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Lennieâ€™s Luckless Losers: Man City Report
By: Tony Butcher
AN overcast, coldish afternoon at a packed Blundell Park, with only the temporary seats between Pontoon and Main Stand empty. A shower just before kick off soaked the substitutes and the Mighty Mariner, whose routine these days seems to consist solely of sticking his bottom in the air.
Grimsby Town 0 Manchester City 2
01 Dec 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
Unfortunately that isnâ€™t followed by a deckchair up its nose. Willems warmed up wearing a wooly hat - and we thought he was "hard". Pfft. There were obviously a few Man City supporters speckled throughout the Town ends, with many silent strangers sat in the Pontoon. Silent supporters in the Pontoon? How unusual.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. Pouton was, once again, "filling in" on the right wing with Coldicott and Willems in centre midfield. It wasnâ€™t until kick off that the Town support was fears that Lawrence would put Coldicott at right back (a la Wimbledon) to accommodate Butterfield in the place-he-should-never-be were assuaged.
Man City played in a 3-5-2 formation with lots of small players in midfield. Small, but very quick, especially Wright-Phillips, who makes Ben Chapman look like a Titan. Up front they had gawky Goater and half-baked Huckerby. Both big, both strong, both fast (by our standards). Their goalkeeper wore a very dark top, making him indistinct from Town players, and lime green socks, which were very distinct indeed.
Man City kicked off towards the Pontoon and immediately attempted to dribble down the middle. Willems stepped in and swept the ball away majestically. The start of the game was lively, quite crisp and even. Man City were very dangerous in midfield, where Bernabia (didnâ€™t that win the Eurovision Song Contest in 1978?) and Berkovic drifted into spaces between, behind and in front of the Town midfield and defence. They may have drifted into space but Pouton and Willems sailed across to snaffle them when they got the ball.
After a couple of "almosts" from Man City, where they played short passes behind the Town defence, but overhit them, Town had the first real effort on goal, after 6 minutes. Some interplay down the Town right saw Coldicott roll the ball up to Rowan, about 30 yards out, near the touchline. He swayed infield and, from about 25 yards out, and near the corner of the penalty area, he tried to sweep in a left footed drive. The ball was struck extremely cleanly and curled slightly, but it was hit too centrally and the â€˜keeper held the ball on the line, by his ankles, just to the left of centre. A couple of minutes later Boulding scampered his way down the left and towards the corner of the penalty area but Dunne tripped him. Pouton took the free kick and whipped in a fast, curling head high cross/shot which the â€˜keeper saved under his crossbar. At around the same time Pouton did a step-over, jink, then glorious 50 yard crossfield ball straight to Jevons' feet, near the managersâ€™ dug-out. Jevons took on his marker and crossed to the far post, but inaccurately, with the ball going over the Town player (Rowan I think) for a goalkick. All good stuff so far. Some pace, some passion, some football.
But then we had 10 minutes of Man City dominance, as Town gave away possession far too easily with long punts down field. City never did anything so vulgar. This just put pressure on the Town defence, though it coped admirably with the continental style probing 30 yards out. Berkovic, and occasionally Bernabia, kept possession by drifting laterally across the pitch, awaiting a run by the wing backs so that they could dink short passes over and through the defence. Bernabia and Wright-Phillips did mange to get beyond the full backs a couple of times, but their crosses were swiped away by Broomes. After about quarter of a hour Man City should have taken the lead. Wright-Phillips received the ball near the half way line, in front of the Main Stand. He turned and simply ran at Gallimore, who retreated, and retreated, and retreated. By this time Boulding had come back and Wright-Phillips had reached the penalty area. Gallimore still retreated and Wright-Phillips cut inside, between Gallimore and Boulding leaving him free about12 yards out, to the left of goal. He hit a low right footed shot across Coyne which glided a foot wide of Coyneâ€™s right hand post. The tiny tot should have scored.
Man City threatened on the break, meaning that a Town attack (and especially a set piece) was a prelude to danger. The most worrying was after about 20 minutes when a Town free kick was swung deep beyond the far post, whereupon Groves headed back into the middle. Tiatto made a diving header to clear and they broke away at astonishing pace. Wright-Phillips zoomed off into the distance, bearing down upon goal. Who could catch this supercharged winger? Ernie, the fastest Milkman in the West, of course. Tony Gallimore. Unbelievably, Gallimore, zoomazooma Gallimore, burned rubber and saved the day. Or saved that minute anyway. A minute or two later, after Town had repeatedly failed to clear the ball more than 30 yards from Coyne, Berkovic swished and swayed into space, set his sights, and slightly miss-hit a shot from just to the right of centre. It went through several playersâ€™ legs (as Groves, Willems and Coldicott all threw themselves across the line of fire) and was going wide, though Coyne dived across and managed to get the merest fingertip on the ball (his third finger in his right hand) to divert it even further from goal.
