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It Doesnâ€™t Matter Any More: Millwall Report
By: Tony Butcher
A WARM, sunny, clear day down at the old Bull and Bush, and the new Den too. Around 700 Town fans settled back into a dark corner of the Palace of Concrete, happy in the knowledge that nothing mattered.
Millwall 3 Grimsby Town 1
21 Apr 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
Though more than a few considered that personal safety outweighed the transient joy of a meaningless victory. Whatever, it was picnic weather. Would the Town players be at the same picnic, or would they bother?
The pre-match warm up revealed something old, something borrowed and something new. The three Ws, as Jonathan Ross might say, Raven! Robinson! Ward? Slender, bog standard Town height and very young, the replacement replacement right back was Iain Ward, with the replacement, replacement left back being Ben Chapman too, it hardly bode well for a cohesive back line. Had they met before?
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation. Not a big team, but at least they were in shape. Given that Millwall lined up with loads of sturdy looking blokes and Dion Dublin, Town didnâ€™t look likely to repel too many set pieces. Well, weâ€™d soon find out and, as we kept reminding ourselves, "IT DOESNâ€™T MATTER".
The ground looked full, with the exception of the usual "safety areas" and the locals were singing merrily along to the usual set of tedious rock anthems, though perhaps "Sit Down" was a subtle instruction. The Millwall players huddled together before the game, the Town players stood around with hands on hips looking a little bored.
Millwall kicked off towards the Town fans (on the left as seen on tv) and the first five minutes were nothing to write home about. Butterfield was nobbled within a minute (by a Millwall player, not a Town fan), Wardâ€™s first touch was a pass straight out of play, and Town had a lot of possession but didnâ€™t seem to be particularly interested in running around much. It was slow, strolling football and noticeable that Pouton and Coldicott eschewed a couple of opportunities to crunch and clamp.
Millwall were "up for it" more, with all their players sprinting, challenging and above all concentrating. Todd, Coldicott, Butterfield - all played schloppy (copyright Ruud Gullit) passes through the midfield, simply putting Town under pressure, and giving possession to Millwall. Ah well, it doesnâ€™t matter, does it. Relax, whatever happens, Town are safe. And after five minutes Town ensured that Millwall were safe too. Little of interest was happening on the pitch, the ball was ping-ponging between the teams in midfield. Harris, their centre forward, nipped in front of a Town player near the half way line and headed out towards Ifill, in an inside right position, just inside the Town half. Ifill ran towards the Town penalty area, straight at Chapman, who was joined by Butterfield in a gentlemanâ€™s excuse me in the middle of the pitch. Ifill continued onwards, stopped about 30 yards out, and awaited the arrival of the 14:03 from London Bridge, the flying right back. Chapman and especially Butterfield, jogged lightly towards goal, rather than towards the ball. Lawrence steamed forwards and, from about 25 yards out near the touchline, hit a first time low cross into the middle of the penalty area, about six or seven yards out. DUBLIN ran around Todd in a small parabola, slid forward and hit the ball between Coyneâ€™s legs, whilst Todd jumped upwards and waved his hands in the air. 96.79% of the crowd was ecstatic, the remaining 3.21% simply rolled their eyes, turned to their right, shrugged and tutted. Ah well, it doesnâ€™t matter, does it. Whatever happens, Town are safe.
But of course, when you have actually bothered yourself to turn up, to pay money, something starts to tick inside your own brain. And it obviously started to tick in the collective brain of the Town team, for the next five or so minutes were a little better. Butterfield did a double Zidane drag back, showing off the skills that will one day make him a star. In his own mind, at least. A couple of minutes after the goal Allen peeked out from behind a very thick curtain to remind us he still existed, when he collected a flick on in the centre, about 20 yards out, flipped the ball back over his head and passed to Coldicott, a yard or so behind him, who was then scythed down. Cooke chipped the free kick into the wall, and Town got a corner. Then another one. Then a goal. The second corner was taken by Cooke on the Town left, clipped short to Butterfield near the edge of eth penalty and passed back out to Cooke, who curled in a low cross towards the near post. The ball was headed away to Coldicott, about 20 yards out in the centre. Now who says Coldicott canâ€™t pass, and has no vision? He looked up, spotted a couple of Town players unmarked inside the penalty area and delicately chipped the ball over the on-rushing defence. BUTTERFIELD, about 8 yards out and level with the â€˜keepers right hand post, controlled the ball on his chest and swept a low right foot shot to the â€˜keeperâ€™s right. Ten minutes gone and 1-1. Grumbles and groans from the blue clad masses, chuckles and chortles from the Town fans. Ooh, a draw would be nice, wouldnâ€™t it. Wouldnâ€™t it?
Mmm, they didnâ€™t think so, as this spurred Millwall on to a greater level of intensity, one that the Town players could not raise themselves to. Town players got clattered, harried, hustled and generally overrun for a 15 minute period. Town simply played too slowly, in fact, like Burnley played last week in the first half. It was a bit of role reversal, with Town now being the other foot, with Millwall the boot (quite literally at times). Just after the equaliser, Dublin headed a deep cross from their right very powerfully towards the bottom right hand corner of the goal, from about eight yards out and a few yards beyond the far post. Coyne was well positioned and flopped gently onto the ball. Warning lights flashed on our map. A couple of minutes later Butterfield played a terrible, slow dribbling pass across the half way line towards Ward. It was far too slow and Reid reached the ball before Ward, who simply stood in the wingerâ€™s way and was booked. The free kick was flung beyond the far post and Dublin, again, out-jumped his marker to head a couple of yards wide from about 8 yards out. A Klaxon sounded.
