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Bread and Butter Puddings - Sheff Utd Report
By: Tony Butcher
A WARM, steel grey, drizzly afternoon in South Yorkshire. A few hundred Town supporters sat silently in the bottom tier of the stand they always put us in (to the left as seen on TV). If you like a party with a bit of atmosphere Bramall Lane was not the place to be.
Sheffield United 3 Grimsby Town 1
13 Oct 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
The locals were not exactly banging on the gates to be let in to see this feast of football, and the Town fans seemed to have attended more out of duty than hope. After the Lord Mayor's show indeed.
The Town players warmed up with arbitrary passing and movements, whilst Willems and Jevons took it in turns to practice brilliant free kicks from outside the area. Each one arced into the top corner, absolutely perfectly. Sheffield United players practised heading the ball.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, starting as they did against Liverpool, with Beharall at right back, Campbell and Butterfield in centre midfield. Not many tall players there, but who needs height against those renowned little ball players of Bramall Lane? Warnock is famous for eschewing power for finesse. And CEEFAX were right in their prediction that "Coldicott will make the staring line up".
Disappointingly, Sheffield United didn't choose the number 33, Ben Croissant in their team, nor did any of their players appear to have suspicious hair.
Sorry, the game was very boring, so I failed to note that most important of details - who kicked off. Town played towards us, the faithful few, in the first half wearing that vivid orangey-yellow kit, so at least we could see who wasn't moving. The first 13 minutes passed off peacefully, no shots, no headers vaguely towards goal, no crosses that went across goal, nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not even any bad tackles or laughable passes. Neither side looked bothered, with the exception of the Sheffield number19, Suffo. He was very squat, very, very wide and, on closer inspection, had a really odd hairstyle (close cropped, braided and long at the back). He had the physique of a short bodybuilder. Most distressingly, he had a turn of pace, some skill and was trying very hard.
Just as the crowd were dropping off to sleep, Sheffield played a ball into the edge of the Town area, on centre left of the Town goal. It may have been from a free kick, who was watching at that point? Not the Town defence, for sure. Suffo controlled the ball with his back to goal, spun instantly, knocked the ball between two Town defenders (couldn't tell who they were, I was a long way from the crime scene, but it was probably Groves and Beharall) and burst through what should be known as a challenge, but was really two blokes standing in a field admiring the view of the 7 hills of Sheffield. Suffo was thus alone in the penalty area, with Coyne advancing hesitantly. SUFFO swayed to his left, easily drifting past Coyne, and rolled the ball into the empty net. First attempt at goal, first goal. The Town crowd barely reacted, we just weren't in the mood. Shoulders slumped, eyebrows raised, tuts were tutted. A couple of Town players gave dismissive right arm brush-offs in disgust, the others stood around looking surprised at the effrontery.
A couple of minutes later Suffo produced a Nielsen-like bustling, bounding, muscular run down the right touchline and across the bye-line, leaving Groves on his backside. He laid the ball back to Ndlovu who, from about 15 yards out, to the right of goal, blasted a first time drive just over the bar. Town hadn't particularly done anything worthy of mentioning. Ben Chapman was busy, tidy and effective down the left, whipping in a couple of dangerous crosses, and tracking back to cover Gallimore, but no-one else seemed remotely bothered. The players were reacting and jogging, rather than creating and sprinting. Yet Sheffield were not over running them, it was a just a dull game between a limited bunch of hoofers and a bored bunch of organised custard.
After about 25 or 26 minutes, Sheffield booted the ball down our right for the umpteenth time, them having realised that Beharall didn't know what to do at right back, he didn't even know where to stand. Beharall managed to clear an attack by whacking the ball down the touchline, though his clearance hit an opponent's oustretched arm and bounced back to them. The referee waved play on and the ball was eventually played to Suffo, about 30 yards out way out on the right. SUFFO turned, ran inside towards goal and, from about 25 yards out, wellied a low drive that bounced just before Coyne, skidded underneath his dive and went inside the near post. Whoops, a rare blooper from Mr Coyne. Yet again the goal was a total surprise when the whole crowd was drifting into unconsciousness. This time the Town crowd stirred slightly and a couple of supporters raised enough energy to stand up a roar some incoherent disapproval.
