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Emergency Ward - 10: Ipswich Report
By: Tony Butcher
A CHILL wind blew unsteadily from the Humber into the faces of those hardy folk in the Smiths/Stones/Findus Stand, on a grey evening. The pre-match warm up varied not a one misplaced pass from the usual routine, but there was no Boylen cheerleading this time.
Grimsby Town 3 Ipswich Town 0
08 Oct 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
Instead we heard just the distant sound of thunder as the crowd prepared themselves for more woe. Well, that was the Main Stand. There was a strange sense of fun pervading the Pontoon, as if the fans had really given up and were settling back to observe with amused detachment.
There were somewhere close to 1,000 Ipswichians gathered together in the gloom and once or twice we heard them sing something simple. That was before the game started, obviously. "Can you hear the Ipswich sing? Not yet, not yet", as the Pontoon whispered. Prior to the game Ronnie Moore, the Rotherham manager, was espied in the fish and chip shop formerly known as Hobsons. Make of this what you will, he likes to make mushy pea butties, which he constructed in the most dainty of fashions.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation as shown. Interesting defence there, with none of Grovesâ€™ first choices to be seen, to be sure. And gorgeous Georges in the centre of midfield. Bets were placed on how many minutes before he got a red card. Santos and Pouton together at last, potentially stirring, potentially bonkers. The return of the living Livvo was appropriately received by the crowd. We love him for the concept - its his aura that is important, not his body. He glows in the dark, you know, and glides 6 inches above the ground.
Ipswich kicked off towards the Pontoon and, disgracefully, kept passing the ball. Donâ€™t they know the proper way to start a Division One match? You kick it out of play, 5 yards above and 10 yards in front of the left/right winger. And in the time it took you to read that sentence they missed an open goal.
They passed the ball up, down, across, back again, and over to their right, with Finidi George surging into the penalty area. Barnard flailed away with his feet, trying to make a connection with something as George tried to go inside, about 10 yards from the bye-line. Barnard managed to do a superb cross, low through the penalty area between the 6 yards line and the penalty spot. The ball rolled behind a stocky player with fair hair (which describes all their players except the ones who werenâ€™t), who crossed back to the far post. Bent headed down and back across goal to Millar, 7 yards out, in the centre and completely, totally and, to emphasise the point, utterly unmarked. He leant back, shaped his body beautifully and swept the ball a foot over the bar as the Pontoon "Ahhhhed" gratefully. Now that was lucky, perhaps Poutonâ€™s lob-tackle own goal was a defining moment, where bad luck went out with a bang?
Town looked far perkier than against Reading with Mansaram, and especially Kabba, looking extremely lithe and quick. It helped that the Ipswich defence was clearly full of old men, and they seemed to play near the half way line, leaving loads and loads of space for our Octopussy two to run into. But the Town defence still looked like strangers in the night, with Ipswich looking tasty, tasty, very very tasty, when they attacked. They had pace, power and precision passing. They carved Town up almost at will, especially down the left, with Finidi George almost literally licking his lips at the sight of a barbecued Barnard.
Ooo, hereâ€™s another. Pass, pass, pass, a dink over the top and Bent was away, free at last down the Town left, like a budgerigar whoâ€™d spotted the cage door open when old auntie Hilda was cleaning it. Try as he might Auntie Hilda Raven couldnâ€™t catch Bent who, when about 10 yards from goal and a few yards wide of Coyneâ€™s left hand post, sent a wonderfully wicked, wobbling shot into the Pontoon, sliced as finely as a loaf of bread.
Santos made his first appearance of the night to volley the ball into the empty seats twixt Osmond and Findus/Stones/Smiths Stands for a throw in to Ipswich. Nothing much appeared to be going on, with Ipswich tapping the ball between the defenders when, suddenly, Campbell dispossessed the last defender in the centre, about 30 yards out. He carried the ball forward and out to the left, spotted Kabba who was furiously waving his arms about, and caressed the ball into the muscular motormanâ€™s flight path. KABBA sprinted forward into the area, awaited Marshallâ€™s advance and from about a dozen yards out in the centre left of the penalty area, dinked the ball over the â€˜keeper into the centre right of the goal. It all happened so quickly the Town fans took a while to react. Then we did, and how. We then looked at our watches - only 8 minutes gone, plenty of time for Town to cave in.
Ipswich continued to weave pretty patterns in front, around and behind the Town defence. Too pretty by half, as they seemed to want to score the perfect goal. The next worrisome moment came when the referee decided to ignore a blatant shove on Ford inside the area by Bent, who played the ball out to the unmarked Millar, about 8 yards out, just to the right of goal. Coyne "stood tall" and kicked the shot away with his right boot. Town werenâ€™t appalling, just having difficulty with clearly superior opponents. But the clues were there, as Townâ€™s strikers were causing problems for their defence. Ipswich players kept losing possession dozily, or passing directly to a Town player stood right in front them. You know, it was if theyâ€™d played three games in 6 days; they looked like they didnâ€™t really want to be in Cleethorpes on a cold October evening. And from one of Ipswichâ€™s misplaced passes Town did it again. Ward intercepted a slow crossfield pass intended for Wright, who jogged back lightly. Ward knocked the ball forward on the ground to Cooke, just inside the Town half, near the touchline. Cooke dribbled forward and played a simple ball down the "channel" for Kabba to sprint on to. Kabba duly did so, surged into the area, awaited Brownâ€™s tackle and ensured that he failed to stop himself falling over the sliding bones of Wayne Brownâ€™s body, mouldering in the grave. The referee pointed down towards what looked like the 6 yard box, and it eventually transpired that a penalty had been awarded. The indestructible POUTON, Captain Scarlet for the night, picked up the ball, walked back and stroked a right foot shot low into the net on â€˜keeperâ€™s right hand side. The â€˜keeper went the right way, so did the ball, but quicker. Not even 20 minutes gone and 2-0, whoâ€™d have thought it, eh?
