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McD-Day: Derby Report
By: Tony Butcher
A DRAINING, boiling, frazzling day gave way to a pleasant evening sur Lâ€™Humber, with a watery sun, hot air and a cool breeze. The Osmond Stand was almost full with daytrippers, even the green seats were occupied with some sunseekers, soaking in that sizzling seaside ambience.
Grimsby Town 1 Derby County 2
17 Aug 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The green tarpaulin (wasnâ€™t that a comic strip hero from the 50s?) had been removed from the Upper Smiths/Stones/Findus, so, presumably, the cleaners had been working through the nights cleaning up the pigeon droppings.
During the pre-match warm up McDermott received something from Groves in recognition of his 500 years in the game. It couldnâ€™t have been very big as it wasnâ€™t visible from the Pontoon. Perhaps he was presented with a little urn containing the burnt ashes of left wingers past, who never passed him, of course. There was a rather strange atmosphere, the weird kick-off time had completely thrown most peopleâ€™s body clocks. It didnâ€™t even feel like a Saturday, it was out of time, baby, dislocated from the rest of football.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, as shown. So, as we all knew, no Pouton, no miracle cure for our Pinball Wizard, and for that the crowd bowed their head in disappointment. No step-overs today, the milkmanâ€™s gone away. This resulted in Campbell playing in centre midfield, with Barnard on the left. Casting a sneaky glance towards the opponents Ravanelli was espied jinking and stretching, with Christie darting around energetically. Whoops, pace and guile against Waldorf and Stadtler in the Town defence. However would we cope?
Just prior to the kick off half a dozen strumpets shook their bottoms at the Pontoon, which sent the hormones a-racing in several 14 year old boys, and the occasional disappointed father of three with interesting hair. Sub-saucy seaside postcard drivel that pandered to the saddest aspects of maledom. They were accompanied by a boy in an ill-fitting suit "Tuck yer shirt in" and "Youâ€™ll grow into it" were the kindest comments.
And weâ€™re off! Derby kicked off towards the Pontoon and embarrassed Town with Premiership precision passing and one touch *total football* for 2.4 seconds. Now, you can forget about Derby for 30 minutes of playing time. The game was Town, all Town, the flow only broken by a dirty great big whack up the backside from Derby defenders, who followed Gregoryâ€™s public instructions to a T and simply assaulted their striped opponents. Or perhaps the 1st division is full of dilettante teams who regard football as a non-contact sport, unlike manly Derby. They played for half an hour like their manager speaks, which is not a compliment.
Within a couple of minutes their giant â€˜keeper, Mart Poom, made our hearts go boom when he came way out of his goal, beyond the far post to drop a Cooke cross. The ball appeared to run down his body and off his boot to Coldicott, just outside the area on the centre left. Coldicott held off a challenge and smacked a terrific shot just over the bar at the top of the scoreboard to a land far, far away where Noggin the Nog was watching on Sky Sports 3.
A couple more crosses, a couple more Mad Mart moments where he absolutely refused to catch the ball. He punched, palmed and flapped at everything as if plagued by invisible flies. Town were lively and playing a "mixed game", some direct balls to Livvoâ€™s head, some passing and movement down the right. Always the right, eh? Livvo was playing well, moving freely, winning headers, controlling the ball and passing it accurately. There were no one-liners aimed at our loveable lumpen legend today. All was going swimmingly. Cooke looked to have the beating of whoever was supposed to be marking him. I am afraid that player never got close enough to the ball for us to decide who it was. Town pressed, Town got corners. From the left , from the right, from the left again. Some played long, some short and from one, which was played back to Barnard (I think) who crossed deeply in to the centre of the box, level with far post, Groves stooped and headed down firmly. The ball bounced up and was seemingly making steady progress towards the back of the net when, as if by magic, a goalkeeper appeared, diving spectacularly to his right, punching the ball away for another corner. This was swung to the middle of the goal, a bit of head tennis resulted in the ball arcing up slowly to the edge of the area where Groves rose up like a leviathan and headed powerfully towards the â€˜keeperâ€™s top left hand corner. Poom shuffled across his goal and tipped the ball over the bar.
After about 10 minutes, something dreadful happened. The ball was knocked forward towards Livvo about 10 yards or so outside the Derby penalty area. Livvo was stood still, waiting to jump vertically, the Derby centre back, Higginbottom, sprinted forward 5 or 6 yards leapt and went straight through Livvo. Both remained on the ground, the players rushed around, the crowd bayed for a red card for the *challenge* and the game stopped for a very, very long time. Groves went slightly ballistic (in his own way) at the referee and at Higginbottom, who only received a yellow card. Then the club doctor ran out. Well, he didnâ€™t run, more minced across the turf as if skipping gaily through a dewy meadow early one autumn morning, just as the sun was rising. Then a stretcher came out, then another one, which looked like an ironing board, or a home made surfboard. And still Livvo remained motionless upon the earth. More minutes passed, Livvo hadnâ€™t moved. More minutes, Livvo still lying in the position he first fell. More and more people emerged from the bowels of the Main Stand wearing uniforms of various descriptions, bringing medical appliances and such like with them. After a dozen minutes Livvo was eventually, very gingerly, taken away. Ravanelli made a point of going over to the stretcher and enquiring as to Livvoâ€™s health. He looked genuinely concerned and was the only Derby player to do more than give a cursory stare. A few minutes after play restarted a man walked on to the pitch with a shovel and dumped some sand on the very spot Livvo was slain. Those with mobile phones, and a friend at the other end watching television, reported that it was to cover up a big patch of blood, not a diesel spillage as some now chastened humorists first thought. Jevons replaced Livingstone.
