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26/10 Wolves 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO changes were made by either team at half time. Town kicked off and it was obvious that Wolves had had a good old rollicking at half time, for they played with more pace and wit, and a different method too.
Wolverhampton Wanderers 4 Grimsby Town 1
26 Oct 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
Their wingers hugged the touchline and crosses were whipped in a soon as possible. All of which meant that Town were on the back foot from the start.
The first five or so minutes were just crosses and clearances, crosses and clearances. The ball occasionally strayed near Livvo, so it simply meant Wolves got it back without too much fuss. Or any fuss to be honest. The first inkling of the deluge to come arrived after about 50 minutes. Rae flashed in a firm low drive from 25 yards, to the left of goal. The ball zipped through a bunch of players on the edge of the area and Coyne saved with his knees near his right hand post. The ball squirmed out to the centre of goal and Blake slid in. Coyne managed to pick the ball up in time, though the referee gave a free kick for the challenge. In the next fifteen minutes Wolves started to have digs at goal at every opportunity. Some bounced off defendersâ€™ bottoms. Some their feet, others flashed through and wide, through and high. Some probably went straight to Coyne. To be honest they had so many they all seemed to blur into one. However, none were that close. It was a typical Town second half performance away from home, being forced back by a direct physical opposition.
And after 20 minutes or so, the cracks cracked. Initially, it seemed Town had struck lucky, for a Wolves attack down the centre had seen Raven slide in to divert danger, only for a cross to be flung in to the unmarked Blake, eight yards out, level with the near post. He headed horribly, wonderfully, wide. Town prepared for a substitution. A minute later another Wolves attack, another Wolves corner, cleared up towards Barnard 30 yards out, to the left of centre. Barnard challenged very weakly, getting right underneath the bouncing ball and allowing the defender to jump over and past him. The ball was knocked forward to Ince, about 25 yards out, to the right of goal, who hit a whacking great hooking volley towards Coyneâ€™s right. Coyne flew across and punch-parried the ball back into the centre of the goalmouth, about eight yards out, straight to MILLAR, who swept the ball into the middle of the goal. Not Walesâ€™ number 1 now. It was a bit of a surprise that Wolves had scored, for despite their pressure it didnâ€™t feel as though a goal was a-coming. But it did, and with it the game, for Wolves players visibly grew in confidence.
On the restart Coldicott replaced Ward in straight swap. Ward had had great difficulty dealing with Millar, who was adept at the rolling turn. Ward was just not strong enough, though he had, generally, performed adequately, especially when supporting or instigating counter attacks. Town had been moribund as an attacking force, with just Kabbaâ€™s unquenchable desire to run as the glimmer of hope. He managed to bundle and barge his way past Lescott, down the right touchline, along the bye-line, up to the edge of the six yard box, but he had no support and ended up being dispossessed as he awaited Big Bertha Livingstoneâ€™s arrival. As he approached goal he slowed down and opened up his arms to say "Where are you?". He hasnâ€™t been here long enough to know Livvo.
Still Wolves rolled forward, they were coming through in waves. Moments of danger piled up like old fridges and, with 20 minutes left, Wolves brought on Ndah, who played on the right of attack. Within a minute heâ€™d scored. A Wolves break down the left seemingly petered out on the edge of the Town box, with a short pass aimed for Blake, but hit behind him. The ball rolled gently through into the centre, just inside the Town box. Raven left it, Gallimore stopped, and NDAH sprinted through the gap to whisk the ball away to the side, and caress it into the empty net as Coyne flapped in no-manâ€™s land. Game really and truly over. It looked like some of the Town players switched off, and were just waiting for the game to end, perhaps saving themselves for Tuesday.
From this moment of Wolves just piled forward and should have scored several more. The third goal gave them sufficient confidence to start playing showboat football, knocking one-two, flicks and tricks, trying to score the perfect showbiz goal. Given time and space they have the players to do it too. Rae banged a right footed curler from 25 yards high to Coyneâ€™s left. Saved comfortably. Rae smacked a long shot wide from 25yards. Millar toe poked a shot three yards wide from the middle of the penalty area after the whole Town defence played like zombies, lazily stroking the ball between them, miss-hitting clearances and not bothering to mark. A superb one touch passing movement down their left saw at least five passes zing around, with a final runner surging into the penalty area behind the Town defence, with yet another toe poke well wide of the far post, from about ten yards out and a few yards to the right of Coyneâ€™s goal.
Blake was replaced by Sturridge and the chances kept on a-coming; crosses, flaps, slaps, slashes and crashes inside the Town penalty area. Wolves wanted more goals, Town wanted to go home. Pouton had virtually given up by this time, sulking at the referee for never giving him any decisions. The very moment of Poutonâ€™s surrender to sulkdom came when Rae legged him up from behind. Again. The referee gave Town a free kick, Pouton complained that it was at least the fourth time Rae had done it, yet had not been booked. So the referee booked Pouton and awarded a drop ball, which he placed on the ground next to a Wolves player, who ran off with it. Wolves continued to try and humiliate Town with audacious attempts at scoring. Ince, on the half way line, spun around and hit a huge lob over Coyne, who slipped and prayed. The ball sailed over the prostrate goalkeeper and missed the top left hand corner of the goal by a few inches. A further Wolves break down their left resulted in a deep cross into the penalty area to Sturridge, near the penalty spot. He headed firmly back towards goal, the ball hitting Raven on the hand. Penalty given, no card for Raven it appeared. Sturridge strolled forward and , as Coyne leapt to his left, chipped the ball slowly down the centre. The ball caught a thermal and rose above the crossbar, rolling over the wood and onto the top of the net. Coyne was not amused by this cheeky chip, though the Wolves fans were so relaxed they could afford to laugh along with the now resigned Town fans. Oh yes, hereâ€™s another near miss - Rae smacked a 25 yards pile driver across the face of goal and onto the top of the crossbar. Which made a change from him smacking Kabba, for he left an elbow in Kabbaâ€™s face as they challenged for the ball near the halfway line. Rae wasnâ€™t even spoken to, of course.
