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31/08 Millwall 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NEITHER team made any changes at half time. And Millwall started just as they had in the first half, with a press, a shot and a miss. They immediately surged down the Town left, whipped in a cross, caused much flapping around and a bit of a scramble.
Millwall 2 Grimsby Town 0
31 Aug 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
Danger, no shot, just a bit of panic. Just. A minute later another surge, this time down their left and a cross into Claridge on the edge of the six yards box. He twisted, turned, spun, flipped, flopped, weedled past Groves and lifted the ball over Coyne . The Millwall crowd rose, then sat down again as Ford ran in behind Coyne and cleared the ball. The Millwall crowd stood up again as it only went as far as their left back who whipped in another cross. It was half cleared to Cahill, who walloped a rising shot just wide of the angle of Coyneâ€™s right hand post and bar.
Woah exciting. For them. A precursor to an action-packed second half? No, just more tedium interspersed with moments of false promise for the Town support. Is support the right word? Perhaps we should be reclassified as voyeurs as we are not presently engaged with our representatives. We watch with detachment, fascinated but appalled by the accident happening in front of us. There doesnâ€™t seem to be any belief, which manifests itself in long periods of silence, broken only by the lone grumbler grumbling, sotto voce.
After the flurry of activity at the start of the half I canâ€™t recall much happening in the next 15 minutes. Millwall had pressure, breakaways, crosses and probably some shots, but they didnâ€™t seem like anything of substance. Throughout the second half Millwall regularly had shots from outside the box which sliced, slewed and crawled wide of the goal. Town had pressure too, some lovely links down the right, with McDermott, Cooke and Campbell passing and moving sweetly. All lovely to watch until it came to the final pass, the final cross, the shot. The shot? Whatâ€™s that? Essentially, McDermott and Cooke roasted the Millwall left back over an open fire, slowly turning to ensure an even cook. But what came of this?
Nothing really, a series of "moments of danger". Crosses pinged into the crowd, to the â€˜keeperâ€™s arms, over all humanity in the area, to their right backâ€™s head, to their right backâ€™s feet. Town got three or four corners, but the result of this labour? Inconsequential fragments of football. It was all "not quite" right. Passes were just a bit underhit or slightly behind the intended recipient, crosses overhit by a foot or so. Town almost got it right, but never did.
All of which is merely fine words to butter the parsnip of the second goal. After an hour Town, once again, tore through the Millwall defence, with McDermott and Cooke tip-tapping down the right. McDermott surged towards the bye line and crossed. It was cleared and Town were in trouble. The whole of the right hand side was now available for hire, for Campbell, Cooke and McDermott were on the edge of the Millwall penalty area. Two of the Millwall strikers peeled away into the space and eventually the ball was lofted in their direction. The ball was crossed into the penalty area, headed out and Cahill (I think) raced in and from 20 yards out to the right of centre, smacked a low volley towards Coyneâ€™s bottom left hand corner. Coyne watched the ball carefully, lowered himself in two stages and parried the ball out. CLARIDGE hared in and, from about 5 yards out to the left of goal, knocked the ball between Coyneâ€™s legs as the sometime Welsh â€˜keeper got up and leapt at him. Young Mr Coyne forgot the 3rd rule of goalkeeping - never knock the ball back to the opposition striker. Some blamed Gallimore for watching the defective save, rather than being alert to the possibility of a rebound. That may have been a little harsh on the usual butt of terrace wit and rage.
An hour gone, we might have well have gone too, there and then. Five minutes after the goal, Robinson replaced Barnard, who some had forgotten had come out for the second half. Other, more spiteful observers, asserted that it was not (and never will be) necessary to have two Gallimoreâ€™s in the same team. Town reverted to 4-4-2, with Pouton on the left mostly and Campbell in the centre. Pouton looked whacked out all through the second half, he didnâ€™t treat us to a step over until the 75th minute, though we did get two or three super surges, which ended in the usual disappointment. Momentum was lost when Pouton reached the edge of the penalty area and started to think. One could almost see the wheels a-turning in his mind. With options to his left and right, Pouton chose to run into the thick blue wall right in front of him. Kabba, in particular, was furious with all his wasted physical effort. Why make a run if no-one passes to you?
