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16/03 Wolves 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO CHANGES were made by either team at half time and the game restarted at 4:08. Some people would be struggling to get their trains home at this rate. The game continued as it finished in the first half, the expected Wolves bombardment never arrived.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Grimsby Town 1
16 Mar 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
Wolves seemed to believe they could match Town at a slow, passing game. Hah, suckers. We had 5 minutes of tippy-tappy football from Town, where Wolves merely watched as the Town players switched the ball from right to left to right to left, back to Todd, to the left, back to Groves, and back again. This was just the sort of thing Liverpool used to do in Europe - bore the pants off the home supporters and make them, and the opposition, fall asleep.
And eventually Town got the ball up to the edge of the Wolves penalty area with some slick passing across the pitch from left to right. Butterfield was fouled and Pouton swung in a free kick from about 20 yards out, near the left corner of the Wolves penalty area. Todd and Groves lurked at the far post and Butler just managed to stretch his short neck and glance the ball over Todd for a Town corner. It doesnâ€™t sound exciting but the ball almost made itâ€™s way to the unmarked Todd 7 yards out, and Butler got the slightest of touches. It was a very "almost" moment. From the resulting corner, taken by Pouton on the Town left, Oakes flapped, whilst under no pressure, and dropped the ball about 10 yards out, past the far post. Groves steadied himself, wellied a volley and Oakes flung himself towards Our Leader and managed to block at point blank range.
We had an other 5 minutes of fleeting Wolves attacks which foundered on the Rocks in the centre, with Town retaining possession for what seemed minutes on end. Then the moment all professional footballers have waited for. Boulding chased a "channel" ball down the Town left, near the corner flag. Muscat got in front of him and tried to shield the ball as it rolled towards the touchline, he then turned inside towards his own goal. He fended off the little scamp, who swiped at the back of Muscatâ€™s legs, then tried to slap him around the neck.
Muscat brought his arm back and Boulding fell, clutching his face. All this was right underneath the Town supporters. Of course we chanted "Off, Off", though there was a slight worry that Boulding would be sent off, given his attempted slap and tickle on Muscat. The referee, quite rightly, sent off Muscat. Itâ€™s always right to send off Muscat, no matter what he has, or hasnâ€™t done, isnâ€™t it. Now that should be a FIFA regulation.
Wolves seemed to be playing a 3-4-2 system after this, with Newton dropping a little deeper to cover the right back area. And this nearly brought them a goal. The 5 or 10 minutes after Muscatâ€™s dismissal were the most worrisome moments for Town. Wolves stepped up the pace, all fired up and angry, they raced into tackles and simply ran around more. Town tried to use Bouldingâ€™s pace by chipping a few more direct passes over the top of the Wolves defence, but it didnâ€™t really work, and from one of these more Lawrencian moments Wolves broke away. The ball was dinked over the Wolves defence towards the right hand corner of their penalty area. Campbell burst through but was a couple of yards away from the ball as Oakes came off his line to smother. Oakes threw the ball over Campbell to Newton, about 20 yards out, level with the edge of the area. He turned and started to sprint up the pitch. Pouton ran over and forward to block his path, but Newton dropped his shoulder to the right and stepped inside as Pouton swayed towards the old new stand. By this time Newton was over the half way line and Coldicott sprinted across and, at 90 degrees, slid at full pace in an attempt to swipe ball or man. He missed and Newton continued on towards Gallimore, who retreated in full Corporal Jones mode. Newton approached the edge of the area, swished inside and from about 20 yards, hit a low left foot shot. The ball deflected off one of the centre backs and squirmed towards the bottom right hand corner of Coyneâ€™s goal. Coyne grew three more inches and just managed to fingertip the ball an inch past the post. The corner glided safely into Coyneâ€™s arms.
A couple of minutes later Rae, out on the Town right, cut inside and, from 20 yards out and well wide of the goal, smacked a hard, low right footed shot which Coyne tipped away for a corner at the foot of his right hand post. The resulting corner was half cleared and Butler eventually hit a 25 yard shot which went a few feet over the bar. And that was that as far as Wolves chances for the next 15 minutes or so. Town played intelligently, with great patience, knocking the ball across the pitch, back and forth, back and forth, making the Wolves players run around a lot, and awaiting a mistake, or space to appear. I can confirm that after a Town passing move which seemed to involve everyone, and went from right to left to right, Pouton hit a screamer into the top left hand corner of the Wolves support, from about 20 yards. Itâ€™s a big stadium, so the ball stayed in the ground. A few minutes later Todd managed to head way over the bar when free, unmarked at the far post and about 8 yards out, following a loopy cross by Butterfield (not to be mistaken by a cross from loopy Butterfield). Ah, Butterfield, typically Butterfieldian. He was the weakest Town player, mistaking slowness for calmness. Several times he was caught in possession, several times he wasted great opportunities by delaying his pass, or cross. He was simply slow of foot and mind, with many a Town fan forced to stand up and shout "run, run, run" at him.
After about 20 minutes, Town played a ball up to Allen on the right edge of the Wolves area. He laid the ball off first time, infield, as Campbell ran across and past him. Campbell burst through into the penalty area and got behind the defence. He was about 10 yards out, and about 6 or 7 yards wide of the goal. He looked up, picked his spot and chipped a soft pass into Oakesâ€™ chest. The game was dominated by Town, but there was little incision, with the play seeming to halt 10 yards outside the Wolves penalty area. In fact the game seemed permanently camped 30 yards from the Wolves goal. After about 70 minutes, Burnett replaced Coldicott, who got a thoroughly deserved ovation. He stopped them as we know he can, but was also a very effective link player between defence and attack, playing simple, but effective passes. However, he wasnâ€™t getting very far forward. With the advent of Burnett the game pushed a further 5 yards closer to the Wolves goal. Wolves brought a couple of players on as well, Cameron for the invisible Andrews and Miller for Sturridge, the Ram in Wolves clothing. Immediately after this there was a supreme moment of danger, when the ball was lifted into the Town area and Coyne dropped the ball under pressure, then fell on it after it rolled off his leg towards goal.
