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"Look Ma, top of the world!" - Barnsley Report
By: Tony Butcher
A CALM, warm, clear sunny day and not too hot to stop the players running around. The ground filled up slowly, with the Osmond Stand being eventually half filled by perhaps 400 predominantly yellow clad Yorkshire folk.
Grimsby Town 1 Barnsley 0
01 Sep 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
Both teams warmed up in front of the Main Stand using strategically placed disks for some light ambling, stretches and amateur dramatics. Town use fluorescent green ones, with Barnsley preferring the more traditional white plastic upturned cones.
When the teams were announced, Mr K Donovan received a surprisingly warm round of applause from the majority of Grimsby fans. Perhaps this was subtle psychological warfare, unnerving him with appreciation, rather than derisory groans? The Jellyfish/Gerbil confrontation between Donovan and Gallimore was eagerly awaited by the crowd, a buzz of excitement, no less. Would Gallimore's Norman Wisdom traits be stronger than Donovan's supine shufflings? Had Donovan noticed Gallimore's tendency to retreat in the face of movement, or had Gallimore remembered that Donovan falls over if you look at him in a funny way? Well stay tuned as all would be revealed in the next episode of "Dope".
For once no Town player revealed a "new look" drastic haircut. Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation with the same team as at Portsmouth.
Barnsley appeared in the usual red shirts but with another comedians delight for a sponsor written on their shirt. From the team who were once the "Big Thing" we now have what seemed like a Donovanian admission "i soft". Is that how you conjugate the verb to Donovan? It was so apt for that to be written on the jellyfish's shirt. Barnsley appeared to play a 3-5-2 formation with Donovan floating around somewhere on the right. More on the ethereal Donovan later.
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon and soon lost the ball when it was chipped down the right hand side "channel".
Barnsley simply lumped it forward for Dyer to chase. They may have a new manager who professes to play "football" but their tactics hadn't altered much. Essentially, use Dyer's pace. The tone of the game was set by this opening exchange, Town hit it forward quickly, Barnsley got it back and hit it over the top for Dyer to chase. As you would expect, this didn't produce too much pleasing football, and exceptionally few Town attacks. The ball was mainly down at the Osmond End, with sporadic excursions towards the Barnsley penalty area.
After about 5 minutes, the Town supporters realised that Tubby Miller, the Barnsley 'keeper, at 4 foot 5 inches the widest goalkeeper in the league, was dressed all in black - exactly the same as the Town players. So a slow ripple of disapproval went through the stand. It took 5 minutes, because that's how long it took for Town to get near enough to their goal for us to notice him. Noticing things? Ah, 5 minutes gone and no Donovan seen. We sought him here, we sought him there, but the elusive pumpernickel was nowhere to be seen. We knew he was out there somewhere because he had been named in the team. Still, only 5 minutes, far too early to comment, eh?
Town had a couple of breaks down the flanks which resulted in crosses that were smothered away by the centre backs, with no Town players near. There was a strong suspicion of handball by Chettle after a Jevons cross from the Town right struck him near the, well, hand. The referee was not interested at all, he didn't even bother shaking his head in that exaggerated way referees do. Willems ran into the penalty area on the left, near the bye-line and whipped in a first time hooked cross which trickled past the far post. Jevons was not expecting a first time cross and so, although he was near to the ball, he was not in a position to move his feet towards it. Town didn't go near the Barnsley goal for another 15 minutes.
Between the 8th and 20th minute the ball was permanently within 50 yards of Coyne. The catalyst for this pressure was a long ball by the Barnsley right wing-back which went high over Beharall near the corner of the penalty area on the Town left. Dyer ran behind Beharall, backed into and rolled around Groves before hooking a vicious first time volley straight at Coyne, who swatted it away, almost contemptuously. Although it was straight at him, this was a fine instinctive save. The Town fans hailed "Wales' Number 1". Fortunately he isn't, as he wouldn't have been playing against Barnsley, would he. It's lucky for us that Mark Hughes is stupid.
A couple of minutes later Donovan touched the ball for the first time, which was nice for him. From about 20 yards out he collected the ball in space, turned, and started to advance towards Gallimore, who retreated two steps and simply tapped the ball away from Donovan's boot as the spineless one half stumbled, half crumbled. 1-2-3, like taking candy from a baybee.
Barnsley started to apply a heck of a lot of pressure on Town, simply by hitting it forward quickly and turning the centre backs. There were a few dangerous crosses, with Barnsley players wasting some free headers. None went near enough to goal for Coyne to be troubled, down at the Pontoon end there were momentary flutters as the ball pinged across the goal and around the penalty area.
After 16 or 17 minutes Barnsley almost took the lead. Sheron on the Town left twisted, turned and swept in a high cross to beyond the far post. Dyer out-jumped Groves and headed firmly down and past Coyne. The Barnsley fans were up celebrating the goal. The ball was in, one down. Bummer. Typical Town, blowing a chance to go top by conceding a soft headed goal. No! As if by magic McDermott appeared and whacked the ball off the line.
It really was by magic as no-one saw him (must be these night camouflage shirts). The ball went back to a Barnsley player about 20 yards out who hit a rising drive towards the top centre of the goal. Coyne hopped back and tipped the ball over for a corner. This was the cue for 3 or 4 minutes of further Barnsley pressure, with the ball seemingly constantly in the Town area with the defence desperately heading and blocking. Nothing got through towards goal though.