After about a quarter of an hour Ifill barged and bundled his way down the Town left, running through Pouton and Chapman as if they didnâ€™t exist. Ifill got to the bye-line, just inside the penalty area and crossed. Cahill threw himself at the ball and, from about eight yards out, in the centre, glanced the ball so slightly it didnâ€™t even go out of play. Should have been a goal. Wasnâ€™t, good. Wait, thereâ€™s more. Five minutes later Town faffed about on the right and allowed Harris to win the ball, turn with it , then curl a right foot shot from the edge of the area into Coyneâ€™s midriff. And a minute later the party started again. Millwall got a throw in about five yards from the bye-line on their left. It was thrown in towards the near post, where Dublin was sandwiched between Groves and Pouton. The bread fell apart and Dublin headed the ball on into the middle of the penalty area. HARRIS backed away from Todd and headed the ball firmly down and across Coyne from the middle of the goal, about seven or eight yards out. Do I need to describe the sense of dÃ©jÃ vu which descended on an extremely tiny corner of South Bermondsey? The ironists amongst the barley interested Town support sang "3-2, were gonna win 3-2", along with the old favourites covering all our favourite topics. Mind you "If you want to laugh at Barnsley clap your hands" was pretty stupid. How about laughing?
For entertainment we consoled ourselves with small things, like the great Pouton moment. Facing the Town goal, about 35 yards out on the centre left after he had won possession, Pouton was under intense pressure from Ifill, who forced our Enforcer back, and back and back, until Pouton was near the corner flag. After four aborted step overs the fifth succeeded, with Pouton rolling around the challenge and stepping past another one on the touchline. All it needed was one shake of his magic hips. He passed inside to Butterfield, (Ole) to Chapman (Ole), to Pouton (Ole), back to Chapman (Ole), up to Boulding (Ole), to Coldicott (Ole) to Butterfield (Urgh). He sent a cross straight out of play for a goal kick. Wonderful, boastful football up to the Millwall penalty area. Rubbish final pass. A small moment to savour in an afternoon of slack torpor.
Around the half hour, Millwall broke quickly down their right following a Town corner, with the resulting cross being headed out by Chapman at the near post for a throw in. Yawn, yawn, it was flung in towards the near post, Dublin brushed Todd aside and back headed into the middle of the six yard box. Ward headed away, but only just beyond the far post and about eight yards out. HARRIS, falling and with his back to goal, hit a right footed volley which went straight into the ground, bounced up over Groves and towards and over a Millwall player standing in front of Coyne, bounced again and trundled slowly into the left hand side of the goal. As the goals started to tot up it was becoming quite a mantra "IT DOESNâ€™T MATTER". Itâ€™s only the first pre-season friendly of the 2002/3 season. "4-3, weâ€™re gonna win 4-3"
A couple of minutes later it should have been 4-1. The ball was swept from right to left, helped on first time to release Reid, alone and 20 yards out on their left. He saw Coyne come out and lofted the ball over and out of the ground. And do you know something, at this point Town had another shot, which was absolutely lovely, something for us to cheer about in our trademark ironic fashion. And it was from Bradley Allen too, the Man Who Wasnâ€™t There for Town, who hitherto and thereafter was the ghost of Mark Nicholls. You have never seen a footballer avoid the ball so successfully. That takes skill and years of training. Oh the shot. Sliced five yards wide after the Millwall right back had passed to him about 25 yards out. If you were standing outside of the ground, and behind a lamppost, you may have thought it was close. And a couple of minutes later it should have been 4-1. Again. Again the panic was caused by a fast raid down the wings and an early cross. All simple stuff, but which caused Town (and especially the young full backs) great problems. In this instance the ball was whacked from the centre down their left wing, one of the gnarling, snarling midfielders bustled down the wing and flipped over a fast cross into the centre of the penalty area, right on the six yard line. Harris got in front of his marker and headed a few inches over the bar.
The rest of the half was Milwall too, an Ifill dribbler (boring, miss-hit) and Harris volleyed just wide from six yards out ate the near post, following a deep cross from the left and a Dublin head back. Dublin again, crosses again, fortunately misses again. In added time Dublin managed to head Pouton, causing a further delay. It was a clumsy, daft challenge, where Dublin just ran into Pouton like a drunk meeting a dry-stone wall for the first time.
Half time: Millwall 3 Grimsby Town 1
So, there we are, the home fans happy, the Town fans a little annoyed at the doziness on display, but as we kept telling ourselves "IT DOESNâ€™T MATTER". Essentially Millwall played as if something depended on the game, Town didnâ€™t. It was only half time, but more of this and Millwall would really give Town a hammering. Not a great way to end the season, especially after the last couple of months, but predictable. It isnâ€™t worth analysing individuals.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Urgh, green tomato sauce!".
The report continues in the second half.
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