As you can tell, I havenâ€™t described a Town shot yet. There werenâ€™t any until Robinson appeared, but there had been much pressure and promising breaks. Robinson at least shot. For the umpteenth time Cooke and McDermott swept majestically past the wildebeest at left back, McDermott (I think) got to the bye line, cut a cross back and Robinson swept a right foot volley low to the â€˜keeperâ€™s left. If the â€˜keeper had been helpful, and gone home early for the day, it would have been a cracking goal. But Warner stepped across his goal line and flopped on top of the ball. A little later Robinson attempted to place a curler into the top left hand corner, but lacked power, following a break instigated by a Campbell spin and surge down the middle. Now that, sir, was an interesting thing to emerge from the second half - the ability of Campbell to spin through midfield and carry the ball forward dangerously. Town just need to work on phase two, where Doris gets her oats. Towards the end there were a couple of shots from the edge of the area straight at the goalkeeper, who failed to catch them cleanly, allowing them to bobble and bumble away back towards the on-rushing Town strikers. Perhaps those last five words were a flight of fancy. Town strikers donâ€™t follow up, they stand and grimace. The more active throw their heads back in frustration or smack their thighs like a egocentric thespian entering stage left.
Now Millwall were more direct and had chances. Towards the end, Claridge should have completed his hat-trick. A long throw from the Millwall left was headed on in the box, bouncing off a defender to Iffill. Groves stood back and allowed Iffill, about eight yards out at the near post, to twist around and thwack a volley across goal. The ball hit Claridge in the middle of the six yard box, bounced across goal to Groves, who half cleared to Cahill, who sliced Poutonianly wide and high from 20 yards. Almost in injury time Millwall attacked down the Town centre right, with the ball being knocked into the penalty area to Claridge, about 10 yards out levellish with the post. He wriggled around like maggott, easily throwing Groves off the scent before placing a low right footed shot across Coyne and a couple of inches wide of the left hand post. They had other shot, other crosses, other scary monster moments, but none that looked, from 150 yards away, like they were that interesting. And that includes a header from about eight yards out which went straight to Coyne, following a cross from their right.
With about eight or nine minutes left, Jevons replaced someone, Pouton probably. Frankly, if heâ€™d just run on and no-one was taken off it wouldnâ€™t have made any difference. Jevons played just behind Robinson and Kabba, which produced three or four threatening moves, but no end product. Kabba and Jevons kept running into the same areas of the pitch, almost marking each other, which was infuriating to watch, and to both of them too. Two minutes of added time, and that was a waste of everyoneâ€™s time.
A certain inevitability about the afternoonâ€™s events. Town were not good, but not awful. They were almost succeeding in what they were attempting, but consistently failing by just a little bit. It all added up to a depressingly familiar result. Few shots, a few mistakes, a simple defeat. Some areas of the team look fine - the right hand side for instance, but others look as wonky as a clownâ€™s car. The Town players havenâ€™t learned how to use Kabba yet, he confuses them by being the opposite of what we have. For some, inexplicable reason, they think he can control the ball regularly. Pouton certainly looked like a striped fish out of a 4-4-2 water today, his return disrupted the team, which didnâ€™t play as fluidly as in the first half against Portsmouth. There was much confusion over who stood where, all involving the King of the Step-overs.
Strangely Town arenâ€™t playing any better, or any worse, than this time last year. Itâ€™s just that the opponents are not assisting us by consistently missing open goals.
One day weâ€™ll score a goal. You heard it here first.
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
John McDermott was peerless today. Magnificent in defence, omnipresent in attack. Nothing else need be said.
Grant Hegley. Very peculiar. He seemed to have spells of disfavouring one of the teams. It didnâ€™t seem as though he was for either team, rather occasionally annoyed by individuals, which coloured his interpretation of minor events for five minutes at a time. I think the only fair mark is 5.8328. Nothing awful, just lots of oddities. I think he was intimidated by the space. Expecting an aural explosion, he got a verbal void.
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