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The Bicycle Kick Thieves: Leicester Report
By: Tony Butcher
AN overcast, grey, murky afternoon with a bit of a chill and a hint on rain brought the manic midlanders flocking to the seaside, with the entire Osmond Stand full.
Grimsby Town 1 Leicester City 2
30 Nov 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The news of Bouldingâ€™s statement of intent to return, and the sight of Gorgeous Georges striding across the pitch in brown shoes (weâ€™ll excuse his lack of knowledge of Dr Johnson, for a gentleman never wears brown in Town) raised spirits on a dull, damp day. The future looked fine, the present not so, for there was no Mansaram to be seen. Rowan up front? Soames? What, who, why and when? And how are we going to score?
Well, Town lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, as shown. Campbell was on the right, Barnard left midfield, with Oster seemingly given firm instructions to rove around Livingstone like a rather shy suitor. Donâ€™t worry Oster, thereâ€™s plenty more fish in the sea.
Prior to the game McDermott received yet more commemorative glassware to stick on his mantelpiece, to mark his 601st game for Town. Does he have a side line in retail knick-knacks? Maccaâ€™s World of Class, opposite Ernie Beckettâ€™s fish and chip shop. Heâ€™ll only retire when heâ€™s stocked the shop. The teams ran out to some very odd noise. Even the teenagers were unable to identify the racket dribbling out of the speakers. Or at least they didnâ€™t admit to knowing what it was. So it must have been something very embarrassing to the cool kids on the block
Enough, the game.
Leicester kicked off towards the Pontoon and didnâ€™t welly it out of play. We knew we were in trouble. They drove forward with pace and purpose, with Dickov (officially called "that little git Dickov" in all authorised Football Association publications) pestering the ankles of most Town defenders like an amorous chihuahua.
After about 30 seconds, the referee awarded them a free kick about 30 yards out after two Town players slid across to tackle Dickov. After an interminable delay caused by Davidson feigning a pass to Izzet, attempting to disrupt the wall and designated blocker, he rolled it sideways to Izzet, who did a free kick right out of the Town book of wasted set pieces, thwacking a firm drive into the ankles of the second defender from the right. The ball went straight back to Davidson, who tried a first time shot. The ball hit McDermott, who was standing on the edge of the area in the middle, on the back and looped up, beyond the stars. Slowly, slowly the ball dropped as Coyne adjusted his feet, shuffled across the goal-line to his right and waited. Coyne leapt gently and, instead of catching it, or tipping it over the bar, flapped it back one handed into the penalty area, like a convalescing Dandy waiving away his dinner. The ball travelled a couple of yards to SCOWCROFT who, despite a lunge from Coldicott, bundled the ball through Coyneâ€™s legs with an unknown part of his anatomy. Silence, embarrassed silence. Wales, Wales number..., err, weâ€™re still counting.
Town roared forward, with some style, but nothing tangible to describe. Passes, zipping one-twoâ€™s down the left, Oster, Barnard, Oster, crosses, corners, Oster, crosses, clearances. Oohs, but not a shot in anger. The scoreboard was showing the time as -2 minutes, obviously Leicester couldnâ€™t have scored yet, that would be defying the laws of physics, if not the rules of Association Football. So Leicester simply stepped up the pace and showed why they had been in the Premiership, and also why they arenâ€™t now. For a 10 minute spell Leicester overran Town, which is not a criticism of the Town players, the opposition were simply too good. They were very mobile and had a definite game plan, such that their players knew where to run and where to pass to. None of this look up and see where I am stuff. No hopeful, hopeless punting a la Palace. They passed with purpose and moved with menace. Even the long balls were aimed with precision, such that a long pass from Elliott was placed upon Scowcroftâ€™s head. He flicked the ball on and Benjamin was momentarily free behind the defence on the centre left edge of the Town penalty area. Benjamin swung his right boot at the ball, missed, but continued running, surging past Gavin and bearing down upon Coyne, but going away from goal. From a narrow angle about 8 yards wide of goal, Benjamin attempted to lift the ball over Coyne, but the shot stopper stopped the shot at point blank range, conceding a corner. Leicester took the corner quickly and short to Rogers, unmarked just outside the penalty area on their right. He took the ball forward and across and, from the very corner of the penalty area, smacked a left foot drive at shoulder height towards the inside post. Coyne flew across and did a spectacular double handed parry to push the ball away for a corner. Great shot, great save. And all this after just 5 minutes, well, according to the scoreboard that is. And we thought theyâ€™d fixed it, nope, stuck it was. Stuck on "Grimsby T 0 Leicester 1 - 5 minutes" for the whole game. Constancy is comforting, I suppose. Weâ€™d be confused by a fully functioning scoreboard
Leicester continued to rip through the midfield with a blur of blue, though the Town defence and midfield had learnt from the past and managed to stop them shooting. Coldicott, especially, managed to delay the shots by his mere presence a couple of times, with Gavin and Groves always seeming to get their body in the way of the incoming enemy missiles. And letâ€™s not forget the wayward wanderer, the king of the step-overs, Pouton, who was in a controlled frenzy, flying across the turf with the greatest of ease. He even started to show off with a double-Zidane drag back to ease past Izzet. More magnificently, when Izzet had the ball by the corner flag twixt Pontoon and Main Stand he twisted this way and that, but couldnâ€™t shake off Pouton, who did a hippy hippy shake to ooze Izzet off the ball. As Izzet pursued him up the touchline Pouton did not one but two step-overs before surging up field and infield. He then caressed a perfectly weighted pass down the touchline for Barnard who looked up and crossed low to Campbell 20 yards out on the centre right. Campbellâ€™s first time drive was blocked by a diving Sinclair. Excitement, but ultimately nothing to write home about. However, this indicated the subtle change in the pattern of the game. Town slowly began to exert some (not much, but some) control and were starting to tap out a passing rhythm, which unusually for Town was a quick step, not a dilatory military march. The ultimate destination was always Oster, who had a very free role playing as a second striker, with Livingstone the rock solid wall off which things bounced, including the ball. Unfortunately for Town, Oster was playing in the first half like he did at Palace, all show and no substance. He kept trying to make the impossible possible, attempting to chip Walker when Walker was already on his line, to beat the fifth defender, or that incredible reverse pass to send lightning Livvo free.
