Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
Rub of the Green: Preston Report
By: Tony Butcher
A MISTY, murky afternoon with around 500 Prestonians huddled together somewhere down at the Osmond End. The attempts to generate a pre-match atmosphere continued with a canned laughter version of "Annieâ€™s Song". The Mighty Mariner tried to conduct the Pontoon, but gazes were carefully averted.
Grimsby Town 3 Preston North End 3
16 Nov 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The matchday programme has never held such interest for so many. Even a second attempt failed to ignite the flames of passion, with just a couple of scarfwavers droning along to the muzak. The Mighty Mariner knows his audience, waggling up and down the goalposts brought some in the crowd to life. Though not many.
The sight of Cooke and McDermott, hands in pockets, waddling across the turf in dark suits brought dismay. Cooke stopped next to the Town players and joined in the aerobic arm waggling and stretches. Was this a sign? Or is he a joker?
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as shown. So Parker was making his debut at right back, with Ward heard to confirm that he was being "rested". Craig Brown stood by the half way line with a piece of paper in his left hand, staring intently at each Town player, then down at the paper. Probably trying to work out who they were and where the heck theyâ€™d play. Brown missed a trick in confusing us, as he failed to pick either Iain Anderson (31) or Ian Anderson (34), perhaps because neither had a beard or a flute. Despite having no past or present members of Jethro Tull in their starting XI they did have some huge blokes, particularly Etuhu and Fuller, and the hackâ€™s delight - Skora, who isnâ€™t a striker, so was unlikely to be eponymous.
Town kicked off towards the Osmond Stand. The usual thing, back to Coldicott, over to Gallimore and eventually the opposition get the ball somehow. Within a minute, Fuller had the collective knees of Grimsby shaking with a turning midfield, twist, roll and muscular drive through three challenges. Only his fascination with his own feet, and the arrival of Gallimore, averted danger. Within another minute Fuller did it again, racing past Gavin down the Town left and crossing meekly to the near post, where it was scrambled away.
A few seconds later he did it yet again, running down the centre of the pitch, leaving a trail of destruction behind him, Town defenders tossed aside like flimsy caravans in a hurricane. This time it took the combined might of Coldicott, Gavin and Gallimore to form a wall of steel inside the penalty area, which even he couldnâ€™t break through.
A brief Town attack down the left, which saw Campbell trick his way through two challenges on the edge of the penalty area and cross to the near post, was the only time Town had the ball. All a bit disconcerting really. After three minutes Town were given a free kick in midfield, on the Town right near the half way line. How would Town waste it this time? Oster (I think) whacked the ball diagonally towards the edge of the box, level with the far post. One of the lesser haired defenders (which hoped was Broomes, but was actually Alexander. So the Scunny reject rather than the Grimsby reject.) had no Town players near and decided to chest the ball back to the goalkeeper. All so easy, so humdrum, it was barely worth watching. Many turned to continue that fascinating conversation about cheese, or debate the identity of the inventor of the rotary engine. Some reached for the packet of crisps in their coat pocket, others idly stared at the football. And laughed. For the Preston goalkeeper had come right out of his goal to collect the rubbish free kick and was heading home towards Finland. CAMPBELL zipped in and toe poked the ball into the empty net as the goalkeeper ran after him like a cartoon cat about to be hit by a falling anvil. And how the Preston supporters not 10 yards from Moilanen wished for that anvil to plunge unexpectedly from the sky.
The goal did not change the pattern of the game at all. Town were a complete blancmange, well, not complete, more an unset, slightly mouldy blancmange. The passing was loose, the organisation absent, Preston ran Town ragged, making exceptional use of the intelligent running of Cresswell and the muscular dribbling of Fuller. In no particular order: Fuller, twist, turn, shot from 25 yards swaying five yards wide of Coyneâ€™s right hand post; Fuller, turn, twist, twist, turn, Lomu-like run through Gavin, then smothered by the worker bees in Townâ€™s midfield near the penalty spot; Fuller wriggle, wiggle, twist and turn, a barging run down the centre left and a weak, weak shot from 12 yards straight at Coyne; Fuller, twist...oh you know the rest by now. Terrifying as he was, he was a pretty dumb player, as he never passed to his team-mates, despite them often being in space and screaming for a pass. Perhaps their screams were drowned out by the anxious wailing from the Pontoon. There were a couple more moments of extreme danger when Cresswell burst through down the inside right channel, twisted inside and set up shooting opportunities for on-rushing midfielders. The shots barely reached Coyne as there were too many Town bodies, my dear Mozart.
Ah but there was one moment when Townâ€™s luck was seemingly out. Preston broke away down their right following a Town corner. Cresswell made a run from the centre towards the bye-line. Gallimore stood still, Gavin drifted over to cover, both seemed flummoxed by a simple ball knocked down the touchline for Cresswell, who controlled the ball, cut inside, outside, inside, then outside again, crossing form about 10 yards wide of the left hand post and a couple of yards infield. Fuller sprinted to the far post and, from no more than a couple of yards out and only just beyond the far post, he hung out his right leg and steered the ball into the side netting. What a miss, what a guy! As some on the Pontoon sang "You thought you had scored, so did we".
