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Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
16/02 Sheff Utd 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO CHANGES were made by either team at half time, though Town managed to come out a couple of minutes later than Sheffield United, thus making them wander round like discarded suitors.
Grimsby Town 1 Sheffield United 0
16 Feb 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
And what a change, Town came out and simply ran at the Blades, which meant the game was played out in front of the Pontoon. Exhilarating, enjoyable too. The chief culprit in this enjoyment giving was Boulding, who ran and ran and ran. Sometimes he even had the ball. After a couple of minutes he returned to an old favourite - the 20 yard sprint from the half way line to the edge of the opposition penalty area, followed by a swinging, sliced right foot shot that goes way over the bar (optional extra two unmarked team-mates to his right). But still, it was attacking intent and did cause the Sheffield defenders to have a mild panic. Thatâ€™s always nice to see. A couple of minutes later Town put together an old style one-touch "triangles' move down the left hand side, with Coldicott bursting through the centre a la Cockerill. Unfortunately, Campbellâ€™s little chip over the defence was a bit too hard, with Tracey rushing off his line to scoop the ball away from Coldicottâ€™s foot. Sheffield booted the ball down the other end, over the top of the defence between Groves and McDermott. Ndlovu (I think) barged after it and Coyne managed to fly hack the ball down field. As far as Furlong, about 35 yards out in an inside left position. He tried to hit a low shot towards goal but Raven coolly stepped across the line of the shot, controlled it and set up a Town counter attack. There were waves of Town attacks, which produced possibilities, but no shot. Crosses blocked, crosses overhit, Boulding surges stopped just outside the box, possession, passing, passion. Town were on top, looking bothered (in contrast to the slackers in red stripes).
Warnock soon tired of the nonsense his players had produced, making a double substitution after less than 10 minutes of the second half. He had to, as Town were all over them. The word swarm is appropriate. One of the substitutes was the diving dwarf, Peschisolido, so we expected some late tackles and, above all, late dives in the Town penalty area.
We may have expected it, but Peschisolido disappointed us by merely being useless, running around like a small dog at the heels of a horse. One half expected Groves to boot him contemptuously into the Main Stand. Iâ€™m sure he disappointed the increasingly solemn and silent Yorkists. As the afternoon rolled on they became quieter and quieter. It wasnâ€™t the sunny slaughter of the innocents that they had expected.
The substitutions had no effect as Town continued to grind them down with some tough, tenacious tackling by Coldicott (of course) and Burnett (yep, â€˜tis true, the coiffured artiste confounded his terrace detractors with a Coldicott-lite performance. A sort of Stacy with knobs on, if you will). They looked very comfortable together, very organised. Ying and yang in perfect harmony. They probably want to teach the world to sing too. Boulding, for the umpteenth time, skipped free, this time on the left, cut inside the box and slashed a shot at the â€˜keeper from just wide of the right hand post. The ball flew off the â€˜keeperâ€™s chest into the middle, but straight to a defender. A couple of minutes later, after Allen had done fantastically well to place his head underneath Pageâ€™s arms, Town were given a free kick about 30 yards out, just to the left of centre. Gallimore lollopped up and curled a viciously swerving low shot around the wall. The cynics in the Pontoon sneered as it arced a couple of yards wide. The sneers disappeared as the ball zoomed in towards the â€˜keeperâ€™s bottom right hand corner. The sneers turned to cheers, then to "ahhhs' as the â€˜keeper leapt across and produced a superb save to parry for a corner. Soon afterwards Allen won another free kick, this time somewhere in midfield on the left, with another expert leap and fall near a defender. The ball was dinked in, there was a bit of a flurry of arms and legs around the penalty spot and Raven, in the centre about 8 or 9 yards out, produced a Reesian back heel, which made the â€˜keeper dive to his right to smother near his line. Even as we rose to applaud the man, Raven limped away, and then off, to be replaced by Ford. A standing ovation for the one going off (he was excellent again) and for the one coming on too. It may have taken an hour for us to get some belief, but the crowd were really behind the team, roaring them into every tackle, every throw in, even every substitution.
But it was still 0-0, though it felt different from recent games. The team was again a team, there seemed some belief in it, some desire. The merest inkling that the spirit of last March lurks in the bowels of Blundell Park. Fordâ€™s first touch was on Furlongâ€™s ankles, as within 30 seconds of coming on he was booked for upending the lanky loanster as he bounded away deep within the Town half, on the right.
The next action was at first infuriating, then hilarious, then exciting, then infuriating again. Burnett appeared to win the ball cleanly when producing a big hairy sliding challenge near the right corner of the Town penalty area. The referee awarded the free kick after the Sheffield player fell down as if struck by a thousand arrows. Sheffield United decided to produce a fancy routine where they knocked the ball sideways, stopped the ball, then pushed it the other way as the wall ran out. Only the Town wall didnâ€™t run out, it simply watch them knock it sideways. The Sheffield players looked confused and ran away from the ball. Boulding eventually emerged from the wall and walked off with the ball, then started to sprint straight at the heart of the defence. He ran from one penalty area to the other, with two Town players up in support and unmarked. The crowd roared and roared, reaching a crescendo as he got to the edge of the Sheffield penalty area. He delayed his pass way too long, before slipping the ball to his right to Butterfield, who was offside as he whacked a low cross shot through the six yard box. This is the point where it is not churlish to berate Boulding for his lack of spatial awareness. What a waste.
