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26/02 Stockport 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO CHANGES were made by either team at half time. Yet again, Town kept the opposition waiting for their return, which Palmer used to give a "pep" talk to his floundering charges. Either that or it was his new, revolutionary tactics - "all run after the ball", like the end of a Benny Hill Show.
Grimsby Town 3 Stockport County 1
26 Feb 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The first 5 minutes were relatively uneventful, with a couple of Pringle spins and wasted crosses from the wings. Then the game, and perhaps Townâ€™s hopes, disintegrated. A pass was played up to Pringle, to the right of the centre circle. Challinor slid through from behind, literally kicking Pringle up in the air. Pringle crumpled and never got up. The Town players ran up and frantically waved the physio on (who was very slow to come on). A minute or so later they gesticulated towards the bench and asked for the stretcher and a leg brace. Allen went bananas and had to be restrained by Coyne, McDermott and Burnett. The crowd bayed for Challinor to be sent off. The referee only waved his yellow card. Now that was pusillanimous in the extreme, as Challinor had no chance of getting the ball, the only outcome of his tackle would have been a kick on Pringle. The crowd sank down in to their seats, stunned and visibly upset. Carlton Palmer then ran up to Groves and had a long discussion with him as the game re-started.
Oh, and Boulding replaced Pringle, who was given a standing ovation and had his name chanted, even as he was being placed in the ambulance. The ambulance was only away from itâ€™s position near the police box for a minute or two, and the two ambulances then spent the next 15 minutes reversing up and down. Did he ever get to hospital?
The game was played in a very subdued atmosphere after the incident, with the Town players quite obviously affected by the injury. The crowd too were "down". About 5 minutes after the incident Challinor was taken off, though this only caused the crowd to rouse themselves into a froth of indignation, as Challinor wandered to the touchline, then didnâ€™t go off, then he did, delaying the match for over a minute. It was all down the pompous preening prig in green.
The next action of the game came in the 62nd minute, when Boulding surged down the left touch-line, got the bye-line and, mark this down for posterity, for it is a momentous moment, looked up and crossed. And an excellent cross it was too, zipping through the 6 yard box just in front of Allen.
A couple of minutes later Boulding spun in an inside left position, near the half way line, and simply ran at the Stockport defence. He beat three players and, from the edge of the area, hit a low shot across the â€˜keeper and a foot or so wide of the left hand post. About 10 minutes after that, after a bit of one touch passing on the right, Burnett dinked a pass over the Stockport defence, between their centre back and left back. Boulding sprinted forward, got in front of the defenders and scampered towards goal. The goalkeeper came out, stood up and Boulding, just to the left of goal and about a dozen yards out, clipped a right foot shot against the â€˜keeperâ€™s chest.
These were extremely isolated moments, as the game slowed down and both teams seemed to accept that Town had won, and were just waiting for the game to end. The referee continued to annoy, when he made Town take a throw in three times, and he ended up booking a couple of Stockport players for late challenges. He also failed to book a defender when Pouton was body checked in midfield as he surged forward towards a loose ball, and when a defender literally hauled Boulding down as he sprinted on with the ball at his feet and no-one between him and goal.
The crowd amused itself with Palmer baiting, the most popular being that they believed he has onanistic tendencies. After a while Palmer began to react to this, clapping the crowd occasionally, in between his constant moans at the referee, and his constant trots to the touchline to consult his assistant manager. And that was perhaps the only interesting thing about the second half - the contrast in player-management Palmer has the Lyons approach, whereas Groves left the bench to make decisions, he merely played. And Stockport looked leaderless and clueless as a result.
You know I havenâ€™t mentioned Coyne touching the ball with his hands yet. Thatâ€™s â€˜cos he didnâ€™t. Stockport managed to get near the Town penalty area a couple of times, even running into to it once, but no shots. Until the 78th minute when a midfielder tried a shot from 25 yards, which was going wide, but bent even further wide as it travelled towards seat J36 in the Pontoon. And that was Stockportâ€™s contribution to Town safety. One shot in the second half, one shot and a header in the first. Literally nothing else.
Town attacked intermittently, but without too much purpose. Boulding kept running into Stockport players and Allen looked a little lost without his Pringle jumper. Campbell disappeared completely in the second half, with Butterfield unfortunately visible. One cannot accuse him of being lost in a blur of activity. With Dreadful Danny there is only ying these days. Groves, up for a free kick, hit a first time right foot shot a yard wide, from a central position about 20 yards out. The only other effort I can remember is a shot from Pouton, from about 30 yards out on the left, which hit one of the Town forwards and deflected towards the â€˜keeperâ€™s right hand post. The deflection took away most of the ballâ€™s energy, and it was going wide anyway before the goalkeeper picked it up.
But there were two other incidents, one bad, one a bit of crowd pleasing by the referee. Firstly the bad. After 78 minutes Todd limped off, to a standing ovation, for the man is Handyside with knobs on. Ford ran on and was excellent, guiding, shepherding, caressing the ball to safety. And now itâ€™s comedy hour. After 84 minutes the referee suddenly stopped, turned round and waved a red card at Palmer, presumably for dissent. Palmer went mad and was led away by Pouton. Wow, Pouton as calming influence shock. Palmer hung around the bench, the crowd bayed at him, and he was eventually led off down the tunnel, looking most displeased by the turn of events. Curiously, the crowd were most pleased.
There were 5 minutes of added time, nothing happened. And that was it. Triumph overlayed with disaster. The Pringle injury ruined the game, and most felt that it ruined the Town recovery. The injury to Todd just exacerbated that feeling. In the first half Town had looked, on occasions, excellent. The two Charlton players have added solidity and competence. Or should that be had. Allen was rejuvenated by Pringle and an exciting partnership fluttered, but was crushed on the wheel by Challinor. All very distressing.
Stockport were as bad as their points total suggests, which wonâ€™t come as a surprise to any stray Stockportian reading this. You do have our sympathy. For Palmer read Lyons and Laws. Been there done that, eh. We expected a bombardment via Challinorâ€™s long throws, but he only did one, which ballooned up and was easily dealt with. Ah, you see what happens when he doesnâ€™t have a dry ball or gaps in the fence.
There were a couple of poor performances from Town players - yet again, the two wide midfield players. Pouton was also very wild, getting in the way a lot and passing below even his standard. But the defence was untroubled (mostly because Stockport were so fey), with Smith a very useful attacking full back. He overlapped and dribbled in to the area, not for him the usual Galli cross from 30 yards. He certainly added an extra dimension to the attacks (and made up for Campbellâ€™s lethargy).
But a win is a win, and oh so vital too. Town are still grasping the flotsam as it bobs towards the open sea. What a pity a shark bit off Pringleâ€™s legs.
Nickoâ€™s man of the Match
Pringle and Todd get very special mentions in despatches, but the academy award goes to Paul Groves, for an assured, calm display at the heart of defence, and some excellent distribution from the back.
Mr Clattenburg A petty little man, very much in the "Iâ€™m in charge" school of officialdom. Despite his sending off of Palmer, he gets 4.16.
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