Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
27/11 Arsenal 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
BOULDING replaced Allen at half time, a straight swap with no tactical changes. The Town fans gave the mighty midget a huge cheer. Within two minutes heâ€™d brought us to our feet.
Arsenal 2 Grimsby Town 0
27 Nov 2001, Worthington Cup 4th Round
Keown allowed Boulding to drift into midfield and receive a pass near the half way line. Boulding spun around and dribbled towards the penalty area at pace, beating two defenders in the process. About 25 yards out, near the centre, Boulding slightly miss-hit a low, right foot shot, a foot or so wide of the â€˜keeperâ€™s right hand post. Keown was wise enough never to let Boulding do this again; as soon as Boulding received the ball he was, as Mark Lawrenson once said, "up his backside all night". Some would describe that as marking tightly.
The match, by itâ€™s own standards, was galvanised by this incident. The Town fans roared for a while, almost visibly making both sets of players raise the tempo of the game. Arsenal almost broke out of a trot. Coyne was forced into making a save after about 55 minutes when Arsenal prodded and probed around the edge of the Town box, principally through Bergkamp. The ball was threaded through a small gap towards the penalty spot with Van Bronckhort sprinting forward. Coyne raced out and smothered the ball at the invisible manâ€™s feet, even collecting the rebound in the same movement. A few minutes later Bergkamp drifted out to the Town right, scenting some dead meat (otherwise known as the static, error prone Neilson). Bergkamp floated past a couple of challenges and caressed a cross into the middle of the penalty area, about 10 yards out. Edu ran into a gap between Willems, Campbell and Broomes and, unmarked, headed down, but straight into Coyneâ€™s hands. Or the perfectly positioned Coyneâ€™s hands, as we like to interpret it.
Arsenal were causing a few more problems to the Town defence, as they (well, Bergkamp mainly) began to seek out the big open spaces behind, and between, the Town full backs and midfield. This resulted in some crosses, but no action or danger. Coyne even caught a couple of corners. No worries mate! Around the 67th minute Town had two opportunities, one exceedingly golden, with a cherry on top too.
Boulding was brought down about 25 yards out, near the right corner of the Arsenal penalty area (or cynically scythed down by Keown the assassin, depending on how one-eyed you viewed the game). Willems floated in the free kick to beyond the far post, where Broomes and Groves awaited. Groves (I think) headed back across goal to Jevons, unmarked 7 yards out, slap bang in the centre. Glory beckoned, the crowd rose expectantly. Jevons launched himself horizontally and volleyed the ball 6 yards over the bar with his right shin. The crowd sat down slowly, heads in hands, some with hands in head. No excuse for the shaven-headed scouser, he should have scored, as all the Arsenal defence, and goalkeeper, were frozen in fear, waiting for the ball to go in.
A couple of minutes later Town won another free kick on the Arsenal right, about 30 yards out. Willems again floated the ball to beyond the far post where Broomes steamed in and headed a few inches over the angle of post and cross bar, from about 6 yards out. For 15 or so minutes in the second half Town bossed play, tapping out a rhythm, playing keep ball. All very pleasant, and inwardly satisfying, but no end product. There was nothing at all created from the wings, and no movement from them either, which meant Burnett kept holding on to the ball, waiting for someone to pass to. And there was rarely anyone. There was a short spell where Burnett kept making late runs forward from midfield (like Cockerill and Groves used to) but the final pass (usually from Neilson) never came. During the same period Boulding was twice, within a minute, flagged for offside when sent free. The crowd moaned, but he probably was offside, as the passes were delayed too long. You could see the Town player look at Boulding, look down to his own feet, then think, then pass forward. It simply enabled the Arsenal defence to see what was about to happen and "step up". This was a period of near domination by Town, and no goal, not even a shot on target. Deja flippinâ€™ vu, eh?
The last 20 or so minutes were mostly Arsenal as Town left gaps and visibly tired. The game changed around the time Butterfield made a right hash of controlling the ball twice within a minute. The second one (where he allowed the ball to dribble out of play when he was free on the touchline) brought an ominous sound forth. A dismissive, angry yell that rippled across the Clock End. At that moment the crowd publicly turned on him, with many furiously demanding he be taken off. So now a catalogue of Arsenal chances. Letâ€™s start with the goal. The Town defence mucked about, playing short one-twos, finally passing to Willems as Arsenal players pressed in numbers. Willems tried to turn but was hustled off the ball as it trickled towards Pennant, about 30 yards out in the centre. He immediately passed the ball out into a big gap behind Chapman into which Bergkamp had oozed. Bergkamp whipped in a cross to the centre of the goalmouth, just to the right of centre and WILTORD headed firmly past Coyne. Game definitely over now and Town fans started to drift away in ones and twos, deflated, dispirited and defeated. The big screen replay of the goal suggested Wiltord may have been offside. They only showed the replay once. I wonder why. Still, it made no difference, just flattered the Arsenal.