Town did respond for the next 10 or so minutes, principally through Pouton, who appeared to be the designated playmaker in midfield. His passing is erratic at the best of times, and this wasn't. It was he who had the first Town effort on goal, a stretching sliced shot from outside the area which was deflected for a corner. Town had lots of corners and nothing was won in the air. Might have had something to do with the Sheffield players being 6 inches a man taller than their Town counterparts? Sometime just after the half hour Town created, yes, created, a good chance. Some interplay in defence and midfield resulted in the ball being played to Pouton, in space, 40 yards out in an inside right position. He curled a perfect looping pass, with the outside of his right boot, behind and beyond the two centre backs for Jevons to run on to. Jevons was alone, 20 yards out, right in the centre. He allowed the ball to bounce once and volleyed the ball just to the right of the 'keeper, who parried the ball away for a corner. Jevons had a lot of time to set himself, and a lot of the goal to aim at, hitting it almost directly at the 'keeper, who was very badly positioned. He should have scored. Jevons also had a free kick deflected wide, though it looked like it was sailing gently towards the 'keeper's midriff anyway.
I have vague memories of a bit of pressure from Sheffield United, which generally meant they crossed the ball, or ran at Gallimore, who was in Corporal Jones mode. How ironic that the programme stated he was a "calming presence at the back". We didn't have to worry too much, Chapman was always around to oil those (occasionally) troubled Gallimore waters. The major difficulties were on the right with Beharall playing like a centre back playing at right back. Oh, he was. Coyne had to make a couple of saves, though they were from longish range and were straight at him. One of the Sheffield forwards also tried a spectacular overhead kick which went high over the bar. Nothing too serious.
Just before half time Gallimore and Pouton combined in midfield after a Town corner was cleared to the half way line. Pouton (I think) dinked the ball over the advancing Sheffield defence for Jevons to run on to. Jevons, unmarked and on the right edge of the 6 yard box, controlled the ball and placed it a couple of feet wide of the 'keepers left hand post. The linesman flagged for offside, so it wouldn't have counted. However Jevons didn't know that and, again, should have been able to put the ball in the net. Pouton gave another scornful look towards the forwards.
Three minutes of added time, which just meant there were three more minutes to be bored.
Half time: Sheffield United 2 Grimsby Town 0
Losing 2-0 at half time was no surprise at all, as no-one in the ground seemed to have any belief that the team would be "up" for the game. They weren't. It should, really, have been 0-0, as neither team did anything to deserve scoring, let alone lead. But Sheffield had one bothered player, and that was the difference. We only had Ben Chapman. His ego must have got one mighty boost early on when he got a massive roar from the home fans for heading the ball, almost a standing ovation. It seems to have coincided with a scoreflash showing Sheffield Wednesday were losing. After a second shimmy and cross Ben Chapman received the ultimate reward - a brief rendition of "there's only one David Gilbert". Perhaps we should have sung "Are you Gilbert's long lost son?"
There were times when Town seemed to believe they were on a higher plane than mere 1st division mortals like Sheffield United. There was a tendency to play "total football" out of defence, that is from their own goal line, through and across the penalty area. It almost led to some heart-stopping gaffes. Almost, but not quite. There was no mental alertness or physical drive about the Town players. It all seemed too much of an effort to do anything positive in attack. Town were not looking a mess, just ambivalent (or maybe indifferent) to the days proceedings.
The buzz in the crowd was all about what daft thing would happen next. As Beharall was so poor at right back, Rowan was ineffective and Chapman so vigorous, energetic and all round "good", Lawrence was bound to take off Chapman, wasn't he. Campbell and Butterfield were anonymous in the centre, being bullied off the ball, and rarely venturing beyond the half way line. It appeared obvious that Pouton should go in the centre and Campbell on the right, as the only positive contribution Campbell made was a run down the touchline, with Pouton's being when he drifted in field! So that would never happen.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Our lot aren't bothered, are they, except Chapman".
The report continues in the second half.
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