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Don't Panic (Yet!) 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO CHANGES were made by either team at half time, though Town did their old trick of waltzing out after the opposition. Well, waltzing may be putting it too poetically. Ambling.
Birmingham City 4 Grimsby Town 0
30 Mar 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
Within a minute Birmingham broke throughâ€¦but the flag was waved for one of those rare things - Birmingham offside. There then followed five minutes of pure Town, a mini re-enactment of the first 20 minutes, with Birmingham barely touching the ball. The home crowd silent, the Town fans roaring. Pure Town, eh? That's usually passing, passing, passing, passing, goal kick. It was good while it lasted, with a lot of pressure, but no tangible reward. I can't remember any shots, just a lot of passing around the edge of the Birmingham penalty area, some crosses, some challenges, some oohs, some ahhs, no shots. Good play, but nothing at the end of it. Plenty of crossing opportunities but with Allen and Boulding on the pitch, no height. And there was the crucial difference.
Whenever Birmingham got within 25 yards of the Town penalty area they simply lofted it up, up in the air, like a beautiful balloon, in the full knowledge that all their players were taller than ours. Town were forced to put their foot on the ball and try to "work" it through.
After five minutes of dancing in the dark something happened. And not something to warm the cockles of our hearts. There seemed no danger, the crowd was listless, barely awake, watching the pigeons fly up to their roosts at the top of the new stands. Some returned slowly from the pie run, others checked the scores on their phones. Conversations sprang up and generally NOTHING WAS HAPPENING.
Then we looked up and watched in horror. A long, high, hopeful punt from inside the Town half on the left, near the touchline. Todd ambled back, trotting. JOHN didn't, peeling off his "marker" to skip into a huge, almighty space inside the Town penalty area and, from about 12 yards out, head across Coyne into the right hand corner. Pathetic, absolutely pathetic marking, or should that be non-marking, by Todd. Birmingham had barely got over the half way line until that moment. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
The rest of the game was a waste of time, quite a few Town players merely waiting for the final whistle to blow. Birmingham sensed a chance to improve their goal difference and threw men forward as the game progressed. But still their "chances" were not created, they resulted from very basic errors by Town players.
After about an hour Allen was replaced by Falconer. Ah, the big Scot. Would we be telling them Willie Boy was here? Er, no, He was more like Groundskeeper Willie. Big, slow, his first five "touches" were fouls. Like Livvo, but without the pace. He barely touched the ball and when he did I can't remember anything happening. The Birmingham supporters became cocky, resurrecting their only joke ever (they shout "who" when the tannoy announces the opposition's substitutions). As the Town fans retorted "Buy a Programme". Their refrain of "We'll Meet Again, Don't Know Where, Don't Know When" was countered with "On August the 19th". Ho, ho, ho.
I think that Pouton had a surging moment at about this time. He won a tackle in the centre circle, powerfully swept forward through three challenges, stepped over and was hacked down about 25 yards out. The referee decided it was 30 yards out, that 7 yards equals 10 where Birmingham are concerned and Gallimore lazily caressed a very poor free kick a couple of yards over the bar. Pouton was furious with the referee and flung his arms in the air, in despair. Feeling much like the Town fans then, big Al.
With 25 minutes left another piece of rotten defending gave Birmingham another goal. Gallimore, about 30 yards out in a central left position, received a pass from someone, who knows who, who was watching, who cared by that point. Essentially, there was no danger, no need to worry, no need to concentrate on events on the pitch. So Galli didn't. He tried to cut inside, with the Birmingham midfielder, Johnson (D) having the temerity to follow him. Gallimore than decided to clear upfield with his trusty right boot. He managed to kick the ball against Johnson, with the ball rebounding back towards goal, possibly off Johnson's hands, maybe stomach. D JOHNSON ran on, awaited Coyne's arrival on the 16:04 from Snow Hill Station, drifted to the left, then poked the ball low under Coyne and past McDermott, who had raced back to the line. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. One for each defender, one for each mistake. Four mistakes, four goals. Dreadful, terrible, flamin' useless.
