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Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
Over the Rainbow - Palace Report
By: Tony Butcher
A RATHER typical late winter day, grey, a hint of cold and little wind. The atmosphere was apprehensively excited, after the goalfest on Tuesday, and the thought of those Palace forwards rampaging all over Blundell Park.
Grimsby Town 5 Crystal Palace 2
02 Mar 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The crowd was back to its usual size, with only around 350-400 glaziers bothering to trudge up to the land of cobbles and monochrome television (stereotype number 6 in the Book of London Life).
Again Dave Boylen appeared on the pitch, microphone in hand, exhorting the congregation to cheer. His "hook" today was the inflatable Harry Haddock revival, so at least a dozen inflatable fish were waved at him on command, just before the players ran on. It felt a bit desperate and unconvincing "wave your fish and make some noise", with the participants doing so without much heart.
The Town players warmed up by running behind the goal in front of the Pontoon. Todd was not apparent, which caused a great big sigh. Then, at 2:50, he appeared, which caused a great big cheer. He has quickly established himself as Talismanic Toddy, the Pontoon pin-up. So at least Town wonâ€™t concede too many, but where were the goals going to come from?
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. Ah, the return of the son of nothing to the attack to partner Allen. Weâ€™d be guaranteed a lot of scurrying and frustration then. Rowanâ€™s re-emergence was greeted with special applause, after all heâ€™s only 14, give the lad some encouragement before he takes his mock GCSEs.
Town kicked off towards the Osmond Stand with a long raking pass down the left - straight to their full back. The first minute was uneventful, the next 89, were full of adventure. Strap yourselves in Town fans, youâ€™re in for the read of your lives.
In the second minute Coyne drop kicked the ball right down the middle of the pitch. As elements of the Pontoon groaned about route-one football the Palace centre back, Murphy, missed the ball. Allen sneaked around the back and waited as the ball bounced high, high, high unto the heavens.
About a dozen yards from goal and eight or nine yards wide of the â€˜keeperâ€™s left hand post, Allen swiveled and hit a first time right foot shot a few feet wide of the far post. A few minutes later Todd calmly stepped across and swept the ball off a Palace playerâ€™s foot. He then steered a perfectly weighted pass up the left touchline for Allen, who had swayed out to the wing in anticipation of something wonderful. Allen waited for the ball, then smacked a first time pass across the pitch and inside their left full back for Boulding, who was just beaten to the ball by the onrushing goalkeeper on the left edge of the penalty area.
Around the 10th minute Boulding did it again, scuttling away behind the Palace defence, this time on the Town left. He got somewhere near the bye line, attracting most of the defenders like a particularly sweet chunk of apricot, before looking up (yes, you read that correctly) and crossing to the totally unmarked Butterfield way beyond the far post, about 10 yards wide and a dozen yards from the bye-line. Butterfield tried to hit a spectacular right foot volley, but he only managed to ram the ball into the ground. The ball bounced up, and across, the goal towards the â€˜keeperâ€™s right hand corner, but a defender headed clear. Mmmm, interesting - 10 minutes gone and three moments of danger created by Town passing and movement (ok, two of them, one can hardly call a Coyne punt upfield total football). Palace, literally, had not got into the Town penalty area. Their forwards had twisted and turned on the wings, but produced nothing, with Town defending intelligently, not permitting them to turn and run, or have space into which they could knock balls to use their power and pace. The one worrisome thing was the space between Smith and Campbell on the left, a couple of times they allowed Palace to play little triangles up the wing, making them little piggies in the middle.
And then it came to pass - a Palace pass. A one-two down the Town right, a cross, half cleared and their huge Nordic tank, Riihilahti, hit a right foot volley straight into Coyneâ€™s arms from a central position, about 20 yards out. There wasn't much power in it, and the save was quite comfortable. A barely audible "ooh" drifted across from the Osmond Stand. It reminded the Town fans that Palace had some support present, and they began to taunt them exuberantly with the usual limited repertoire. The first 15 minutes had been, essentially, Town, with Palace showing nothing to suggest that they were on the brink of a Premiership place. They played like they normally do against Town - a few fast strikers and a disorganised defence, with a little collective team spirit. Palace were playing as if they, like their manager, the Paranoid Adenoid, hated coming to Grimsby. Was it beneath their dignity? Would they get their kit dirty?
Then the game perked up a bit - a few hefty tackles flew in, with Burnett and Pouton in the thick of the thicket of legs. Burnett was booked after about 25 minutes for winning the ball - it really was a poor decision. Just below the Stones/Findus/Smiths Stand, about 30 yards from goal, Burnett raced across, slid forward and knocked the ball away from the Palace winger, Gray, for a Palace throw in. So the referee gave them a free kick and booked Burnett. But don't get the impression that the referee was "agin" Town, for he booked the Palace centre back, Murphy, because Boulding ran into him from behind. And he didn't book Todd when our Lucky Charm gave the ball away (through a bit too much confidence in his ability to dribble past three opponents on the edge of his own area) then stepped across Freedman, raising his forearm across Freedmanâ€™s face. And then the referee gave Town a free kick when Gray, prostrate near Coyneâ€™s right hand post, got up and managed to upend McDermott who was in the process of leaping over him. Shocking eh, there should the a law against opponents getting up off the floor. Itâ€™s a stain on the modern game. All these things happened within a 5 minute period, during which the game speeded up, and the tackles became firmer. It all worked to Townâ€™s advantage too, as Riihilahti had been the most effective player during the first half and hour, collecting every loose ball, and being the Palace player to block and stop promising Town moves. Pouton was roused and Pouton triumphed. Then the floodgates opened.
