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Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
Imploding Gasometers: Coventry Report
By: Tony Butcher
A surreally grey, slightly hazy day with a chill, easterly breeze whistling menacingly through Birminghamâ€™s sullen nephew. Around 150 or so Town fans gathered with carefree abandon in the same stand as last year, towards one of the corner flags, on the side. We gathered without expectation or hope.
Coventry City 3 Grimsby Town 2
14 Sep 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The pre-match entertainment was a light blue elephant pratfalling like Dumbo meets Norman Wisdom, to the soundtrack of always to be forgotten Canadian prog rock trio, popular in late 70s sixth forms, Rush. Someone had obviously let their one remaining UK fan free, so please alert the authorities NOW. When Hemispheres had finished (or whichever of their laughable albums it was) the Coventry tannoy announcer, who had the boomiest, bassist voice in football, read out the teams. Think Barry White announcing the Town team shown, baby. Of course, it was a 4-4-2 formation, but a curious one, as it transpired that Coldicott sat (no, not literally) in front of the back four, with Campbell playing very centrally. Town just didnâ€™t bother playing anyone in front of McDermott. What the heck, heâ€™s played a million games so he knows what to do. Coventry lined up in what optimists would call a 3-5-2 formation. As things transpired, the respective formations were best described as "players on the pitch, wearing clothes". Except Coventryâ€™s players were much taller and much chunkier.
Town kicked off towards the end where the Town supporters sipped their pre-show cocktails, otherwise known as cups of chlorine free coffee, a Midland first. The first couple of minutes were fine, Town looking lively and relatively confident. Pouton and Coldicott set a hefty marker with some strong tackles and there were even a couple of attacks. Well, attacks by our standards. Both fizzled to nothing on the edge of the Coventry penalty area through poor passes by Barnard and Campbell. Kabba whirled his dervish a couple of times, but his knobbly knees and knobbly chest are offered in mitigation for his frequently terrible ball control.
Another brief moment of hope was created by a Kabba chase down the left to the bye-line, a shimmy, a twist, a roll, a drive into the box, then an attempt to dribble/bundle his way through three massive defenders 8 yards out. Just a typical moment, a glimpse of hope, but... Coventry scored somewhere in the first 10 minutes, but the linesman had already flagged for offside, so who cares. Well, Coventry supporters did, as they chuntered and muntered their way through the first half, getting more and more ratty with the officials. The "goal" was an indicator of the problems Town were going to encounter. The ball was lofted upfield, half cleared then lobbed over the top again, flicked on and Bothroyd placed a shot inside Coyneâ€™s right hand post. But time and time again Town were saved by the alert linesman. It felt like every attack was ended with an offside. And then the linesman in front of the Town fans caught the bug, forever flagging, despite the facts.
In between the offsides, things did happen. Even Town things. After 8 minutes there was a Town shot, which almost got a standing ovation, simply for being. A relatively decent move down the left resulted in the ball being passed back to Coldicott, about 20 yards out. He drifted across to his right, being pushed that way by an increasing number of blue shirts running towards him. He spotted a gap and curled a very soft right footed shot towards the â€˜keeperâ€™s left hand post. Hyldgaard (a former Lennie Loanee) ambled across his goal in his disgracefully fluorescent orange and yellow kit. He could wear that when he does his early morning paper round and be sure no milkfloat would run him over. The ball bounced in front of him and skipped gaily into his arms, then out again, and between his legs, rolling gently towards goal. For about 0.68 seconds we Town supporters thought that this was the moment when fortune returned and weâ€™d see the greatest comedy goalkeeping since Paul Reece did an impression of Coco the Clown at Meadow Lane, one monsoon March day. But, a-ha, Morten can hack it, recovering to pick the ball up, spoiling things greatly.
Coventry took about 10 minutes to realise that poor old Galli was having one of those days where they cut him into little pieces. He would have been more use selling plastic windmills in Mablethorpe. Galli didnâ€™t so much back track as pre-back track. At no point was hei within 5 yards of Chippo, which led to a tiresome procession of crosses from the unmolested Moroccan through, over, round and about the 6 yard box. Some were missed by all, some were caught by Coyne, others were hacked away by Coldicott, and some were ushered to safety by some fantastic body checks and rolls by, principally, Coldicott. So, a lot of "oohs" from the hosts, and "haaahs" back from the Townites.
