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Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
Shorts and Sweet: Wolves Report
By: Tony Butcher
A PLEASANTLY warm, bright spring-like day with the lightest of breezes in the home of the dirty old golds. Certainly the Town away shirt is more gold than the mucky mechanics overall that the Wolves players sported.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Grimsby Town 1
16 Mar 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
Around 500 or so Town supporters sat with crossed fingers, legs and anything else that would bend in the corner behind the goal on the right (as seen on tv). The Wolves fans were surprisingly quiet (for them) during the pre-match rituals. They were either cocky, indifferent to playing "the likes of..", or a little worried. Perhaps all three, at the same time.
Whatever, the ground had a barley perceptible hum, until the tannoy announcer did his stuff. He read the Wolves players names out, imploring the homesters to make some noise. The half-hearted cheers from isolated pockets provoked him into pleading "you can cheer if you want to, you know". They obviously didnâ€™t want to. The Town fans perked up, sensing the home fans were getting jittery. Oh how we laughed at the dreary, corny and downright moronic choice of "warm-up music". Snatches of "Simply the Best", "Eye of the Tiger", "Song2" (thatâ€™s the one that goes "Woohoo a lot) and "pleeeeeeez, let me entertain you". Then the dramatic bit from Romeo and Juliet (the ballet, not Dire Straits, that would have been too prophetic and ironic for the dullards who chose the music). The more culturally aware Town fans chided them for running out to ballet music. And then the crowd did wake up, memories of school discos, no doubt, came flooding back. Nostalgia rules, or rather "Hi Ho Silver Lining" still rules in the Black Country. I suppose this is premiership standard music then? For some reason they didnâ€™t turn off the tannoy, the record kept going on, and on, and on, with the referee finally starting the game at a couple of minutes past three, only when Jeff Beck had finished. Well, itâ€™s obvious.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. Everyone where you know theyâ€™d be, with Coldicott for Burnett being the only change from the now usual side. Town played in stripes but with white shorts. Thatâ€™s white shorts that looked as though theyâ€™d been bought as a job lot from a local sports shop.
They were all far too long - Grovesâ€™ waistband was up near his rib cage and the shorts stopped just above his knees. Everyoneâ€™s bottom stuck out prominently, as though the shorts were very tight. Perhaps theyâ€™d bought a cheap set of rejects, donâ€™t they call cost cutting "tightening your belt"? Only Town do it literally. By common consent the longest, daftest looking shorts were sported by Bradley Allen. He was lost in pants.
Neither side had any bad hair, which is only right and proper. So the stage was set for a good old fashioned game of English football, with no ponciness. Then Wolves spoilt it by gathering in a huddle before the kick-off. This is Football, not Basketball.
Town kicked off away from the Town fans and within a minute Boulding was lying face down in the dirt, having been in the vicinity of Kevin Muscat. A long pass down the left was rolling away towards the bye-line, near the corner flag. Boulding sprinted after it, then fell. Town didnâ€™t get a free kick (and there didnâ€™t seem to be much complaining from the Town players), so it all seemed to be an accident. The Wolves fans, of course, moaned, and booed and jeered Boulding. After a minute or twoâ€™s hold up the game restarted and very little of consequence happened in the next 10 minutes.
Wolves, who had Blake and Sturridge up front, seemed content to play football at a moderate pace and rely upon their forwardsâ€™ power and pace. Only Town were not allowing them space to run into, nor their wingers much time on the ball. As you would expect, Coldicott crackled and Pouton popped in midfield. They both snapped as well. Stacy snapped a little too vigorously when he swept through Rae, from behind and the side to stop a putative attack 35 yards out. And he didnâ€™t even get booked. But the statement was made. Thou shalt not pass.
I have a vague memory of Wolves getting close to the Town area in the first 15 minutes, but Coyne had no save to make, and I canâ€™t remember them even having a shot. The Wolves fans did roar once, but they roared their approval when two passes were strung together, so their quality threshold was not that high. On the other hand, Town did make a couple of lively breaks, down the Town right, both resulting from Pouton/Coldicott intercepting passes in midfield. The first chance, after about 8 or 9 minutes, followed a pass curled (by Pouton) down the right touchline. Allen ran after it, zipped in front of the dilatory defender, cut inside, stepped inside a challenge and, from about 8 yards wide of goal and a dozen yards out, hit a low shot across the â€˜keeper. As usual it was slightly "topped" and it was easily saved low to the â€˜keeperâ€™s right. Ah, but the second one, after about a quarter of an hour, was so golden Wolves will be wearing it next year (and we are still wondering how he missed). The Wolvesâ€™ centre backs tried to play short passes around the Town strikers, about 40 yards from goal, slightly to the right of centre. Lescot, facing his own goal, tapped the ball several yards wide of his team mate and Allen appeared from a rabbit hole a couple of yards behind Butler. Allen was thus free, down the centre right, about 35 yards out. The town fans, as one, stood and awaited the coup de grace. Allen miscontrolled the ball, drifting a little further right and, from a position about a dozen yards out and about 7 or 8 yards wide of goal, he dragged an awful right footed shot across the face of goal. The ball bumbled, bobbled and finally hobbled about 3 yards wide of the â€˜keeperâ€™s right hand post. Perhaps it was the shorts.