Town had a minor break away which at least got the ball towards the Pontoon. The crowd continued to bay for the 'keeper to change his jersey and, in about the 20th minute we succeeded. And this helped change the game. There was a laughable period of play during which Miller changed shirts twice.
Firstly he changed his black shirt for a green shirt - so that he exactly matched the colour scheme of the referee. The crowd bayed some more, and a couple of minutes later someone emerged form the dressing rooms with one of the spare yellowish Town goalkeepers' shirts. Miller bared his torso for a second time (a wobbly sight) and put on a shirt that was plainly the wrong size. The arms and length too short, though a bit closer on the girth. Only a bit though.
The Pontoon gleefully and raucously sang "You're not fit to wear that shirt", which was soon changed to the even more accurate "You're too fat to wear the shirt" and "How wide do you want the shirt?". Some light comedy to break up the tedium. Well, heavy comedy given the 'keeper's body.
This seemed to disrupt the flow of the game. Barnsley lost concentration for a couple of minutes and Town took full advantage. On the half way line, near the managers' dug outs, Groves chipped a longish ball down the right into the penalty area. Rowan reached the ball first and rolled past his marker, then turned inside heading towards goal. The defender stayed with him until Rowan was near the 6 yard line, level with the post. Another defender came back to block Rowan and they both must have sneezed as they both fell over.
The ball rolled across the penalty box to JEVONS who swept the ball low in the 'keeper's bottom right hand corner from about 8 yards out, just "off centre". It took perhaps 5 seconds for us to note to the world that we were now top of the league. Joyous scenes, with much wide eyed laughter mixed in with the cheers. That was our first shot, the ball had been up the other end for 20 minutes, but Town had scored. Lethally lucky? Barnsley should have brought another goalie's shirt, shouldn't they.
Cue more urgency from Barnsley, but not Donovan. He was next seen trotting away from the ball flapping his hands like a turkey trying to escape from a large cat. This was a fantastic sight as it confirmed that he was as useless for them as he was latterly for us and that Barnsley were playing with only 10 men. Barnsley continued to press with "big balls" for Dyer, which created many moments of danger, and yet more flutters with free headers.
Their best chance came after half an hour. A long cross beyond the far post from their right wing back, about 40 yards out, was headed back into the centre of the goal. Sheron, about 8 yards out, headed a foot or two over when essentially unmarked. I have a vague recollection of a Barnsley player hitting a very soft cross shot that dribbled past Coyne's right post. No danger. It may have been Donovan.
At about this time Town had what, in the context of this game, can be described as a period of pressure. Willems smacked a free kick, about 30 yards out to the Town right, straight at the wall (which was about 6 yards from him. The referee ignored the pleas for the wall to be made to move back). The player in the wall blocked with his left forearm and the ball squirmed out sideways to Pouton, about 25 yards out, just to the right of centre. He hit a first time volley about a foot high of the angle of the 'keeper's left hand post and bar. It was enough for the crowd to go "Oooooooo", but it never looked like going in.
The only other Town attacks in the half were right near the end when Rowan chased a pass down the left hand touch-line, cut in to the area and played a low cross towards the unmarked Jevons, about 8 yards out at the near post. Jevons was slow to "attack" the ball and a Barnsley defender nipped around him and cleared for a corner. A minute of so later Groves headed a free kick just wide of the 'keeper's left hand post following a free kick on The Town left near the corner flag.
Barnsley threatened a few times, principally through Sheron who always looked dangerous, but never like scoring (he could easily play for us). Sheron, unmarked on the left side of the Town penalty area, placed a nice shot straight into Coyne's arms after the ball had been carefully worked across the face of the Town defence, finally exposing a gap beyond Gallimore. No particular blame to Galloping Tony G here.
McDermott made a superb goal-saving header just before half time. A deep cross from the Barnsley right was flung to the back post where Dyer was waiting to head in from a few yards out. McDermott calmly watched the flight of the ball and glanced the ball away for a corner. A little later Groves managed to volley a few inches over the Town bar when a corner dropped inside the 6 yard box.
And that was the first half. A few Town attacks, even fewer shots. Two shots, one on target, one goal. Barnsley dominated and there were many, many moments when it appeared they were about to score. Fortunately they can't shoot and there was always a Town head or boot which appeared from behind the curtains to deflect, block and generally stop. Town were hanging on but the odd thing was Barnsley looked very uninterested.
It was as if the Spirito de Donovan had infused the entire squad. Gallimore had his easiest 45 minutes for several seasons, it was as if he had no-one to mark. On the infrequent Town attacks, Gallimore merrily galloped his way down the touch-line without a care in the world. The defence creaked, the midfield was far too defensive - both Willems and Butterfield tried to play as the defensive wedge and Butterfield was totally absent from play most of the time. I forgot he was playing. It merely allowed Barnsley to advance at will. Pouton and Campbell were hardly in the game, though Pouton did produce one moment to make the crowd roar - he nut-megged his opponent then did a huge sliding full face challenge to win the ball.
Half time: Grimsby Town 1 Barnsley 0Generally Town passed poorly. Correction. They didn't try to pass the ball. Rarely were three passes strung together before the ball was chipped forward. Ironically, the goal came from a "chip into the channel". Ah, but it was a quality pass rather than an aimless punt. There's a time and place for everything.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"How did we do that?".
The report continues in the second half.
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