Leaving aside a Willems dribbler (usual thing - 25 yards out, miss-hit straight to the â€˜keeper, bobbling pathetically across the turf) the next goalmouth action from Town came from our own mighty midget. Boulding dribbled down the left wing, cut inside and wellied a hard, chest high shot to the near post, from somewhere near the corner of the penalty area. The goalkeeper punched the ball away, rather than catching it, despite it going straight to him. Enough for an "Ooo". And then it was the Man City fansâ€™ turn to "Ooo". Near the half hour man City flipped and flicked the ball around in midfield , with their forwards making darting runs and "spins" away from their markers. Bernabia, about 10 yards from the half way line, to the right of centre, played a looping pass over the town midfield, between Groves and Broomes, into the right hand edge of the penalty area. Goater sauntered into the space, allowed the ball to drop once, then again. By this time he was 8 yards from goal, level with Coyneâ€™s right hand post. Goater clipped a low shot straight against Coyneâ€™s shins as the grey guardian "stood tall".
A minute or so later Boulding excited us yet again. Town won the ball on the left, with Willems spinning, beating a player then curling a short pass down the touchline to Boulding. He turned, surged past one player, then swept through two more challenges, cut inside and, from about 25 yards, swiped a right footed shot a yard wide of the goalkeeperâ€™s right hand post. A trademark Boulding surge and sweep. Oooops, a lightning breakaway by Man City. Huckerby sprinted onto a pass down Townâ€™s right hand side, with only Groves near him. Groves managed to keep up with him for about 10 yards but as Huckerby reached the penalty area it was obvious that Gorvesâ€™ old legs couldnâ€™t go much further. So out came an old arm across Huckerbyâ€™s neck. The old arm wasnâ€™t strong enough and Huckerby kept on going, into the penalty area on the left had bye-line. He crossed, hard and low, with two Man City players lurking in the 6 yard box, and two more on the edge of the penalty area. The klaxons were sounding, the redlights were flashing, but fortunately Butterfield, at the far post, managed to slice away his clearance. The merest hint of Butterfieldâ€™s right shin pad was enough to send the ball in the only parabola that wouldnâ€™t take it directly to a lurking opponent.
The game was exciting in spurts, with periods of silent longueur, Pouton managed to slice a shot so wide it went for a throw in - de riguer for Pouton, of course. Broomes had a header from a free kick which interested no-one, Man City wasted a few attacks with badly hit through balls and ignoring unmarked players on the wings. In one particularly soporific minute Pouton was woken up by a plaintiff instruction from the Pontoon "Pouton - behind you!". Startled he straightened his back and looked behind him. He had to, there were two unmarked players creeping along the touch-line, much like runners in baseball. The linesman at the Town end was most pleasing. He seemed to be operated by voice control; from somewhere deep within the Pontoon, if we asked, we got.
All of which leads inexorably to the last incident of the first half, after about 40/41 minutes. There was some ping-ponging inside the Town area, with the ball ricocheting to Man City three times. Eventually the ball fell to Bernabia in the middle of the area, who laid the ball off to Goater, unmarked to the left side of goal, about 8 yards out. He took absolutely ages to untangle his feet, before deliberately placing a right foot shot low towards Coyneâ€™s left hand corner. Coyne stretched out his left boot and kicked the ball away for a corner. What a rubbish shot. Who said "Barn Doors?" When do we sign him?
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Manchester City 0
And that, ladies and gentleman of the jury, was the first half. Interesting, periods of excitement, but also whole minutes where the crowdâ€™s concentration wavered and the game was oddly unengaging. A diffident half. Man City should have scored at least twice, with Town not really creating anything clear cut, just a couple of decent long range efforts that never looked like going in. But context is all, of course. Man City were very dangerous going forward and Town had, largely, kept them away from the goal. Without being too creative, the midfield had repulsed some very talented individuals, who outnumbered them. Coldicott was a little "behind play", seemingly half a second slower than anyone else on the pitch, physically and mentally. And yes, that does include Danny Butterfield. Willems looked mobile and was the central rock. How strange. Up front Rowan and Jevons had been sporadically involved, they just arenâ€™t big enough or fast enough to terrorise three big blokes through rumbustious play. Rowan was very ineffective, looking lacking in energy and desire. Jevons, on the other hand, endeared himself to many when, in added time, he sprinted from the Man City area to deep inside the Town half tracking down a Man City fast break. Iâ€™ve never seen him move so quickly. Now that was desire, he didnâ€™t just leave it for someone else.
Town were still level and were competing with a bunch of far more talented individuals. Hope springs eternal, eh? Or at least for the second half.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Theyâ€™re gonna get two in this half."
The report continues in the second half.
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