Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
02/03 Palace 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
PALACE took off Smith, who had apparently being playing somewhere on their right, and replaced him with Black (Tommy, not the king of the pirouettes). For Town, unsurprisingly, the song remained the same.
Grimsby Town 5 Crystal Palace 2
02 Mar 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The first 10 or so minutes of the second half were not so Town dominated as the fans had hoped, with only a couple of fleetingly threatening moments on the break, with Campbell darting around to no great effect (though he did get Fleming booked when he fell theatrically after losing control of the ball under the Stones/Smiths/Findus Stand). The crowd had long since started to act like most other crowds, incredibly one-eyed and raucous. Every challenge demanded a card, every decision by the officials was loudly challenged. Decorum always loses out to the desperation of a relegation fight. Palace started to exploit the space Town traditionally cede on the wings, with the full backs and midfielders "tucking in" when the ball is on the opposite flank. Palace made a point of sticking players on the touchline and hitting the ball across the pitch quickly. Which translated, mostly, into kicking the ball out of play more quickly then they had done in the first half. But they did threaten, with Groves, again, forced to block crosses after Morrison had surged free down behind Smith. One particularly dangerous moment occurred when Morrison ran down the left, cut into the area and, when only a dozen yards out, near the bye line (and with the town defence looking very disheveled) he hit a cross against Grovesâ€™ masterly left foot. After about 50 minutes they should, probably, have scored. Again Morrison scampered free, this time down the Town right, after being released by Freedman. He cut inside McDermott and, from a position about 15 yards out and a dozen yards wide of goal, decided to curl a shot across Coyne. He curled it straight into Coyneâ€™s arms, at his ankles. Town were fortunate in his inaccuracy and his greed, as there were two unmarked strikers at the far post.
After about 57 or so minutes Town attacked again. This immediately followed a corner from Palace which was curled in low from their right. The ball disappeared into a great big meringue of player about 6 or 7 yards out, with the ball slapping off someoneâ€™s stomach and safely into Coyneâ€™s arms. Boulding was released down the right hand side, with a well timed pass by Burnett.
The ball trickled to a near stop close to the right hand corner of the Palace box. The goalkeeper lumbered out and just managed to get to the ball before Boulding. The result was a throw in, taken quickly, to Butterfield, who took an age to decide what to do. Some of the more fickle members of the Pontoon started to mutter, but the boy Danny tricked and skipped his way past two defender towards the bye-line and whipped over a cross towards the far post. Clarke dived across his goal and missed the ball. FLEMING stood a couple of yards from the right hand post and watched the ball float over Clarke, hit his own chest, then bumble and hobble slowly just inside the right hand post. Oh, did the Pontoon roar with laughter, as did the rest of the ground. The doctor did order a comedy own goal, didn't he? This was not the first time a Butterfield cross from the right had eluded Clarke and fizzed through the area - barely 5 minutes before the goal Clarke had missed a similar cross, but Boulding had started to turn back up field, expecting the â€˜keeper to collect easily.
I think it was at this point that the crowd realised that Townâ€™s luck was in, and that maybe, just maybe, we'd win. It was party time again, and singing and dancing continued for, ooh, nearly five minutes. Palace didn't seem to be doing anything very interesting, just passing it amongst themselves in front of the Town back four, when a pass was played into the centre, about 25 yards out. Morrison sprinted across from their left, but Todd beat him to it, sliding across and kicking the ball out to the side. The referee decided to award a free kick. Rubbish decision, and the crowd could just tell that the free kick was going straight in. GRAY took a couple of steps and curled the ball over the wall and into the very top left hand corner of Coyneâ€™s goal. Unstoppable, even better than Carboneâ€™s a few weeks ago, and now 4-1. At that very moment Palace made a double substitution, bringing Akinbiyi and Austin on, with them switching to a 3-4-3 formation. Ah, Akinbiyi, the traditional scourge of the Mariners, the game wasn't over yet, and the Town fans had a bit of a collective wibble, falling silent for minutes on end.
The match became a real end to end affair, with huge gaps all over the pitch, particularly in the Palace defence. Palace dominated possession for 5 or 6 minutes, causing Town great difficulties, often infiltrating down the wings and behind the full backs. Their extra forwards kept retreating into the spaces between the Town defence and midfield, picking up rebounds and short passes. These were moments of some anxiety, which to the relief of the majority in Blundell Park, didn't amount to much more than "dangerous moments". We can thank Groves and Todd, plus some poor decisions by Palace players. Throughout this short period Town had numerous chances to really smash Palace and get some Selhurst revenge. Boulding was involved in most of it. With 20 minutes left Allen was released down the Palace left. He got to the bye-line, made his way towards goal, looked up and saw a flapping â€˜keeper, few defenders and several Town players. He rolled the ball back to Boulding, about 8 yards out and 6 yards to the left of goal. Boulding looked surprised to receive the ball and wildly swished his left boot at it, with the projectile slicing wide of the right hand post and Campbell throwing himself at the ball as it passed. A couple of minutes later McDermott repeated the move, evading a very half hearted challenge on the edge of the area, getting to the bye line, edging towards goal, looking up and this time rolling the ball to the unmarked Allen, whose shot was charged down about 8 yards out. Oh, and then there were the two breaks and surges by Pouton which were wasted through his unwillingness to use his left foot - on both occasions he tried to bend passes with the outside of his right boot to unmarked Town players a few yards from goal. His passes were inaccurate and, above, all weak. Or how about the two Boulding crosses which flew through the 6 yards box, just in front of onrushing Town players.
