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The Future Is Now: Burnley Report
By: Tony Butcher
A BRIGHT, cloudless day with a warm sun and typically piercing wind wobbling sporadically around the ground. Thatâ€™s a completely packed ground, with one end claret and blue and three sides a red-capped monochrome.
Grimsby Town 3 Burnley 1
13 Apr 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The Monkey and Banana returned ("you know, for kids") and we had the slightly surreal sight of a monkey aping Gazza, with a banana on top. The players warmed up, as usual, with light jogs, sprints and aimless kick-abouts. We then had the extremely surreal sight of Livvo smiling, just because the crowd cheered when his named was announced. Weird scenes inside the goldmine, Iâ€™m sure Livvo awoke before dawn too.
Dave Boylen continued his battle with dignity, losing again. Perhaps a dozen Mainstanders raised a pitiful cough in response. The balloon release was, similarly, quintessentially Grimbarian in planning and practice. The net was opened and three great big clumps of balloons stuck together and meandered across the pitch and up, up and not away, for they were not beautiful balloons. One lump or two? One got stuck round the floodlights, but not for long. There was more rabble rousing on the new stadium, with a brick being waved at the crowd. The police and stewards, disgracefully, failed to take any action. You could have someoneâ€™s eye out with that, you know. Most applauded, some launched a "Boo the brick" campaign (and Falconer wasnâ€™t even on the pitch!).
The pre-match events did create an atmosphere, and the Town players, at least, looked very jolly and confident. The substitutesâ€™ shooting practice against Croudson was more accurate than usual, even Livvo "scored". Burnett, in plus fours, chipped Croudson, the ball hit the underside of the bar, bounced on the line, back over the bar, rolled on to the top of the bar and nestled like an auntie on top of the net. Now if a Brazilian had done that you would have said it was lucky. As the substitutes wandered off, Croudson ran over to a very small boy in the Lower Smiths/Stones/Findus Stand and gave him his goalkeeping gloves. Just before kick-off Groves changed his shirt; the second definitely had more flappage.
Burnley, on the other hand, were at the other end and didnâ€™t do anything remarkable or interesting in "warming up". They were just blokes, with the exception of Johnson, who has had strange highlights placed erratically in his hair. They were the colour that pigeon droppings go if you fail to wipe them off your windscreen for four days. Mucky, greeny-brown.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation. Everyone was where youâ€™d think theyâ€™d be, with Chapman as Gallimoreâ€™s replacement and Butterfield at left midfield. Allen and Boulding together again. Interesting. Burnley also started with a 4-4-2 formation and, for the sake of completeness, Mr P Gascoigne was a substitute. They started with a clogger (Ball) and a runner (Briscoe) in central midfield. Town had Coldicott and Pouton. No contest.
So this was it, 90 minutes to decide everything. The future is now.
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon; the roaring, raging wall of noise that was the Pontoon. Thankfully the torpor that smothered the ground against Sheffield Wednesday had disappeared. This was Noise City Arizona. Town didnâ€™t get where they are today by the Pontoon being smothered in torpor.
As early as the 1st minute Boulding almost broke free, only an errant linesmanâ€™s flag stopped him skipping gaily down the right with gay abandon. Town crunched, Burnley headed the ball away for two or three minutes and it was obvious, even at this stage, that Burnleyâ€™s players were content to stroll in the sun on their charabanc trip to the seaside. There were huge gaps between all their defenders, with Boulding, especially, seemingly free to do whatever he wanted. And after about four minutes Burnley finally cracked. Butterfield knocked a low, first time pass straight down the pitch from an inside right position, just inside the Town half. The ball went straight, into a massive, massive unmanned area of the pitch, where the Burnley right back, West, should have been. He was South. Boulding, from an inside right position, sprinted across the back line and, having given Davis 10 yards head start, beat him by 5 yards to the ball. The crowd, of course, rose in anticipation, giving out an awe struck hum. BOULDING controlled the ball a couple of yards wide of the penalty area, about 16 yards out, cut inside between two defenders and, from a position about level with the near post and 15 yards out, carefully rolled a right footed shot between Gnohereâ€™s hairless legs and into the bottom left hand corner. The crowd went bananas, as did the monkey; the banana just went wild. The old ground started to bounce, the noise levels increased still further as the crowd (well, the Town portion) recreated last years "Wall of Sound" to intimidate and encourage.
