Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
15/12 Walsall 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO CHANGES made by either team at half time. The game meandered around much like the first half for the first five minutes. Ball in the air, lots of throw ins, and very boring. Then some signs of life.
Walsall 4 Grimsby Town 0
15 Dec 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
Around the 50th minute, Boulding did what he always does. He received the ball on the left touchline, near the half way line, turned and ran diagonally past three defenders towards the penalty area. About 20 yards out he hit a low, right footed shot to the â€˜keepers right. Walker parried the ball away and, of course, no Town forward was anywhere near the penalty area, let alone the ball. Fleeting danger over. Boulding ceased to exist as a useful member of the team after this point. He wasnâ€™t useful before it either.
Walsall didnâ€™t do anything memorable for ages. Their left winger, the wonderfully named Zigor Aranalde (24 points in Scrabble), glided past a couple of Town players on the right and hit a 25 yarder way over the bar. They also had a breakaway down the right hand side which resulted in a cross dribbling through the middle of the penalty area missing everyone. Nothing else for 20 minutes, despite the lackadaisical defending down the flanks. With only 10 or so minutes of the second half gone Burnett replaced Coldicott. Town looked much, much better for 5 minutes. Possession was retained, but it just meant that the ball took longer to get to Butterfield and Nielson, who proceeded to kick the ball out of play. A few minutes later Byfield tried a piledriver from 25 yards, which struck Raven straight between the eyes, seemingly knocking him out. There was a two or three minute delay before he got up again, looking exceedingly groggy.
The big moment of the game came when the Walsall left back, just inside the area on the centre left, kneed the ball back to their goalkeeper, who caught it. After about 10 seconds the referee decided that it was a back pass. Cue excitement - the Town fans actually bothered to stand up.
Cue cynical Town fans instructions to Willems "third from left, left shin, 6 inches up". As all the Walsall players lined up in their own area Willems closed his eyes and blasted the ball into the shins of the second defender from the right. Brainless. Wasted. And he also failed to follow instructions.
After about 15 to 20 minutes Thompson replaced Jeffrey (it was around the time of the second goal, please forgive the inexactitude). Thompson looked interesting, slippery, wiry and determined, his arrival meant a change in formation. I canâ€™t explain what the formation became because I donâ€™t think the players knew either. Boulding was moved to a centre forward position, with Jevons on the right wing, occasionally centre forward. Thompson seemed to be in the Donovanian abyss behind them. The midfield was all over the place too. I am not sure that Butterfield remained physically within the playing area, as I canâ€™t recall seeing him for the last 30 minutes. In short - a mess ensued, with huge spaces opening up all over the pitch. Someone suggested the Christmas Tree formation, well, perhaps this tree had fallen off a lorry and been flattened by several busses or maybe it was a Christmas turkey.
The first danger to Town came after about 65 minutes (and this, remember, was Walsallâ€™s first serious attempt on goal since half time). Wrack was allowed to do a couple of party tricks on the ball to turn past three Town players. He actually didnâ€™t physically move from the blade of grass he stood on, the Town players just jogged away from him, as if more intent on standing in a particular place than tackling someone with the ball. Wrack tapped the ball infield for Byfield , who turned inside his marker on the left edge of the penalty area and curled a shot straight into Coyneâ€™s midriff. A couple of minutes later Wrack again knocked the ball down the left hand touchline, ambled forward into space, with neither Boulding nor Gallimore bothering to ran back with him. Almost as if they didnâ€™t care.
After about 67 or 68 minutes Walsall knocked a boring high ball down the Town right, with the ball being deflected back to Angell, about 25 yards out, to the right of centre. He looked up and hit an outrageously high volley. Several Town supporters stood up and jeered this appalling attempt to shoot, expecting it to disappear over the roof of the stand, as did a few Walsall supporters at the other end. The ball dipped, came down behind Coyne and ANGELL had, yet again, scored against Town. 2-0. game over. Oh ye of so little faith, are things so bad? Yes. The team gave up. What fight they had disappeared and they simply played out time, with the exception of Thompson, Groves, Coyne and Raven (who battled on despite looking worn out and only half conscious). A couple of minutes later Angell tried the same thing again, from 35 yards out. This time the ball dipped just over the bar.
