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1st Half - Part 2

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 31/03/2002

Away > 2001-2002 Season > Reports > Birmingham(a)

Just after a quarter of an hour a fine, wonderful, flowing move down the Town left started by Gallimore on the touchline, about 25 yards out. He knocked it forward to Campbell (I think - it may have been Pouton), who lofted a spinning pass further down the touchline, just inside the Birmingham half, over the central defender, releasing Boulding. He sprinted down the line, cut inside and, when the third defender came across to block, slid a pass from the edge of penalty area out wide towards a big, big space. Into the space surged Butterfield who, from about 15 yards out, to the right of goal, twisted his body and smashed a ferocious right foot drive, which Vaesen tipped around the post for another corner.

Another spectacular save. Another fine Town move. Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole. A couple of minutes later Town, essentially, took the Mickey with some delightful, delovely one touch passing which went down both flanks, across the pitch, and back up the right, resulting in a cross from Butterfield which was scrambled away. It was fantastic, the sort of football that has fans purring. So the Town fans purred.

But we purred far, far too soon. For all the superb football, for all the control, assured passing, and confidence oozing from every orifice of every player, it was still 0-0. Birmingham had been outplayed for nearly a quarter of the game, barely touching the ball. Surely they'd shoot? And after 20 minutes they had an attack, which was nice for them. And a portend for future misery. At last they realised the two weaknesses in the Town defence.

The left side and crosses. A rather fortuitous set of circumstances set them on their way. A couple of ricochets, a pass down their right wing, the Town players awaiting an offside flag. It didn't come, despite the evidence before the court being incontrovertible. Thus a Birmingham player was all alone down the Town left, behind Gallimore. He looked up and swung a hanging, loopy cross towards the far post where Lazaridis, about six yards out, rose above McDermott and headed down. Coyne danced across his line, leant to his right and parried the ball away at stomach height, right next to the post. Phew, Town got away with some sloppiness from Gallimore, and the linesman.

Just wait a couple of minutes. Again Birmingham probed down the left. Gallimore and Campbell doubled up on the wide midfield player, near the bye-line, five or six yards infield. The ball was slowly dribbled back towards the full back who, with no-one bothering to rush over to challenge, simply looped another high, hanging cross beyond the far post, about six yards out. The Town defence stood back and watched as Mooney headed across goal. Don't worry; no Birmingham players were in the six-yard box, Groves was there. He calmly allowed the ball to bounce up, roll off his chest and….Ahh, roll away across the area. There was a mad scramble as Groves and a couple of other Town players belatedly ran after the ball. But the ball made a beeline for B HUGHES who, from about 12 or so yard out and level with the left hand post, strode forward and side footed the ball into the top right hand corner. There is no getting away from this; it was a terrible mistake by Groves. Oh dear.

Still, with Town's new found confidence and spirit why should a mere goal deny them their destiny? Mmm, that rather depends on what their destiny is. Birmingham visibly picked up the pace of their attacks; they started to fly into tackles and generally looked more perky, if not particularly wonderful footballers. Their pattern of play was based upon athleticism and strength, ally that to confidence and they become tricky opponents.

Stern John was very difficult, with elasticated legs, like Inspector Gadget. He was helped by the referee deciding that it was perfectly permissible for John to control the ball with his big toe, a foot above Pouton's head. A minor quibble, but indicative of the little things that happened all game and that really annoyed the Town players and fans alike; like the time the referee managed to divert an attempted one-two by Allen on the edge of the Birmingham penalty area back upfield to launch a counter-attack.

Suddenly Town weren't so cocky, so superior, and after half an hour, no longer 1-0 down. Yet again Birmingham attacked down the Town left. The cross was half cleared by Todd, by flicking the ball towards the bottom right hand corner of the area. McDermott ran back with Lazaridis and tried to clear. Lazardis stuck a foot out and the ball rebounded back towards goal, landing perfectly in Lazaridis' flight path, right on the touchline.

Stan the flan looked up and rolled a perfectly weighted pass to the unmarked Mooney, about 10 yards out to the right of centre of the goal. Mooney, being useless, completely miss-kicked the ball, slicing it across the penalty area to B HUGHES, about level with the penalty spot, to the left of centre, who simply placed the ball into the left hand corner of Coyne's goal. Oh dear, oh dear. Two mistakes, two goals conceded. At that point the Town fans concurred with Half Man, Half Biscuit. We Hate Bryan Hughes. Ah for the beautifully sparkling spa waters of Bath, in Avon.

But Town didn't give up and had a few more attacks, and some more lovely passing movements. Butterfield, who had a quite effective first half, drifted, swayed, and swooshed his way past his marker, on the right bye-line, before sending over a flat cross to the far post. Campbell pushed the full back aside and, falling back, glanced a header a couple of yards wide from perhaps six yards out. Close, but you're not right.

A few minutes later Butterfield again moved with feline grace past his marker down the touchline and across the bye-line, before knocking a low cross back to Boulding, at the near post. Boulding's first time shot on the turn was diverted for a corner. Nothing happened from the corner, as all Butterfield's corners were miss-hit to the near post. The only other noteworthy Town attack saw Campbell surge into the penalty area and drag a cross back to Allen at the near post. Allen turned, went past two defenders, fell and crawled after the ball as it rolled out for a goal kick. Some optimistically claimed a penalty from 135 yards away. Somehow the referee did not cave in to the intense aural pressure from three middle aged men in nylon coats and nylon hair.

Birmingham had a couple more good chances, which, like every chance they had, came about through dreadfully slack Town defending. Lazaridis was allowed to run at McDermott and finally, finally managed to beat him in a sprint for the ball. He crossed to the near post where Mooney was unmarked and five yards out. He managed to side foot the ball against Coyne's legs. Just before half time a totally rubbish, uninteresting Birmingham attack foundered when McDermott came across and chested the ball down to Todd, on the edge of the Town area.

Todd simply stood in the middle of the area and watched the ball slowly bounce near him. Mooney nipped across and took the ball to the left of Coyne's goal, trying to dribble past Wales' official number 2 (if a couple of people are injured). From a narrow angle, very close to the goal, Mooney turned and delicately chipped the ball into Coyne's stomach. And how emblematic of the half; sloppy Toddy allowing a full-on golden chance. And when he left the pitch he tried to go down the wrong tunnel, he went right, when everyone else went left. Sums it up really.

And that was the end of a very curious half, where Birmingham were given a footballing lesson for 20 minutes, then were presented with two lovely large presents from their little, most 'umble guests, and refused the offer of more. Apart from the goals, Town were great. But football is about goals. Just look at CEEFAX. Individually the defence were all prone to error, the rest seemed fine, with Coldicott and Pouton letting little past them. What an odd 45 minutes.

Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk

"The whole defence are playing on mogodon".
"Can you shoehorn Derek Smalls in there somehow?".
"Remind me. Why are we losing?".
"I could have been putting shelves up instead of this".
"My fridge has a tiny freezer compartment. Is that a euphemism?"

The report continues in the second half.

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