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Remembrance of Things Past - Barnsley Report
By: Tony Butcher
A CLOUDLESS, bright, bone chillingly cold day in the South Yorkshire glums. Around 500 Town supporters crammed into the side portion of a huge stand behind the goal to the left as seen on TV.
Barnsley 0 Grimsby Town 0
01 Jan 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The sun set behind the Kick Boxer III Stand (they called it the Van Damme Stand) at the other end, resulting in the scintillatingly, sizzling, shining sun boring itself right into the Town fans. We all had to use the programme to shield our eyes, as one wag observed "I see no ships".
Tony Ford received a warm dribble of applause as he ran back to the dressing rooms. Donovan didnâ€™t. Town warmed up, under the guidance of Wilkinson, with the return of the jitterbug, which coincided with "Hey Rock and Roll" being played over the tannoy. The players seemed to be jittering and bugâ€¦, well, jitterbugging in time to the music, which was mildly amusing for 1.3 seconds. They then started to hop between the cones, at great pace. They looked like Easter Bunnies, especially Willems. That was greatly amusing for 6.4 seconds. The Barnsley mascots were two bears, or dogs, it was difficult to decide what they were supposed to be, especially the Mrs Mascot in lipstick and ra-ra skirt. This monstrosity waddled past the Town fans and tried to exude bonhomie by shaking hands with a 5 year old Town fan, who ran away in tears. Perhaps his dad had told him "thatâ€™s Kevin Donovan, that is". As we sat in the cold, cold, stadium the tannoy blared out a selection of synth pop and doodles, all of which accurately recreated Gullivers in 1985. They just needed to turn the lights down and have mirrored pillars. I suppose the town that is the source of all Cleethorpesâ€™ day trippers was just trying to make us feel at home.
Town lined up in a 5-3-2 formation. Stuart Campbell returned on the bench which brought a few more smiles to a few more faces. The absence of Neilson meant Butterfield was sent back to where he belongs - defence (as right wing back), the rest were where youâ€™d expect them to be in such a formation, with Burnett playing on the rightish side of a central three.
Before kick off the Barnsley players formed a little arms around each other huddle and huggle I half expected them to place their hands in the centre and shout "Barnley, Barnsley ra-ra-ra!"
As the sun started to lazily dip behind the Kick Boxer Stand the game started, with Town defending the goal behind which the freezing few hundred fans were huddled. And what a lovely start. Town passed, then passed again, and again and again. Little triangles were played down the left hand side, with one touch passing, then movement, such that Barnsley didnâ€™t get any possession for a few minutes. Town didnâ€™t create anything substantial in the period, but they sure had control and silenced the (admittedly already silent) Tykes. The Town fans visibly perked up, with little whooping sounds emanating from them as the scales fell from their eyes. Ah, the remembrance of things past. Groves may not have reverted to 4-4-2 (yet) but Town had reverted to the old ways of possession football, all of which meant that the defence were not under constant pressure.
The first 25 minutes were basically Town, with Barnsley only threatening (or even getting the ball) when a Town player made a mistake. A Town player? Yes, in the singular, the mistake being Butterfield, who set up three chances for them. After Town had made Barnsley players run around fruitlessly for three or four minutes, Butterfield tried a cross field pass from about 10 yards inside the Town half. It went right across the pitch, very slowly, and straight to a Barnsley player near the centre circle, who immediately turned round, ran forward 5 yards and slipped a pass out wide. Dyer made a run through, and between, the centre backs, and scampered onto a pass behind Chapman/Gallimore. He got to the bye line about 12 yards wide of goal, to the left. He chipped the ball slowly and in a simple arc towards Sheron, just beyond the far post. Butterfield stood underneath the flight of the ball, leapt up and completely missed the ball. This confused Sheron, who had clearly not expected such an elementary mistake my dear Watson, and he slightly miss-controlled the ball, going back away from goal. Sheron jogged after his bad control, turned and, from about 12 yards out, just to the right of Coyneâ€™s right hand post, tried a firm low shot towards the near post. Butterfield had ambled back and, about 5 yards out, he stretched across and blocked the ball away for a corner. The corner was uneventful.
Cue more Town passing, with a half chance created when Burnett, Coldicott and Butterfield combined down the right, with a cross being flicked into Thompson, about 10 yards out three or four yards to the right of goal. He allowed the ball to bounce up at thigh height, then spun and hooked a shot across the face of gaol. The ball probably went 4 yards wide, quite slowly, but it showed invention and quick thinking in the area. A few minutes later, after Town had played little triangles down the left hand side, Chapman curled a 30 yard pass down the left hand touchline. Thompson bent his run around the back of his marker and he was away and free. He stepped inside his marker and made his way directly to goal. He advanced to within 8 or 9 yards of goal, when a defender rushed back and slid across his path. Thompsonâ€™s shot deflected off the defenderâ€™s backside and rolled slowly into Windy Millerâ€™s hands. Jevons threw his hands up in the air in frustration as he had stepped away from his marker and was alone, about 8 yards out and level with the near post.