Kabba, what does he make of all this? With about 10 minutes left Barnard was replaced by Mansaram and Town went to a 4-3-3 formation. We know what that means - and it did. More Wolves attacks, more Wolves chances as described above. But there was one small twinkling star, that carried hope. With two or three minutes left Santos lobbed the ball down the Town right. Kabba sprinted past Lescott, rolled around him, barged him away like an irritating gnat, and was free inside the penalty area. He drove in towards the goal and forced the goalkeeper to come off his line towards him, Kabba looked up, saw Livingstone unmarked ten yards out and passed slowly, deliberately to the Livvosauras Rex. Livingstone leant back and curled the ball a yard over the bar with the goal open. The Wolves fans, unnecessarily, made donkey noises. Like we donâ€™t know. Livvo passed into history at this moment, with him being thanked loudly for his contribution to the club, and comments that it was a privilege to be at his last game. A glorious opportunity to induce the famous Wolves Wobble spurned. Mansaram, did one thing - a twist, turn and burst down the left and a low cross into middle of the penalty area towards Livingstone. Apart, that is, from a innovative form of physical comedy, perhaps to be premiered at next yearâ€™s Edinburgh festival - the human Pinocchio, you canâ€™t see the strings.
Any more? Yeah, a fourth goal, totally expected in an unexpected sort of way. Within the five minutes of added time Wolves got a corner on their left. It was taken short, crossed low into the near post and STURRIDGE glided in front of his marker and steered the ball over Coyneâ€™s head into the top near corner. Not many in the stadium were watching, any tension in the game had long, long gone. The last thing to happen was a Pouton miss-hit from twenty yards which passed into touch inside the penalty area. Well done that man.
A stuffing on paper and, in the end, a stuffing it was. Up until half time the game was even, with Town performing pleasingly. The last fifty minutes were pretty dire. It wasnâ€™t so much Town being dreadful, as them allowing Wolves the opportunity to show what they are paid to do. One got the feeling the Wolves were very brittle, and were very capable of imploding once the crowd starts to grumble. With Ince and Rae in the centre of midfield they donâ€™t have much pace or calmness. Town needed Santos and Pouton to crack them; instead Pouton cracked. And I havenâ€™t got onto Livingstone yet. One could say Town did well for about an hour with 10 men. Why he was on the pitch is another great unsolved mystery. He was embarrassingly poor, even by his own standards. He tried, he really tried, but he wasnâ€™t physically able to compete. Always slow to move, slow to react, he touched the ball perhaps five times during the game. For him to have any chance of making contact with inflatable plastic it has to be hit hard right at him. If he needs to move, "forgetaboutit". He was less the fifth Beatle, more Wolvesâ€˜ 12th man. As a town fan grizzled on the way out "Livvo couldnâ€™t hit a banjo with a cowâ€™s backside". Neatly inverting the famous Chelsea insult, and accurately summing up his effectiveness. Iâ€™m sure he could do a decent job for someone like Scunthorpe. Please.
Elsewhere, Coyne was proving why he is a decent first division â€˜keeper, and not a premiership reserve. Ward struggled; Raven was superb for about an hour then went to pot; Campbell was his usual self - a phantom menace popping up every twenty minutes to remind you of his presence. Barnard ambled and lazily wasted free kicks; Gallimore backed off a lot, otherwise wasnâ€™t a liability, and Ford didnâ€™t seem overrun.
We lost in the usual way to Wolves. History repeats itself. Indeed those were the days. If there is one positive to come from this game it should be that Livingstone will soon become just a name on the back of a sachet of sugar.
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
Only two candidates really. Santos was an imperious, imposing figure for an hour, but his contribution in the last thirty minutes was to head the ball away a lot, he couldnâ€™t turn the flow of the game on his own. He even kept cool when chopped and provoked. But fractionally ahead, overall, is STEVE KABBA, for the way he ran Wolves ragged on his own, when he eventually got the ball. Right up to the final whistle he kept on sprinting, and diving for pearls.
Mr Stretton. Initially he seemed extremely even handed, as he managed to get the locals moaning for booking Ince. But as the game wore on he started to look more kindly upon Wolves tackles, and sternly upon any kind of complaint from a Town player. He gets bonus points for not sending off Raven for the handball, but loses the same number of bonus points for inconsistency. A minute before the Raven handball he let play go on when a Wolves defender blocked a cross with his hands in exactly the same fashion as Ford in the first half and Raven in the second. A small indication of the refereeâ€™s mindset - he seemed to take the safe option (donâ€™t antagonise the home team too much). He should have sent off Livingstone for an awful two footed hack at Ince, but he only booked him (despite the imploring Town fans calling for a straight red). You want the numbers? 5.315. Poor in a lot of very small ways, eventually. He had no personality, as they say.
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