Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
Millers Crossing - Second Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO CHANGES were made by either team at half time, well not in personnel. From the kick off Town let Rotherham control the game. The ball was chipped up their right towards two players who simply sprinted down the touchline.
Rotherham Utd 1 Grimsby Town 1
30 Jan 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
Willems and Gallimore dillied, then dallied. Neither made a serious attempt to intercept the ball (which merely hung up in the air like a Butterfield cross). The result was a break down the Town left with Rotherham in the box and unmarked. The ball was smothered away, but the hint of panic was detectable on the Town left. And from then on the game was played, almost exclusively, in the Town half, and mostly in the Town penalty area.
Town sat back, presumably to hold what they had, allowing Rotherham to decided where to place the cross. And allowing Rotherham to send more and more players into the Town area. No, not allowing, begging them to. Logic would suggest that this would mean more space for Town to break into, especially Boulding (or Bouldin as the programme had it. Is that our French forward Michel Bouldin?). Ah, logic. Town aren't home to Mr Logic.
Boulding was peripheral even by his own standards, easily brushed aside, even by a defender who was smaller than him. It didn't help that at no point in the second half did Town build play from the defence. Every single time Coyne had it he lumped it downfield, unerringly towards Boulding's head. Amazingly Boulding failed to win any headers against a couple of defenders who were only a foot taller than him. Similarly the Town defence specialised in aimless thwacking in the vague direction of the
Rotherham half. All this meant Town gave the ball back to Rotherham as soon as they had it. So it was, edge of the seat, seat of the pants stuff. Perhaps edge of your pants then. The whole half can be summed up as "they lumped the ball into the Town box, there was a scramble". There you are, 45 minutes of football in 12 words. All you need to know. The details are sketchy, as there were so many bodies, so many crosses.
The first 20 or so minutes were a bit hairy, with crosses and headers, but nothing going near Coyne (and a couple of crosses and knock-ons cleared from near the goal line). I have a distinct memory of the Rotherham striker Warne volleying very wide and high from the centre of the box (as usual after a cross was half cleared/headed on). I also have fond memories of the increasing number of occasions when they passed the ball out of play, and their crowd started to get ratty in Rotherham.
Now that's what we come to football for, to see the opposition kick the ball out of play. There's nothing like a miss-placed pass to fire the imagination, to stoke the fires of passion deep inside every football fan. We don't go to see our team play well, but to laugh at the opposition's ineptitude, don't we. Or is that what this season has been reduced to?
Anyway after 20 or so minutes, during which Town actually got into the Rotherham half, they made a double substitution, taking off the ineffectual strikers (Warne and Barker) and bringing on Robins and Lee. The substitution galvanised Rotherham, who immediately had more movement up front, and created chances, rather than potential moments of danger (if a Town player fell over).
Coyne was eventually forced to make a save, and a damn fine one too. A cross (or was it a throw in or a free kick, who cares) was flung in from the Rotherham right. The ball dropped between what seemed like a thousand bodies and, from about a 10 yards, just to the right of the penalty spot, someone hit a low shot through a bundle of legs, bodies, arms and mud. Coyne saw the ball very late, but still managed to swoop low to his right and punch the ball away. The ball popped up near the post and a defender swept the ball upfield. Monkhouse wellied a shot from 20 yards over the bar, again after a cross was half cleared to the edge of the box. There was a succession of throw ins, with bodies blocking Coyne's view, but the central defenders (especially Groves and Ford) just kept heading the ball clear, with help from Coldicott and Burnett.
Ah that Town "attack", so rare it was worthy of description. Burnett played a well weighted pass up the right hand touchline, Boulding spun past his marker who chopped him down near the touchline, 25 yards out. The marker, McIntosh was booked for that.
Town had another effort - a Willems long throw from the left was back headed by Taylor, about 8 or 9 yards to the left of goal. The ball arced over the goalkeeper and on to the roof of the net. A few minutes later the only passing and movement seen all game from monochrome stripes occurred. Coldicott, Burnett and Willems played five one touch passes through the midfield, releasing Willems into space just inside the Rotherham half, in a central left position. Willems surged forward and powered a drive from 30 yards which bent away from goal. As it was already going 5 yards wide the bend took it 10 yards wide.
"Are you Pouton in disguise" someone shouted from the Town end. But not very loudly, as Pouton had been spotted sat amongst us. Perhaps the shouter feared Pouton may not have a heightened sense of irony or self awareness.
Around this time the referee booked Mullin for an outrageous dive inside the box, as he knocked the ball past Ford. This was the third time Mullin had dived, so it was about time the card was produced. He can think himself lucky it wasn't red.
