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Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
The Return of the Prodigal Son: Gillingham Report
By: Tony Butcher
AN overcast but warm afternoon, with about 250 Men (and women) of Kent shuffling about uneasily in the Osmond Stand. Or are they Kentish Men? Anyway, they are on the cusp of the great divide, so weâ€™ll let them decide exactly what they are.
Grimsby Town 1 Gillingham 1
02 Nov 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The attempts to whip the crowd into a frenzy dribbled away into something, well, a bit lame. The introduction of Oster "Welcome Home" was fine (and the emphasis was correctly placed upon the word home), and the reception appropriately warm. He needs some time with his footballing family. The pleading to Kabba to stay a little too desperate, but the worst, the very worst thing was the Mighty Mariner. Billed as a world exclusive and for the first and only time, the foam filled fool *led* the crowd in a rendition of the Town version of "Annieâ€™s Song". It successfully dampened down the crowdâ€™s enthusiasm. Those not laughing down their sleeves were hiding in the toilets in embarrassment. Think of a tuneless teenager attempting to impersonate his grandfather crooning to his hamster.
Town continued with the new, improved warm up routine of 4 piggies in the middle and the Town fans were quite heartened by the site of McDermott (hurrah), Oster (hurrah, hurrah) and Gavin, who is, at least, tall. So who plays where? Well, Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation, as shown. Oster has, physically, filled out a bit, no longer the spindly 14 year old with a pudding basin haircut, and he played on the right, with Campbell on the left. Otherwise everyone was in their "usual" position.
Casting an eye upon the Gillingham players one was struck by their chunkiness and how tall their strikers were, especially Sidibe. In contrast their â€˜keeper is still the tiny Jason Brown, big hands, big feet and big attitude. More on that later. The ball was yellow.
Gillingham kicked off, wearing an all red kit for some unexplained reason, towards the Pontoon. Kicked out of play almost immediately, of course. The first thrusts of the day were made by Gillingham with, typically, chips down the channels for the "Big Men" to chase. From the first Town won a free kick as Gavin ensured his slight misreading of the bounce of the ball was misread by the referee as a push by Sidibe.
The second "channel chip" saw Ford race over and swipe Ipoua and the ball out of play for a throw-in. So far, so anticlimactic. Town had done nothing exceptional, barely anything adequate, with a couple of long punts forward by Gallimore resulting in highly threatening moments of danger for Gillingham. Also known as goal kicks.
But the first flickers of fantasy came in the third minute. Kabba muscled down the left on a counter-attack, drifted, danced and turned to play a short pass down the touchline to Campbell. The little scamp dribbled through two defenders, cutting outside to drift past another, to cross into the near post, where the â€˜keeper plunged low to scoop the ball up off the ground near the foot of the post. Mmmm, quite interesting; pace, power, passing and movement. Nice.
Oh, here we go, the sucker punch. Gillingham broke away down their left after the goalkeeper had fly kicked away as McDermott chased a pass over the top of their defence. They had two players roaming the badlands below the Stones/Smiths/Findus with just Ford to disturb their plans for world domination. Sidibe clipped a floated cross from about 25 yards out towards the far post and Shaw ran forward, backed off, allowed the ball to go across his body and, from the edge of the 6 yard box, hit a first time left footed volley a foot over the bar. Gallimore was stood next to him, but barely moved a muscle.
For the rest of the half, with just occasional moments when Gillingham counter-attacked, Town were dominant and superb, the like of which we have not seen for many a year. Passing, movement and, above all, pace. Gillingham were ripped apart at times. Free flowing one-touch football, principally down the right, invariably involving Kabba and Oster, it was fantastic, it was wondrous, it was purrable. It was occasionally brilliant, in the truest sense of the word. In the 11th minute Town moved magically down the right, with McDermott surging forward, exchanging passes with a fellow striped raider, before crossing low, at pace from outside the penalty area. Livingstone stepped over the cross and Kabba swept a right footed shot from around a dozen or so yards, onto the outside of the â€˜keeperâ€™s left hand post. A couple of minutes later another blur of passes by Oster and Kabba down the Town right, sending the Gillingham defenders into a collective fainting fit, saw Oster free inside the area. Brown sprinted off his line and managed to block Osterâ€™s attempted clip from way out near the left corner of his box. A couple of minutes after that it was McDermottâ€™s turn to swing forward, exchange passes with Kabba and whip in a terrific low cross to the near post. Campbell (yeah, Campbell) dived forward and only managed to get the merest of hairs on the ball, with it arcing crazily through the penalty area and out for a throw in. So it was a strong hair, with much gel on it, I presume.