Burnley continued their passionless, half hearted stumblings, with a "game plan" which seemed to consist of heading the ball out of play for a Town throw in. They were truly awful for the first 20 minutes, with a defence that could have been hand picked by your average Town supporter. They were all we could ever ask for. "Are you Scunthorpe in disguise?" Whenever the ball was played down the wings Burnley panicked, they were scared stiff of Boulding, simply because he can run fast. Perhaps they should have taken note of Groves and Todd, who were against similarly quick forwards in Moore and Johnson. We were glad they didnâ€™t. After about six minutes Town should have scored again. Cooke, out on the right, hit a superbly weighted curling pass behind the defence for Boulding to run onto, in a central leftish position. The ball landed perfectly at Bouldingâ€™s left foot 25yards out, but he miss-controlled the ball, sending it hurtling towards the onrushing goalkeeper, who just managed block at the edge of the area. Corporal Jones was somewhere in the Burnley defence.
Around the 10 minute mark there were a couple of scares for Town, firstly when Chapman conceded a corner after he fell trying to head a huge clearance by the goalkeeper. The corner was curled in towards the near post and there was an almighty scramble, with Town players flying, diving and throwing various limbs at the ball. Todd calmed matters by bullying his way through a challenge, he took man, ball and several inches of turf with him as he swept majestically out of the penalty area, like a horde of wildebeest flowing across the Savannah. The Burnley supporters claimed a penalty, but who was listening to them? A minute or so later Town faffed about out on the left, with Chapman, eventually, being dispossessed near the edge of the penalty area. Little weaved his was down the bye-line and crossed into the near post. Groves glided across the green, green grass of home and diverted the ball away for a corner. Another inswinger, another minor scramble. Danger over.
With Burnley playing a "high line" in defence they were asking for trouble, which duly arrived after about 11 or 12 minutes. The ball was played up to Allen, on the half way line, who was bundled, barged and tripped from behind. The crowd called for a free kick, but the referee played advantage. What advantage? There is none. We booed, we bayed, we cheered as someone in the middle (after another foul) chipped the ball down the right flank. Boulding scampered after the ball, reaching it near the corner of the penalty area. He awaited Gnohereâ€™s tackle, which never arrived. By this time Boulding was in the area, Gnohere put his right leg across and Boulding simply stepped aside, reaching the bye line, about 8 or 9 yards wide of the goal. He looked up (Yes, yes yes!), saw Butterfield hurtling into the 6 yard box and carefully rolled the ball across. Butterfield, about 5 yards out, at the near post, side footed a first time shot, which hit the goalkeeper and squirmed across the open goal. Two defenders trotted back, ALLEN sprinted forward and, from two yards out and just beyond the far post, side footed the ball into the left hand side of the goal. The ground bounced even more, though I did detect a slight tilt to the Osmond as 2,500 Burnley supporters, in unison, sunk below their seats in despair.
What happened in the next 10 minutes? I donâ€™t know, the crowd were too busy singing and dancing. At this point someone called for a quiet moment of reflection, our thoughts were with Kevin Donovan at this "sad" time. Of course, itâ€™s about ambition, Mr Jellyfish, isnâ€™t it. There were some grating tackles, some Pouton surges, the referee seemed intent on not booking anyone and was letting a few fouls go unpunished. It all added up to a rumbustious, satisfying, and typically Town (in April) afternoon. Burnley were simply being brushed aside. So they made a change. Off came their right back, on came Paul Weller (make your own joke, itâ€™s far too obvious). They switched to a 3-5-2 formation and then had a 5 or 10 minute spell where they were Townâ€™s equal, even having a few attacks.
The first real Burnley effort on goal (Iâ€™m sure their supporters could dream up a few, they do have a vivid imagination at times, especially when their players are tackled) came after about 25 minutes. They were given a free kick near the half way line and took it immediately, from the wrong place. The ball was chipped down their left wing and Moore outpaced Groves, burst into the penalty area and, from about 10 yards out and perhaps 6 yards wide of goal, totally and utterly miss-kicked a left foot shot. The ball bounced 4 or 5 times before it reached Coyne, who simply stood up, hands on hips and let the ball roll under his right boot, where he stood on the ball, surveying the scene in front of him. The scene was a sea of happy faces, jumping up and down, definitely waving not drowning. Burnley had two or three headers on target in the minutes that followed, all after dribbles and crosses by Little down their right. Each header was weak and straight at Coyne. Each player was unmarked, though none of them ever looked like scoring. The whole Burnley team had a weary, sorrowful body language, as if they thought theyâ€™d never score. Fine by us.