But the chances started to flow in front of us. A couple cleared away from near the line, and the first real chance to Rotherham, with 10/15 minutes left, A free kick from their right, just inside the Town half was whacked towards a phalanx of white shirted brutes near the far post, about 10 yards out. The ball grazed the top of a head and fell to Robins, to the right of goal, about 8 or 9 yards out. Robins had peeled away intelligently and expected the ball to arrive at his feet. It did. He expected to score. He didn't. He dragged his shot across Coyne, through the 6 yard box and Ford tapped the ball of the line, just in front of an onrushing Rotherham player.
So it was going to be Town's day? No. With about 10 minutes left Willems backed off a Rotherham defender about 30 yards out, near the touchline, allowing the player to set himself to cross. He picked out Lee at the far post and zinged a flattish cross towards his target. Lee stepped away from Ford, who had lost a bit of concentration and allowed himself to get underneath the flight of the ball. LEE outjumped Ford and, from about 8 or 9 yards out, just beyond the far post, looped a header over and across Coyne, who sailed across his line and watched as the ball rolled into the goal off the foot of his left hand post. Silence in the Railway End, relieved whoops from elsewhere, and the tannoy blared out some rock music (Blur, I think, for those who wish to know such details. The one that goes "Woo-hoo". Song 2?).
And now there was only going to be one team that would win it. Rotherham steamed forward in search of the second goal, creating many, many moments of danger and horror in the Town area. Straight after the goal they won the ball back, surged into a huge space down the Town left and crossed in to the centre of the area. Panic, thrashings, throwings of bodies, no goal though.
With about 5 minutes left Raven replaced the fading Ford (who had been marvellous for 75/80 minutes, but was beginning to be overrun and confused by the movement of Robins and Lee). There was a series of 5 or 6 corners, which derived from another awful referreeing decision. A break down the Rotherham right saw the ball crossed, a challenge, and the ball fell behind Robins, about a dozen yards out, just to the left of the penalty spot. He leapt up and produced an overhead scissorskick, which just crept over the bar by millimetres. The referee, against all scientific advice, gave a corner. Is he on the Indian Umpires' panel?.
With 2 minutes of injury time it left plenty of opportunity for Rotherham to have more corners and throw ins, which they took. More scrambles, more worrying moments, but no chances. The nearest anyone came was when Boulding collected a long punt upfield on the Town left, about 40 yards from goal. He spun around and zoomed across the pitch towards the corner of the Rotherham area. When he got there he turned around and ran back across the face of the area, unleashing a curling left foot drive from a central leftish position. The goalkeeper was forced to dive across and pluck the ball away from the top right hand corner, about head height. A good save, but one that he should have made. It probably looked more exciting 100 yards away with black and white spectacles on.
That was it. Town needed a win and almost got a lucky one. But almost isn't enough, is it. On the balance of play it would be very, very hard to come up with a sustainable argument that Town deserved to win. Rotherham totally dominated, though that was, to some extent, by choice - Town were very negative once they went in front. The central defence was very solid, only ruffled by the introduction of the Rotherham substitutes, who, even then, only created a couple of opportunities (but two, like love, is all they needed).
The danger to Town was entirely down to the space afforded Rotherham down the flanks. In a sense Town played to the Rotherham strengths. Willems worked hard, but was a little lost in the wing back role, being neither one thing nor the other. Butterfield was not a significant human being, likewise Campbell, who many forgot was on the pitch. Burnett and Coldicott has inconsistent nights. Coldicott looked very tentative, as if unsure of his positioning and abilities (Oi, don't laugh at that word being used so close to the Destroyer), whereas Burnett had his better moments in defence, when heading clear or collecting the rebounds. Important stuff, and not the sort of thing that people notice. Anyway, he's supposed to be a creator, not a bits and pieces type.
Town tried to hang on, but just failed. It could have been a lot worse, with the number of times the ball was loose in the Town penalty area. But there always seemed to be Town players there to clear. Except once. There was fight and commitment in the team, it was not lacklustre like at Crewe. It wasn't great, and nearly adequate and work needs to be done on shoring up the flanks and passing the ball to Big Bob, rather than hopeful lumping. We still look like a team that's going down though. Town hope for things to happen, rather than expect.
Nicko's Man of the Match
Can only be one of the back three, Gallimore was efficient, Ford made some fine interceptions (and I am sure many would plump for him), but visibly wilted at the end. So Nick would have to say Mr P Groves, who didn't appear to make a mistake and was quietly and unspectacularly impassable.
Mr G Salisbury A pedantic little irritant. He insisted that Town players take throw ins and free kicks from exactly the right spot (even when it wasn't the right spot), yet wanted the game to flow when Rotherham had them. He overruled his one competent linesman twice to award Rotherham corners and was cowardly in avoiding using the yellow card for Rotherham dives (and I am not talking about South Yorkshire nightlife). He picked up some bonus points for not giving them a penalty, but I suppose even he has some dignity and could not face himself in the mirror if he had done (after all, he was standing only a couple of yards away from Mullin when he dived). I do not feel charitable towards him, he gets 4.02
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