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Money Canâ€™t Buy Me Livvo: Norwich Report
By: Tony Butcher
A BRIGHT, sunny day chasing the clouds away, with a cold, cold wind blowing through our souls. Typical Carrow Road. The Norwich fans bathed in warm sunshine, around 650 Town fans huddled together in the old stand exposed to the easterly wind whistling down their right ear.
Norwich City 1 Grimsby Town 1
06 Apr 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
Howâ€™s that for a bit of copper/kettle calling. The Town fans buzzed when they saw the team limber up. Itâ€™s, itâ€™s ...Monty Pythonâ€™s flying Livvo! And whoâ€™s that chunky little bloke with the spiky hair? That must be the mysterious Cooke, and it was. The Norwich mascot, for some reason, never explained, a cat clad in yellow and blue, kept cartwheeling around the pitch and waving maniacally. I suppose it was trying to whip up the home support into a frenzy, which was a sysiphian task, as they had similar levels of interest and commitment to the Town crowd last Monday. Well, theyâ€™d turned up, hadnâ€™t they? What more do they want? Further attempts at creating an atmosphere included an attempt to record the fans singing "On The Ball City" for a centenary video. "Câ€™Mon, letâ€™s make them hear it in Cromer". It seemed to be one verse of an inconsequential doodle, punctuated by loud "Grimsby, Grimsby" as a counter-point in 3rds and 5ths. We had, indeed, come to spoil their party.
Town lined up, in "lucky" white shorts, in a 4-4-2 formation as follows :- Coyne, McDermott, Groves, Todd, Gallimore, Cooke, Pouton, Coldicott, Butterfield, Falconer and Robinson. The substitutes were Croudson, Ford, Burnett, Jevons and Livingstone. Cooke played on the right wing, with Butterfield on the left. Mmm, Galli and Jogging Danny B together at last (thought the opposition). As the game was about to kick off Livvo stood, in full kit, on the half way line, then put a red jumper on. Perhaps, like a frustrated racehorse, he just wanted to smell the turf.
Norwich lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with a couple of large defenders and a pumped up Nielsen upfront. Yeah, yeah, we know your routine. But we also knew what chaos he could cause if he was bothered. He looked very bothered. Ominous.
Norwich kicked off towards the stand on the right (as seen on tv, and by the Town fans, who were sat in the same stand as the tv cameras).
Within a minute Nielsen had bundled and barged his way down an inside right channel, past Groves and Todd, down the bye line to within five or six yards of Coyne. Gulp. He crossed low, the ball travelled through the six yard box and was cleared by McDermott, with a Norwich striker hovering and about to tap the ball in from three yards. A minute later Nielsen did the same thing again, this time pulling the ball back from the bye line to an onrushing midfielder, whose shot was blocked by Coldicott, then the follow up shot was blocked again for a corner. I think. The first few minutes were hectic, panicky stuff, with Nielsen involved in everything, backheeling on the left edge of the Town area to almost set someone free. In fact, it was all so hectic that the events seemed to blur into one another. For sure after three minutes Norwich had a corner on their right, swung in low to the near post by Easton. Butterfield jumped in front of Coyne and managed to glance a backheader an inch over the angle of post and bar. Coyne went mad, claiming heâ€™d been pushed, but the referee ignored him, then ordered Norwich to take the next corner from their left hand side, which infuriated their supporters and players. This corner was looped in high and swinging in to the very centre of the six yard box. MACKAY jumped highest and earliest and nodded the ball down past Coyne and into the right hand side of the goal. Around 20,000 people jumped around and cheered. Around 600 Northern shoulders sagged three inches, with 600 pairs of Northern eyes staring at 600 pairs of Northern feet. Typical Norwich, shall we go home now?
The next 10 minutes followed the pattern of the first four - wave upon wave of Norwich attacks, with them seeking out the spaces around Gallimore (and those in his head) and absolutely everything involving Nielsen. And the referee. And the linesman. Oh yes, they had a mighty big part to play in the game. A couple of minutes after their goal Norwich should have scored again. Town cleared a free kick and all ran out in a line. Norwich knocked the ball back over the top. Donâ€™t panic, there are four of them offside by four yards. Why isnâ€™t the linesman putting his flag up? Play on and panic on. McVeigh (I think) collected the high ball on the edge of the area, just to the left of centre, took the ball forward and, as Coyne ran out and fell at his feet, lifted the ball over Coyne and onto the top of the net. The Town fans had the most perfect of views, being absolutely level with the defensive line. The linesman received some very specific advice from fans and Town players alike. Thatâ€™s four players four yards offside. To give the linesman his due perhaps one of them wasnâ€™t interfering with play. Maybe. And a couple of minutes later the linesman repeated his Nelsonian posturing; fortunately Coyne came out and caught the through ball. Only three offside this time. By five yards. And then the linesman did the same again. This time Norwich ended up having a shot and nearly scoring. Again it came from a half clearance by Town, a lofted, hopeful return "pass" down the centre and Nielsen barged forward, Coyne stopping with his legs.