Other Arsenal chances? Must I? Bergkamp drifted in from the left and, from 20 yards, hit a low right footed shot a yard wide of Coyneâ€™s right hand post. One of their substitutes, one of many with names which may have emerged from a Scrabble bag, did an exact copy of that Bergkamp shot, drifting in from their left and shooting a yard or so wide. And then the top Town moment. After Neilson had given the ball away and been roasted and toasted (with a crunchy cheese topping) Aliadiere (Scrabble bag boy) hit a low shot from 20 yards which skipped over Grovesâ€™ heels and travelled towards the bottom right hand corner of the goal. Coyne threw himself horizontally across and parried the ball away for a corner. He even caught the corner when it came in. In the last minute or two another one of the substitutes (Halls, how unusual an Anglo-Saxon name on their team sheet) ran onto a Bergkamp low cross from their right and, from about 12 yards out at the near post, swept the ball across the face of the goal and just wide. Oh, and Bergkamp spun and twisted past Groves in the penalty area on the Town right, got to the bye-line and crossed into the centre of the goal mouth. Little Ben leapt (perhaps like a salmon) and headed the ball over the bar.
I probably overlooked a couple of Arsenal shots, but you, and I, donâ€™t care about that. As far as Town goes, there was one more effort and, hold on to your functional headwear, it was on target. We made their â€˜keeper touch the ball with his hands. A triumph and something to tell your grandchildren on a future festive occasion. With about 6 or 7 minutes left Campbell (finally he did something) dribbled down the left, cut in and, from somewhere near the edge of the penalty area, curled a soft shot across the â€˜keeper, who fell slowly like rotting timber to his left and easily caught the ball at shoulder height. Jevons had a shot a couple of minute later which hit a combination of Boulding and their right back, and plopped into a space behind them. Keown ran over and cleared before Boulding could react. There were a couple of half interesting moments with crosses from the Town right (Butterfield managed to cross to the far post where Campbell was just beaten to the ball by the full back) but nothing else. We did play some pretty football around the half way line though!.
Two minutes of added time, no more casualties. Game over, Town fans gave a polite and loudish applause to the players who looked crestfallen and a little sheepish. Wiltord took his shirt off and handed it to Broomes, sprinting away before Broomes had a chance to reciprocate. Groves lingered to applaud the remaining Town fans, as did Coyne, Jevons and Broomes. Then they went, and so did we.
Overall the result may have slightly flattered Arsenal, 2-1 may have been a more accurate reflection on the flow of play. But so what, Town are out of the cup, letâ€™s hope were not down in the league. Ah, hope, there was a twinkling of some here. There was a return to the old way of playing (at least in the middle of the pitch) with one touch passing and movement. Pity there wasnâ€™t some movement down the flanks. Oh for Gilbert and Childs to return. Or Oster. Town had some style, a pattern, a modus operandi - and thatâ€™s not something weâ€™ve seen for a long, long time. Any notion that Butterfield is a Premiership class player should be firmly sunk in concrete, buried in a mineshaft and secured with barbed wire. No, no, no, no, no. He was the worst player on the pitch, by far. Get him back to right back (to replace the floundering bull seal that is Nielson). Boulding was easily negated once the (remember, international) centre backs had seen his pace.
It was not difficult to see why each Arsenal player had been handed a contract, they were bigger, stronger, faster and all were able to read the game - they made many interceptions simply by observing the Town players. They had been coached well and were able to follow those instructions. Theyâ€™d be pushing for a play-off place in division one (â€˜cos they werenâ€™t that good). But they had Bergkamp and, if the memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime, then he wonâ€™t remember this. His brain still works, but his legs donâ€™t.
This game was a minor detail of history, not a life changing event. "Forgeddaboudit"
At least Barnsley lost. Roll on Man City (letâ€™s hope so).
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
A very tricky one this. The leaping salmon, of course, is high up on the list. He was not roasted by Pennant like he was by Little last Friday, and displayed calmness and some spatial awareness inside the Town penalty area. Groves was solid, reliable and generally coped well with Bergkamp. Willems, despite his shooting and the mucking about for the second goal, played well and, with Burnett, more than matched the two Arsenal central midfielders (Inamoto and the, frankly, useless Van Bronckhorst). However the man of the moment was Marvellous Marlon Broomes, who concentrated all match, and was therefore, an impassable monument. Pace, power, perception. Perfect.
Mr Dermot Gallagher. No complaints, apart form a couple of overhasty decisions where he gave Town a free kick, rather than advantage. Didnâ€™t give a penalty, didnâ€™t book anyone, didnâ€™t get in the way. Didnâ€™t have a lot to do, so didnâ€™t. Unfussy. 7.6 out of 10. Best so far this season.
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