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25/09 Gillingham 2nd Half
By: Richard Lord
I'M NOT entirely sure if the PA announced the substitution, but then again no one was really bothered. Jeffrey had come on for Jevons; whether or not the ex-Evertonian was fit enough to start was debatable.
Grimsby Town 1 Gillingham 2
25 Sep 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
From the start Town looked a lot brighter. Burnett began to control the midfield and Jeffrey was showing how to keep the ball. Always willing to take the ball and lay it off, he actually provided a breath of fresh air. Rowan also looked livelier after a rather dull first half. Town worked the ball around the Gillingham box and as a result the crowd made noise for the first time in the match. Without actually creating a clear-cut chance, Town just looked better than what they did in the first half. Then disaster struck.
Gillingham had pushed the ball down the left but Groves assumed control of it, and then passed it straight into the path of King with Broomes the other side of the penalty area. The on-loan defender got to the striker quickly and held him up, but King had no trouble in passing the ball into the corner of the net, beyond Coyne's reach. Heads sank; hands went on hips and a shake of the head from the manager in the dugout.
Lawrence made his third and final change of the game and brought on Allen in place of Campbell and Town went 4-3-3. Have I mentioned Pouton yet? As usual he got stuck in, looked good with the ball but either lost it or passed it behind a Town player. And still no signs of that left foot. The crowd were treated to many experimental outside-of-the-foot crosses, which proved to be fruitless.
Once or twice Rowan was released down the left as the game became more end-to-end. No more of that pass-it-across-midfield type game, as the pace visibly picked up. Rowan got into the area, then to the by-line before swinging across a great ball which just evaded Burnett's head at the far post.
Rowan again later found space down the left and struck a hard but low cross to the near post where several players all collided, including Bartram and Pouton.
The ball leapt up at Burnett who was literally standing on the line, but frustratingly couldn't get the ball over it, even if he had to use part of his arm to at least try. The ball fell to Pouton about 6 yards out, and he smacked the ball against the bar. Gillingham cleared, went on the break and nearly scored themselves but it was our turn for the woodwork to come to the rescue.
The curious-looking little referee awarded a free kick to Gillingham identical to the one they won to score from. The kick was taken quickly, and with the Town defence still asleep it was played to the far post where a Gills player rose to head across the face of the goal where it hit the post and was cleared off the line to safety by Broomes. Town cut open from a set piece, but by then questions were being asked about the Goodness Gracious Me actor in green on the pitch. Or is he that man in the AA advert?
Jeffrey carved out an opportunity on the hour mark to get Town back into the game. He was played free on the edge of the area but just off centre, and his shot was again beaten away by Bartram, who had now come to the Gills rescue on more than one occasion. Still Town couldn't afford to throw everyone forward as the speed of Gillingham on the break just caused the defence havoc.
Then another disaster struck as McDermott lay injured on the ground. Town played on without him, got forward into a decent position, then a cross to Pouton (who was now on the left of the three-man midfield) was over-hit and the former York man couldn't keep it in. Whether or not that pass was meant to be kicked out, or if, as it probably was, a poor pass, remains to be seen. After a minute or two, McDermott was brought off, and with about 15 minutes left the game seemed to be getting away from Town.
But with 10 men Town rallied and got what they finally deserved. Sloppy play (for once) by Gillingham let in Pouton, who raced through towards the edge of the box, and played a perfectly weighted pass to Allen, exactly to where Jeffrey missed his chance earlier. ALLEN made no mistake by drilling along the ground to Bartram's right and into the back of the net. It was just what Town needed, but with 10 men and 14 minutes left, you just sensed it had come a little too late.
Paul Groves in an aerial challenge on Iffy Onoura
But Gillingham will be kicking themselves for not wrapping the game up after that. They won a corner which was completely miscued by Groves, letting in Onoura who solidly headed it down to Coyne's right, and the Welshman appeared from nowhere to make a fabulous save. That kept us in it, at least. Gillingham then carved us open again with some neat play down the right. The ball came into the box, where, waiting at the far post was a free man, but he somehow struck the ball wide when it looked easier to score. Then, minutes later they went close again and should have scored. Again the ball went into the box, pinged around a bit before (perhaps the same player) the ball was lifted over the bar, a-la-Rowan against Forest. Don't ask me how precise that was, I was sat in the Pontoon.
It was getting closer to the final whistle and it all but seemed a first home defeat of the season. Then we sprang to life (as we sometimes do when there needs to be some sort of urgency) and Rowan could have scored. He broke into the box and drove a low shot across the goal that was destined for the far corner. He may have been a big bloke but Bartram got down well and got an arm to it, with no Town players following up. If there had been, he would have had the simple task of kicking the ball into an empty net from 5 yards, but the way the game had gone, he'd have probably missed it.
Then, when we all thought the four minutes of injury time were played, Jeffrey was given a chance at the death. He was quite wide but could only hit it straight at Bartram who parried away for another corner. Coyne came forward for this, Butterfield swung it in but then the referee blew for full time. The second half had been entertaining, and you just felt that minus the Groves calamity, we might have got something from the game.
Credit must go to Gillingham, and more precisely their keeper Vince Bartram. He left the whole of the Pontoon frustrated as he made save after save. All of them were fairly comfortable, but also vital.
I can't help but only believe that it must be coincidence, that since Town were paired to play Liverpool in the Worthington Cup, we haven't won since. Like the time we first got to Wembley, we won just once in eight attempts. Maybe it is coincidence, but after this performance people may be thinking differently.
Man Of The Match
I think a man of the match on this occasion might actually go to a player who gets a 6 in the Grimsby Evening Telegraph. All of the team were on the whole very poor and not at their best. Campbell and Pouton were visibly tired, the defence at times didn't know what they were doing, and we only started to look lively when we went down to 10 men and played a 3-3-3 formation. Overall I thought Rowan had a good game, he was the one shining light to come out the dismal evening. Behind him, Coyne deserves a better defence than he's getting, and had no chance with the goals. He had no serious saves to make so therefore I'm going to give it to Rowan. Poor first half, but then again the whole team were poor in the first half.
It took me most of the match to work out where I had seen that referee before. I'm sure he had officiated a Town match last season, but couldn't remember which. He was a decidedly shaky referee, who looked frightened to give anything Town's way. Gillingham had no such problem however, and they won plenty of free kicks by just falling over. Town won free kicks thanks to the linesman who flagged umpteen times for offside when Gillingham came forward. The referee was largely inconsistent, and didn't know what to do at times when someone was fouled. Looked scared. A 4.6 on the whatever-scale.
Photos courtesy of gillsconnect.com
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