At this point a young Town fan was ejected by the Police, who were also asked to take the linesman out with them. They refused. We are still in the first 15 minutes, remember. And thereâ€™s more golden Norwich chances to describe. Nielsen barged down the Town left and fizzed a cross through the six yard box, no-one there, everyone had gone to the moon. A long, high ball over the top, down the Town left to the edge of the penalty area saw Groves struggling to fend off Nielsen and watch the ball as it swirled and curled around. Groves dropped his shoulder to suggest he was going left, then he headed the ball back towards goal. Nielsen rolled around the stumbling Groves and was free inside the penalty area, about 12 yards out, just to the left of goal. He dithered dreadfully, allowing Coyne to rush out and a couple of Town defenders to race back, and ended up tapping the ball against Coyneâ€™s legs, the ball eventually being smothered away to relative safety. There were a couple more desperate scrambles in the Town area, normally after a Norwich player had managed to infiltrate the spaces down the left, dribbled to the bye-line and pulled the ball back to midfielders waiting near the penalty spot. They missed, too busy licking their lips to lock their sights. And the Town defence/midfield threw themselves at the ball to great effect.
There we are: 15 minutes of torture for the Town support, and players. Virtually nothing had been created up front, with Falconer unable to move, let alone win possession. Robinson was lively and trying, but had no striking support. Cooke had produced a couple of neat passes and dribbles but, again, Town were undermanned upfront. Town generally had the look of a group of travelling companions thrown together by happenstance. They seemed to be doing their introductions on the pitch. And then, after about 20 minutes, something clicked and the game turned upside down. It coincided with Nielsenâ€™s wind being blown. He appeared to put all his effort into the first 20 minutes, and with his demise Norwich sank back. They snapped around in midfield, they chased around up front, but Town gradually started to block off their runs, read their passes. Itâ€™s called organisation. Norwich only really had one more effort in the first half, which resulted from some casual play by Town on the left and a Norwich breakaway. Kenton was sent free down their right wing, he crossed at head height into the six yard box and Nielsen, at the near post, leant back and flicked a glancing header a few inches wide of Coyneâ€™s right hand post. Thatâ€™s it, you can forget about them, itâ€™s about Town now. And the referee. He booked Gallimore when Nedergaard shielded the ball in front of the Town fans, then fell on the ball. Galli swung his boot a couple of times and Nedergaard shrieked like a teenage girl, clutching his left hand. Of course the home supporters bayed, and of course the referee obliged them. Coldicott was booked for a very innocuous, slightly miss-timed tackle near the half way line and Groves was booked for, well, no-one really knows. How odd that Norwich players didnâ€™t get booked for similar stuff. How odd that all the little decisions went agin Town, like the time Robinson was free, 30 yards out, so the referee awarded Town a free kick 40 yards out for a foul on Falconer. Or when Pouton was about to stroke a pass to Coldicott on the half way line and a Norwich player kicked his boot, forcing him to tap the ball five yards and fall. Ooh, play on, of course. Most of the first half was taken up with rages against the officials. Rant over.
After 20 minutes Town were good, very decent, and occasionally excellent. The principals in this renaissance were the effervescent Robinson and the tricky Cooke, who plays like a cross between Gilbert and Childs. Cooke struck up a fine understanding with McDermott and had the beating of his full back, crossing at will. What a pity that Falconer was on the pitch, or allegedly on the pitch, for he was absent from action all the time. After about 25 minutes, Robinson showed some invention and verve, receiving a pass 35 yards out on the right, turning past his marker, drifting through three challenges and slicing a left foot shot eight yards wide and five yards high. There was a 10 minutes spell of Town possession and probing down the flanks, with little tangible reward, but a lot of confidence building play and interactions between players. One touch, pass and movement. And Town fair dominated the last 10 minutes of the half, laying siege to the Norwich goal and silencing the trilling Canaries. Cooke teased his full back, then pleased the crowd, by dancing past him, and crossing from a narrow angle out near the corner flag. The goalkeeper stumbled back across his line and managed to get his finger tips to the ball, diverting it on to the face of the crossbar. The ball bounced down and Falconer dived in with two defenders at the foot of the post. Corner to Town. The corner was pinged towards the far post, a huge melee followed with a Town player trying a shot from a dozen yards out. The ball was stopped by Mackey, whose left arm was outstretched. Did it hit his arm? The ball squirmed away and another scramble followed and another Town corner, on the right. Cooke curled the corner out to the centre of the goal, about eight yards out. Groves and Todd thundered in, with Groves heading high but wide. The ball stayed in play, was returned back to Cooke who shaped to cross, then cut back inside the full back. Cooke made his way down the bye-line towards the edge of the penalty area. The full back hacked him down from behind, a foot or so outside the area. Everyone lined up in the middle of the area, expecting a floated cross, but Cooke spotted Butterfield unmarked 15 yards out level with the near post and clipped a short pass to the Gliding Swan. Butterfield whacked a first time drive, which was deflected off a Norwich defender and spun off through the penalty area and wide of goal.
Ah, thereâ€™s more Town pressure. A corner from the Town left was half cleared, returned and Butterfield, at the near post, turned three yards out. He had the merest of glimpses of goal, shot and the ball was half stopped, bobbed up and through towards goal. The goalkeeper snatched the ball away from any flailing Town boot, on the line. And Butterfield again, on the right edge of the Norwich penalty area, received a short pass with his back to goal, turned and clipped a superb, delicate chip towards the top right hand corner. The goalkeeper leant back and tipped the ball over for a corner. All very exciting, all very good, but still no goal. It just felt that Town werenâ€™t getting the rub of the yellow and green. And now it was half time. A standing ovation for Town, for the way they had pegged Norwich back inside their penalty area, causing mild panic, and a standing boo for the officials, who were beyond rotten.
Half time: Norwich City 1 Grimsby Town 0
Town seemed to be playing with 10 men, but was our idol, the fatted calf muscle, fit enough to play more than a couple of minutes? Cometh the hour we thought, cometh the Livvo. Surely.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Iâ€™m freezing cold and had enough of that ref. And Falconer".
The report continues in the second half.
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