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09/03 Walsall 2nd Half

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 10/03/2002

IN A BREAK from recent tradition, Town ran out first and were made to wait in the wind and rain by Walsall. Neither team made any changes at half time, though the people who had been left to freeze in the arctic corner were moved to the covered corner in the Osmond Stand.

Home > 2001-2002 Season > Reports > Walsall (h)

Grimsby Town 2 Walsall 2
09 Mar 2002, Nationwide League Division 1

About a dozen stayed behind, presumably placing personal comfort way below a possible second goal in their laundry list of wants. That’s the spirit, none of this lilly-livered softness (said the dry man from beneath the roof in the Pontoon).

Burnett received the kick off and immediately wobbled a through ball straight to Walker. No Town player was within 20 yards of it. Not an auspicious start, and it filled the Town support with inertia. The first 5 or so minutes of the half saw Town waste possession by trying to hit longish passes to the strikers. This didn’t work, principally because the wind stopped the ball going over the half way line and also made predicting the flight of the ball impossible. It was like playing with one of those cheap plastic balls at Mablethorpe. I half expected it to end up in the sea, with one of the younger players crying to his Dad. A Donovan fan to my right kept complaining that the ball will "Catch the Wind" {note for the teenagers, that’s a sixties popster not our former right winger, Jellyfish Kev, who has just succumbed to RSI on his knee, only with him it’s RFI - repetitive feinting injury}.

And then some intelligent play. By Pouton. Walsall kept lumping long diagonal balls (mainly from left to right), with the majority bouncing out for goal kicks, with some being headed clear. Pouton collected the ball just outside the Town penalty area and, surged forward, dribbling right down the centre. His first two surges brought the crowd to its feet, but no shots on goal. But his actions brought some relief to the defence, and some mild panic into Walsall. His third surge, after 51 minutes, brought a tangible reward, in a cruel and unusual way. Pouton collected the ball on the Town left deep inside the Town half. He drove forward, into the face of the gale, and kept on and on and on. He did a couple of step-overs under the Stones/Findus/Smith Stand and headed for the corner flag. He attracted three Walsall defenders to his honeypot and, when on the touchline, stepped over the ball again and back-heeled it to Campbell.

Grimsby Town
Poutonyellow card


Coldicott72 mins


Steve Dunn


League Table

The ball was played across the face of the area, half cleared to the half way line and returned to Super Al (we can call him Al, can’t we, he was the defence’s bodyguard) on the wing. He did another step over and swayed past his marker to the bye-line, near the edge of the penalty area. He crossed left footed to the far post, where three Walsall defenders were totally unmarked. Simpson (I think) thundered in with the goal at his mercy and headed against the post. The ball ricocheted across goal, with no Town player anywhere near the ball. A couple of Walsall defenders stepped back and tried to clear. The ball hit ROPER on the hand and trundled into the empty net, as the crowd appealed for a penalty. Two weeks running, a comedy own goal right in front of the Pontoon, who could ask for anything more? Even vegetarians got excited and leapt about like Zebedee. If the world stopped now, Town would be safe. Wowowowowowowowow, unbelievable.

But the world didn’t stop, there was still 40 minutes left. Would Walsall do the decent thing and shuffle off this mortal 1st division slowly, quietly and with as little fuss as possible? Er, no. Their response was to keep taking off defenders and putting on strikers. Their response was to fling yet more long diagonal balls into the box. Town’s response was to sit back and take it, hoping to hold out; with a little luck we can, with a little luck. And the luck flowed like a mountain stream. The rest of the game was a bit of a frenzied, panicky, gut wrenching farrago of slips, near misses, scrambles and flaps around Coyne’s goal. In the half hour after the second goal Town’s goal appeared to have an invisible forcefield around it, for on at least three occasions Walsall contrived to squander what appeared to be open goals. Just after the goal, a punt down the centre was allowed to be headed on by Byfield, with Todd backing off to the edge of the penalty area. The ball zipped through into a huge gap, with a Walsall striker sprinting towards Coyne, who was forced to race off his line to scoop the ball off the forward’s toes. Coyne had to do this three or four times. It was very worrying to see.