So far, so cool for Town, who had controlled the game, not allowing Barnsley more than a few seconds possession. The midfield clamp was in full working order, with Coldicott back to his omnipotent best, though Willems was struggling to cover the left hand side, allowing himself to drift towards the centre when the ball was on the right hand side. This often left three Barnsley players with just Ben Chapman to deal with them. Fortunately, for 20 minutes Barnsley were insistent upon attacking Butterfield. Understandable, I suppose, given that most of the Town fans do that too. The next Butterfield booboo caused another dangerous Barnsley counter attack. He again passed directly to them in the their half as Town were building an attack down the right. Thus all the Town players were up in attacking positions. There was a mad chase back towards Coyne as Dyer and Sheron advanced down the centre. Sheron (I think), about 25 yards out, waited as he got to the last Town defender and Donovan sprinted past with Gallimore close by. Sheron tapped a perfectly weighted pass down the middle and into the penalty area. Donovan was ahead of the Town defender, with Coyne rushing out. Somebody must have sneezed, as they all fell down, nowhere near each other, or the ball, and Town cleared easily. As Groves had said before the game "We all know what Kevin Donovan is capable of". Yep, he does a great impression of a jellyfish. It must be the sight of black and white stripes which induces such a Pavlovian response in his spine.
Barnsley were quite dangerous on the counter attack and were adept at winning corners, and the referee was proving adept at giving Town free kicks at these corners. He got to the point where he blew his whistle as the kick was taken, barely bothering to look. Well, somebody was probably pushing somewhere, maybe. Barnsley hit the bar from one, and Coyne made a fine save from another of these corners. Didnâ€™t matter either way, did it. The referee further annoyed the Barnsley supporters by penalising one of their players for taking a throw in from the wrong place, but he looked kindly upon the Town players when they took what felt like minutes to take throw ins. Funny, we Town fans were beginning to take to this referee.
After a couple of totally dull long shots from Barnsley, which went absolutely nowhere near Coyne, and a couple of crosses which the blue shirted one plucked easily from the air, Dyer should have scored. The catalyst for this semi panic was, once again, Butterfield, who passed to a Barnsley player whilst Town were building an attack down the right (he lost control of the ball, then did a block tackle which ballooned to Lumsden). Barnsley advanced down the centre, then their left. As Butterfield harried a midfielder, about 25 yards out, just to the right of the penalty area, their wing back steamed up field. Coldicott was a little slow to react and was unable to stop Barker getting to the bye-line and chipping a slow, flat cross to Dyer about 6 yards out, near Coyneâ€™s right hand post. Dyer allowed the ball to graze across his forehead and the ball trickled a foot or so wide of the left hand post, as everyone watched and waited.
That was just about it for the first half, expect for Jevonsâ€™ left foot slice high into the back of the stand from a narrow angle following a throw in, and a Butterfield volley which was hacked away by a defender about 15 yards from goal. Oh yes, and another Barnsley break down the Town right saw a cross floated beyond Coyne to the far post. As Dyer hovered, Groves ran back , dived back and flicked the ball away for a corner, from right next to the post. A fabulous piece of defending.
Half time: Barnsley 0 Grimsby Town 0
The Town players walked off at half time to applause. The Barnsley players didnâ€™t. Generally, Town had easily kept Barnsley away from Coyne, the exceptions being when a mistake was made. It was all self induced, and Barnsley almost had the players to capitalise, and they had Donovan too. The first half was essentially two decent teams trying to pass the ball around in continental style. Not what youâ€™d expect from two teams near the bottom. Town controlled the first 20 minutes and Barnsley had a lot more possession, and largely controlled, the final 20. It was interesting, not exciting, with Town defending efficiently, calmly, and attacking only sporadically, with style and intent. Style. Method. Two words that couldnâ€™t possibly be attached to Town a week ago.
Individually there were three weak links - Jevons, who played like he might get hurt, Willems, who was just plain slow - you could see him trying to get his legs moving, but they just wouldnâ€™t go - and Butterfield, whose distribution was erratic to say the least, and positioning faulty.
The highlight of the first half? Undoubtedly when Coldicott nutmegged a Barnsley player 30 yards from the Town goal. The game had the aura of a 0-0, or a sneaky Town win. More of the same in the second half then. Dull will do nicely sir.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Is Donovan playing?".
The report continues in the second half.
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