The Wolves fans became even more sullen and eventually started to "taunt" the Town fans with "Who are you?". They received advice to the effect that they should look at the programme, and we spelled out G.R.I.M.S.B.Y for them. Their attempted condescension was met in kind.
With about 15 minutes left, Town set up another period of controlled passing and movement, which ended up with McDermott making an overlapping run down the touchline, with his cross being deflected for a corner. As Butterfield prepared to take it, some Town fans stood up, to be met with a lone voice from the weary end of the Town support "Sit down, nothingâ€™s gonna happen". The corner was swung high towards the centre of the penalty area and seemed to hang in the non-existent breeze. Todd ran forward unmarked and rose higher and higher and higher. TODD nodded sagely and the ball thumped into the ground and drifted into the left hand corner as Oakes fell like, well, an old, diseased oak, itâ€™s branches long since trimmed by zealous council officials. Something did happen, we all stood up. The air was punched several times, there was dancing in the streets, a smile on our face, a song in our hearts.
But then, of course, the previously sanguine support were now racked with tension. At 0-0 it was simply a game, a 1-0 the stakes were higher. Every misplaced pass, every tackle, interception and clearance was cheered and cheered. We did a lot of cheering, for Wolves obligingly kept kicking the ball out of play. But they did have one slightly worrying moment, just after the goal, I think. A flowing, surging move at the heart of the Town defence was half stopped by a Gally harry and the ball was switched to Kennedy towards the centre. He swivelled, stepped over and drifted wide of McDermott and hit a left foot shot straight at Coyne from somewhere near the right corner of the penalty area. McDermott had forced Kennedy well wide and Kennedy injured himself in shooting, as he was heading away from goal when he twisted to shoot. Kennedy was replaced by Ndah, who added some more physical presence, but no skill, thankfully.
We hadnâ€™t had that Boulding moment yet. Would it arrive? Yes, of course it would. He dribbled his way down the left, past three players, cut inside when in the penalty area and shinned a right foot shot way over the bar. As usual, two Town players had their arms up in the middle and Allen, in particular, was not overly content with Boulding. Town withstood a frantic bombardment by Wolves, with only a couple of minor scrambles resulting. There was great danger but superb defending by all saw to it that no shots scraped through. Gallimore and McDermott were most effective in defending by not tackling. Very close to the end, following a scramble in the Town box, the ball fell to a Wolves player, unmarked with a clear sight of goal a dozen yards out. Gallimore stepped up to him, blocking the sight of goal and eased him wider and wider, so that by the time the player had the ball under control a couple of Town players had come across and they schmoozed the ball away. Nice. Just one example in many. Jevons came on in added time for Bradley Allen and I canâ€™t remember him touching the ball. There was a minor scufflette when McDermott knocked the ball out for a throw in. The ball flew into the Town dug out and Wilkinson controlled the ball and kept shielding it from Ndah, who pushed him out of the way. Wilkinson pushed him back and the stewards came over and "dealt" with Wilkie.
The last Wolves effort was a header by Butler, from a corner, about 10 yards out on the right, which looped softly a yard or so wide of the left hand post. There were 4 minutes of added time, for there had been yet more stoppages for injuries throughout the half. It was a tense 4 minutes for the Town support, but a rewarding wait. The game ended, the Town fans erupted in joy, and the Town players ran over like they did at West Brom last year. All of them, inclusive of Croudson. But not Todd, who wandered off on his own. Allen tried to organise a collective huddle and beckoned Todd over, he waved and walked off down the tunnel. So the players gathered together, linked arms and had a little prayer meeting. For consistencyâ€™s sake I will repeat - itâ€™s football not basketball. But at that moment, who cared. Town had won, convincingly and deservedly, for they had dominated the game even when Muscat had been on the pitch. A thoroughly satisfying, professional performance. It was done by playing football, and being organised and disciplined throughout the team (letâ€™s ignore Grovesâ€™ stray arm shall we). The tactical change was quite obvious and had been flagged up in the programme - both Coyne and Groves had been interviewed and talked about building from the back. Hey Wolves, the clues were there. It was lovely.
It was one of those days to savour, the reason why we go, despite the dozens of disappointments we accept as the norm. Town looked like a decent upper mid-table team today. A few more games like this..... Whoâ€™d have thought it three months ago?
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
So many to choose from again, the one certainty is that it wasnâ€™t a Mr D Butterfield. Extra special mentions in despatches go to Todd, Groves, Pouton and Gallimore but the winner is....McDERMOTT. He did hundreds of little things that stopped Wolves, nothing too flashy or spectacular, but effective. Kennedy managed to get past him only once, and have one shot. For huge swathes of the game Kennedy was invisible - and McDermott was even raiding upfield too. The proâ€™s pro.
P Richards. Well, he got a lot of little things very wrong. Several handballs, so blatant they almost spat in your eye, the McDermott volley, a couple of throw ins. He should really have sent off Groves, especially if one invokes Mr Consistency. So, if I was one-eyed, Iâ€™d give him 10 (and at least he didnâ€™t cave in to the Molineux moan), but "Oiâ€™ll give him foive", as someone local once said.
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