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Ripping Yawns - Wimbledon Report
By: Tony Butcher
BRIGHT, sunny, with a hint of a winter chill down in olde London town. Whereâ€™s the ground? Follow the crowd and youâ€™ll be in an estate agents. Thereâ€™s a football game going on? Where? The place doesnâ€™t exactly hum with excitement.
Wimbledon 2 Grimsby Town 1
03 Nov 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
Arriving 30 minutes before the game I became the 234th person within the ground. There seemed more people on the pitch than in the stands. Either Wimbledon were expecting hordes of Northerners, or they just wanted to spread the viewing public evenly around, as they gave Town supporters (around 300) the whole of the stand down one side of the pitch (underneath where the TV gantry is). And still the stewards insisted that we sat in the designated seats. Just one look, is all it took, yeah.
The Town players warm up routine was Ohhhh the hokey-cokey, followed by a quick jitterbug, a recreation of the Zeigfield Follies greatest moments, and some running through imaginary tyres. With 6 or 7 minutes to kick off the groundstaff decided to erect the goal posts, which was handy, given that there was supposed to be a professional football game going on. Piles of tracksuit bottoms are contrary to FIFA regulations, I understand. Some Town fans advised them to only erect the goal which Town would defend, the other one wouldnâ€™t be needed. Needless to say expectations were not high.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. How fascinating, Mr Bond. Coldicott was playing at right back, Pouton wide right in midfield, Campbell wide left. Cries (yes anguished cries of exasperation) were yelled towards the distant manager at the selection of Butterfield in the centre of midfield with Coldicott at right back. Expectations dipped from low to superdooperlow.
By kick off perhaps 2,500 people were in the stands, certainly no more than 3,000. When the players emerged from the tunnel a distant cheer was heard, which roused many from their slumbers. "Barnstonworth, Barnstonworth", or was that the wind? Frankly, there was an air of terminal ennui even before the game started, from both sets of supporters.
Someone kicked off and nothing happened for minutes on end. A set of men in dark blue polycotton fibres jogged lightly towards the goal on our right.
Every minute or so the amber clad Mariners strolled towards the goal on our left. The ball was, mostly, in the air between engagements, awaiting the next throw in. Boredom set in quickly with eyes starting to wander towards diversions such as the advertising boards, the clear blue sky, ideal for firework displays later on in the day, and the fact that the Town players all seem to have the same haircut. It just makes them look like theyâ€™ve all got big ears. Curiously the referee wore very tight shorts, like theyâ€™d been in the tumble dryer on high heat. He was alerted to this occurrence by Town supporters, who demanded that he obtain less camp clothing, there and then. The ground was so silent they must have been able to hear the advice proffered by individuals deep within the stands. At one point Town supporters were telling Wimbledon who to pass the ball to at a free kick. The unmarked Cooper, just outside the edge of the Town area. They failed to take our advice and Cooper wandered off to stand next to Butterfield. We admonished Cooper for his laziness.
The very first effort on goal came from Wimbledon, Shipperley, I think. A drive from 20 yards which was a few yards wide of Coyneâ€™s left hand post. This followed a bit of passing and movement through their midfield. Wimbledonâ€™s most threatening player, the only one on the pitch who looked interested, was a David Nielsen, who was on their right wing. He looked dangerous, but created little, as he was generally crowded out by a couple of Town players. It was almost as if they were determined that he, at least, wouldnâ€™t score. The Wimbledon left winger, Cooper, was a tricky cove and was having an interesting tussle with Coldicott. I recall Cooper managing to get in a couple of dangerous crosses, the best of which, from the bye line after a feint and dummy that sent Coldicott towards the South Coast, was hit at head height towards a couple of attackers. The ball went over Shipperley, landed in the middle of the six yard box, about 4 yards from goal, and bounced over Gallimore and Nielsen.
Hold that horse. Thereâ€™s great news coming along - Town had a shot! A relatively smooth, quick break down the right involving Butterfield, Pouton and Rowan saw the ball worked over towards Campbell, about 20 yards out, just to the left of the "D". He swung his little left boot and volleyed a low shot a yard past the â€˜keepers left hand post. It was enough to make us sit up and say "ooh", not very loudly. After about 25 minutes Wimbledon managed another effort, and this time it was on target. A cross from their right was swung into the middle of the penalty area and Shipperley headed the ball rather tamely straight at Coyne.
