Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
One Lump Or Two? Reading Report
By: Tony Butcher
A GREY, overcast, dull day with barely a murmur from the gathering throng. The crowd shuffled in apologetically, silently watching the pre-match warm up. The usual sprints, jogs, stretches and wild shooting practice.
Grimsby Town 0 Reading 3
06 Oct 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
It was nice to see Croudson in goal, even if he was one armed. The Town forwards still had difficulty scoring against him. Around 350 Readingites sauntered around the Osmond Stand, perhaps bemused by the sight of 5,000 holes in Grimsby, Lincolnshire. And yes, the news is rather sad.
Dave "the suit" Boylen was wheeled in to start the "Save the Mariners" campaign early. Doesnâ€™t that usually start in March? "One, Two, Three wahey..". Still the same routine. Hasnâ€™t anyone told him the secret of great comedy is being funny? Heâ€™s wasting his time, no-one believes anymore.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation as shown. So, for the first time since Oliver Cromwell glowered, Paul Groves missed a game through injury, meaning big manpower and structural changes. Barnard at left back, Campbell back on the left, Cooke on the right and the two man Octopus up front, Kabba (all arms) and Mansaram (all legs).
One of the teams kicked off, which was a pity, with Reading attacking the Pontoon (not literally). Within a minute Barnard sent 10,000 hands to heads with a terrible sub-Gallimorian drag back, being easily dispossessed by Rougier. The ball was tapped behind the Town back line to Forster who smacked a rising drive into the net to Coyneâ€™s left. Offside! Phew, that was lucky. Townâ€™s response was a chip down the left hand side, a Mansaram twist, turn and, well, it may be described by the most charitable of observers as a "shot". From near the corner of the penalty area he swung his boot and the ball went at a 93 degree angle, going behind Kabba, out of the area and setting up a counterattack. Still, youthful zest has to be encouraged, doesnâ€™t it?
Barnard raised yet more hackles with a Chettlesque head clutch when Rougier out jumped him 10 yards outside the town penalty area. The cross was eventually, fortuitously, cleared but no thanks to the alleged left back.
A minute later Barnard retreated as Rougier jumped to head the ball infield. So within five minutes Barnard had the fjords pining for Tony Gallimore. That takes some doing, and gives an indication of his incompetence at left back. The Pontoon was already sarcastically uttering stage whispers about "our international left back". It was clear to all sentient beings inside Blundell Park (including the cat and Alan Pouton) that Reading had a very simple modus operandi. Hit it in the air towards Rougier, who headed into the spaces behind the Town centre backs. Their forwards, Forster and a deeper lying player, Hughes, were very nimble and kept nipping in front of the Town centre backs. It was quite clear that the Town defence was totally disorganised and receiving very little help from the midfield. Essentially, Reading had two wingers who hugged the touchline, which meant that the Town full backs were caught between tucking in to cover the centre backs and hanging out wide to mark the wingers. Result: massive, massive spaces between the Town defenders into which many hooped humans poured.
After about eight or nine minutes Rougier outjumped Ford (as Barnard retreated away again, not bothering), flicking the ball on into a space between where Barnard should have been and Raven wasnâ€™t. Forster sprinted through, ran on towards the bye-line and, from about 10 yards wide of goal, crossed low and hard. Raven slid across and carefully caressed the ball against Coyneâ€™s left hand post, playing a wall pass to McDermott, who cleared. A minute or two later Ford, to the right of centre of goal, inside the area, messed up a clearance, walloping it straight against Forster, which ballooned back towards Coyne, who swooped swishingly to save. It was all very, very bad, with Town playing at half pace, disjointedly, and defensively inept. Let me remind you only 10 minutes had gone so far. The Town support was silent, sullen and bored. Some started to hum various cheesy 70s songs to accompany the dross. Perhaps I should stop lumping in Reading with Town here, as they were at least organised and pacy. Nothing else mind; they could run fast and knew where to stand, like a dangerous second division team. We wouldnâ€™t like to meet them in the early stages of the LDV Trophy.
