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Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
No Flies on Town - Stockport Report
By: Tony Butcher
A PLEASANT, warm, sunny day with perhaps 400 Town supporters sprawled across an open terrace (seats! what luxury) and a covered stand down the side (the one the TV cameras are in).
Stockport County 3 Grimsby Town 3
22 Sep 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
The atmosphere was a little odd, more like a picnic than the pick of the Nationwide fixtures. No-one got out a blanket and tuppaware with ham sandwiches in, but it was a close run thing. Town warmed up with the usual cones and dodging routine, this time they resembled the old Pacman game. Running up to the first set of cones, then jumping up and down sideways. The old pros also stretched like ballerinas on their way back. Gallimore laughed a lot.
Bad hair alert instantly picked out Richard Sneekes, but that isn't a challenge. The Stockport midfielder Karim Fradim (wasn't he a character in From Russia With Love?) has potential, especially the way he walked. It was a "look at me, look at me, I'm a star" rolling, exaggerated strut.
The Stockport matchday magazine was a bit of a curiosity. The Stockport team sheet was full of players from strange sounding places with strange sounding names. Kuqi, Wiss, Helin, Van Blerk, Sneekes, Dibble, Gibb. Bit like the Euro-version of the Trumpton Fire Brigade. And as for the Town section. Well, I ask you, has there ever been a more inaccurate run down? We have Tommy Coyne in goal, John McDermott is a former West Brom player having joined Town straight from school, John Rowan was signed in the summer, but made his debut last season, we have Manno Willems in midfield, and we signed Coldicott for Â£200,000. Apart from that, it was perfect. In our honour the recipe of the week was Moules Mariniere. Now I wonder what Town could do to reciprocate? I would also suggest those with the programme turn to page 11, bottom right. "In support of the Mariners". It appears to be an advert for underpants.
The tannoy announcer obviously fancied himself as a Disc Jockey. He announced "that record was by a local 5 piece band - Rrrrrrromer". I half expected him to continue "And for all you lovers out there, it's Phyllis Nelson with Move Closer". But he didn't.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation. Butterfield played as the wide right midfielder with Burnett in his rightful position. On the pitch.
Town kicked off towards the huge stand and away from the tanning Town fans. Within 5 seconds Groves had sliced the ball out of play for a Stockport throw in. Stockport kicked the ball out for a goal-kick and Coyne took what seemed like a minute to take it. It's nice to see Town being so positive. A couple of minutes of scuffling, huffling and general rubbish play ensued until Stockport played the ball out to their left winger, right on the touch-line, about 25 yards out. McDermott challenged as the player, moving away from the Town goal, attempted to control the ball. The ball was "controlled" out of play. Throw in to Town. Errr, no, despite no appeals from crowd or Stockport players the referee gave them a free kick. Stockport took the kick from at least 5 yards further in and towards the goal, with the ball curling into the middle of the penalty area, about 8 yards out. HARDY rose above a Town defender (I can't remember who) and headed the ball to Coyne's right, into the corner of the net. Eyes rolled, tuts were tutted, Town were losing. Again. What a week.
The next 10 minutes were not memorable. Stockport played like they always do, the Mick Channon way - "balls in the box". They were up and at Town, hustling, harrying, and heading. So the result was a few scares as the ball bobbled around in the box, across the box, over the box, but nothing went in the goal, or into Coyne's hands. Town looked defensively terrible, allowing the Stockport wide players acres of space. All typical stuff for Stockport away.
And then Town woke up, which coincided exactly with the first time Burnett had the ball and another Town player moved. What a coincidence! Who'd have thought it, eh? Burnett, inside the Town half just to the right of centre, shimmied, sending his marker left as he went right. McDermott sprinted down an inside right channel and Burnett waited, then weighted, a perfect pass that went inside the full back, and past the centre back. McDermott bounded on into the penalty area and, from near the right corner, seemed to slightly miss-hit a cross, or possibly a shot, which trundled across the face of goal towards Jeffrey at the far post. A defender wellied the ball out for a corner on the Town left. The corner swung in, was headed out and Butterfield, from about 25 yards out, to the right of goal, struck a thumping half volley towards the goalkeeper's top left hand corner. The 'keeper produced a spectacular Coynian leap and parry for another corner.
The game was not very good, with both defences looking a bit of a mess. Town's looked disorganised and prone to panic when the ball went in the air, Stockport's just looked panic stricken when the ball went in their half. Coyne was forced to punch out a long throw and one of the Stockport midfielders volleyed over the bar from 6 yards following a cross from the Town right. Gallimore's presence may have been enough to disrupt the mental process required to put boot to ball. It would have been easier on the hearts of the Town supporters if Gallimore's boot had done the disrupting. Another swinging cross from the Stockport left caused a lot of flapping about when the ball bounced up and hit Gallimore's bottom, then got caught under his boot. The ball rolled out towards the penalty spot, so Coyne picked it up. No-one even contemplated appealing for a back pass.