Even more worrying was when Walsall players managed to get behind the Town defence. They caused panic throughout Blundell Park, with almost indescribable melees in the penalty area. One came down the Town right, a cross into the centre, several bodies dived at the ball, a few ricochets, the ball went to their right winger a few yards out, a shot, a block, the ball bouncing around, fly kicks, hacks, half clearances, the ball crossed back in again, repeated ad infinitum it felt. It is possible that the ball was kicked off the line in this scrum, but as it pinged about like a rubber ball, bouncing bouncing, I couldn’t tell. A Walsall cross from their left was flicked on through another wedge of melting humanity, at the near post. Coyne scuffled across his line, managing to parry the ball onto his left hand post. The ball bounced up and seemingly behind him. Coyne jumped across again grappled and groped, finally catching the ball at the third attempt, right on the line. By this time Walsall had gone to a 4-2-4 formation and Mungo Jerry had come on, though the weather wasn’t fine. Goodman won everything in the air and was starting to cause immense problems.

Half way through the half, Byfield was allowed to amble into the area, unmarked, on the Town left, when all the Town defence were suckered into running to the right. Byfield waited, shot across goal and there was an almighty scramble in the 6 yard box. Ultimately the ball didn’t go in, but who knows how? Again the ball was in and out, crossed, blocked, a shot, a block and just loads of players throwing themselves hither and thither. It was absolute chaos. With all this pressure and what amounted to "percentage football" Walsall were bound to score, especially as Town’s recidivist tendencies had risen from a long forgotten grave. Space was ceded, time was allowed for the opposition to simply lump the ball into the box from where they wanted, to who they wanted. Defenders stood off attackers, and no-one seemed to attack the ball. Town were reacting and, inevitably , merely hoping that Walsall missed. No one is absolved from this.

Throughout this period of increasingly alarming feebleness, Town did have isolated attacks, which perhaps should have brought the match winning third (the crowd had decided that two wasn’t enough). All moves involved Pouton at some stage, through his driving runs through midfield. After a Pouton run down the centre, the ball was tipped through a gap between the Walsall left back and centre back. Boulding sprinted through, took the ball across the penalty area, into the penalty area and, from a position about 8 yards out and 8 yards wide of the left hand post, wellied a shot which deflected off a defender and was saved, low to his left by the ‘keeper. Nothing of interest came of the resulting corner. Pouton dribbled down the left, did a couple of step-overs, sauntered past the terrible right back (Sheilds) and cross left footed into the near post. Allen only just missed the ball and Walker clung on to the ball right next to the post. Any deflection by Allen would have resulted in a goal. Pity he missed it then. After about 70-75 minutes Boulding swept down the left, cut inside, looked up and passed to the unmarked Allen, about a dozen yards out and wide of goal. Allen picked his spot and hit a low shot, unfortunately a defender slid across and blocked the ball. Allen immediately turned round and walked off the pitch, injured. The crowd applauded his efforts but were a little stunned to see Coldicott come on and Town go to a 4-5-1 formation, with Coldicott almost playing as a centre back. Well, it almost worked against Gillingham, but given the weather conditions, was it really wise?

No. Yet more pressure was piled on the Town goal, with virtually no challenges made to any Walsall player more than 30 yards from goal. Fine, except Walsall were not interested in playing their way through the Town defence. They sent more players up field, having, it appeared, 5 up front at one point. It was like giving them a free kick, as all they did was chip it diagonally, normally towards Gallimore. Around the time Coldicott came on, a deep cross from their left, to the far post, seemed to be drifting out, so the Town players left it. Wrack ran around the ball and, from about 5 or 6 yards out, and 3 or 4 wide of the goal, headed towards Coyne’s near post. Coyne stuck out a hand and appeared to punch the ball back into play, though the force of the rebound suggest it may have it the post. Another scramble survived, just. Maybe Town’s luck would hold out? Perhaps with the help of some wild, wild shooting from Walsall. The pick of the bunch was a left foot volley from Aranalde, about 25 yards out, to the right of goal. He managed to hit the last seat on the bottom row of the Osmond Stand.

