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Reasons to be Cheerful: Wimbledon Report
By: Tony Butcher
A VERY bright, clear day with a creepingly cold easterly wind harrumphing in from the Humber. Around 200 away supporters crammed into the covered corner. "Is that all you take away" sang a dozen teenagers. Yes, about the same number we usually do.
Grimsby Town 6 Wimbledon 2
23 Mar 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The pre-match atmosphere was very muted, with the only noise seeping out from the covered corner. There was a buzz, but that of a thousand separate small-talks prior to a piano recital. Blundell Park was in sit back and expect mode.
Wimbledon warmed up in a blur of circular movement, complete with jogs and keepy-uppy. Just like an exhibition of soccer skills by the cream of Mexicoâ€™s under 12s. No one wore a sombrero though, which was a shame, and would have been handy in keeping the sun out of their eyes. No bad hair, just a few big blokes with shaven heads; they had half a dozen Pouton-a-likes. Oh, and they wore an all yellow kit. Town warmed up in the usual way, with many a smile across the face of the joggers and cone dancers.
At 2:55 Dave Boylen walked out in a suspicious suit to warm the crowd up. He really should change his patter as "one, two, three, wahey" is wearing thinner than Graham Rodgerâ€™s hair. The decibel level is reducing each week. The Pontoon pre-empted his exhortation with a chant of itâ€™s own, but that didnâ€™t stop him. Perhaps heâ€™s being paid by the "wahey". His extra special guest this week was...John Fraser, in very camp powder blue trousers, or should that be troosers, Donald.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation. Nothing to report from the kick-a-about, except that the four substitutes were totally unable to kick the ball past Croudson, most hit half way up the big red post lurking behind the goal.
And the four mascots were, possibly, the smallest mascots ever, as at least one seemed to be smaller than the ball.
Town kicked off towards the Osmond Stand in hushed reverence. A state that continued for half an hour. Nothing, no noise, no particular will either from the crowd. Some isolated spots of enthusiasm attempted to encourage, then goad, the home support into, well, supporting the team, but terminal ennui appeared to have set in. So it must have felt like a home game for Wimbledon, and they played like it was, dominating possession throughout the 1st half, cutting through Town almost at will.
The first 20 or so minutes are lost in a fog of boredom, even though the game was played almost exclusively within 40 yards of the Pontoon. After about 7 or 8 minutes Wimbledon should, really, have scored. Frizzy haired Dawkins, their left back, took a throw about 10 yards inside the Town half in front of the Stones/Smith/Findus Stand. The most indignant supporter in Grimsby stood up and bellowed, three times, "Foul Throw!", as Dawkins almost rolled the ball to his team mate. Wimbledon tapped the ball around a couple of times, then knocked a pass down the touchline for Agyemang, a long and awkward, gangly sub-Wanchopian striker, who twisted, turned and drifted past his marker to the bye-line. Agyemang looked up and rolled a pass back to the unmarked Shipperley, about 12 yards out and level with Coyneâ€™s right hand post. Shipperley allowed the ball to roll across his body, then carefully sliced a right foot shot a couple of feet past the left hand post. Bad miss, or rather good miss for us.
Town had done nothing constructive, with Coyne drop and fly kicking the ball to strange and unusual places, which some may describe as Butterfieldâ€™s head. The result was Wimbledon possession, which they did not squander, playing through the midfield and using Shipperleyâ€™s strength and Agyemangâ€™s litheness to set up numerous dangerous moments. The Town midfield was quite poor, Coldicott appeared to be half paced, Pouton kept passing directly to Wimbledon players (which resulted in two almost frightening attacks which needed McDermott the Great to sweep across and ooze away the fear). Campbell was doing a passable impression of a ball boy and Butterfield considered jogging to be far too energetic; he let the ball do the work. He didnâ€™t subscribe to the controversial theory that he was required to play an active part in the proceedings. Butterfield, as the half progressed was increasingly targeted for "encouragement". He was advised to move his knees, the rest would follow. Even by his standards of lethargy, he was lethargic.
All of which meant that Wimbledon tap danced their way up field at will, with Francis particularly adept at infiltrating the space between Coldicott and Pouton, and then those two and the Town defence. But the danger was often nullified by one of the Town defence stepping forward to hustle and harry, with Groves and McDermott the most prominent. Agyemang did Town a favour a couple of times when his lack of control resulted in him dribbling the ball out of play after he had been released down the touchline, in front of the Stones/Smith/Findus. Town did have sporadic attacks, with a Boulding surge down the left and pass into Allen almost, almost, producing something to remember. But Allen lost control and tripped a defender, so forget about it, it didnâ€™t even nearly happen.
Trond Andersen whacked a drive from a central position, just outside the penalty area, a foot over the bar, after a period of relatively intense pressure from Wimbledon. The ball went in, and out, of the Town penalty area, with some half hearted clearances just giving the ball back to them. Typical Town. Andersen again nearly scored when he seemed to miss-hit a cross from their right, about 25 yards out near the Police Box. Coyne appeared to get his feet in a bit of a tangle and only just managed to tip the ball over for a corner. The corner was, again, only half cleared and Andersen, again, tried to hit a twisting, spinning bicycle kick, which he managed to spoon deliciously high above the Pontoon. A minute later the ball dropped, having obtained clearance to land, almost on top of the ball boy. From another scrappy corner Willmot tried an overhead kick, which bounced, with great care and attention, into Coyneâ€™s midriff. Around the 20 minute mark Town managed to have a shot, not very good, but at least it was an effort. The ingredients were free kick on left, far post, Groves poked ball way over the bar from edge of area. Butterfield watched from close by. Wasnâ€™t enough for an "Ooooo", even a desperate "Ooooo".
