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25/08 Preston 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
BURNETT replaced Gallimore at half time, to the cheers of many. Butterfield reverted to left back with Burnett back in his rightful position. Preston didn't make any ch-ch-ch-ch-changes at half time.
Grimsby Town 2 Preston North End 2
25 Aug 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
The first five minutes of the second half were awful, for Town. The defending was lax, loose, shallow, lazy and, in essence, useless. They played like individuals in a park game, there was no collective cohesion, or individual concentration. Small mistakes abounded, with control lacking and passing non-existent.
The rest of the team were no better. They played like someone had put a downer in their tea. Within two minutes Preston had taken the lead. It was a series of little errors. Firstly Willems completely missed a semi-clearance in midfield, allowing the ball to roll towards the Town defence near the half way line in the centre. It was half stopped, with Butterfield twice getting in the way, and Groves sliced his clearance high, high, high in the centre of the pitch.
Gregan strode forward and headed firmly back over the defence, down the centre right. HEALY sprinted clear and hit a low volley across Coyne into the bottom right hand corner from about 20 or so yards out. Further seat slumpage by the Town supporters, some nearly dropped their newly acquired pies. Faces were pulled, rumbles were heard, though that was meteorological rather than psychological. Out towards Donna Nook the sky was dark grey and flashes of lightning could be seen. Donna Nook and Blitzen by Preston then. And it began to drizzle.
Two minutes later Preston should have scored again. There was a incursion by enemy troops down the Town left, the ball was half cleared, then hooked back over the defence between bandaged Danny B and Groves. Healy sprinted clear and hooked the ball across into a space between Groves and McDermott. Macken leapt up in the air and tried a sideways scissor-kick hook volley from somewhere near the penalty spot. The ball drifted a few inches past Coyne's right hand post. More thunder and lightning was spotted behind the Osmond Stand. Pathetic fallacy? And Gallimore wasn't even on the pitch!
And then, at last, Town started to "get into them" and take some kind of control of the game. Not much, but still some. And the catalyst? Burnett. Without doing anything spectacular (or breaking out of a dignified trot) the ball started to be played through the midfield. Willems perked up and Town started to weave intricate patterns of their own, with one touch passes flowing from one touch-line to the other. And lo, it came to pass, quite literally. Space was found and attacks mounted.
Five or so minutes after Preston had scored a very curious incident occurred. Town broke down the left with Campbell (ah yes, I remember him well) skipping gaily down the touch-line and playing the ball back to Butterfield as Preston doubled the manpower on the scampering Scottish Englishman. Butterfield, from near the corner of the penalty area, swung in a cross towards the near post, 8 yards out. Murdock dived across and headed towards the 'keeper's right hand corner.
The 'keeper changed direction and parried the ball away, collecting the rebound. The players ran back up field with Burnett waving his arms and tugging his own shirt. The linesman had his flag across his chest and the referee ran over to discuss the matter. The crowd were confused and silent. Then it gradually dawned that Town had been awarded a penalty. Preston went a little bonkers whilst the Town fans celebrated the fantastically wise decision. We surmised that the referee gave Town the penalty 'cos we needed it. Thanks matey.
POUTON shambled up and replicated his West Brom penalty to the centimetre. He may have to vary it next time. This brought the Town fans to their feet and to gleeful voice. The Preston fans were less enamoured. The broken seat became a destroyed seat as the season ticket holder in row N of the Pontoon sat back in even smugger satisfaction. The seat is now backless and wide open, a bit like the Town defence at the start of the half then.
Preston became a little mentally unstable after the referee's rather excellent decision to award Town an invisible penalty. They abandoned the passing game which had torn Town apart and resorted to playing longer balls over the top and down the flanks. This still caused many a fluttersome moment, but not many clear cut chances. They also started to argue, throw their hands in the air at every decision and misplaced pass, and kick Town players. As the referee was already not very amenable to their cause, this only meant that Town got more free kicks and the game started to be played in their half more, which was nice for us. In broad Lancastrian the Preston fans shouted "Yer, dawn't gnaw wot, yer doo-in". Au contraire, the referee did, he just didn't like you.
The only chance Preston created after Town had equalised happened after about an hour. Healy sprinted down the Town left to run onto a longish ball down the touch-line. Groves half stopped him outside the penalty area, way to the left of goal. Unfortunately, the ball continued to roll forward, but without enough pace to go out of play. Healy got up and hit a low cross to the near post about 6 or 7 yards out.