A couple of minute later Boulding, yet again, zoomed past Page on the right, deep inside the penalty area and, from a very narrow angle, tried to hit a low left footed cross shot in to the bottom right hand corner. The goalkeeper managed to parry the ball away in to the centre, the defence again clearing before any Town player got near. You have to have sympathy for Allen, Boulding is flippinâ€™ quick and Allen is getting on. The match was all Town, with the Blades barely getting into the Town half, let alone the penalty area. But still no goal. Whatâ€™s a goal? Ah, this is a goal.
With about 15 minutes left, Town won a throw in near the Police Box. After a bit of tipping and tapping the ball was played back to Butterfield, who tried to go outside the full back, then cut back inside. The Jogging One, about a dozen yards wide of goal and 7 or 8 from the bye line, unleashed a piledriving left foot cross which was diverted off the back of a defender beyond the far post. CAMPBELL re-adjusted his feet as he fell backwards and headed firmly into the left hand side of the net, about shoulder height. The crowdâ€™s reaction was exactly what youâ€™d expect it to be. I donâ€™t need to describe it to you, do I?
This woke Sheffield United up for at least a minute, as within a minute they so very nearly equalised. Uhlenbeek (the "Gus of Wind' - copyright Ipswich programme notes) scorched down their right and clipped a flat cross to the near post, about a 12 yards out. Jagielka flicked a header high beyond Coyne. The ground suddenly went very silent as the ball arced through the Town penalty area. Then 5,000 "Phews' leapt out from 5,000 mouths as the ball drifted a foot or so wide of the left hand post. You can forget about them until the very last second, as they did nothing else of any note (I am ignoring a couple of long shots as they looked most ineffectual and inaccurate). Town continued to attack with a couple more Boulding surges and shots, but mostly Town had the ball inside the Sheffield half.
The Town crowd started to get a bit cocky, as the Sheffield supporters trickled away, but then, with five minutes left dozens of Pontoonites left their seats. They incurred the wrath of the many "Your tea will still be hot if you stay'. "Youâ€™d rather start a queue in Brereton Avenue than watch Town win! Get back in your seats'. There were four minutes of added time and after 3 minutes 51 Furlong flicked on a long ball and a striker almost broke through on the edge of the area. Only Fordâ€™s pace and perception stopped Peschilsolido bursting through. The cost was a corner. The corner was flipped into the near post. Bodies were thrown at the ball, the ground went silent and Coyne picked the ball up on his line. Then the referee blew his whistle. The game was over, the ground wasnâ€™t silent then.
Marvellous. Deserved, timely and, as usual, they give us a glimmer of hope. That cruel, cruel word. Everyone, and I mean everyone, performed well, they all ran around, got stuck in and, just as importantly, they played football. There was method allied to attitude. The attitude of the Sheffield United players helped too, but that ainâ€™t our problem. Apart from Coyneâ€™s insistence on drop kicking towards Butterfieldâ€™s head, Town tried to pass the ball. There was movement up front, and it was, by and large, intelligent movement, especially from Allen. There were solid partnerships all over the pitch, but above all the word to describe this performance was "team'. It may be all too late, but at least they are trying.
One team that does needs replacing is the ball boys (or as they are now entitled - the " Official match day recovery team') - they were slow to give the ball to Town players, but raced to return it to Sheffield in the last five minutes. Thatâ€™s the 4th ball, as three were booted over the stands and out of the Ground. "Sack the ball boys'
So weâ€™re now back to "ifs'. If Town win the home games, if Crewe start to lose, if pigs start to fly. In this world really weird things can happen. After all, Raven is a crowd favourite now. Whoâ€™d have thought that a month ago?
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
This is really difficult, as so many played well. Boulding was prominent, as was Raven. Burnett was graft rather than art, with McDermott his usual excellent self. And Gallimore didnâ€™t put a foot wrong either. However, the unsung hero that is Coldicott gets the nod of approval. He made sure nothing got through, and from that platform the others flourished.
Mr A Leake. Sorry, but no complaints. A few minor quibbles over some minor incidents, but he was very sound. He ignored Campbellâ€™s weak dive and penalty appeal late in the game, and helpfully took a benevolent view of Grovesâ€™ fantastic professional foul on Asaba in the first half. The ball was played over the top down the Town right, Groves was beaten, so he tripped up Asaba and made himself fall over the rolling striker. "Accidental' collision? Mmmm. Can we have Mr Leake every week? Weâ€™d get a fair rub of the green then. He gets a straight 8.
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