Despite Osterâ€™s ostentatiousness, Town pressed and were in many "almost" positions. Barnard tried to do what Campbell had done at Stoke, taking a free kick from 20 yards very quickly. Walker was waiting and easily pooper-scooped the ball up from near his right hand post. Barnard swung in a cross from the right following a short corner high to beyond far post. Groves outjumped his marker but headed straight at Walker. What else: a few more crosses and a few more headed clearances by Elliott. It was a curious strategy - crossing to Elliott. He doesnâ€™t score that many own goals. Sinclair is their Calamity Jane, isnâ€™t he? Leicester surged back around the 5th minute, or was it later? A quick break down their right, with Dickov scampering away down the touchline and into the penalty area, caused massed panic in the massed ranks of the Town defence and support. With Benjamin screaming away at the far post, unmarked, Dickov crossed to the near post where three Town defenders congregated. McDermott managed to block, somewhat clumsily, with the ball getting trapped under his feet, rolling back and straight to Coldicott. Or was this an example of Townâ€™s belief in total football? Taggart headed a corner wide, well and gently wide. Leicester got a series of corners which were rather worrisome, for Dickov kept impeding Coyne and the corners kept being floated to where Coyne wanted to be, but couldnâ€™t get to, as there were dozens of bodies all converging on the same spot. Some flapping, flipping and catching resulted. But crucially no chances.
The game flowed back down the other end for a bit with town having some more "almost" moments. A Barnard cross to the unmarked Campbell who, appearing to be unmarked 10 yards out didnâ€™t head the ball. He seemed surprised by the ball reaching him and it just bounced off him and out towards the corner flag. Oster tried to jink through the penalty area on the right, but Sinclair swiped the ball away when he was about 6 yards out. Oster, again, tried to dribble through the middle of the Leicester defence, driving forward from the half way line, swaying right, spinning left, before scruffling a right footed shot a yard or two wide of Walkerâ€™s right hand post. Groves knocked Scowcroft when jumping for a high clearance and the referee indicated that Groves had used his forearm. But no card was shown. Gavin handled the ball when trying to tackle Benjamin near the Police Box. The referee gave Leicester a free kick for a foul on Benjamin. Right decision, wrong reason. Ah the referee. Iâ€™ve been teasing you, as you just knew thereâ€™d be something wicked in yellow. He looked benignly upon Leicester challenges, and especially "falls", whereas Town were in his eyes cynical grabbers, trippers and hackers. Needless to say he riled the Town players and roused the crowd. Always what Town needs to get going.
Anything else happen in the first half? Well yes. Towards the end Leicester should have scored a couple more. Benjamin sprinted away down their left, cut into the penalty area and crossed low into the near post. Dickov drifted across Groves and steered a first time side footed volley straight at Coyneâ€™s ankles. Saved without fuss. Right on half time Groves dallied about 25 yards from goal and Dickov nicked the ball away as Groggy Groves fell like a dead oak (heâ€™d been whacked in the chest/neck by Coyne after a collision a few minutes earlier). The ball was slipped out to Benjamin who got very excited and wildly smacked a shot a yard or so wide of the near post. And then it happened. The referee gave Town a second free kick of the half, right in the middle, 20 yards out. Prime time to score, prime location, prime suspect Mr Oster. Little Johnnie set himself and decided to fix the scoreboard the old fashioned way by giving it a huge whack on the side. He lifted his right footed shot over the wall, over the bar, over the crowd, over the hills and far, far away.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Leicester City 1
Thatâ€™s the first half; interesting, frightening, exciting, but with very few goalmouth incidents, especially from Town. Leicester were clearly a better team and better individually. No-one was complaining too much at only being 1-0 down at half time. It could have been a lot worse and Town werenâ€™t playing badly either.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Thatâ€™s not music, itâ€™s a car crash".
The report continues in the second half.
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