Town didnâ€™t create anything clear cut after this, just a few corners and a couple of crosses that were half cleared and produced minor scrambles. I think Pouton may have had a shot, but it could have been a tackle. Who can tell? Townâ€™s football was neat, tidy and they exerted a semblance of control, successfully repelling the lazy Wolves attacks by fair means (and occasionally foul), but nothing to make the testosterone levels surge. Wolves started to apply some pressure, principally through Raeâ€™s tough tackling and surges up the middle. But there was always a Town player to block, tackle or intercept whenever he got within 30 yards of Coyne. Wolves did, very occasionally, cause some mild panic in the Town support (if not Town defence) when they played a short passing game on the edge of the Town penalty area. By using Blakeâ€™s strength they managed to infiltrate the spaces between full backs and centre backs to get players into the penalty area. From one such move, all pace and one-touch give and goes down the Town left a cross was whipped in to Sturridge (I think), who laid the ball off first time to a position next to the penalty spot. Blake swung his leg, McDermott, jumped forward to block, and the ball bounced between Blakeâ€™s legs and out of the area.
A little later a chipped pass down the Wolves left seemed to be rolling out of play for a goal kick. Groves chased it and attempted to shield it from Blake. The grass must be long down in the corner of the penalty area as the ball stopped rolling and Blake muscled Groves off the ball and dribbled along the bye-line. He looked up, spotted two players unmarked at the far post and crossed several feet too high and several yards wide of his team-mates. The Wolves fans were beginning to get a bit annoyed, sulkily sitting in silence, with the occasional groan. Sometime in the middle of the half a rather important decision was made by the referee, and it was in Townâ€™s favour. On the left edge of the Town area, about three or so yards from the corner, Blake received a floated pass and turned past Groves and quite clearly was about to surge free inside the area. Groves turned, raised his right arm to shoulder level, as one does when one runs, and Blake quite cynically ran head first into the entirely blameless forearm. Honest, guv. Blake fell, clutching his head as though heâ€™d run into someoneâ€™s arm. The crowd bayed for blood, the Town supporters turned to each other and muttered "Oh dear", and the referee booked Groves. Now that was lucky. The free kick was taken by Kennedy, and it was rubbish. Pouton, the last man in the wall, stuck out a boot and controlled it, before setting up a Town counter attack that withered on Bouldingâ€™s boots. The Wolves supporters remembered Grovesâ€™ sabbatical with West Brom and taunted appropriately. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that was his gap year, he didnâ€™t really play for them (as any Baggie would testify)
It was all shaping up rather well for Town. Wolves hadnâ€™t really threatened, the referee had been very lenient and Town looked extremely competent. Above all Town were playing football, the old fashioned way. Coyne was not drop kicking the ball out of touch, he was making a determined effort to throw, roll and pass the ball to Town players. In other words, Town were building from the back. Hardly a pass was being wasted, very few aimless chips up field, or down the "channels". The pace of the game was being dictated by Town from the back and it was working wonderfully. There were isolated moments of worry, but they were very isolated. Kennedy, for the only time in the match, tricked McDermott and down the right by checking back towards his goal, then swivelling and crossing immediately, from near the bottom corner of the penalty area. The cross was half cleared to Rae, right on the middle and on the edge of the area. As he readied himself to shoot two Town defenders clamped him and the shot travelled less than 12 inches before being blocked.
Virtually the only move of any note produced by Wolves saw a ball played up to the right edge of the Town penalty area, a little lay off inside and Sturridge peeled around in a big arc to receive the pass. From just inside the area he whacked a huge, Poutonesque shot high and wide. I couldnâ€™t tell whether it was wider than higher, but it certainly wasnâ€™t close, despite the rather desperate "ooohs" from the crowd. Hilariously, another Wolves move which had the potential to cause upset amongst the Town supporters saw a really bad refereeing decision. The ball was ping-ponged into the Town area, dinked into a space to the right of goal, about 7 or 8 yards out. McDermott raced across, slid forward and volleyed the ball a yard wide of Coyneâ€™s right hand post. Goal kick. Oh, how we laughed up our sleeves.
The game was regularly stopped for players to receive treatment, usually for head injuries and some wondered whether it would ever end. It wasnâ€™t until added time that Wolves managed to get a shot on target. Well, two actually, within a minute of each other, both from outside the area, from central positions and straight at Coyne. Both uninteresting and barely worth mentioning. But it was nice for the Wolves fans to see a shot. To keep themselves occupied, the Wolves fans started to get cocky about promotion. "Will you watch us on TV?" they asked. "No, will you be watching us?" was the faux naÃ¯f response. If Wolves continue to play so timidly, then we may well be watching them at B.P. next year. The half ended just after another rotten refereeing decision, when a Wolves midfielder leapt above Coldicott, raised his right hand, then punched the ball forward. Play on. All the way through the game Wolves players raised their hands to control and block the ball; I think Town only got one free kick though. I really must get the FIFA regulations out, there must be a rule about "whenever a team plays Grimsby Town they shall be allowed to use both hands whenever they wish, to do whatever they wish". And there was a further hold up when Coyne raced off his line to collect at the feet of a Wolves striker, whose boot touched Coyneâ€™s head. Coyne received treatment and the striker hobbled off holding his ankle. Coyne must have a hard head then.
Half time: Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Grimsby Town 0
So there we are, the half eventually finished somewhere closer to 4 oâ€™clock than quarter to and Town were cool, calm and collected. Hardly any worries, the occasional breakaway that threatened to threaten and a great deal of controlled passing throughout the team. It was very pleasurable to watch Town play so authoritatively. It was thoroughly professional and very confident stuff. All we needed now was a goal; Wolves, quite frankly, didnâ€™t look like scoring. But since when has that stopped Town conceding?
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"How did Bradley miss?".
The report continues in the second half.
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