Town had occasional attacks, with many a fleeting moment of excitement as Boulding was sprinting towards the ball after it had been chipped behind the full backs. Allen was playing some fine "link" passes, and shielding the ball well, particularly around the edge of the Burnley penalty area, where we had minor Reesian memories with Butterfield, Cooke and McDermott trying the old one-two. It even worked, with the resulting crosses being cut out rather desperately in the centre. Cooke curled a free kick, from about 20 yards, just to the left of centre, a foot over the bar. Oo-able, but never goalable. The day was so glorious, and Town so imperious, that Coldicott took a break from his destructive duties to have a couple of late runs to beat the offside trap. A fantastic crossfield pass by Groves from the centre circle, released Coldicott down the Town right, the goalkeeper raced out of his area and just managed to get there before our cuddly Conan, the ball flying off for a throw in. Funny bloke their â€˜keeper, he kept running out of his area and fly kicking the ball at out for throw-ins 90 degrees. Well, we were laughing.
And we laughed even more three minutes before half time. Near the managersâ€™ dug out, just inside the Town half, Cooke sprinted, skidded and hooked a pass down the right touch-line. Superb, the ball had looked like it was rolling out and his determination kept a move flowing. Boulding, who else, sprinted forward as the ball went towards the left edge of the penalty area. The goalkeeper ran out and seemed to panic, for the ball was just inside his area, about 12 yards out. He slid forward to tackle Boulding, but only succeeded in knocking the ball against the little Scamp. The ball rebounded and rolled towards the bye-line. Boulding, about 6 yards out and right on the edge of the penalty area looked up and saw what we saw - an open goal. The ground fell totally silent as BOULDING rolled the ball, with his right foot, towards goal. Slowly, slowly, slowly, the ball trundled across the grass, onto the muddy bit in the middle, and towards the far post. Still silent. ROAR, the ball crept inside the far post. An incredibly calm finish, and a wonderful one too, for at that moment the Town supporters realised that safety was not a possibility, but a probability. The crowd celebrated not just a goal, but the goal, and a season. And they celebrated a bit more when the mobile phones announced events at Oakwell. Everythingâ€™s cominâ€™ up roses in Grovesâ€™ garden.
In the remaining few minutes Town had another couple of joyous, flowing, intoxicating passing movements, both down the right. Again the old Reesian wall pass reared its beautiful head, with Coldicott, Chapman, Boulding and finally Butterfield all involved. Butterfieldâ€™s jink and dink produced nothing more than a routine catch at the near post by the goalkeeper, but what the heck, there was no poverty of ambition; it was Buckley but at pace and with goals. Marvellous. And more marvellous still the Pouton surge, just before half time, when he beat four Burnley players, then another, before turning on the edge of the penalty area, beating another, then finally being dispossessed. Ole, ole, ole, ole. Pouton, supremely Pouton.
Half time: Grimsby Town 3 Burnley 0
The Town fans cheered and cheered and cheered the players off the pitch. This was like last yearâ€™s Great Escape, but with something extra. Yes, the emotion, the raw passion, the roaring rollicking crowd, the indefatigable esprit de corps. But something else too. Football; excellent, free flowing, one-touch football. After a hesitant start Chapman had settled into a very solid, competitive performance, rising like a...sprightly parr, to win headers against Little, who was a foot taller (and so wasnâ€™t little). Todd and Groves were extremely solid and unperturbed in the centre, despite being against very fast opponents. McDermott was his usual self, there is no higher praise possible. Coldicott and Pouton were magnificent in the centre, especially Pouton, who ran and ran and ran, tackling everything, including Butterfield at one point. Nothing passed them. Cooke was not as effective as against Norwich, but he too got into the spirit of the team, tracking back tirelessly, making some hefty challenges. Up front, Boulding scared the living daylights out of the Burnley defence, with Allen playing intelligently, if less obviously involved.
â€˜Twas a pity the referee had to stop it, it was great.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Groves better sort it at half time. I donâ€™t come here to be happy".
The report continues in the second half.
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