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17/11 Millwall 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
WOW, what a difference a break makes. The first half had been ok, not boring, but not great. The second was fantastic. End to end, eye to eye, as each team broke on through the other side. Where to start, Iâ€™ll start at the very beginning which is a very good place to start.
Grimsby Town 2 Millwall 2
17 Nov 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon, with no changes made by either side at half time. The crowd were a little distracted and the first minute or so was played out to the buzz of a thousand conversations, the laughter, the cries, the slurping of orange juice.
After 3 or 4 minutes of the half Millwall attacked down the Town right. A Millwall player swept past Butterfield and zinged in a low, fast cross from a narrow angle near the touchline. Sadlier, about 10 yards out at the near post and unmarked, slid in and missed the ball. Claridge was unmarked at the far post and tried to steer the ball inside Coyneâ€™s left hand post. He slightly underhit the shot and Coyne was able to sweep across goal and hoover the ball into his arms at the foot of the post. Coyne got up and threw the ball into midfield. On the Town left, Boulding controlled the ball, turned, and simply ran at the Millwall defence. There was panic on a field in Humberside. He ran fully 60 or 70 yards from just outside the Town area to the edge of the Millwall area. The crowd rose, the noise rose, and from about 20 yards out, to the centre left of the area, Boulding smacked a shot across the â€˜keeper. Warner leapt full length across goal and, from just inside his left hand post about 3 feet off the ground, tipped the ball sideways. Allen ran in and, from the byeline about 5 yards to the left of goal, chipped the ball over the â€˜keeper to the far post. ROWAN, unmarked and a couple of yards out, 5 or 6 yards to the right of goal, headed back across the goalkeeper, with the ball flying on to the roof off the net off a defenderâ€™s knee. Guess what? we were excited and happy. Yet again Bouldingâ€™s pace and directness had destroyed a hitherto solid defence. Within the space of 15 seconds Millwall had missed a sitter and Town had scored. Was our luck returning?
There then followed 5 minutes of Boulding. Spaces began to appear all over the pitch as both teams seem to go attack crazy. This merely enabled Town to hit the ball into spaces near Boulding. Not a wise career option for full backs.
A minute or so after the goal he out-sprinted the Millwall right back, Green (ah, him, who was rejected by Town only last month) down the left wing. As he reached the bye-line, Green barge him over. The referee and linesman refused the free kick (flippinâ€™ obvious it was) which caused the crowd to berate both officials ("Oi - youâ€™ve got OUR kit on!"). The linesman in front of the Findus/Stones/Smiths Stand called the referee over. A free kick to Town? No, heâ€™d pulled a muscle somewhere, probably caused by Boulding - he couldnâ€™t cope with his pace either. After an interminable delay, the linesman received some treatment, then walked very, very slowly across the pitch. By this time the ironic cheers for his injury had turned to jeers for the time-wasting. Why didnâ€™t he just walk around the pitch? Why did he receive treatment on the pitch? This 3 minute delay was most irritating. The referee posed like a Victorian Lady in signalling the injury to the linesman. He rolled his shorts up, left leg bent forward like a horse doing dressage and stroked his thigh. All he needed was a feather boa. Thankfully, none were available.
This stoppage didnâ€™t affect the flow of the game, fortunately, as Boulding had another 50 yard run from the Town half to the edge of the Millwall area. With Allen totally unmarked on the right and screaming for the ball, Boulding hammered in a shot from 20 yards, which the keeper saved under the crossbar, though the shot was straight at him. A couple of minutes later Boulding (yes, again) surged down the left and smacked in a low cross shot which the â€˜keeper parried to his left. The ball was bouncing free a few yards out and, as several players raced in, a Millwall defender slashed a clearance against someone, the ball ricocheted across goal and was swept upfield. The crowd, or at least the majority of the crowd, were quite content by this stage, though "weâ€™ll need a second goal" was muttered by more than one person. "Weâ€™ll need a fourth goal" was uttered by a more cynical supporter.
By this time the floodlights were on, the mist gathered and events down at the Osmond were a bit of a blur. Milwall started to take pot shots from outside the area, none of which appeared to go too close. They were, however, dangerous down the wings and especially at set pieces. Their big centre backs were very troublesome, impeding Coyne and often winning headers deep within the Town penalty area. They had a couple of free headers from around the penalty spot which went high, and Claridge managed to steer a header towards Coyneâ€™s left hand post, which lacked power. Oh, the Town full backs, they were beginning to be lightly toasted (on both cheeks). Chapman, in particular, was having a difficult time as Boulding had virtually abandoned defensive duties. After about an hour Millwall broke down the Town left, with a ball played down the touchline. Willems ambled back to chase, then stopped and raised his hand in the air and pointed towards the linesman on the other side. Err, no Mr W, no offside. Play continued, the Millwall player got to the bye line and pulled the ball back to Claridge, who swiped a shot across Coyne, who saved low to his right. The Spirit of Zhang (an aftershave avaliable from the clubshop priced Â£5.99) seemed to have infused itself within Willems at a critical moment. Town got away with it.
Town attacked. Yep, Boulding again. Run, shot, wide (high and wide to be pernickety about the details. From about 20 yards out on the left). If only heâ€™d look up sometimes - this time Rowan and Allen were free and awaiting service (no, thatâ€™s not a tennis pun. Iâ€™ll leave those to the GET). After this Town were forced back by wave upon wave of Millwall attacks. Cannons to the left, cannons to the right, into the goalmouth of death they poured. Headers, scrambles, crosses, shots. All very exciting for the neutral, worrying for the properly partisan. The referee wasnâ€™t helping much with some wacky (some say zany) decisions. Pouton was booked (and the free kick was advanced 10 yards) after a typical bravura challenge. Pouton swept in front of the Millwall player and won the ball. Awful decision from the pompous preener.
