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05/03 Gillingham 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO CHANGES were made by either side at half time, though there was a little scare for the Town supporters as Todd re-appeared several seconds after everyone else had lined up.
Gillingham 2 Grimsby Town 1
05 Mar 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The first 5 minutes were not wonderful, rather tedious, with a just a couple of incidents of note. After about 50 minutes Boulding weaved and wafted his way down the left, through two or three challenges. He almost looked up, and I stress the word almost, drifted into the penalty area and, near the edge about a couple of yards wide of the left hand post, shinned a right foot drive into the Town supporters. Allen looked exasperated to Bouldingâ€™s right, Campbell unmarked on the left, equally crestfallen by the blinkered blisterer.
Gillingham had an attack down the Town right, with one of their strikers hitting a very firm shot from the corner of the area, though straight into Coyneâ€™s arms. Forgive the vagueness in the description of events down at the other end of the pitch, it was difficult to see what was happening as the angle was so shallow and there were always bundles of players flying in at pace. You see, Gillingham visibly upped the pace of their attacks, with their players, literally, running around faster. This was troubling, as Town had continued their slackadaisical saunterings of the first half.
And then Gillingham started to tear Town apart, principally down the Town left. Chapman and Campbell failed to deal with a short pass dinked behind them, just wide of the penalty area. A striker sprinted forward, knocked the ball past Chapman and crossed hard, low and fast through the middle of the penalty area. The ball flew past two or three players towards the far post, perhaps 10 yards out. A Gillingham player (Gooden, I think) controlled the ball with his chest, allowed the ball to drop and then toe poked it way over the bar with Groves about to move towards him from about 5 yards away. Coyne, meanwhile, was trying to move across his line. Yes, sir, I can boogie, oogie-woogie all night long, it was an open goal, he missed an open goal. The pressure continued, with Town having a complete inability to clear the ball, or retain possession for more than 2.87 seconds. There was a pathological urge to whack it downfield.
I think one of their big blokes (yes, I know that doesnâ€™t narrow it down much) headed wide from a free kick, the ball slowly drooping through the area and a couple of yards wide of Coyneâ€™s right hand post. More crosses, more pressure, more semi-panic stricken moments around the edge of the Town penalty area. But still Town held on.
After about 10 minutes of the second half the pressure seemed to ease, with the game being pushed further up the pitch towards the half way line. Attention drifted, nothing seemed to be happening. Calmness returned to the terrace. A hopeful punt up in the air towards the centre gently ambled towards Todd, about 30 yards out. No Gillingham player was near him, no danger, no worries. Todd then laid of a cushion volley back pass to Coyne. That is, if Coyne had been standing 25 yards out of his goal and level with is left hand post. Ipoua ran onto this perfectly weight, some say, Premiership standard, pass and Coyne half ran out to fly kick. There was a bit if a scramble and IPOUA seemed to run past Coyne and poke the ball into the empty net from the centre left edge of the penalty area. A truly awful goal to concede. Again. Sloppy play presenting a freebie and Town arenâ€™t in a position to be bearers of gifts to the needy. We are the Children in Need. And we canâ€™t say we havenâ€™t been warned, as Todd had got away with some fancy-dan stuff in the previous three games. Delightful when it works, of course.
The goal perked Gillingham up even more and they poured forward into the holey Town defence. Thatâ€™s on the Town left, not the right, which was generally solid as a Mac. Shortly after their goal, Pouton and Campbell were guilty (and that is the right word) of shocking defensive play. Pouton allowed himself to drift into being "piggy in the middle" out on the Gillingham right, near the half way line. The ball was played up to the forwards, who simply helped the ball on down the line, over Chapman. Pouton didnâ€™t bother chasing back with the player stood next to him, and Campbell didnâ€™t bother running back with their wing back. The result was that two of them were free down the left with Chapman a-scampering after them. The ball was lifted over Chapmanâ€™s head to one of the unmarked midfielders (the one Campbell failed to mark) who hit a first time cross in towards the near post. The ball disappeared into a ruck, with a Gillingham player appearing to deflect the ball down and across Coyne, who bent down, leapt sideways and parried the ball away from goal. Another excellent save.
This failure to track back and mark was not an isolated incident. Chapman was struggling to cope and received little assistance from Pouton and Campbell. It left the centre backs to race across and block, make desperate tackles and generally save the day.
With about 20 or so minutes left, Town finally made a substitution. Coldicott prepared to run on, much to the delight of the miserable mariners behind the goal. There was consternation at the decision to take off one of the forwards, Allen, who had hardly touched the ball in the second half. Brad, Brad we love you, but thereâ€™s only 14 hours to save the Town. You had to go. This meant a tactical re-shuffle, with Coldicott playing right in the centre, Pouton towards the left and Burnett delegated to push forward and support Boulding. The effect was immediate, and for most of the rest of the game Town had some control. Coldicott nullified Hessenthaler, who together with Smith had held an iron grip over the centre of the pitch. Stacy came, he saw, he conquered within 30 seconds. The first thing that happened when Stacy touched the ball was a Town passing movement flowing from left to right and back again, involving most of the Town outfield players. It was pressure, and got the Town fans back in supportive full voice and ended with Campbell curling a shot from the left edge of the penalty area into the goalkeeperâ€™s arms. He should, really, have passed to the unmarked Pouton. On second thoughts, perhaps not, it would have only ended up in the Medway.
