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12/01 West Brom 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NEITHER team made any changes at half time though, again, Town kept their opponents waiting. Town re-started the game kicking towards the Osmond Stand and then it was over. Much like last week there was hardly any goalmouth action in the second half.
Grimsby Town 0 West Bromwich Albion 0
12 Jan 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
Unlike last week, the second half was always intriguing, holding everyoneâ€™s attention â€˜til the last.
West Brom had obviously changed tactics at half time. Their players ran around more and the ball was played forward quicker and higher. Whenever a Town player stood underneath the ball waiting to head it, a West Brom player jumped at them. Surely sophisticated aesthete Mr Gary Megson (or Ary Megson, as the official matchday magazine called him) hadnâ€™t told his team to "rough â€˜em up". His metropolitan sensibilities would not, surely, stand for such vulgarity? First to be clobbered was Paul Groves, when Chambers (I think) jumped into him after Our Leader had calmly headed the ball to Gallimore. Even Groves was forced to exclaim his pain as a knee entered his ribs. The referee told Chambers not to do it again. Town at some stage crossed into the West Brom area and they cleared. Thatâ€™s as memorable as it was. No chance, in other words, and not even the semblance of an inkling of a possibility either.
After about 50 minutes one of their midfielders (McInnes, I think) smacked a firm drive from 25 yards which went a yard or two over the centre of Coyneâ€™s goal. Again at the Osmond End the collection of small furry Baggies "Ooooed". No way was it "Oooworthy". After another five minutes of barging and barnstorming tackles from both sets of defenders, West Brom made a double substitution, switching to a 4-3-3 formation by bringing on Dobie and Lyttle for Chambers and Balis, a man who no-one had noticed was on the pitch. It was a shame he was taken off as he was contributing so much to our mental well being. As Dobie ran on, Campbell ran out to the wing, with Butterfield dropping back to right back, similarly Gallimore wandered out to be a left back, with Chapman playing as an orthodox left midfielder. Yes, youâ€™ve guessed it, 4-4-2. Town lost some attacking verve with this change, but gained a bit more defensive solidity. As that watermark was high anyway, it just meant that West Brom were never going to score. They did have sniffs, but nothing clear cut.
West Brom gained control over much of the second half, without creating a chance from open play. Town at last remembered to turn on the burglar alarm and lock all the doors. The West Brom supporters noticed the quietness of the home support and asked "Shall we sing a song for you?". Ah-ha, they do requests! Some one asked for "Oh Carol", another "Halfway up the stairs", but they didnâ€™t oblige. Perhaps they arenâ€™t au fait with the repertoire of Neil Sedaka or Kermitâ€™s cousin. Oh well, maybe next time.
Townâ€™s attempted attacks were very intermittent, with Campbell and Willems noticeably less effective in the 4-4-2 formation; Willems especially faded from view. He wasnâ€™t poor, just less noticeable than in the first half. On the other hand, Butterfield was transformed into a stormingly efficient right back. Thatâ€™s RIGHT BACK, as he was reminded every time he did something, by several members of the Pontoon. "Thatâ€™s fantastic defending at RIGHT BACK Danny". "Excellent RIGHT BACK play Danny". Late on he performed two fantastic tackles deep inside the Town area as a striker bore down on goal. The first was a sliding tackle form the side after a long, long track back, which knocked the ball out for a corner. The second, even better, was on the left hand side of the Town defence, following a sharp breakaway where Dobie wriggled and barged his way free inside the penalty area. When about three yards out and a few yards wide of Coyneâ€™s left hand post, Dobie was dispossessed by a huge raking sliding hook tackle by Butterfield, who scooped the ball around and played it calmly to a fellow defender to clear.
Shall I? oh yes, I may as well. Again late in the game a West Brom striker burst free inside the Town area, again extremely close to Coyneâ€™s left hand post. Butterfield hustled the striker as Ford came across in support. The striker attempted to turn, but Ford stepped across him and, incredibly, dispossessed the West Brom player by flicking the ball with his right leg behind his left leg and turning. However he turned into Butterfield (not literally, as that would probably have made the BBC News, being an unusual event). A momentary lapse of reason? No, of course not. Ford oozed the striker away as Butterfield dribbled the ball across the area and passed to a striped warrior. Danger over. Any more defensive superlatives? Yes, in the last 10 minutes Burnett, yes, Burnett the man who it is alleged never tackles, ended up being the last Town defender as Roberts burst free about 7 yards to the left of goal, right on the bye-line. Burnett saved the day by tracking back and sliding across Roberts to concede a corner.
