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Sleeping with the Fishes: Wimbledon Report
By: Tony Butcher
A LOVELY, warm, slightly sticky evening by the Humber. Slowly, slowly the remaining followers of the team formerly known as Wimbledon trickled into the Osmond Stand.
Grimsby Town 0 Wimbledon 0
13 Aug 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
By kick off there were 30 people sat in seats, 16 stewards and 5 policeman. But what to call this opposition? Should we follow Prince and give them a symbol, a squiggle perhaps? Pound signs, to signify their ownersâ€™ real love, for it isnâ€™t the town of Wimbledon? Whatever, the atmosphere at Blundell Park was just like a pre-season friendly, but without the excitement. The Town support wandered in silently, made the ritual comment that "The pitch looks good" and plonked themselves reluctantly upon their plastic bucket seat, munching a pie.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation. The pre-match warm up was just like last year, light jogging, formation steppings and sprints, followed by arbitrary kick-abouts. The hired hands of the opposition appeared to be very happy, perhaps excited by the prospect of plying their trade in front of people. Eleven hoofers in search of an audience. Then dread - the name of the referee. M Ryan, yes itâ€™s that man again. Memories of the Bradford disgrace came flooding back. At least he wouldnâ€™t be intimidated by the sheer weight of opposition fans this time. Would he?
Just one question - why was there a huge green tarpaulin at each end of the Upper Smiths/Stones/Findus Stand?
*They* kicked off towards the Pontoon and the roar was deafening. Well, someone looked up from reading the programme and noticed it had started, and then told everyone else. We cleared our throats and issued a small "hurrah!". The ball was in the air, the ball came down, the ball was in the air, the ball came down. Up, down, up, down. They launched it to Shipperley, we launched it to Livvo. The ball kept going out for a throw in, which enabled the Pontoonâ€™s resident foul throw expert to shout "foul throw" within six minutes of the start. And, to the delight of at least seven people, the referee gave one against the Mercenariesâ€™ left back. The scoreboard packed up after one minute, frozen at 7:46 with the score at "Grimsby 0, bledon 0".
All of which is merely waffling to cover up the fact that nothing happened of any consequence for an exceedingly long time. Despite the thought that Â£Â£Â£Â£Â£â€™s players looked happy to see a crowd, they played as if transfixed with fear, overwhelmed by the enormity of the occasion. If anything, Town hoofed better than them, which is damning with the faintest praise possible. Livvo looked faster and fitter than against Norwich. That only meant he gave the ball away quicker. Rowan buzzed around, being a lively nuisance, even laying off a couple of fine passes to Cooke in neat build up play. And we are back to the Norwich game again - Cooke crossed, nobody there. The first half was just a series of Town breaks with Cooke crossing to the near post, the far post, high, low, wherever he put it a Town player wasnâ€™t. His fault? No, most were excellent crosses, the Town strikers were not quick enough, or cute enough, to get in front of markers, to find space, to anticipate. Frustrating for the paying spectators, doubly so for Cooke who was the only player to provide any sustained skill, or hope.
Ah you see, I still havenâ€™t described an actual event. It really was that poor, I will be totally uncharitable (for *they*, the red shirted visitors, deserve none) and say Town allowed themselves to be dragged down to the level of skill, and paucity of ambition, of their opponents. And boy, that was low. An event! Something happened! The Mercenaries number 17, Nowland, collided with Chettle on the left edge of the Town penalty area. Chettle stayed down, clutching his face, whilst McAnuff scampered onto a Nowland knock on and hooked the ball across to the far post, where it was ushered to safety by Old McDermott, who was calm, ee-aye, ee-aye-o. Chettle stayed down for ages and Nowland walked up to him, pushed him in the back, and walked off. The crowd roused itself from its torpor to rage at this heinous crime - blatantly touching a Town player. Chettle was ok, it appeared he was using his "experience" to try and stop play by holding his face when the opposition were in a dangerous position. A minute or so later *they* broke away down their right again, whipped in another cross to somewhere just beyond the penalty spot and Shipperley headed a couple of foot wide of Coyneâ€™s right hand post. A few minutes after that (forgive me, I canâ€™t remember exactly when it was, so little was happening it was difficult to remember it all) Shipperley wiggled his hips just outside the Town box on the left and hit a low shot through Grovesâ€™ legs which went straight to Coyne at his near post. It wasnâ€™t dangerous, it was barely worth mentioning, but in the context of this game, it was high excitement.
I still havenâ€™t mentioned an actual factual Town move yet. Well, nothing came of them, just nice moments, where things nearly, almost happened. A nice lay off by Rowan saw Cooke scampering down the wing, cross to the very centre of the box and a *bledon* defender leant in front of Livingstone to head out for a corner. Erm, erm, Oh yes, Campbell (remember him?) tricked his way through three tackles down the left, cut into the box along the bye-line but delayed his cross, allowing a defender to block, the result being a corner. All Townâ€™s attacks seemed to result in a corner. Town had loads of corners, we lost count, and they all produced nothing, not even a header towards goal, a scuffed shot, a blocked volley. Nothing. They were all headed clear by *them*.
Town had a shot! The smelling salts are in the bathroom. It was about 8:09. And what a lovely move too. Passing, movement, determination in the tackle, pressure, intensity - all contributed to it. The ball was worked forward from right to left, with Pouton, Coldicott and finally Campbell all winning crunching tackles. Campbell laid the ball back out to Cooke, who was hanging around 30 yards out and level with the edge of the penalty area. Cooke tapped the ball inside the full back and let rip with a pile driving left foot shot which the â€˜keeper tipped over the bar for another (to be wasted) corner. And that was just about it for the first half, just one more effort on goal, and it wasnâ€™t by Town. *They* broke away down the Town left, tip tapping the ball around just outside the penalty area, finally a low, flat cross was clipped in to Shipperley, who peeled away from Groves and, from just beyond the penalty spot, headed straight at Coyne.
The scoreboard suddenly started working again after 41 minutes. It was still 0-0 though. It coincided with yet more trickery from Cooke, another lovely cross, another lovely cross wasted on the ponderous Town forwards. The referee managed to book several players, including their â€˜keeper for moaning about a typically strong Pouton challenge on a midfielder. Pouton was in typically robust form and managed to leave two of *them* in a heap with entirely legitimate attacks. He was eventually booked for a lunging tackle where he missed both man and ball. Nowland escaped a booking despite being a dirty little swine, leaving extremities of limb protruding just enough for Town players to get feet, elbows and knees in painful places. There were three minutes of added time, which brought a groan from the crowd. It was so bad we just wanted it to end, the toilet and/or pies called like Sirens.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Wimbledon 0
It was poor, it was dull, it was a typical game against this opposition. It was very like the game against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park last season. The only hope to cling on to was the terrific metronomic crossing from Cooke. One day, one day, a goal will come. The defence was largely untroubled, with Chettle looking a more solid version of Groves. He even got away with a handball inside the penalty box, discretely rolling the ball away from an attacker whilst using his bulky body as a screen.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Livvo couldnâ€™t outpace a squirrel in a wheelchair".
The report continues in the second half.
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