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Passionate Misses - West Brom Report
By: Tony Butcher
A BRIGHT, balmy January day (well it was 10 degrees according to Ramsdenâ€™s digital thermometer), with a slight breeze blowing from Cleethorpes to Grimsby, in other words from Osmond to Pontoon Stands.
Grimsby Town 0 West Bromwich Albion 0
12 Jan 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The pitch was green with a hint of brown, suggesting that the turf was soft, wet and quite cut-uppable. The suggestion became a roaring statement as the ground staff spent an age trampling back the divots after the pre-match warm up. The Osmond Stand was completely full of bright eyed and bushy tailed Baggies, full of hope in the heart, with only the green seats empty. Credit where credit is due - they sang loudly, and they enunciated clearly, at least before kick off. The Upper Smiths/Stones/Findus looked particularly sparsely populated. Too many red seats my dear Mozart.
Town lined up in the 5-3-2 formation recently adopted as the norm. What, no Stacy? Yep, no Conan to destroy, just Campbell the scurrying scamp, Willems the morose Dutch plodder and Burnett the ball-playing fashion accessory. Although it was a pleasant surprise to see Campbell back, there were some wibbles in the crowd that he might not be fit and that he isnâ€™t very big. Casting an eye upon the West Brom players, the wibbles almost became a wobble. Big, strong, muscular and with wide stripes. Then someone remembered that even old tireless Lee Nogan scored a header when being marked by the ginormous Darren Moore. You should never judge a footballer by his cover.
West Brom kicked off towards their own supporters and immediately whacked the ball high down the Town right towards Dichio, who beat Burnett in the air, flicking the ball into space for Clement, who crossed to Coyne. Oops. Itâ€™s going to be like that is it? Ok, weâ€™ll just wait for their first goal.
Woah, Town arenâ€™t like that anymore, are they. Town immediately went down the other end, with Jevons having a barely memorable shot deflected for a corner. So bare is that memory that I can only remember the Pontoon murmurs about Jevons being useless and that we got a corner.
Oh, and that Thompson had sent Jevons into space with an intelligent pass. And from the corner the first flutters in the West Brom defence - Butterfield, from the Town right, fizzed a low, firm cross in towards the near post. Burnett missed/dummied, a defender dummied/missed the ball and the goalkeeper, on his goal line, dropped the ball in front of Thompson, just picking it up before the startled Scouser could react. A minute or so later, after a corner was cleared straight to him, Johnson volleyed a few feet wide of Coyneâ€™s right hand post from about 20 yards, centrally placed. The Baggies "Oooed", the Town fans barely raised an eyebrow - it was always going wide and didnâ€™t look very interesting. Which suited us fine.
And then it was our turn to "Oooo". A counter attack down the Town right, involving several players in one touch passing with movement ended up with a cross towards Thompson, about 15 yards out, near the centre of goal. As he was challenged the ball ballooned away towards the goal line, about 7 or 8 yards to the right of the West Brom goal. Burnett was the nearest player and he coolly waited for the ball to drop, spun and played a cushion volley back towards the goal. Thompson ran in and, from about 7 or 8 yards out, in a central right position, headed across goal, with Hoult plunging to his right to hold the ball right on the goal line. There wasn't quite enough power in the header, but it was still a decent effort on goal. At this point the crowd began to notice Houltâ€™s outfit. Gun metal grey, shiny and shimmering in the sunlight. What was he wearing? All he needed was a plastic helmet and a toboggan - just think Luge. On a wet day heâ€™s going to slide out of his area on his bottom. Thatâ€™s what you get when you wear frictionless clothing. What a smooth operator. And all that is without mentioning his long, see-through socks, more like stockings worn by ladies of a certain disposition. My, he did look strange. Fortunately he left his feather boa in the dressing room.
Ah yes, the football. West Brom caused mild panic when a deep cross from their left sailed over Groves and Gallimore, bouncing near the edge of the 6 yards box, level with Coyneâ€™s left hand post. Roberts (I think) had sneaked around the back, was free and steadying himself to welly a shot across Coyne. The blue barrier raced off his line and flung himself at the striker, blocking for a corner. The corner was taken from the West Brom right by Clement, who played it short and received the ball back before running across the face of the penalty area. From a position about 20 yards out and 3 or 4 yards to left of the goal he hit a sharp, low shot which Coyne saved at the foot of his near post. A decent save, nothing special. Wow, what a start to the game, with not even 10 minutes gone. Wait, thereâ€™s more. Town built a rather impressive move down the left, with Campbell gliding unnoticed from right to left and into a position between their midfield and defence. The ball was slipped quietly, but efficiently, to him, he turned and scurried forward. The ball eventually made itâ€™s way to Willems, about 30 yards out on the Town left. He swept forward and, from a position 6 yards to the right of goal and 20 yards out, fizzed a cracking shot a few inches wide of Houltâ€™s left hand post. What a cracker, eh?
