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New Balls Please - Rotherham Report
By: Tony Butcher
A CLEAR autumnal evening with an inconsistent breeze blowing down the ground from Osmond to Pontoon. The Rotherham fans virtually filled the Osmond Stand and the rest of the ground was pretty packed too. But there was something odd, strange and eerily absent.
Grimsby Town 0 Rotherham Utd 2
05 Oct 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
Ah, thatâ€™s it, the permanently temporary seating between the Findus/Stones/Smiths stand and Pontoon had disappeared. Why? Where? Perhaps the club had flogged them off to pay some travelling expenses? Maybe one of the directors has a function on his back lawn tonight? "Itâ€™s a mystery".
Town warmed up in a less ostentatious fashion than usual, no great leaps, swirls or intricate patterns. All very boring and mundane. Jevons was lethal in shooting practice, curling free kicks over Ermes with incredible precision. A portent?
Town lined up in a 4-3-3 formation. Burnett played in the middle, flanked (allegedly and theoretically, in that order) by Campbell and Pouton. Allen was assigned the free floating Donovan role, formally known as the Black Hole. In future this position should by reclassified as anyone who plays there is cast into the abyss and is not seen again. And Croudson was given a big supportive cheer when his name was announced, which was nice.
Rotherham played in a pastel blue ensemble with dark blue flashings, their goalkeeper wearing a fluorescent green shirt, exactly the same shade as emergency workersâ€™ anoraks. How apt for the bottom teamâ€™s goalie. The referee played in all black, his assistant too. Yes, thatâ€™s right, all black. Bit of kit clashing with Town. The referee was exhorted by many in the Pontoon to change his shirt, which he studiously ignored.
Rotherham kicked off towards the Pontoon. Within 3 seconds they had wellied the ball way, way down field for a Town goal kick. Excellent! They really are that rubbish! Weâ€™ll get loadsagoals tonight, was the collective day dream of the Town crowd. Then we saw how Town had lined up, the narrowest 4-3-3 youâ€™ll ever see. The green, lush pasture beyond the penalty area was untouched by Grimsby feet. What does it matter, theyâ€™ll win easy against this lot. Ah, which "they" though?
Town had a great 3rd minute. Well, some great seconds in the 3rd minute. Allen, with his back to goal about 25 yards out, just to the right of centre, controlled a high pass. He shimmied to go right, cut back towards the centre and, from the middle, swept a left foot drive inches past the goalkeeperâ€™s left hand post.
You have now been informed of all the Town attacks in the first half. I am, of course, ignoring the three crosses from Danny Butterfield which went into the crowd, the cross from Campbell which went further into the crowd, and the corners which never got beyond the 6 yard box. At one point Jevons had the ball on the edge of the area. That was exciting, wasnâ€™t it.
In the 10th minute the referee replaced the ball for the second time, concerned that the second ball had gone flat. No mate, that was the game, not the ball. Just so history is not misrepresented, in future the important piece of information I have not yet revealed was that the first ball was kicked out of the ground. Later returned, so at least Town wonâ€™t be liquidated just yet for not having enough balls.
Rotherham had some attacks, but Robins kept being caught offside. Very offside. Croudson didnâ€™t touch the ball for ages, then he caught a cross. There isnâ€™t anything to describe in the first half except Allenâ€™s shot and the Rotherham goal. Literally nothing else happened. The game was an embarrassment to Division Three. How humiliating that it was the "top ranked" league game being played, so all the national media were there. All you need to know about this half was that Town kicked the ball up in the air and Rotherham headed it back. Sometimes they broke away, running at the heart of the Town defence, mostly not.
In the 25th minute Town "won" a series of throw-ins down the left hand touchline. This being Town, the first one was 25 yards from the Rotherham goal, the 4th was 20 yards from the Town goal. The ball was eventually given to Townâ€™s self-styled play maker...Pouton, who thwacked the ball downfield to their â€˜keeper, being at least 25 yards and 45 degrees out in his calculations. At this point I, like the crowd and Town players, lost interest in the proceedings and watched as the vibrant orange moon started to crawl over the top of the main stand. Somewhere in the middle of the pitch, just to the right of centre, the ball was at the feet of a big lumbering stroller, Monkhouse, who ambled forward. He kept going, picked up some momentum and went in a long, straight run from somewhere below the Findus/Stones/Smiths stand towards where Gallimore usually is. Except this was a massive, massive void, bereft of footballers, and life as we know it. He surged into the box and, from a position about 10 yards to the left of the goal, about 6 or 7 yards out from goal placed a perfect cross low towards the far post, between Croudson and the final defender who, unbelievably, was Burnett. ROBINS trotted forward and from about 17 inches out, slid the ball into the goal at the far post.
The Pontoon erupted with vituperative accusations at most of the outfield players and, especially, Lawrence. A couple claimed Robins was offside, but that was more a Pavlovian reaction than a real belief. As the half progressed (if progressed be an appropriate word to use in proximity to these two teams) the wild, angry crowd got wilder and angrier. The performance was individually and collectively one of the worst seen for many a year. "4-4-2, 4-4-2, 4-4-2" chanted isolated pockets of the crowd. "Lennie youâ€™re an idiot" rang from the right of the Pontoon. "Sort it out Town" from the left. Poutonâ€™s reaction was to hack a Rotherham player down from behind, right in front of the referee. He should have been booked but was just told to calm down. "You show â€˜em Al" cried a teenager. "Yeah, get sent off. Thatâ€™ll really show â€˜em" retorted a sarcastic older supporter.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Rotherham Utd 1
Thatâ€™s the story of the first half. Town had one shot which missed. Rotherham scored with their one shot The crowd got very, very angry. The minor details included Butterfield accidentally handling a long cross, which no-one appealed for, and Beharall deciding to showcase his talents before a national audience of 12 by dribbling the ball out of defence in a loopy (in all senses of the word) 50 yard run which started in front of the directorsâ€™ box and ended 10 yards further in field, with a scenic diversion along the edge of the penalty box. The English language is a vast arena from which to select appropriate words to describe and encapsulate events. A simple, short word is required. I donâ€™t have to tell you what it is.
No-one was playing well, there were degrees of awfulness. The scale starts at Croudson (didnâ€™t have to do anything, so made no mistakes) to Butterfield and Pouton, who were "competing" for the award for most appalling performance ever in a striped shirt. These two were almost beyond description in their incompetence. Neither was capable of passing to a team mate. This isnâ€™t an exaggeration, they were pathetic. Both specialised in slicing the ball out of play, with Pouton adding short passes to Rotherham to his repertoire. Poutonâ€™s strutting stance didnâ€™t endear him to the crowd. It showed a certain attitude which was not fitting for the performance. To give him some credit, he did run around a lot in the first half. He ran 50, sometimes 60 yards to get the ball back and pass it to a blue shirted man. He was almost the hub of their midfield. His worst moment was when Burnett won the ball inside the Town area, on the right, to break up a Rotherham attack. Pouton, near the touchline, hit a first time pass through the centre of the Town penalty area. Great cross, wrong end.
The formation dictated the awfulness, gaps everywhere, players walking around like headless chickens. Things had to change. Would they? What was the most illogical thing to do? - Lawrence was bound to do it.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"I havenâ€™t been this year. How come weâ€™re mid-table? Pure luck".
The report continues in the second half.
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