Ah, a dozen minutes and a Town move of great importance, as it included three passes. Count them, one, two, three... Pouton, McDermott, Coldicott, one touch, one pass, down the right and up to Kabba, who turned, spun and waggled a firm shot across the face of goal from the edge of the penalty area. The ball crossed the bye-line inside the penalty area, so it was "close", at least by Townâ€™s standards. Whilst the crowd settled back to contemplate this moment of extreme excitement, Reading scored. A long high ball up to Rougier, about 35yards from goal, he outjumped Ford and nodded the ball infield to the centre, about 25 yards out. HUGHES sprinted down the middle unhindered by the local men folk, who were still grizzling into their light ales, ran in front of McDermott, tapped the ball under Coyne and into the left hand corner of the net from a dozen yards out, just to the right of centre. Silence, utter silence greeted the goal, like the crowd had expected it, a collective shoulder shrug.
Nothing much happened during the rest of the half. Reading were constantly offside, with Town attacking sporadically. Mansaram and Kabba were two strangers on a train, rarely in the same carriage. They tried to do everything themselves, twisting, turning, falling over, occasionally shooting from distance straight into a Reading boot or bottom. Campbell twice tried a shot when a corner was cleared to him, each was easily blocked. Barnard put in a decent cross deep and low into the 6 yard box. But these are the pork scratchings of football. The Town support started to grumble, with a misplaced pass by McDermott acting as the catalyst for griping. Half an hour gone and the isolated heckles started. One strangely coiffured man in leisurewear obviously believed the way to make Raven run faster was to alert him to the fact he was not as quick as Forster. I think Raven had worked that one out for himself a little earlier. Barnard, on the other hand, was continuing to avoid challenging Rougier, and kept giving the ball away with aimless punts down the touchline. I think the strangely coiffured man also made reference to Barnardâ€™s aimless punts, but the acoustics are quite poor in the Pontoon, it could have been something else. Similarly, the Reading supporters seemed to be eulogising "one Nancy Astor, thereâ€™s only one Nancy Astor".
All of which is just a way of avoiding having to describe the next calamity. With just over half an hour gone, Barnard continued his international masterclass in avoiding physical contact by standing a long way away from Rougier, I think Barnard was still in Lincolnshire, but I cannot be sure. Rougier was allowed to control the ball, not a phrase easily sitting near his name, and pass to Forster, just inside the Town half, in the centre. Ford challenged, slipped, landed on his derriere, and Forster raced off down the centre into the penalty area with just Danny to save the world. FORSTER swayed to his right, then left, skipped around Coyne like he was a snoozing plumber and tapped the ball into the right hand side of the goal as Raven desperately slid back near the post. A dozen or so Lower Smith/Stones/Findusites immediately got up, put their hands in their furry jackets and headed for the pie stand (the optimists) or the toilet (the pessimists). The Reading players celebrated wildly in the empty open corner twixt Pontoon and toilets. They looked rather silly. Silly, but winning.
Townâ€™s response was not very edifying, as they kept lumping the ball forwards towards the two Wanchopian forwards. There were even moments when Town almost passed to each other, and those with vivid imaginations could see Town have shots. Then they opened their eyes. The nearest Town came to scoring was a Barnard free kick, about 20 yards out, on the Town right near the corner of the penalty area. Barnard carefully, precisely, but slowly, curled a left footed shot around the wall which the Reading goalkeeper spectacularly parried away for a corner. He was just showing off, as it was a very comfortable save, no need for such over-indulgent nonsense. There was huffing and puffing by Town, but that was all. Reading should have scored again just before half time when Forster twisted Ford like a Rubik cube (as done by a dim 12 year old) on the right of the Town penalty area, swayed past Coyne and, from a narrow angle, drove in a low shot from 10 yards wide of the goal. Raven heroically slid across and knocked the ball about six inches wide of the post.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Reading 2
The half ended with the expected booing. No-one could disagree with that. Reading were nothing special, just efficient with pace. They played as a team and should have scored with every attack. The worst thing about Townâ€™s first half "performance" was the lack of passion, the indifference. No-one was having a game to be proud of, some having right stinkers. Absolutely everything about the team - the structure, the formation, the tactics - was awful. The players just looked out of their depth.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"It doesnâ€™t work unless you switch it on".
The report continues in the second half.
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