In between the Preston attacks thoughts turned to the important matters in life - the scoreboard. It had trouble with the first letter, so Rimsby were playing Reston. The clock got stuck at 1 minute, encouraging much merriment over time dragging, and even after Town had scored it was still Rimsby 0 Preston 0 after 1 minute. Then it was after 11 minutes. Perhaps the scoreboard was only working in binary code? I have a vague recollection that around the 20 minute mark Town had a shot, which was probably the one where Monica eats the pies. The ball was chipped down the Town right towards the edge of the Preston penalty area. Mansaram bothered the defender like he was a nervous sheep, such that the defender fell, Mansaram switched the ball back into the area to Livingstone, who swept a firm right foot drive low, straight into the goalkeeperâ€™s midriff. Mansaram was the one Town attacker to be causing any problems, with his lanky impression of a recent loan player who is no longer loved.
The referee had not, up to the 26th minute, been a factor in the game. Maybe slightly annoying as he allowed Fuller to bump, bundle and barge defenders off the ball, but nothing too serious. All this changed in one farcical instance. Pouton brought down a Preston player about 35 yards out, in the centre left of the Town half. A nothing foul, the Preston player simply got to the ball slightly quicker than Pouton and at a 90 degree angle. Both fell over. Pouton got to his feet and started to run back towards the goal. The Preston player kicked the ball against Pouton, whose back was turned. The referee booked Pouton and took the ball forward 10 yards. Much fury was vented at an appallingly bad interpretation of the events, and Town suddenly had to construct a wall, which was rickety and rocky. Coyne eventually got the semblance of a wall in place, which just about covered his near post, and he could see he ball. A Preston player ran up to the wall and elbowed his way onto the end, causing a bit of flapping. The free kick was tapped sideways, whacked in low, ricocheted off someone on the edge of the area, ricocheted off someone else inside the area near the penalty spot and the ball diverted towards the centre of the gaol as Coyne was plunging to his right. Coyne flicked out his legs and managed to block the ball, but it simply ballooned up and towards the left hand post CRESSWELL ran forward and tapped the ball in from a couple of yards out. The referee got the verbal assault he deserved for creating the situation. It would be a bit harsh to criticise the Town defenders; it was a chaos, with Preston working on the principle that anything could happen and they might strike lucky. They did, for three ricochets worked in their favour. It was a surprise when they scored, but not a surprise that they had scored.
And from this moment on Preston were not a real threat to Town, they sat back, seemingly content with their lot. Fuller still troubled with his aggression and directness, and Cresswell with his perceptive runs, but Preston were less than the sum of their parts, like a Meccano set built by a three year old. Town got a bit better, in that that they started to pass to each other regularly and even had shots, but most of the most eye-catching fancy football was done inside their own penalty area. Oster was at his most creative with one-twos, cushioned volleys and back-heels when within 10 yards of Coyne. Gavin too, caught this showboating bug, trying to play Cruyffian defence-splitting passes through his own penalty area. Coldicott silenced just one of his critics with a left footed half volley which flew feet wide of the â€˜keeperâ€™s right hand post. You have to admit thatâ€™s quite near for old pacey Stacy. Mansaram wasted an excellent opportunity which he had created through persistence, strength and skill, when he burst through 25 yards out with Oster free to his right. Mansaram used Oster as a decoy, drifting back towards the centre and having a left footed shot deflected towards the â€˜keeper. Oster (remember him?) wasted the best (Town) chance of the half. Campbell clipped in a flat, diagonal cross from the left. Mansaram back headed the ball which fell to the unmarked Oster, about a dozen yards out level with the far post. Oster leant back and carefully side-footed the ball a foot or so over the centre of the goal.
With a couple of minutes left Gallimore collapsed inside the Town half after hobbling around for a few seconds. Off he went with what looked like a twisted ankle, and on came Barnard. Was this replacing like with like? Though for some this was replacing dislike with dislike, which is rather cruel on Gallimore as he had played very well up to then, even slipping in his trademark dummy near the managersâ€™ dug out.
Half time: Grimsby Town 1 Preston North End 1
And that was just about all in the first half, ignoring for the purposes of bias the cross from Preston which brushed against Fordâ€™s hand. The referee kept tapping his chest, as were the Town supporters. I havenâ€™t mentioned Parker yet - not much to say. He seems to be able to head the ball alright, he hardly passed the ball to a similarly clad player and he was occasionally stuck in limbo-land between covering the centre backs and marking his winger.
In some ways Town were fortunate to be level at half time, in others unfortunate. A cold-hearted analysis of the first half would be that Preston couldnâ€™t shoot and Town couldnâ€™t pass. For all their flurry of movement when attacking, Preston didnâ€™t actually produce many shots. So both sides were unluckily fortunate.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"If only weâ€™d had a sell on clause for Clare we could have afforded to have the scoreboard fixed."
The report continues in the second half.
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