Half way through the first half Wimbledon got a corner, on the Town right. The ball was swung in, bodies collided, the ball pinged about in the Town area, Town defenders chased, threw themselves around and harried. Eventually McDermott, on the centre left of the area, took control, dispossessing a Wimbledon player, and drove forward on a counter attack. He beat two players and, near the centre circle, was slightly baulked by Campbell. Cunningham ran back with McDermott and, after his third tug on McDermottâ€™s shirt, managed to stop the little maestro and get the ball. The Town players stopped momentarily and awaited the free kick. The referee waved play on and Wimbledon knocked the ball out to their left wing, crossed from about 25 yards out and SHIPPERLEY, unmarked and about 8 yards out in the centre, headed firmly over Coyne into the top of the net, right down the middle. There was hardly a sound in the ground, then a low rumble of anger towards the referee. Ah, the referee, a quick glance at the programme brought back a remembrance of rages past. P Rejer. McDermott had been fouled three times, by the same player, when he dribbled out of the area. It should have been a free kick to Town, it ended up being a goal to the opposition. Here we go again, eh?
Town visibly stepped up the pace a bit after the goal, but without much tangible reward, certainly no goal mouth incidents; a couple of crosses, and momentarily interesting turns by Boulding, but no shots, no excitement, certainly no moves of any great consequence. Then, out of the blue, a shot! After 27 minutes, Boulding, I think, had a shot which went low, straight at the â€˜keeper, from the left edge of the area. It was so out of the blue hardly anyone was paying attention, I only remember it was after 27 minutes because the half the crowd turned to each other and said the same thing ""27 minutes to have a shot!". Just after the half hour Town got a throw in on the left, about 25 yards from goal. Gallimore decided to take a long â€˜un, which in Town terms meant it reached the penalty area. The ball shot across the face of the penalty area, with players bundling and barging. Pouton (I think) was about 30 yards out in the centre and knocked the ball forward to Allen, who had his back to goal and was just to the right of centre on the edge of the penalty area. Allen spun and flipped a first time pass over the defence into a big, big, space on the left. BOULDING sprinted forward, allowed the ball to bounce and, from about 10 yards out, just to the left of goal, smacked an unstoppable left foot piledriver into the top right of the â€˜keeperâ€™s goal. Now the crowd woke up and made some noise, a happy, if slightly surprised noise. An equaliser that was hardly deserved, but such fripperies are of no concern to the desperate.
There followed a short period of Town ascendancy, but little of note to report. A Todd free kick which was deflected for a corner and, erm, well, possibly a Pouton shot, or maybe it was a tackle? Town definitely got over the half way a couple of times and, in the context of the first half, that was ascendancy. But still Wimbledon rolled forward. Shipperley barged his way through several Town players on the left of the Town area, a few yards from the bye-line. Like particularly sweet honey, he attracted most of the Town defence. He crossed, Ardley dummied the ball and let it roll further into the centre, on the edge of the area. Francis strode forward, espied Coyne racing across his line, and chose which bit of the net the ball would nestle against. He side footed the ball a foot wide of Coyneâ€™s right hand post. Another bad miss, another case of "so what" from 6,000 Grimbarians. Town were very sloppy, with an increasing number of miss-placed passes and poor control. Todd caused minor panic when he received a pass from McDermott inside the Town area and carelessly chipped a pass to Shipperley. Wimbledon continued to infiltrate the spaces between Town players around the edge of the penalty area and whip in crosses, but rarely threatened Coyne. Then, with only 3 or 4 minutes left in the half, Wimbledon whacked in a deep, high cross from the right towards the far post. Francis rose above his marker and, from about 15 yards out headed firmly towards Coyneâ€™s top right hand corner. Coyne skipped back and tipped the ball over the bar for a corner. It was taken from the Wimbledon right and curled, at head height, to the near post. AGYEMANG slipped in front of the ball-watching Gallimore and flicked his head at the ball, sending a glancing header in to the top right hand corner. A really shoddy piece of defending.
Town again upped their pace, but again were ineffective, running head first into a yellow brick wall. McDermott was having a storming first half, often being the last Town defender and, increasingly, the only Town attacker. After his third or fourth surge into the space that Butterfield should have occupied something wonderful happened (something wonderful nearly happened on his second surge when Boulding just failed to get in front of a defender right in the middle of the goal). McDermott dribbled down the right and simply kept on going. I think he may have exchanged passes with Allen, who sent him behind the left back into the bottom left hand corner of the Wimbledon area. McDermott crossed low and hard , with the ball zipping through the penalty a area to POUTON, at the far post, who calmly side footed the ball low past the â€˜keeper into the left hand corner. Again the crowd erupted in surprised relief. Two Town attacks, two goals - now thatâ€™s efficiency for you. Perhaps they should try attacking a bit more.
Half time: Grimsby Town 2 Wimbledon 2
And the half ended at parity, a fortunate parity for Town, who had been outplayed. The general consensus was that weâ€™d settle for a draw, as Town were playing poorly against opponents who looked like they could score many more, if they could be bothered. The wide midfield players had been varying degrees of pathetic, with Butterfield appearing to receive three on-field lectures from McDermott, Allen and Coldicott for his indolent contribution. There had been very little passing from Town, and when they did Pouton kept passing to Wimbledon players to set up counter attacks. It was frustrating and a million miles from last weekâ€™s performance. It was as if they were resting on the laurels of the Wolf slaying.
So it all depended on the half time team talk. Itâ€™s called management, isnâ€™t it?
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Weâ€™ll need four to draw".
The report continues in the second half.
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