The team imploded, with no fight, no interest, no desire, a complete and utter shambles. Team spirit? Pah! The formation was non-existent, it was merely 11 men in yellow standing around waiting to go home. The Town fans got increasingly agitated, with each misplaced pass bringing louder and louder groans. Burnett nearly gave away a third goal by trying to be too clever on the edge of the Town area. He was dispossessed and Coyne was forced to produce a brilliant diving stop low to his left. Burnett redeemed himself with a crunching, sliding block to stop a striker placing the rebound into the empty net. Then we had the other Town shot - Thompson swayed his hips, went left, then right, before swinging a right footed shot a yard over the â€˜keeperâ€™s right hand post. That is no exaggeration to say "the other Town shot". Apart from a couple of crosses (where Jevons managed to place himself as far away from the ball as it was possible to get) Town just never got near the smallest goalkeeper in footballing history. You think Iâ€™m being harsh on Jevons? Well you canâ€™t have been there.
The game was boring, poor and the last 20 minutes were spent almost in silence (except for the occasional taunt from the Walsall supporters who didnâ€™t say anything we donâ€™t know already). As the game entered injury time as few more nails were hammered into the Town coffin (that makes at least 83 so far this season). Another simple high ball was played over the Town defence down the right, towards the edge of the penalty area. Raven just managed to head the ball out as Angell hovered behind him. Unfortunately for Raven, he merely headed the ball to a Walsall player near the edge of the area who surged forward and LEITAO whacked the ball to Coyneâ€™s right from a central position somewhere near the edge of the penalty area. Now this is ominous - several dozen Town supporters leapt up and demanded a fourth goal. And Walsall obliged. Or did the Town players follow the crowdâ€™s wishes? From a position near the half way line on the Town left a Walsall player hit a simple pass between where the Town left back should have been and where a centre back is expected to stand, there was neither such creature around. HERIVELTO (like Leitao, a very late substitute) ran on into the massive, empty space, awaited Coyneâ€™s arrival and curled the ball around the helpless and blameless last man standing and into the bottom of the net.
This was the cue for an eruption in the Town end with a third of the supporters chanting "sack the board", a third telling Lawrence where Luton was (and that he should stay there for a very long time), with the final third walking out in silence. The arguments continued in very heated manner. There was certainly more passion on the terraces than the pitch. In the end we started laughing at our own team. The directors should ponder that.
Apart from the four players already mentioned who at least showed some humility, passion and basic skill, Town were a mixed bag of incompetence and laziness. Some played with fear, others with disdain. But those last 20 minutes were dreadful. They all wanted the game to end there and then. In other words theyâ€™d given up hope themselves.
It is easy to get carried away by one result, but this felt like it was a Rubicon crossing moment. Town were not playing a good side, Walsall were below us in the table and did not play that well on the day. Town have played everyone now in this terrible division and only Stockport and Sheffield Wednesday have come close to the depths of ineptitude regularly produced by the present employees of Grimsby Town. We have seen this sort of thing before - the Laws/Swain relegation year was exactly like this. Well still keep on attending - there is a certain fascination in watching the slow death of an old hippopotamus.
On a positive note, the players did set an example to the public - it is a criminal offence to encroach upon the playing surface. And the Town players certainly obeyed that law today. Role models all.
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
This may sound perverse, given the heavy defeat, but it must by Raven. His first half performance alone was worthy of the accolade. He slowed up towards the end and did seem to be affected by the whack in the face. He deserves praise for his professional attitude - he tried, and he cared.
A very odd referee. He seemed to give Town every little thing, but ended up booking three or so Town players for types of fouls that Walsall committed too. At one point he was heading for 11 out of 10 for being so kind to Town, but his love of the yellow card hauls his score down to a respectable 6.3
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