Just as the torpor was settling over the ground, and especially the away end where at least one person was searching for a crossword to do, something wonderful happened. A Town player (no-idea who as at that moment I was contemplating the stand to our left, which had grass growing out of the roof) crossed from the right into the very centre of the Stockport penalty area. Jeffrey made a little space for himself and did a cushion header into a massive space, slightly to the right of goal. ROWAN ran on and miss-hit a shot across the face of the goalkeeper. The ball seemed to take an age to travel a few yards, bobbling in true Trevor Brooking fashion over the goalkeeper's right hand on to the inside of the post and in. After a second or two the Town supporters realised the ball had gone in and leapt up in amazed laughing celebration.
Stockport continued their direct, thrustingly simplistic play, which Town just can't cope with. During the rest of the half there were at least three crosses that fizzed through the centre of the penalty area, missing a dozen players, a couple of corners that did likewise and McDermott calmly swept the ball away from the line when a free kick on the Town left was floated to the far post where two unmarked Stockport players got in each others way. The ball was headed down on to their hands, which took the pace off the ball for McDermott to deal with. After the Town equaliser there was a lot of arrogant passing around by the Town defenders in front of their own goal, which ended up causing difficulties as Stockport were a bit annoyed at this mickey taking and "got stuck in". Coupled with a rotten referee, and even worse linesmen, this succeeded in sucking the game towards Coyne and allowing Stockport players to fall over and get free kicks.
Stockport were very vulnerable on the break, seemingly terrified by the "pace" of the Town forwards. Even aimless whacks downfield worried them. One centre back nearly scored an own goal when he tried to head back to the 'keeper, not realising the keeper was behind him. Fortunately for them he unwittingly miss-headed straight into the 'keeper's hands. A couple of minutes after that Coyne drop kicked straight down the middle, to accompanying moans from behind his goal. Stockport allowed the ball to bounce and Rowan ran past the defender and tried to head over the goalkeeper, who was by this time clattering into him. The ball went over the 'keeper and was easily taken away from goal by a covering full back. If Town can induce panic with big balls down the middle, Stockport really are in trouble. Butterfield volleyed massively high and wide in Poutonesque style following another corner cleared to him 25 yards out and I can't recall Town doing anything else in attack. Oh, hang on, Campbell cut in and hit a rising drive straight at the goalkeeper from 20 or so yards, it was enough for us to say "OOOoooo".
The Stockport fans "Ooooooed" in the last few minutes of the half when a free kick was curled a foot or two wide of Coyne's right hand post. It was never going anywhere near goal and the "Ooooo" mightily amused the Town supporters. The half was meandering dozily toward its conclusion, people wandered off to get a pie, others to the toilet, some got a book out and started to read, some started to phone their mates to confirm that it was a dull 1-1 at half time, other watched the clouds drift by and the planes arc off towards their destination. A stray Stockport fan pointed out the old hat factory next to the ground, someone else remarked that the shopping precinct next to the ground was reminiscent of Scunthorpe. We looked up and they'd scored. Again no-one was paying much attention. Obviously neither were the Town defenders. The ball was knocked into space on the right of the Town area, near the bye-line about 10 yards wide of the goal. The Stockport attacker hooked the ball across goal towards the far post, about 8 yards out. Beharall watched the ball sail over towards Hardy, who was backtracking as the ball sailed away and behind him. HARDY nodded back across the goal and the ball looped slowly over Coyne and into the same spot as the first goal. Slack play by at least two Town defenders and Coyne was badly positioned. The ball didn't loop high over him, he sank into the ground as the ball passed across him.
A couple of minutes of added time during which not much happened, except Town got a free kick half way inside the Stockport half. The players piled forward and the referee blew for half time as the ball was kicked. Losing to a poor version of Crystal Palace, but what did we expect? The Town defence had been so loose Stockport could have had two or three more, as Town just could not cope with crosses of any kind. Coyne was stuck on his goal line whilst the rest of the defence ball watched. Beharall looked like he hadn't played football for a long while. Obviously, like the team, he hadn't benefited from the "rest" he had on Tuesday. Apart from two shots, Butterfield had been largely absent, particularly in defence where McDermott seemed to have two players to mark all the time. Burnett kept going over to provide some assistance, but that left a gap in the centre.
It wasn't all bad, Town looked likely to score when they went forward, principally because the Stockport defence looked atrocious.
Half time: Stockport County 2 Grimsby Town 1
The plague of midges and money spiders continued unabated. Was the ground built on a swamp, or maybe an old Indian burial ground? Could we have the game abandoned through the risk to health? They may be tsetse flies! There was no half time entertainment on the pitch, apart from someone being presented with a bicycle for something or other. Over the tannoy came an important announcement. The ground hushed. Someone had to go home as they'd left the bathroom window open. Now that's something you wouldn't get in the Ponceyship.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Has Butterfield opened his legs and broken into a stroll yet?".
The report continues in the second half.
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