referee gave Town a goal kick. Cue Preston outrage. Cue five minutes of hacking and moaning as the referee gave everything to Town. He really took against Preston, which was nice. Maybe Lucky Lennie has charmed referees into being rubbish in our favour? Gregan lost control and eventually got booked for scything down Gallimore. He gave one of those exaggerated hands out wide "What have I done? Who me?" expressions.
Apart from a few goal-mouth scrambles at both ends, that was it for the first 45 minutes, just about the last action being a Rowan-Jevons dummy and pass which resulted in Rowan spinning past his marker on the left of the penalty area. As he was about to shoot, Murdock slid across with a superb tackle. Half-hearted penalty appeals emanated from the Town faithful, but the crowd was pulling a sheepish face as they made the claim, as they were embarrassed to even think about claiming a penalty for that. And so they should have. Even this referee couldn't give Town a penalty for nothing.
Campbell had been totally invisible in the first half, hardly helped by the fact the ball was always on the other side of the pitch. Preston constantly attacked down their left, and Town always seemed to punt it forward down the right. Pouton was tightly marked, being double booked so that he had little space to surge and step over, and Butterfield was anonymous. Willems again looked uncomfortable and the result was that Town rarely got the ball and wasted it when they did.
How anyone would believe that Jevons and Rowan would out-muscle and out-jump two hulking great centre backs (Murdock and Lucketti) I fail to understand. It barely requires a brain to see it. The defence was often stretched and exposed, particularly on the right. McDermott made another unforced error, passing directly to a Preston player 30 yards out. That's two errors in one season. Perhaps it was a hair thing, very Samson.
Half time: Grimsby Town 1 Preston North End 1
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Beharall's looking good, though he's still got big ears".
The report continues in the second half.
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