The pattern of the game didnâ€™t change though, Derby still kicked anything that moved, collecting a couple more yellow card, with Campbell the chief target for some unfathomable reason. Rowan also managed to get booked, probably for being the youngest looking, and skinniest, player on the pitch. The referee, as all weak men do, picked on the one who wouldnâ€™t bite back to try and demonstrate his authority. Pathetic.
I canâ€™t remember too many chances in the next 20 minutes, just Town pressure and a series of crosses from right, and left, which had Poom all in a tither, but no efforts on goal. The highlight was probably the sub-Poutonian step over from Barnard which resulted in a deep cross and desperate headed clearance from deep inside the Derby penalty area. And finally Derby did something, and it needed a bit of a mistake from Groves to kick-start them. A simple ball over the top, down their inside right channel saw Christie sprint behind Groves and beat him to the drop. Christie was alone, in the area, bearing down on Coyne, from a position a few yards wide of the left hand post. He let the ball run, and run, then swiped a terrible slice into seat L74 of the Pontoon. "How *did* you manage to get relegated last season?" sarcastically flew down from the upper reaches of the Pontoon. A couple of minutes later Christie tried a flamboyant overhead kick from near the edge of the penalty area, on the Town right. The ball arced pleasingly over and wide. Not a troubling moment.
Ah, now Derby attacked down their right, won a free kick in annoying fashion and whipped in that cross. Here we go, dodgy free kick conceded and theyâ€™ll score against the run of play. No! The ball was headed clear to Campbell just inside the Town area, he turned and broke upfield, passed out wide to Cooke, who continued forward, looked up and from around the half way line pinged a long, long diagonal through ball towards Jevons. The ball hung in the air just outside the penalty area, and Poom raced out, jumped over the top of Jevons and headed clear towards the left touchline. BARNARD strolled forward, had a short chat with his caddy before selecting a sand iron, adjusted his stance, tipped his flat cap a bit further back on his head, and hit the ball straight down the middle of the goal from about 35 yards. Poom ran back, raged and turned as purple as his jersey. And the crowd went wild. A goal up, it was the very least Town deserved.
The lead lasted all of five minutes. Just before half time, or at least when half time would have been had Livingstone not been offered up to the gods of defending as a sacrifice, there was a short stoppage when a couple of players remained on the ground following a collision. Unfortunately for Town Cooke was in space and about to whip in a cross. The referee dropped the ball, instructing Derby to relinquish possession. They duly did this - only by whacking the ball out of play deep inside the Town half. Town were on the back foot and possession was quickly lost, with Derby setting up a short period of pressure. Christie, again, was played through behind Groves on the left edge of the Town area. Groves chased, Groves stretched, Groves legged Christie up, but the young whippersnapper stayed on his feet and laid the ball back from the bye line, 7 or 8 yards wide of goal, to a small shaven-headed player. The small, shaven-headed player chipped the ball beyond the far post where BOLDER (brother to our Bolder) rose unmarked and placed a header down and across Coyne into the bottom left hand corner from about 6 or 7 yards out. What a bummer, and just before half time too. Er, not quite, as the fourth official raised his board with a number 14 on it. We scanned the programme...weâ€™re taking off Chris Thompson? No, 14 minutes of added time.
And in this 14 minutes Derby pressed, with Town beginning to look tired. Ravanelli treated us to a masterclass in multimillionaire missing. Firstly Groves, 30 yards out on the left, completely misjudged a very mundane clip forward by a Derby defender, allowing the ball to bounce under his foot. Ravanelli burst forward free, free at last from the human shackle that was Chettle. He allowed the ball to bounce up off his chest and away straight into Coyneâ€™s arms. The Pontoon appreciated the sublime, silky skills displayed and remarked that "Jevons can do that". A few minutes later Ravanelli received the ball with his back to goal, about 8 yards wide of the right hand post and a dozen yards out. He twisted, he turned, he hooked a soft shot a couple of yards wide of the far post. And I havenâ€™t even mentioned Christieâ€™s volley which sliced a Poutonian 22 yards wide of the goal, or Ravanelliâ€™s weak header from deep inside the Town penalty area. Town rarely threatened, the exceptions being a Jevons twist and cross which fizzed through the centre of the 6 yards box; and a wicked dipping volley from Cooke which remained inside the ground. Only because it dipped.
Half time: Grimsby Town 1 Derby County 1
And that was the longest half. Derby put in a lot of work for parity. But we donâ€™t like to talk about that. This was by some distance the best Town performance so far this season, the players fizzed and were a cohesive unit, but still the strikers donâ€™t have shots. Chettle was so calm and unruffled he was barely noticed, though again he revealed his trick of falling over when an opponent was free, winning a free kick when danger beckoned. Campbell was back to the form he had when he came on loan - all action, the human dynamo, creating panic with strong surges forward down the middle. It was pleasing in every respect, apart from the scoreline.
The scoreboard packed up early again, with Town today playing "by C", with the Pontoon taunting the Derby folk with "Who the *flip* are by C?", which probably confused them.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Gregory is just an (ex) Premiership version of Neil Warnock".
The report continues in the second half.
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