A goal was coming. And probably for them. It did. With about 15 minutes left Butterfield (again) was turned inside out and their left winger whipped in a cross to the middle of the Town penalty area. With three or four Millwall players lurking with intent to cause a public nuisance (they probably looked at him in a funny way too) Coyne launched himself at 90 degrees to his goal and punched the ball out to the edge of the area. Unfortunately straight to a Millwall player, who played it back. The ball went in the air back towards goal. Players seemed to bundle about, with the ball bobbling around just to the left of goal about a dozen yards out. SADLIER turned and hit a low shot into the bottom left hand corner of Coyneâ€™s goal, through a couple of Town playersâ€™ legs. Bad defending all along. Butterfield to be so easily beaten, and the rest for not clearing. They all seemed to stand away from the Millwall players and wait to see what happened. A goal, thatâ€™s what happened.
With about 10 minutes left, Burnett replaced Willems. With 9 minutes to go Raven replaced Rowan to an audible "Uh?" from the crowd. Rowan had been unable to sprint after about 70 minutes, but the tactical change caused some worry. There was no discernible change to the pattern of play, except that Millwall had more space into which they poured. They had a lot more space on the flanks to cross from. And, of course, they looked the likelier team to score. Five at the back, Boulding and Allen up front, Campbell on the left of the midfield three. Hardly conducive to Town attacking, was it?
Woah, hold your horses, letâ€™s not be too hasty in writing off Town. With 5 minutes to go Town won a corner on the right (after a Pouton surge and a one-two on the edge of the area). Pouton swung the corner away from goal, over Raven and two defenders at the near post to Groves, unmarked, 7 yards out, right in the centre. Bang, over the bar. The third game running heâ€™s done that. Perhaps he needs his eyes testing? A couple of minutes later Town won a free kick near the half way line, on the centre right. Burnett (I think) dinked the ball high, deep into the Millwall penalty area, on their left edge. Allen ran into the space and volleyed the ball back into play, to Butterfield, 3 or 4 yards away. Butterfield volleyed a first time cross, low, through the middle of the penalty area. BOULDING, about 13 yards out, almost level with the far post, leant back and steered the ball, with his right foot, into the â€˜keeperâ€™s bottom right hand corner. The Millwall defence hardly moved, such was the speed of this attack. A rather excellent piece of team play, mixed with individual technique. Marvellous, thatâ€™s why we support Town, isnâ€™t it.
Only a couple of minutes left, but Town are Town, itâ€™s in the genetic make-up of every player signed for the club (or perhaps the eleventh commandment of football) - "Thou shalt run around like a like pantomime cow in the last 5 minutes of a game". Straight after the goal Millwall almost, almost scored. Claridge (I think) headed across goal after a deep cross from their right. Coyne scrambled around and just managed to claw the ball away from the corner. Just. A corner on the Town right was half cleared to a Milwall player just outside the penalty area near the right hand corner. He smacked in a low shot and it appeared to be diverted in by a player at the near post. Offside! Phew. Lennieâ€™s luck returns?
The 5th official put up the board showing 5 minutes of added time "Five! Five!". We knew, deep down, that only one thing would happen now. The ball was in the Town half all the time, with Town players content to knock the ball out for throw-ins. Millwall simply threw players forward, and, after 4 minutes of added time the inevitable duly happened. Their right back, near the half way line, hit a straight ball at head height to the edge of the Town area. Broomes backed off and allowed Sadlier control the ball on his chest, swivel and hit a shot towards goal. The ball hit someone near the right hand post, about a dozen yards out, and CLARIDGE prodded the ball in during a scramble.
And that was that, save for Chris Thompson coming on for Allen. Overall a draw was just about fair, with Millwall deserving the draw a bit more than Town. But, given the circumstances, we arenâ€™t interested in fairness. The second half was exceptionally exciting, real end to end stuff, with Boulding having a 5 minute spell of great purpleness. There were flaws in the Town play, of course, but it was better than most of the stuff we have had to put up with in the last couple of months. Allen was excellent in his control and awareness. But he never looks like scoring. Bit of a flaw in a striker, really. The two full backs were, well, ripped apart, on occasions. I am sure they would have liked assistance from their midfielders. However, down the centre, Town were not bad. Which is good. One has to set this in context, Millwall were a decent team.
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
No really outstanding performer, with honourable mentions to Broomes and Allen, but the jury has decided that Alan Pouton gets the verdict. A double step-over in the first half, a triple step-over in the second, he held Town together in the middle and was again Mr Crunchy. He also gets bonus points for his comedy shot in the first couple of minutes. You could say he played his joker on that.
Mr Pike. Stupid Boy. Utterly useless. Booked Pouton for nothing, ignored similar and worse. Was easily deceived by divers (especially Old Man Diver Claridge). He was unable to understand the mechanics of football. After one Millwall player received treatment (on the pitch) he refused to allow Willems back on to the pitch when play restarted. The added time was entirely due to his poncing about with the linesman. It would have been nice for him to have given a few 50-50s Townâ€™s way. His insistence on wearing the same kit as Town was plain daft I reluctantly give him a mark above 3. He gets 3.001.
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