And still Monsieur Santos had not been spotted in anger. Despite his physical absence from the vicinity of the ball he brought a certain something to the midfield, which looked far more solid. Perhaps it was because he seemed to take up 50% of the pitch with his wide shoulders, or maybe he tried the old school bully trick, threatening to "sort them out later in the bikesheds" if one of the little Ipswichians had the temerity to run past him. You will pleased to hear that Town eschewed the mind numbing long ball thwackings of recent weeks, with passes carefully played to feet, or weighted properly into the spaces betwixt and between Ipswich defenders. I say defenders, they were more like a bunch of blokes strawberry picking.
Still Ipswich poured forward, they may have been hopeless at the back, but in midfield they weaved mighty handsome webs. Chances came and went like a DFS sale, now on! Some slick passing and flick and tricks around the centre left edge of the Town penalty area resulted in Wright hitting a first time scruffy shot through Ravenâ€™s legs, which bumbled and bobbled towards the bottom right hand corner. Coyne scurried across and just managed to finger tip the ball around the post for a corner. The corner was half cleared, with McGreal, in the middle of the area, trying a cheeky back header, which went straight, and slowly, to Coyne. Holland had another scruffling first time shot from the centre right of the area, which trundled pleasantly into Coyneâ€™s arms and yet more joy and fun for the faithful when George was played in behind Barnard. George flew past the man who has arguably the best left foot on his body, got to the bye line and dragged a low cross back towards the penalty spot. Millar swooped in and swept the ball over the bar. Lovely.
There were more Ipswich efforts which were harmless, initially worrying until they actually had a shot. Fnidi George dragged a shot across the face of goal, the ball dribbling and drabbling a couple of yards wide of the right hand post. They all seemed like that, either so miss-hit that the ball barely ran out of play, or they kept lifting the ball into the Pontoon. How frustrating it must be to be an Ipswich supporter. Such pretty football, so many chances, such rubbish shooting. At least Town are usually consistently rubbish, so we donâ€™t have that elusive, destructive thing called hope. But today, today, was different. Town were definitely "Up" for the game, buzzing and barnstorming through the first half. Kabba should have scored at least one more. He received a pass near the half way line on the left with his back to goal, rolled, twisted and barged his way through three tackles, burst into the penalty area, cut across and, from about 10 yards out, to the left of centre, tried to whack the ball over Marshall, who came out and did a super point blank block. About 10 minutes later he did the same thing on the other side, with Marshall again blocking bravely as our loan star terrified the Ipswich old men with his pace and muscles.
Apart from a Campbell free kick out on the Town left, which he curled through the penalty area just wide of Marshallâ€™s left hand post, Town didnâ€™t have any other efforts on goal. So that was it, "just" the two goals then. It could have been 4-4 at half time, it wasnâ€™t and in celebration someone out near Sussex Rec sent up some fireworks. The crowd celebrated too, "wooing" as every rocket burst forth a million bright ambassadors of mourning for Ipswich.
Half time: Grimsby Town 2 Ipswich Town 0
A curious half, as Town looked the more clinical finishers of the two teams. Weird. Kabba played like a maniac, as in a good maniac. Ipswich were scared stiff of him. Mansaram was less effective, but still caused difficulties, with his puppet on a string routine. I-I-I-I-I-I-I wonder if one day that heâ€™ll con-trol the ball. He is entertaining, and I call as my first witness the moment he was sent free inside the Ipswich half. The ball bounced high, he controlled with a strange part of his body, sending the ball even higher. He stood on the ball, his arms shot out sideways like an albatross hanging motionless upon the air, he stumbled, twisted, turned, fell over the ball, was tackled, fell over the ball again, and eventually passed the ball out sideways. Santos made three excellent blocks/headers inside the Town area in the last few minutes of the half. Hello Mr Santos, how are you today? He was economical with his movements, but they were good movements, no rabid assassination attempts were made. In the parlance of the pro - "controlled aggression". Campbell was quite sprightly, looking a bit more like the man he used be, casting aside the shadow hanging over he. And, in the end everyone was looking fine, no-one appeared out of their depth, or below par. Even Barnard was getting to grips with the onerous task of being Gallimoreâ€™s replacement. He didnâ€™t try any sub-Gallimorians drag backs, even doing some McDermottesque rolls and blocks off the ball. By the end of the half the back four looked like a unit.
The crowd roared the players off the pitch, turned to each other and smiled a vacant smile. Such uncharted territory this season. Goals! Excitement! Pleasure! Come on down to Fungus World. Our mushrooms are magic!
Last season, at the darkest hour, we had the kestrel of doom fluttering around the stands. Perhaps Town have found the Pixie of Hope, for wandering in front of the Pontoon at half time was a little man, with a big beard and gnomic woolly hat. The gnome named Grimble Grumble.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"I donâ€™t understand whatâ€™s going off out there."
The report continues in the second half.
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