Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
20/10 Watford 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
BOULDING replaced Pouton at half time, with Campbell switching to the right. How times have rapidly changed; Poutonâ€™s substitution rated barely a murmur on the grumble scale. The consensus in the Pontoon was that putting Boulding on was too little too late, the game was lost.
Grimsby Town 0 Watford 3
20 Oct 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
Or rather yet another game was lost. The first few minutes of the second half were taken up with free kicks, which resulted in one of the Watford midfielders being booked for walloping Campbell. Boulding threatened to be threatening, with a couple of direct, pacey surges towards goal, but he ran into defenders after he'd beaten the third man. All of which made the Pontoon pine for Ramon Vega in the middle of the Watford defence. After all, what has Switzerland given the world? 500 years of democracy, brotherly love, Ramon Vega and the cuckoo clock.
All of which is displacement theory in action. Town did nothing at all for 15 minutes, continuing to thrash around like beached blubber. The crowd were complaining that there was still over half an hour to go, they were so bored. No one could raise much enthusiasm to complain about refereeing decisions and, especially, the linesmen. Watford should have scored a third when Noel-Williams, alone in the centre, chested down a little dink over the top, strode forward towards Coyne and bumbled the ball wide as Coyne did a star jump at him. The chance was created through Watford exploiting Groves and Neilson playing for offside, whilst Gallimore and Broomes hung back., giving an "m" shaped backed four. As impregnable as the Maginot Line, Watford simply went down the sides and over the top.
After 12 or 13 minutes of terminal boredom, Watford finally buried the Town torso. The ingredients were space, two unmarked players, full back pushed up, centre back hanging back, cross and tap in. The very move that Watford had performed at regular intervals throughout the game, like clockwork. The mere details, for those that care, were that Town allowed Watford to play in front of the back M4, Neilson pushed up to his wing back whilst Smith ran into the open space like a herd of wildebeest flowing across the savannah.
The ball was played through on the right edge of the Town area and Smith got to the bye line and hit a low, hard cross into the centre of the 6 yard box. HYDE sauntered in and tapped the ball in from 3 or 4 yards out. Three simple goals defeated the Simple Men of Grimsby. It was almost exhibition stuff, the humiliation this time was that Town were being totally outclassed and made to look like a Dr Martens league side. Perhaps Dr Martens Division 2 at best.
A few dozen Town supporters immediately got up and went home. Throughout the next 30 minutes the Town supporters drifted away, there was hardly anyone left at the end. Just the players, the Watford supporters, those with tickets to the various sponsors bars and the die-hards. We've seen this sort of football before. In 1996. Some, quite obviously, don't want to see it again.
Town did have a few shots in the second half. Gallimore volleyed spectacularly high, high, high into the cold afternoon air. The ball eventually landed near the open corner seats. Willems hit a first time shot over the Osmond Stand, to ironic cheering from both sets of supporters. The chance was created by Boulding taking on his marker and pulling a cross back from the bye-line. Broomes hacked away at the ball 3 times (missing each time) in a melee inside the Watford penalty area, the ball eventually rolled to Rowan who side footed a few inches wide from the left of the area, about 10 yards out. Even if it had gone in, it was doubtful whether anyone would have cheered. Perhaps the Watford supporters would have done that for us. At least someone was enjoying their day out by the seaside. Jevons curled a 25 yard free kick safely into the goalkeeper's midriff and then was off, along with Campbell. Allen and Chapman replaced the summer signings with about 15 minutes left. Watford also made a double substitution at the same time, taking off their strikers and putting on Wooter and Helguson. Which brings me on to the last Town "efforts" of the game - an Allen shot from 20 yards which dribbled nicely straight to the 'keeper, and a Rowan hook from a Chapman cross which was headed away from near the line (though it probably looked nearer from the Pontoon than it was).
The double substitution resulted in Town playing a sort of 4-3-3 formation. Boulding appeared to be the third striker, playing as a proper winger (and which of our tall strikers was he going to ping those crosses to?) and Chapman played on the left of the middle three. Well, gentle Ben spent the first 5 minutes leaping up and down waving his arms in the middle of the pitch. It was nice to see such tactical fluidity and versatility - 2 full backs in midfield, it's the way forward!
Oh yes, Watford should have scored a lot more, if they'd not taken pity and started to indulge in over elaborate flicks and tricks round the edge of the Town penalty area. A carbon copy of the third goal saw Helguson thigh the ball into Coyne's arms from 4 yards out. The left wing back curled a 20 shot from 20 yards straight into Coyne's stomach and there were a couple of crosses that went through the 6 yard box, missing everyone. With 8 minutes left most of the Upper Findus/Stones/Smiths had been emptied and the Pontoon was a stream of discontented, wet and angry leavers. At least the traffic queues were smaller down Brereton Avenue and we got our tea nice and early.
There were 4 minutes of added time, which got a boo too. Nothing happened in those special bonus minutes, except a small altercation involving Gallimore who kicked out after a late-ish challenge on him by Helguson (I think). At 4:56 we could, eventually, go home. The few remaining Town supporters were split between clapping (about 20 people) booing (about 30 people) and silently turning their backs to go home (the remaining 1,500).
Watford simply (and I stress the word simply, as they had a plan which involved doing uncomplicated things efficiently) over-ran an inferior team. Watford were better individually and collectively. It helped that each one of them knew what they were supposed to be doing, then did it. The Town players stood around, reacting to events. The wide players went too far infield, and failed to mark wing backs when they attacked. Willems and Butterfield never, ever got near their opponents, nor helped out the strikers. Town's structural imperfections are only matched by their docility. There was no fight in the players or the crowd. Nobody sang "you don't know what you're doing", but we all thought it.
The worst thing that came out of this game is that the crowd have gone beyond caring enough to complain. They are starting to turn to being sarcastic towards the Town players, anger into pity, laughing at the Mariners.
I can't lie to you about Town's chances, but we had Watford's sympathy. In Blundell Park no-one bothered to scream.
Nicko's Man of the Match
Needless to say it wasn't a midfielder. Oddly the defence, individually, wasn't awful. The sum of the parts was though. I'd go for Broomes, as he was the only one who showed any passion, and was Town's best attacker. It's a pity he has Zhang-like deficiencies when it comes to standing in the wrong places.
Mr Kaye (Wakefield). Can't be blamed for his linesman being flag happy when Town attacked, but reluctant to call Watford offside (a marginal complaint given the atrocious organisation in the heart of darkness that was the back four). Not as bad as most we've seen this season, but still was a little yellow, which was handy for Watford. Nicko says 5 out of 10.
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