With 10 minutes left, perhaps Town had weathered the metaphorical and physical storms? Perhaps not. Town players let Walsall play amongst themselves near the managers’ dug out, and they simply whacked in another long, diagonal cross towards Goodman, near the edge of the penalty area wide of the goal. He headed firmly down and across the area. The ball seemed to brush against Byfield, and perhaps against his hand, but continued its path into the centre of the goalmouth. All the Town players stood and watched as the unmolested LEITAO ran forward and placed a right foot shot over Coyne’s right shoulder and into the centre of the net. An awful, awful goal to concede - no marking, no challenges.

This goal, of course, gave a real boost to the Walsall players, who ran around even more, chucked more and more crosses into the Town area and this resulted in several more scrambles. Coyne had to run off his line and block Byfield , about 7 yards wide of his left hand post, after a flick on had released the Walsall striker for what seemed a one-on-one. Coyne did a star jump and blocked the shot at point blank range. Town just couldn’t get the ball more than 30 yards away from Coyne. Boulding was alone and tired. He had no pace, no strength, and no ball to play with. Behind him was 20 yards of green grass and red socks; Walsall, Walsall everywhere and never a Town shirt to see. In the last couple of minutes, Walker dribbled the ball to the half way line - and beyond, before launching a long diagonal cross. It went out of play and the Walsall players’ heads seem to drop a little. It was almost the end, and almost the end of Walsall, it felt. Town fans became cocky, singing about Staying Up, hundreds left their seats to get that head start for the traffic queues. The game was all but over, all it needed was the referee to blow his whistle and nearly everyone would be happy.

The ball was knocked high down the right touchline and Butterfield challenged a Walsall player for a header, right next to the opposition’s dug out. The referee gave them a free kick - there was hardly contact and it didn’t look like a foul by Butterfield. The ball was pumped lowish to the far post and was allowed to travel a long way across the area with no-one attempting to intercept. BYFIELD appeared to control the ball with his arm (a trait that had been noticeable all game), sidle to his left and hit a low shot across Coyne into the bottom right of the net. Walsall players danced around like they’d won the league, with a couple taunting the crowd. Byfield running up to the Lower Stones/Smiths/Findus cupping his ear and waving. Another piece of collectively rotten defending.

It wasn’t over, a couple more minutes were played, during which Walsall almost broke through again. On one occasion Byfield appeared to be a couple of yards offside, yet play was waved on and, thankfully, a tackle was made inside the penalty area on the left. The last action was a Town free kick, taken by Burnett, which hit a Walsall player, ballooned upwards and then the whistle blew. Game over, and it felt like season over. Walsall were ecstatic, Town totally demoralised. The second half tactics were plainly wrong, as it simply allowed Walsall to play to Town’s historic weakness - high balls and route one football. Allied to the swirling, inconsistent and occasionally gale force wind blowing into Coyne’s face, it was all rather stupid. The players, with the exception of Pouton, played stupidly too, for they kept trying to hit long passes/clearances, which died in the wind.

The only positive to take from this is that Town didn’t lose, and they easily could have done as only luck stopped Walsall from scoring several more in the second half. But that isn’t much of a positive to take from a game where they were 2-0 up with 10 minutes left. At 4:40 Town looked likely to surge to seasonal safety. At 4:50 they looked like relegation fodder. The force isn’t with Town.

There you have it, it felt like a defining moment. Let’s hope Town are true to their contrary nature and produce a cussed performance against one of the promotion candidates. They’ll need to be cussed, for today they were being cursed as the weary, forlorn, thousands trudged off down the Grimsby Road.

Nicko’s Man of the Match

Two candidates only - Coyne and Pouton. Some fine saves and interceptions by Coyne, including some scruffy, but vital punches away of corners. However, for his return from his Kentish doldrums ALAN POUTON is Nicko’s man. He owed us barnstorm, he gave us a barnstorm in a storm.

Official Warning

S Dunne. Yes, John Gregory’s favourite love machine. Apart from the suspicious use of hands all game by Walsall players, he was completely unbad. If, when you see the goals on television, there were handballs in the Walsall goals please take off 7 points, otherwise he gets 8.82.

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