Wimbledon almost gifted Town a daft goal when one of their central defenders miss-hit a back pass towards Allen, rather than the goalkeeper, but it was scrambled away before Allen had the ball under control. In case you were getting worried that there had been very little action described so far that was one of the highlights of the first half, something that almost happened. Townâ€™s only other attempt at goal (ignoring free kicks) was a Campbell curler from almost the same position (and from the same build up) as his earlier effort. This one curled a yard or so wide and high of the â€˜keepers left hand post. Ahh, those free kicks. Halfway through the half Gallimore, fully 30 yards out in the centre left smashed a low drive which deflected off the wall for a corner. A few minutes before half time Willems, from almost the same position, smashed a low drive against the wall which went off for a throw in. Rubbish they were. Just hit and hope. Townâ€™s corner routine was similarly ineffective, as Wimbledon defenders walked a yard up the pitch when Campbell tapped the ball to Willems (or vice-versa) leaving the intended kicker offside. This happened three times before Town changed to an old fashioned direct chip into the â€˜keepers arms.
All of which is just prevarication so that you donâ€™t have to read about yet another goal conceded. With 8 or 9 minutes left before half time Wimbledon hit the ball upfield after rebuffing a minor Town excursion beyond the half way line. There was a brief interchange involving the two forwards, which moved a couple of Town defenders in towards the centre, leaving a big space on the left. The ball was played back to Roberts, advancing from the centre circle in an inside right position. ROBERTS carried the ball forward, set himself, and thrashed a shot high into Coyneâ€™s top left corner from 20 or so yards out. Unstoppable, once hit. Nice amount of time and space for him to prepare himself though. Arenâ€™t Town lovely guests, so polite too. The travelling Town fans have, on the whole, become inured to such things and shrugged it off with a raised eyebrow or two and a slight sigh. Over to our left there was movement, a faint cheer, and we realised there were supporters in the massive stand behind the goal. They even started chanting "youâ€™re not singing anymore". Our retort was "we werenâ€™t singing anyway".
Thatâ€™s it. First half over, except that Broomes was injured in the last couple of minutes. Beharall was seen preparing to come on, but the 4th official put up a "3" on his etch-a-sketch machine, meaning three minutes of added time and Beharall sat down again. The whistle blew, the players trudged off, the crowd shuffled into a disciplined queue for the meat pie stall.
Half time: Wimbledon 1 Grimsby Town 0
The first half was awful. The minutes dragged on, an on, and on. It was as if no-one really wanted to be there, doing that. Town played marginally better than in the first half against Norwich, maybe. It is difficult to judge as Wimbledon were just as dire as Town. Apart from Nielsen none of their players looked bothered, they were definitely available, and willing, to be beaten. The weird selection had just about held together, with Coldicott performing admirably at right back. Willems managed a couple of crunching challenges (though his second only managed to rouse Wimbledon from their torpor for a few minutes, during which they scored). There was nothing at all going forward. Rowan and Allen didnâ€™t have the pace to elude the rickety Wimbledon defence, nor the physique to overpower them. Pouton and Campbell generally hung back, and we all know that Willems and Butterfield just sit in front of the defence. Not many of the players looked comfortable, nor happy, with the positions they were assigned. Still, Groves and Broomes were untroubled. Where would a goal come from? It was obvious Boulding had to come on, and something had to be done to sort out the jumbled jigsaw that was the midfield. It was much less than the sum of its parts, with Poutonâ€™s drive and tackling being wasted out wide, Campbell wanting to drift inside towards his right foot taking away width on the left and nothing coming from the centre. Good though he was, why was Coldicott at right back?
If you want just a quick summary of the half - IT WAS REALLY, REALLY BORING. We had two shots off target, they had two on target. The end.
Ah, just one more thing, as Columbo would say. The Wimbledon left back, Hawkins, had frizzy, sculptured hair. He should, really, have been sat at a piano in a hotel lobby singing showtunes. With a big smile, of course. Unfortunately he wasnâ€™t the profiled player in the official matchday magazine, so weâ€™ll never know if his favourite artist is Barbara Streisand.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Heâ€™ll do anything but play Butterfield at right back. Why?".
The report continues in the second half.
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