A Preston striker (sorry couldn't tell who, but then again you don't care, do you, as it was "one of them") with his back to goal, controlled the ball on his chest and dinked a little chipped hook shot with the outside of his boot over the top of Coyne. The ball sailed gently towards the far corner. It hit the inside of Coyne's right hand post and bounced back into his arms. Lucky Town. Again. Preston didn't have anymore clear cut chances, just goal mouth scrambles, especially from corners. Coyne had to do one fly-kick outside his area and one save, right at the end when a substitute twisted and hit a first time hook volley straight into his midriff from the right hand corner of the area.
Town only made their 'keeper touch the ball a couple of times. Jevons received the ball 25 yards out with his back to goal and in one movement turned and knocked the ball over the defender. It was just a bit too strong a knock as the goalkeeper raced off his line and tipped the ball away from Jevons as he lunged forward. Pouton surged forward on the right and hit a low hard pass to Rowan just outside the are. He shimmied and created a bit of room but miss-hit a left foot shot straight at the 'keeper.
There were only two more Town attacks worth describing. With 20 minutes left Jevons, about 30 yards out just to the left of goal, received the ball facing the Osmond Stand. He swivelled and surged past two defender, all in the same movement. He awaited the full back to come over and cover, before tapping the ball outside to the unmarked Rowan, who went for the bye-line, cut inside and clipped a cross to the far post. Pouton raced in and tried a running, jumping first time flying volley, which skidded off his right instep for a goal kick. Near the end a short corner on the Town left was swung to the far post by Campbell. The goalkeeper missed the ball and the ball skidded off Groves' forehead as he was challenged by two men-mountains.
There were some "moments of danger" created by Rowan and Campbell, with some trickery down near the bye-line on the Town left, but Preston managed to clock the resulting crosses for corners. The only other "action" revolved around Willems. As the sun broke out, Willems made the crowd swoon with an immaculate double drag back a la Zidane, you could almost see Burnett's brow furrow at someone stealing his tricks. Later on Rowan did the same (though he was unmarked at the time, so that was just showing off).
In the 67th minute, Willems and the gnarling and occasionally snidey Gregan had a confrontation. Gregan took exception to Willems strong tackling and twice did little back heeled kicks at his ankles, like Beckham on Simeone. Gregan then deliberately ran into the back of Willems, kicking his ankles, trying to say it was an accident. This was all behind the referee's back. My money's on Willems in that fight. A bit earlier Pouton kicked out at one of their defenders after receiving a whack from behind. There was an undercurrent of malevolence about Preston when they didn't get their own way, a bit like Manchester United. Not surprising given the preponderance of ex-Moan Utd trainees in their squad. Town players are, of course, model pros, almost angels. Of course.
There was a longish delay at the end of the game when someone got a whack on the head, Pouton, I think. The referee stopped the game and ordered a drop ball to be kicked back to Preston. Burnett, cunningly, curled the ball down the touch-line and out for a throw in, right next to the corner flag. Town then did a "full court press". Ooh, cheeky! The referee played EXACTLY 3 minutes of added time and the game was over. A point gained, rather than any lost. Preston, on the whole, played the better football and had much the better chances. The equaliser was a pleasant gift from the officials and probably the only way Town would have scored another goal.
We were fortunate, decisions went our way all game, as did rebounds. They were numerous scrambles were the ball ricocheted back to a Town defender in the area. It's about time that fortune favoured us. There were a lot of sub-standard individual performances. Campbell was a very peripheral figure, and when he did have the ball he was curiously lacking in energy. Butterfield had one of his bad midfield days (better at left back) and Willems only looked totally solid with Burnett beside him. Burnett did a lot of safe things, but his presence brought the ball down and Town back to equality. And of course he won the penalty.
There were a lot of gaps in between the defence and midfield and between individual defenders. In essence, it was a holey performane. We got away with it, again.
Luck and Lennie, luck and Lennie, go together like a horse and carri-age.
Nicko's Man of the Match - Not easy, as no-one was outstanding, with some downright poor. On balance Beharall, I'd say. Oh I just did. Although the defence was very shaky, with little co-ordination, Beharall used his pace and perception to cover for the mistakes of others. Without him, Preston would have had many more opportunities.
Fantastic, for Town fans. A measure of his Town-phyllic nature was that he didn't book any striped warriors, not even Willems. And as for that penalty - what a superb decision. And the way he kept giving goal kicks when Town players headed it out. Great. He gets 12 out of 10. Ten for him and two special bonus points for the linesman. Objectively, he'd get 5, but I don't feel objective today. Objectivity never buttered no parsnips, as they say.
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