And we are nearly at the end of our journey to the bottom of the league. Other facts relevant for you to be aware of? Well, after 70 minutes Boulding replaced Campbell, with Jevons ambling out to the right wing and Boulding playing down the centre. Boulding didnâ€™t do anything worthy of description, good or bad. Jevons continued to be an ephemeral presence, only this time under the Smiths/Stones/Findus rather than in the centre of the pitch. Apart from one 40 yard run back at speed to chase a West Brom attacker, the Anfield wonderboy was by far the worst Town player, lacking much fight. His turning circle resembles an Austin 7 with a broken steering column, his work rate fluctuated between minimal and adequate. If he wants to stop the rumblings of discontent he should look towards his strike partner, who, of course, has no laurels to rest upon. Thompson was lively, inventive, determined and occasionally quick. He induced a booking in the 70th minute when he received the ball on the touchline, near the away dug-out, spun quickly and sprinted down the touchline, the defender chopped him down, it was the only way to stop him.
As you can tell there have been no Town attacks described - a couple of crosses from Butterfield which went into the Osmond Stand with varying degrees of embarrassment were all Town had to show in open play. Plus a couple of free kicks/corners which were hastily and nervously cleared from inside the West Brom 6 yard box for corners. Sounds dull? It wasnâ€™t. It was heartening. All West Brom "created" was in the last 10 minutes when the referee was fooled in to giving them a free kick 25 yards out wide on the left. McInnes flung the ball deep inside the penalty area and Dichio headed very, very softly down into the ground and straight at Coyne. The only danger was the possibility that Coyne might have fallen asleep before the ball reached him. As he is not known to suffer from narcolepsy then, like Homer Simpsonâ€™s plans to live under the sea, it ainâ€™t gonna happen. Soft header from a soft head?
In the last 20 minutes a plaintiff cry, like Russell Osman in Escape to Victory, wafted from Pontoon to pitch "Come on Town, we can still win this". Every five minutes. Indeed sir, they could, But they didnâ€™t. Two minutes of injury time were played. Vigorously contested as much as the preceding 90, but nothing tangible to recount. Much blood, much thunder, but no shots. The game ended, the crowd rose to applaud the team. Odd as it may sound to those absent from Blundell Park, the crowd was, largely, content with what they had seem. Another 0-0, another second half with no chances created. Superficially similar to last weekâ€™s dire drudge, but not even in the same solar system!. The defence was superb - and by defence that means the whole team, there was always a player covering. And boy did they try. West Bromâ€™s brand of muscular football pinned Town back in the second half, but Town never looked like they would concede, and in the first half Town pressed inventively and out-footballed them.
There is still pain, but Lennieâ€™s ways are receding. A distant shipsmoke on the horizon. The old comfortable ways are coming through in waves. There is something to be said for a defence that is organised and a confident feeling that the opposition wonâ€™t be allowed to score, by design rather than accident. Ah, the attack. One day weâ€™ll score again. The strikers Town have at the moment resemble six characters in search of a plot. At the moment? Make that the last 15 years.
People were walking out with smiles on their faces, happy that the team tried and was playing to their strengths, and as a team. If you donâ€™t concede you donâ€™t lose. Just the difficult bit to sort out now.
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
There were many fine individual performances, Butterfield defensively (especially as RIGHT BACK), Groves majestic, Ford calm (letâ€™s ignore his triangular boots which send the ball, in Leveresque fashion, into the Main Stand), Willems and Campbell in the first half, Gallimore when in a back three (his distribution reverted to "old Galli", when he was a left back). I havenâ€™t mentioned one defender yet, have I. Well thatâ€™s because heâ€™s the man of the match. Undoubtedly. BEN CHAPMAN was both fantastic and magnificent. We know about his heading ability, but his work rate was phenomenal. The last man defending, saving Town with Macca-like blocks, the first man attacking, closing down defenders in so-called lost causes. He was everywhere, he was faultless. He was, and is, Ben Chapman.
Mr G Poll. I didnâ€™t realise who the referee was until I looked at the programme five minutes ago. Unfussy, though perhaps a little too keen on the friendly word of advice rather than book, and kept out of the way. No really bad decisions, just a few arguable ones (mainly to do with advantage). 8 out of 10. Canâ€™t complain, wonâ€™t complain.
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