Birmingham chances, there were some more. A couple of corners from their right caused some danger. One of which Coyne palmed away from his top left hand corner, another, very late on which was glanced a couple of yards wide by one of the centre backs, unmarked a few yards out in the centre. Late on Todd, 30 yards out in the middle, took the opportunity to show his true Premiership class by dropping his shoulder, then shimmying away from Horsefield (yes, he'd come on by then), who simply muscled Todd off the ball and ran on towards Coyne. Horsefield, took the ball to Coyne's right then appeared to try and chip the ball over Coyne, who parried. The ball wedged itself under Coyne and several players started to thrash about. Coyne stayed down, clutching his face and the referee stopped play, eventually giving a drop-ball.
Wahey, after about 70 odd minutes Town had a chance. A free kick on the Town right was drilled low towards Falconer in the middle, about 25 yards out. He jumped over the ball and allowed it to roll into a big space behind the Birmingham defence. Boulding sprinted into the gap, took the ball to the right of gaol and slightly miss-hit a right foot shot across Vaesen, which rolled a foot wide of the right hand post. Around this time Burnett replaced Coldicott. Town neither improved nor sunk into a pit of hopelessness. The game continued as before. Loads of Town possession, Birmingham breakaways, Town howlers in defence. There were a few more Birmingham raids, but as Mooney was generally involved, nothing came of them. Fortunately for Town by far the worse player on the pitch was one of Birmingham's strikers. Coyne had to "stand tall" when Mooney got behind the defence, with his shot cannoning away off Coyne's big, manly, international chest. In the last couple of minutes Horsefield sneaked around the back, on the Town left and headed a deep, deep cross against the post from a very narrow angle. At least that's what the referee thought as he gave a goal kick. It seemed to come off Coyne. But hey, so what. A mere detail of history, n'est pas?
With around six or seven minutes left Boulding was replaced by Robinson. And quite interesting he was too. Where Groundskeeper Willie had lumbered around to no effect whatsoever, Robinson was lively, a bit of a threat too. He made a couple of excellent "peeling" runs off his marker to collect long diagonal passes down the inside left channel. He got the Town fans to applaud when, with five minutes left he made an arcing run from the centre to the left, running along the "back line", as some Town player (probably Groves, who made numerous raking passes to the wingers) pinged a pass into a space near the right edge of the penalty area. Robinson brushed Tebily aside, surged into the box and, from 10 yards out, wide of the goal, hit a right foot shot just past the near post, as Vaesen raced out to narrow the angle. Mmm, how fascinating. A couple of minutes later he repeated his "peel", this time being much wider and near the corner flag. He turned and chipped a right foot cross/shot which went just over the bar and landed on the net, near the far post. Robinson certainly looks promising on this little cameo showing.
There were five minutes of added time (where did they come from?) and a few more "nearly" moments from Town, all from good play around the edge of the box, but the ball was always just a little too far from a Town boot each time. It was one of those days, Town certainly were not cut to pieces, as the score-line may suggest, the ball always seemed to find its way to a blue shirt. Right from the start the rebounds fell their way; these things happen. And they did, in a huge way. Let's hope that Town have got all their slackness, ill-fortune and general cockiness out of the way. That seemed to be half the problem - the Town players were a bit too confident, with the whole of the defence guilty of very basic individual errors. The worst culprit was Todd. By far. His demeanour was not pleasing as, several times, he flapped his right arm and trundled back, rather than a full pelt attempt to retrieve a situation of his own making.
It was all very strange. A stuffing on paper, yet for great swathes of the game Town were the better team, the more assured passers, the more confident footballers. Let's close our eyes and pretend it never happened. Wednesday on Monday is far more important.
Nick0's Man of the Match
Very difficult, as no-one was outstanding. Groves was excellent, except for a couple of howlers. McDermott too. Butterfield in the first half was a menace to them (rather than us) and Coldicott did a lot on unfussy tidying up. However, after great deliberation, and three recounts, it's ALAN POUTON. Just. He kept on going, even at 4-0, with surges, great big walloping tackles and he never gave up. Not great, but then no-one was, overall.
Mark's UnMan of the Match
Who'd have ever thought this. Andy Todd. A right sleepy, shoddy, sloppy shocker. He owes us one now. His day was summed up by a totally miss-hit half volley from six yards out, right at the end. He played like he was asleep, or at least his mind was 50 miles from his body.
Got in the way, inconsistent with hand balls (Williams stopped Town with his hands, kicked the ball upfield and the ball struck Gallimore's hands in exactly the same circumstances. So the referee gave a free kick to Birmingham), and I just don't feel disposed to be generous. 6.1. He turned up, I suppose.
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