There were a few almost moments, with Boulding scuttling away on the break a couple of times, a couple of crosses that almost reached Todd and Groves at the far post, and when the Palace â€˜keeper fluffed a fly kick straight to Butterfield, about 45 yards out, to the right of goal. The Jogster looked up, saw an open goal, then his mind became filled with strange visions, he believed, yes, he believed he really is the second Beckham, for he clipped a right footed shot towards the top right hand corner, but the Humber breeze smacked into his face, he woke up and saw the ball drift a yard or so wide of the â€˜keeperâ€™s left hand post. The sly Todd obstruction of Freedman gave them a free kick about 25 yards out. Palace completely cocked it up, with at least two of their players arguing over who should take it. Freedman won out, hit it against the wall and watched as the ball went to Boulding near the centre circle. He turned and went on one of his crazy, mazy runs, where he beats dozens of players several times, but eventually runs into the first person he had beaten.
Ah, the half hour mark - Town scored you know. After a spell of pressure down the Town left, a deep cross was half cleared towards Campbell (I think) who scooped and sliced the ball upwards. Groves chested the ball down and fell over, in the centre, about 25 yards out. TODD, who was stood next to the fallen angel, strode forward and hit a right foot shot that seemed to be going towards the top left hand corner. The ball then slowly arced towards the top right hand corner, the goalkeeper adjusted his feet, fell to his right like a spoon in porridge, and the ball plopped against the netting. Who cares how the ball got there, the important thing is that it did. Todd, yet again. This man is truly loved by the fans. He stops goals, he scores goals. One-nil, get in there, eh?
Palace were not a completely redundant force, with Groves (twice) and Todd forced to use their experienced limbs to intercept crosses from the bye line, after Palace players had skipped free down the wings on break-aways. Freedman, as one has come to expect, was the peskiest of the kids in red and blue. He wriggled around the edge of the box, turned and had a soft shot blocked, and a little later was set free down the Town right, on the half way line, with all the Town defence in as hot a pursuit as they could muster at such short notice. He surged on towards goal, getting inside the box, near the bye-line, about 10 yards wide of goal. Don't worry about a thing, â€˜cos every little thing is going to be alright. Groves positioned himself perfectly to clock the cross for a corner. Nothing came of it. But something did come of Townâ€™s next attack, when Boulding sprinted down the left, jinked away to his heartâ€™s content, cut inside and, from the corner of the penalty area, tried to cross to Allen at the far post. The cross was blocked but Boulding wellied the rebound, the ball hitting Allen at the near post. Thatâ€™s not a euphemism.
It was all going swimmingly for Town, the majority of the possession, the majority of the chances, just a few minutes to hold out until half time and everybody would be happy. After about 43 minutes Palace won a corner on the right. It was flung into the centre and Burnett, just, managed to head the ball away with Murphy lurking behind him. Murphy managed to head Burnett, with both receiving treatment. Burnett got up, but Murphy had blood pouring from a cut above his left eye. He was led off the pitch and received treatment (and the application of a rather large bandage) just to the left of Coyneâ€™s goal. Coyne whacked the free kick up field, there was an attempted header or two, then a few flying tackles. The ball eventually fell to Boulding, near the centre circle, on the right and he spun around, went left, then right, zipping between and past two defenders. BOULDING was then past the last defender, inside the penalty area, with just the goalkeeper to beat, which he did with great calmness, placing his shot across him as he came out and dived to his right. A really super goal, made possible by the injury to Murphy, who should have been standing in the spot where Boulding zigged and zagged his way through. Still, not our problem.
And a minute later, still in added time for the injury to Murphy, things only got better. Town built quickly down the centre and right, with the ball falling to Butterfield near the edge of the box, wide of goal. He clipped in a short, sharp, low pass to Allen, who controlled the ball and spun goalwards, all in one movement. He got past the last defender and, about a dozen yards out, just to the right of centre of the goal, only had the goalkeeper to beat. Clarke came out and blocked, but the ball rolled back to Allen. Despite it getting caught under his feet, he was able to poke the ball towards goal. Again it was half blocked, but ALLEN still managed to tap it into the net. Thirty seconds later the half ended.
Half time: Grimsby Town 3 Crystal Palace 0
The ground rocked and rolled, with many a Town fan pinned to the roof with excitement. A seething cauldron which roared on the team, with wave upon wave of attack built on the wall of sound. Town had simply overwhelmed Palace with a rousing roaring rollicking juggernaut of passion and skill. I emphasise the word Town, more than the sum of itâ€™s parts, some players had been superb, but the team was the thing. They passed, they moved, they ran everywhere, they tackled everything. Palace players looked shocked and stunned. So were we.
Could Town really keep it up for another 45 minutes? Did we really just see another 3 goals? In the first half?
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Am I dreaming?".
The report continues in the second half.
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