I can recall seeing the ball fly away like a toupe in a typhoon from attempted long shots by Coventry, with one distinctly Poutonian in its waywardness. Height, width, distance, it was all there, it was only just a goal kick. We were beginning to think this was a certain 0-0 draw, with both sides avoiding goalscoring moments between the offsides. Even Town had shots, well another one, after 30 minutes. Barnard curled a pass down the left touchline and Kabba, cut into the penalty area and the ball was eventually laid back to Pouton, right in the centre, right on the edge of the penalty area. As two Coventry players threw themselves at him, Pouton sliced a shot slowly wide of the â€˜keeperâ€™s left hand post. It feels entirely appropriate to get the high drama and excitements created by Town out of the way now. Do you sense a trace of irony? We had the crowd-pleasing double step over from Pouton following a barnstorming run down the left. He made the Coventry player toss and turn like a neurotic insomniac and crossed deeply to the far post. Shaw, the Floella Benjamin look-a-like, headed out for a Town corner. So no danger there then. Barnard curled it gently into Hyldgaardâ€™s clasping, grasping buckets. Just before half time Kabba made us all stand up and roar...with laughter. There was an almighty scramble inside the Coventry penalty area, with McDermott surging, and passing in to Kabbaâ€™s feet. Kabba rolled, was half stopped, got the ball back, rolled the other way, was half stopped again, then rolled past his marker, so that he was free, on the edge of the 6 yard box a couple of yards from the bye-line. He looked up, the Town fans stood up, he then fell over the ball, shinning it straight into a ballboyâ€™s hands. It was so bad the Town fans were rolling around in the aisles, it was beyond anger and frustration and was straight to video parody.
Coventry continued to infiltrate the spaces between the Town defenders and Gallimore, with McAllister and Safri a constant menace with forward runs. There was a problem down the right with Gordon being allowed to wander where he pleased, as Campbell was concentrating on the odd forward break. Thank heavens for McDermottâ€™s good sense of positioning, not allowing Gordon space to cross. But chances came, with Coyne making at least three superb saves; three superb wasted saves, as the linesmanâ€™s right arm was long, long raised for offside. Coyne did make two excellent saves that were needed, and both from that long standing pain in the backside to Town, Lee Mills. Half way through the half, from a Coventry corner, half cleared, the huge number 4, Konjic, tried an overhead kick about 15 yards out, to the right of centre. The ball looped off his shins and behind the outrushing defence. Mills, about 8 yards out and to the left of the goal, dived forward and steered a header across Coyne, who saved comfortably. A few minutes later a long ball was pumped over the top, down the inside left channel. Chettle allowed the ball to continue, but Mills nipped behind him and tried to lift the ball over Coyne. But the official 4th best â€˜keeper in Wales had sprinted off his line, "stood tall", and the ball bounced off his chest, with Chettle clearing (which he should have done in the first place!). Just before half time, Coventry oh so nearly scored. The ball pinged around the area, following a surge down the Town left, that vast unpopulated hinterland where it is rumoured a prehistoric beast my still lie undetected. Gordon (I think) surged to the bye-line and crossed to the near post. Mills got in front of Coyne, pushing the ball slightly away from goal, then opened his body up and tapped it past Coyne. The ball rolled toward the open net, but Chettle lumbered over and thwacked clear.
Half time: Coventry City 0 Grimsby Town 0
And that was just about the first half. It was really quite poor, almost laughably bad at times, with the officials contributing fully to the air of ineptitude by getting most things wrong. Town had the invisible army down the left., Gallimore and Barnard. The two little boys, with two little toys, each had a wooden leg. Campbell only made special guest appearances down the centre, and the two front players seemed to be trying to keep as far apart as possible. Well, they are employed by Palace and the Milton Keynes Mercenaries which means they have to share the same pitch, but not at the same time. Conversely, the centre of defence and especially midfield looked ok. Pouton and Coldicott were beginning to shake off their early season timidity and Coventry just did not like their aggressive competitiveness. The space afforded them down the flanks was very worrying, especially as they were so tall.
Urgh, half time. A dozen teenage girls ran on the pitch wearing Stetsons and wiggled like "laptop" dancers to "Sweet Home Alabama". First Rush, now Lynyrd Skynyrd (for the younger readers thatâ€™s pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd). Highfield Road welcomes freaky facial hair and 24 minute guitar solos. Curiously, the half time announcement included something advertising a special event in the social calendar, for just Â£1 you can watch the destruction of the gasometer at the site of the new Coventry ground, or the imploding gasometer extravaganza. Details were sketchy, as the tannoy wasnâ€™t very audible, so I donâ€™t know if there was a musical accompaniment, which would have to be Classical Gas, wouldnâ€™t it.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Space is infinite, especially when Town are playing".
The report continues in the second half.
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