Thereâ€™s more. A Butterfield corner from the Town right was curled into the centre of the penalty area, about 8 yards from goal. Boulding, completely unmarked, headed powerfully towards the centre of the goal. Clarke leant back and tipped the ball over for another corner. Pouton took this one, from the Town left, which he curled into the near post, about 8 yards out. Boulding nipped in front of a defender and glanced a header towards the bottom left hand corner. Clarke sprung across and caught the ball at chest height. Is there time to describe the others? Probably not, a couple of Pouton shots from outside the box, including one curling just inside the â€˜keeperâ€™s right hand post, but saved low down.
With 10 minutes to go, the wibbles intensified. Freedman picked up a loose ball on the Palace right, just inside the Town half. He had a team mate unmarked on the touchline and he shrewdly awaited Smithâ€™s tackle before slipping a pass through Smithâ€™s legs down the touchline. Morrison sprinted on and advanced into the penalty area, cut inside and waited for Coyne. MORRISON then placed the ball across Coyne, going into the net off the bottom of the right hand post as Akinbiyi slid in. The Town fans fell very silent, and there was very little noise coming from the Osmond Stand, with the Palace players barely celebrating, just running back upfield. It was as if the ball hadn't gone in. But it had and doubts started to creep in. It didn't help that Town kept blowing a succession of fantastic opportunities to score again. The last 15 minutes seemed to be a whole succession of Town raids, with 3 against 2, 4 against 3, with the wrong option always being chosen. Just after the second Palace goal, Coldicott replaced Allen, who got a deserved standing ovation, for his perceptive movement and all round brio. With a couple of minutes left the icing finally came out of the closet and was thickly layered on the tasty sponge cake laid before us.
The sun came out, shining brightly onto the centre of the pitch, yet it was also raining. From the Pontoon a vivid rainbow could be seen, with itâ€™s end being slap bang on the centre spot. Perhaps mesmerised by this sight the Palace defence pushed up for an offside when they half stopped a Town attack. The ball was dinked over the top from a position about 35 yards out, to the left of centre. Butterfield spun around and was free on goal. He let the ball bounce, controlled it , stepped inside a defender and, from a position about 6 yards wide of goal and 7 or 8 from the bye-line, tapped the ball back. Several Town players surged in towards the same chunk of turf, about 12 yards out, just to the left of the penalty spot. One of them kicked it and swept the ball into the bottom left hand corner. When he got up his identity was revealed, SMITH. The deceased winger of yore, now rejuvenated under new management. The crowd were not sated, and demanded a 6th. All they got was a chance to give Todd another standing ovation, for around the same time as the 5th goal Ford replaced our Charlton Charmer.
And thatâ€™s it, nothing else happened. Dull, wasn't it. Wish you were there? I'm sure you do.
Let the scoreline speak for itself, this was marvellous, and thoroughly deserved. There appeared to be elements of good fortune attached to three of the goals, but that is something that has been sorely missed under the Groves regime. The team had no weak links. The players played football, to feet, looking up and seeing several team-mates sprinting forward in support. No-one was isolated, no one jogged around, no one complained - they were a unit, as one, a team. In short everything we expect them to be, but rarely are. Palace fans would, no doubt, complain that their team were "not up for it". That misses the point - they weren't allowed to be, and they then weren't capable of stopping an irresistible attacking force. Town, irresistible attacking force, together at last in the same sentence. Buy now whilst stocks last!
The last four games have been a little like last yearâ€™s rescue act, but this year Town are doing it through football, not just Livvoâ€™s elbows. Can life as we know it continue?
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
Harder than it has ever been. None to criticise, many to praise. They ALL get mentions in dispatches. Todd, Groves, Pouton, Burnett, Allen, Boulding - who to choose, who to choose... BRADLEY ALLEN, on the basis that he deserves recognition for his recent renaissance. And the way he stood in the net punching the air, revving up the Pontoon with 15 minutes to go.
Mr B Knight. The infamous Mr Knight. Many little things to criticise, nothing major. I am feeling very content with footballing life and will give him 6.02. Extremely generous, but why not be magnanimous on a day like this?
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