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09/11 Stoke 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO changes in personnel were made by either team at half time, though Stoke did come out with an expensive cluster bomb in their collective backsides, for thy were more direct, pumping the ball upfront quickly, never letting the pace of the game drop.
Stoke City 1 Grimsby Town 2
09 Nov 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
All of which seemed to disturb the Town players who had continued to stroll around nonchalantly. In the first couple of minutes of the second half Stoke kept flinging in crosses, and Town kept failing to clear (the story of a thousand conceded goals, eh?) After a couple of minutes a cross from their left was headed towards Coldicott on the edge of the area by Gallimore. Coldicott was a bit slow to react and Stoke retrieved possession. The ball went out to their left again, crossed again, Gallimore headed toward Coldicott again, Stoke got the ball back again, crossed again, cleared again, this time to their right. Crossed yet a-flippinâ€™-gain! The ball was hung high and deep towards the far post where one of their larger foreigners lurked. Gavin mis-judged the flight of the ball and leapt backwards, about four yards out, with his hands flapping above his head. The referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot and, eventually, much to the annoyance of all locals, booked Gavin. Which was extremely fortunate for Town. Coyne did his usual leaping around waving frantically like a man on an airbed off the Fitties and leapt to his right. MOONEYâ€™S right footed penalty went about a yard from the centre, on the right, under Coyne and in. Coyne raged towards the emerging moon in frustration, and we all knew what was coming.
And it did. Cross after cross, whack after whack, the rest of the game was played out directly in front of the Town fans. Town as an attacking force? Just the once, if you ignore Gavinâ€™s header just wide from an Oster cross. You should, as the referee had already given a free kick for offside. Half way through the half a terrific Town counter attack should, really, have made life a little more relaxing for those Lincolnshire loafers present, or watching on CEEFAX. Town regained possession on the half way line on the right and Groves exchanged passes with someone, before tapping an absolutely perfect pass between their centre backs and left back.
Oster sprinted away down the right. He was alone, behind the defence and sweeping towards nirvana. As the goalkeeper raced out Oster, from about a dozen yards out and a few yards wide of the goal, attempted to roll the ball under Cutler. The ball rebounded off Cutlerâ€™s shins and away towards the touchline. That, sirs, was Townâ€™s attack during the second half. Never mind. Over and out.
The rest was just like a 3rd round FA Cup tie replay, with the lower division club tearing into the artful, though tender, big team with some manly, muscular football, all passion and little skill. Except for Hoekstra, who continued to glide past Ward like a schoolteacher showing an 8 year old how to play. Ward was barely a presence, such was the Dutchmanâ€™s dominance, forcing Campbell and, especially Coldicott, to double and triple up in support. Not that that made any difference either. Pressure, pressure, pressure, cross, cross, cross, corner, cross, corner, cross, pressure, pressure, pressure, miss, miss, miss, to translate Max Boyce into football. Just after they scored, a cross was cleared frenetically to the amazingly haired Thomas (a black man with vibrant red hair), 25 yards out on the centre right. His drive wobbled through a thicket of legs and Coyne clutched the ball to his chest as it began to drift away from him. DÃ©jÃ vu a few minutes later saw a non-amazingly haired Stoke player wobble another wellied shot into the same part of Coyneâ€™s anatomy, in the same part of the goal.
Gallimore heroically diverted a couple of dangerous crosses away from the near post, from just a couple of yards out, as bodies converged upon the same blade of grass. Gavin, too, made a desperate lunging swipe to stop a cross passing him. The blocks just meant corners. The corners just meant they filled the penalty area with taller men. Coyne was forced to leap around like a hyperactive powerball, punching and parrying crosses when surrounded by striped foes. Towards the end he was clattered by a defender and smelling salts were wafted under his nose, then Vaseline rubbed on his eyebrows. A vision of the future flashed before us of a semi-conscious â€˜keeper being bombarded. Urggh.