The last twenty minutes were run by Town, with wave upon wave of attacks down the right. All started by Coldicott winning the ball and dictating play. He cannily kept passing to the roving McDermott, who was the fulcrum of all Town attacks in this period. It was, almost, exciting, though one never got the feeling that Town would score, for all their possession, for all the semi-panic in the Gillingham defence. There were efforts, there were chances, there were many moments of danger. They nearly all fell to Butterfield! Except the ones that didnâ€™t. Butterfield flung a corner from the Town right towards the penalty spot. Groves got in front of his marker and headed firmly across goal, but wide of the â€˜keeperâ€™s right hand post. Free header, you should have scored Sir Grovesford. Pouton got behind the Gillingham defence on the left, exchanged passes with Campbell and crossed from the bye line toward Boulding about 8 yards out, a few yards to the left of goal. Boulding spun and hit a first time shot which the â€˜keeper easily saved at the foot of his left hand post. Easy save from a weak shot.
Ah, the Butterfield shots. Credit where credit is due, he can whack a firm, accurate shot. The first came after some interplay down the right, Butterfield stepped inside a couple of challenges, Iâ€™d even go so far as to describe it as a dribble. He then, from around a dozen yards wide of the goal and a narrow angle, hit a hard, fast shot at the near post, which the â€˜keeper caught at head height. A good, intelligent shot, as Butterfield had virtually no backlift before whacking it. His best effort came somewhere in the last 10 minutes. Again some fine interplay by Town down the wings resulted in Campbell clipping a cross to the far post, to the unmarked Butterfield, about 10 yards out and 8 or 9 yards wide of goal. He waited for the ball to drop, shaped his body perfectly and hit a superb right foot volley across the â€˜keeper at shoulder height. Big Bottomed Brown leapt sideways and parried the ball away. Who does he think he is? Danny Coyne? There were a few more Town attacks which promised much more than they delivered, foundering just inside the box with the Gillingham defenders successfully crowding around Town players before they could turn or control the ball. And in the last minute, the last chance. Butterfield, about 20 yards out and to the right of centre, decided to hit a first time half volley, which dipped a foot or so over the bar. He should, really, have controlled the ball and run into the area, as he was right up against the "last man" with a big space in front of him. The last chance went and so did we; we had trains to catch.
Town did have much the better of the last 20 minutes, but that doesnâ€™t make up for the preceding 70, where Gillingham just overran the midfield and half the defence. Even in the last 20 minutes, Gillingham looked far more dangerous, and likely to score, than Town, with Coyne having to race off his line and block from King with a star jump, a few yard to the left of goal following a fast one-two down the Gillingham right. And that typifies the defensive problems - down the left. Chapman didnâ€™t look like a first division defender, and no-one else on the left seemed to have enough physical energy, or mental will, to help him. Pouton was a liability, and was fortunate to remain on the pitch. He wasnâ€™t even running around to make up for his known technical deficiencies. The only positive aspect from the game was the way Town played in the last 20 minutes, when Coldicott came on. And that suggests some tactical nous from the management. Pity it took so long for them to have the bravery to change a failed product. Pity we had no centre forward too.
All in all it felt like a typical, old style, away performance. Sufficient to avoid defeat (and sometimes sneak a win) if the opposition play at a low level of intensity, woeful if they run around a lot. So thatâ€™s it, Gillingham cheated us â€˜cos they tried! There should be a law against that.
The enigma that is Butterfield. Three great strikes, several annoying lollops around the pitch, often caught in possession through sheer doziness. He played as if he believed he can glide across the mud, hover above the turf and be untouched by humans. But he wasnâ€™t the worst Town player on the pitch by a long way.
It could have been three points, it might well have been one, it ended up as none. Town canâ€™t afford any more slipshod performances like this. Far too many players lowered their intensity levels and concentration. It should have been worse, but it could have been better. See the headmistress at once and write out 1,000 times "I will try harder next time".
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
Only three possible contenders (I rule out the otherwise imperious Todd for his second half shocker) - Groves, Coyne and McDermott. Three excellent saves from Coyne, though if Jimmy Hill were alive today he would no doubt say that Coyne was "a little disappointed" with the goals conceded. Groves seemed to be impassable, a real example to his charges, including some raking passes out of defence to the wings. But todayâ€™s award goes to McDERMOTT, for his consistent excellence in defence and the way he led the charge in the last 20 minutes; he was the spur, the catalyst, the Town man of the match.
Markieâ€™s Unman of the Match
Stiff competition. Would it be Ben, would it be Stu, youâ€™ll have to wait and see. Remember the clues are there as we go through the keyhole into the house of horror. Alan Pouton. Sorry, you were very, very poor. Run around and you wonâ€™t be the Town turkey again. He owes us another barnstormer on Saturday.
Mr P Taylor. Fine, no problems with him. Slightly Townphilic, which annoyed the home supporters, as he gave them little leeway to nudge, nurdle and foul. There werenâ€™t any "big" decisions, but what he did, he did well, without fuss and clearly. 8.38 out of 10.
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