Town had started really well, with Campbell infiltrating spaces between West Brom players, thus giving Town the option of playing short passes to an unmarked team-mate, rather than hopeful punts. It worked a treat. Willems too played exceptionally well in this period, making stiff challenges, tracking back and passing accurately and sensibly. It was pleasant viewing, though West Brom did look quite menacing, being very organised, direct and with an extremely fast striker in Roberts. Boy can he run quickly. Twice he burst down the Town left, almost getting a shot in. He was blocked by excellent defending from Groves, Gallimore and Ford, all of whom managed to hustle him into wider positions than he wished, delaying him enough for help to arrive. That was the strength of Town - the team play, there always seemed to be a team mate to help out.
The next 10 minutes were short of goalmouth action, but very exciting nonetheless, as each tackle was fought for, and both teams were constantly probing at the perceived weakness of the other. West Brom, like every single team in the first division, took one look at Chapman and decided that high balls over his head was the way forward. Ha-ha, suckers. Big Ben never lost a header and was Mr Perpetual Motion up and down the left wing. Marvellous. Town had a couple of forgettable long shots (Thompson from 25 yards that was miss hit after some fine jinking and swaying past defenders; Jevons, wastefully after a neat exchange of passes down the left set him free and he shot straight at the goalkeeper from the edge of the area, again lacking in power) and West Brom caused their support to stand up when they swung a free kick from their right beyond the far post and Moore, unmarked, headed across goal and on to the top of the net. Upon the specific and particular advice of the Pontoon, the Town Tifosi if you will, the massed ranks of Baggie boys (and girls) did indeed sit down and became silent.
Hey, there has still only been 20 minutes gone. This game had action. At least, so far. Roberts was sent free down the West Brom right, after a long high ball over Gallimore, who held him up long enough for Groves, Willems, and Chapman to stream back. Roberts shuffled, shimmied then shuffled again, creating a bit of space for himself on the left edge of the Town penalty area. He miss-hit his shot which rolled politely to Coyne at his near post. The game then had a crucial minute where both teams so nearly scored. To be precise for you pedants out there it was the 22nd minute. Firstly Roberts managed to extricate himself from the iron grip of Gallimore and Groves, being liberated in acres of space down the Town left. He outpaced Groves, bursting into the penalty area near the bye-line. He hit a low, hard cross to the near post where Dichio lurked like, erm, Lurch. As he pulled his leg back to sweep the ball in, Ford dived across and blocked. The ball became wedged beneath this terrible twosome and, as players rushed in like it was a 3rd division free for all, Coyne walked across and picked the ball up. As the lady said "Phew". Town counter attacked down the right, with Butterfield swishing around gaily when faced by two defenders. Faced with such trickery the defenders (and for you Baggies reading this the chief culprit was Clement) did nothing and allowed the Jogging Maestro to get behind them and cross high and deep. The goalkeeper stroked his chin, considered matters, raised an eyebrow, consulted his horoscope then panicked. He decided to amble off his line and catch the ball, only succeeding in colliding with his own defender and Thompson. The ball rolled loose near the edge of the penalty area on the Town left. Chapman raced in and tried to place the ball through the thicket of players in front of him. He missed three defenders and the goalkeeper, but Gilchrist managed, on the 6 yard box, to leap up and head the ball over the bar for a corner. My that was an exciting minute.
And four minutes later we had an exciting five seconds. Jevons fell well near the left touchline and won a free kick. Willems lofted the ball into the centre, with a West Brom defender half clearing towards the right edge of the penalty area. Butterfield ran forward, adjusted his body, and unleashed a superb right foot volley which flashed an inch or two past the goalkeeperâ€™s right hand post. Form this point onwards the game receded into a gutsy, frenetic battle, with few chances. There were isolated raids, with West Brom abandoning any pretence at patient ground based football - they had a big man and a fast man, so just whack it forward. Their only threat was Roberts who has truly frightening pace. Fortunately for Town, he has truly ordinary skill. The often impenetrable mind of Gallimore was more than enough to nullify Robertsâ€™ legs. Forget Dichio. Heâ€˜s big, thatâ€™s it.
Sometime in the neverland that was the last 20 minutes of the half Butterfield gave a comedy cameo, just below the Police Box. He received the ball near the touchline and awaited the full back. When the full back arrived, with a supporting cast of one, the Misunderstood One nut-megged the full back, then waved both arms around in a circular motion, as if exhorting the crowd to applaud. We didnâ€™t, so he didnâ€™t run after the ball. Town did get a deeply encouraging throw in out of it though.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 West Bromwich Albion 0
Before you knew it the referee blew for half time. The minutes whizzed by and the crowd gave the teams a hearty round of applause. Damn fine entertainment, damn fine commitment. Above all Town were playing football. Movement, passion, it was always the fashion at the Copa, Copa Cobana. All it needed was for young Mr Grace to wheel himself across the pitch and announce "Youâ€™re all doing very well" . We'd have liked a goal too.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Why is their â€˜keeper wearing teflon?".
The report continues in the second half.
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