The game was quite excellent, with Gillingham clearly a highly organised and effective unit, looking very dangerous on the break, especially through Shaw. But Town, mostly, coped well, with Ford and Gavin being very calm and solid. After a Town free kick was bumbled forward, with Kabba heading softly to the â€˜keeper from way out, Gillingham broke away at pace, in numbers, and looked menacing. Fortunately the cross was diverted for a corner on their right, from which Hope, about a dozen yards out and on the centre right of the Town area, headed down firmly, the ball bouncing up high and almost, almost over Coyne, who tipped the ball over the bar for another corner. And from this we "suffered" the trauma of seeing Shaw collide with the referee as he was about to shoot. We got over this trauma pretty quickly, without the aid of any counselling. No need to rent space in a local church hall and talk ourselves down.
You know, we are only half way through the first half and the quality was high, the chances frequent. Campbell dribbled inside from the left and dinked a short pass behind the centre back for Kabba, just in the Gillingham area on their left. Brown sprinted off his line and blocked Kabbaâ€™s attempted shot, with the ball squirming out towards the corner flag. Campbell had continued his diagonal run and chipped the ball back into the heart of the penalty area. Livingstone, about 10 yards out at the near post, glided effortlessly across his marker and volleyed a right footed shot towards the near post. Brown instinctively stuck out his left hand and managed to parry and pluck. We were beginning to curse the â€˜keeper, who was playing exceptionally well. There then followed a short period of non-excitement, whilst both teams had a short rest. But still Town piled forward down the right, with Oster becoming more and more dominant, toying, teasing and tremendous.
With about 10 minutes left, Oster was set free down the right touchline at high speed, following a one-two with Kabba. Oster swept a super first time cross from near the touchline into the near post towards Livingstone. Livvo either missed it or dummied, who knows, and the ball travelled on to the far post, to the unmarked Kabba, perhaps 8 or 9 yards out. The ball hit Kabbaâ€™s left thigh, was juggled towards goal and Kabba stuck out his right boot to divert the ball towards the â€˜keeperâ€™s left hand corner. Brown, despite flying to his right, managed to stick out his left hand and save, the ball being flapped away for a corner. The corner was hung deep, a scramble ensued and the ball fell to Livingstone, whose shot scurried away to the right of the area off a defenderâ€™s legs. Poutonâ€™s attempted crashing drive was seemingly headed towards the bottom left hand corner of the goal, but ricocheted away from near the line, straight back to Livvo, who leant back and swiped the ball into Neville Street
And I havenâ€™t even mentioned Coldicottâ€™s flashing drive, following a surge down the left and pull back to the unmarked Mekon Man, 25 yards out on the centre left. Coldicott, much to the surprise of his sternest critic, wellied a superb right footed drive just a foot or so wide of Brownâ€™s right hand post. This was all a little too much excitement for one day. No goals, but verve, vim, zest and no little skills from Town. And itâ€™s not over yet. Perhaps the best chance of the half was again created by Oster, curling a sublime pass down the touchline from just inside the Town half for Kabba to sprint onto. The pass was absolutely perfect, matching Kabbaâ€™s run and allowing him to burst forward unmolested. Kabba waited for the defender, dinked left, then right, before dumping the centre back on the turf. He was alone and free, just inside the area, with just the â€˜keeper to beat. Brown raced off his line, Kabba swayed right to go past him. But Brown followed, dived and managed to save the shot . The ball bounced back off Kabba into Brownâ€™s hands.
A most exhilarating, but ultimately frustrating, half drew to a close with Gillingham almost sneaking in a goal. A break down their right, a cross to the far post and, fortunately, Ipuoa and Sidibe collided with each other, and Coyne easily caught the attempt at goal. Oh and another long shot from a Gillingham player which hit the roof of the Pontoon.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Gillingham 0
So there we are, scoreless at half time, but no-one quite knew how. Gillingham had been no pushover, displaying no little skill and threat, one of the better teams to visit Blundell Park. But Town had been awesome, much, much better than on Tuesday night and, if wasnâ€™t for that pesky Gillingham goalkeeper, Town would have scored at least four. Town were given a standing ovation as they walked off, and the crowd were just lapping up the memories of Kabba and Oster together. In defence Ford and Gavin had been unassumingly effective, barely noticeable, not through lack of opportunity to shine, but they just did their job, no thrills, no wild, desperate tackles to save the day. They never put themselves in a position to have to do Lever-like heroics. Oh, and Macca was back too.
And still 45 more minutes to come, What value for money.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"This is rubbish. I havenâ€™t got anything to moan about".
The report continues in the second half.
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