With about 20 minutes to go Stoke took off little Greenacre and replaced him with the polar opposite - the massive Iwelumo, who rampaged all over the top of the Town players. No more passing from Stoke, it was literally all up in the air, but they didnâ€™t do it very well, fortunately. The nearest they got to scoring was when the Town defence slumbered on the left following a clearance. They allowed two players to remain unmarked on the left edge of the area and the ball was duly dinked over the top to one of them, Gunnarsson. He turned, took the ball on a few yards and, from about 10 yards out and eight wide of goal, whacked a drive at hip height towards the near post. Coyne plunged and parried the ball away for a corner. There were several moments of real anxiety as bodies flew into the six yard box and at Coyne. Stoke had aerial dominance, helped by the fact that most of their team appeared to be well over six foot, and the Town players did their old trick of standing off and allowing crosses to be played in. Shtaniuk twice headed wide from the edge of the six yards box from corners, he also headed over at least once. Somewhere in the last 10 minutes Barnard replaced Mansaram as Town sought to shore up the defence. Yeah, right, 4-5-Livvo is not a stable formation. About this time an intense period of Stoke pressure was ended with a miss, which is better, for your average Town fan, than starting with a kiss. The ball was pumped in toward the near post, headed upward and Iwelumo sprang forward and jumped over Coyne and headed the ball up and towards the empty net. The ball plopped gently onto the roof of the net and we all sighed a happy sigh
There were four minutes of added time which Town wasted quite well, including an unnecessary clearance by Handyside for a throw in. Stoke pumped it forward, straight down the middle, but kept on flicking headers through to Coyne or out for goal kicks. The only troubling moments were refereeing/linesman decisions. Town got their first free kick of the second half in the 92nd minute, and I donâ€™t recall any offsides being given either. It was quite worrying, the way the officials swung towards Stoke. Especially when the Stoke substitute, Cooke, knocked the ball past Ford and fell over the challenge on the left side of the penalty area, way out towards the edge. A corner was given, when all the Town fans (and even Ford) thought the referee was about to award another penalty. There was another rubbish dive a few minutes later, from the flaming Thomas, but he didnâ€™t even convince himself, so hard cheese matey. And I havenâ€™t even started complaining about the corners that were given when the ball came off Mooney (it was always Mooney), or the foulest of foul throws from Clarke, who might as well have rolled the ball in underarm. Or the free kicks given against Livvo for looking a bit scary in the dark, or against the invisible Town players when Stoke wingers slipped.
But why complain about such trivial things? Town had won and there were many monochrome smiley faces. The Town players gathered together to salute each other and the fans. Rodger, Groves and the rest zeroed in on Handyside to hug him and have "kind words" and the players trouped off wearily, but contentedly. Groves almost staggered off, looking physically wrecked. And so we have it, Town finally out of the bottom 3, having found another 2nd division team to beat away from Blundell Park. Stoke werenâ€™t appalling, just half a team, with half an idea. Hoekstra was Oster-like in his sublime silky skills, talent wasted down in the nether regions of division one, as was Handyside, the rest a mixed bag of scufflers, hufflers and mufflers. So a bit like Town then, but without the esprit de corp, the organisation or coherent method. Or even a Livvo.
There were some weaknesses best swept under the carpet of hope, Wardâ€™s tendency to break like a butterfly on the wheel, Gavinâ€™s occasional inability to judge the flight of the dropping ball, Coldicottâ€™s occasional timidity. But moans are for another day. Today we smile.
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
Or should that be the Poutonâ€™s Kabba of the match? Ford was a rock in the middle, Gallimore calm, steady and safe, Coyne solid, Groves efficient and rarely wasteful, Mansaram Wanchopian in his spiderman twistings up front, Oster simply Oster. However Nick0 surprises himself by choosing STUART CAMPBELL, the invisible forgotten man on the wings. He worked tirelessly in defence and attack and his alertness ultimately won the game.
Mr C Penton. On his first half performance he coulda been a contender, but for his descent into hometown blues he gets a raggedy 5.984. The penalty decisions were correct, but the little things stacked up against Town in bizarre fashion. And he probably should have sent Gavin off for deliberate (if bonkers) handball.
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