Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
08/12 Walsall 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
SANTOS replaced McDermott at half time, with Ford moving to right back and Gorgeous Georges standing in the middle of defence with intent.
Walsall 3 Grimsby Town 1
07 Dec 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The first 15 minutes were all Town, Walsall simply failed. There were a couple of what may kindly be described as pseudo-attacks, where the ball did actually move towards the Town goal. The Walsall fans embarrassed themselves with some excited grunts when a pass was played from the half way line towards one of their strikers 25 yards out, with his back to goal. They sounded genuinely excited and expectant, simply because their team managed to string a pass together. There was a poor cross from their right which sailed past the goal and into the crowd. Again they oohed, despite every player turning his back and running up field even as the ball was still in play. Or perhaps I am failing to understand the multi-layered sophistication of West Midland humour - dour, dry, post-post ironic?
Town were simply Town for 15 minutes, infuriating in their ability to raise hopes. The quality of the approach play was undeniable. On a bog they were able to pass and move. The midfield two at last started to snap, crackle and pop, especially Pouton, the King of the Swingers, who ran the game for a quarter of an hour. Within a minute Town had surged down the centre, after Pouton had hoovered up Oâ€™Connor in a tackle, and swept majestically upfield like wildebeest flowing across a particularly sodden Savannah. Pouton flicked a pass to the unmarked Barnard on the edge of the area and his first time cross was diverted away by flailing Walsall limbs. A minute or so later a replica. A parting on the left, was now a parting on the right, with Pouton surging, stepping-over and releasing Campbell, whose cross was half cleared towards Barnard, 15 yards out beyond the far post. He leant back and miss-hit a right foot shot that didnâ€™t cause Walker to raise any of his eyebrows. A bit later another Barnard break, cross and Campbellâ€™s shot from the left side f the penalty area was deflected for a corner.
Ah, why worry, there was absolutely nothing going on down in front of the Purple Stand. The Town fans kept having to shout at Coyne to wake him up. After about 55 minutes yet another Town breakaway with interpassing, movement and a Pouton surge.
The ball was played out to Campbell on the right, unmarked about 20 yards out. He zipped past the Lever-like monstrosity at centre back and whacked a right foot shot at shoulder height towards Walkerâ€™s left hand post. Walker plunged to his left and did a double handed parry to divert the ball for a corner. Lever-like monstrosity at centre back? Which one? They had two blokes, Hay and Roper, who looked like they should have been playing lock for Old Walsalliansâ€™ third team. Even Livvo was able to match them for pace, sometimes. Oster continued to be an ephemeral presence, prettily flicking and tricking to no-one. Playing more like a second striker, he was most infuriating, being more of a hindrance than a help.
It was all far too easy for Town, with Santos brushing aside Junior like he was an irksome puppy. The two Town centre backs kept stroking the ball around, with a certain strutting arrogance, and they appeared to have the Walsall forwards in their collective pockets. But a couple of small warning lights started to flash, and no-one bothered. Around the hour mark, with many in the ground chatting amongst themselves, Walsall nearly scored. A dink down the Town right, a turn, a Leitao cross and Junior was unmarked 6 yards out at the near post. His attempted first time spin and shot was woeful. He simply fell on his backside as the ball trickled to Coyne. What was Santos saying about concentration? And just after this Walsall made some substitutions. On came Aranalde and Ainsworth. Aranalde, an old favourite - the hair, the gloves, the boots, a bit of a footballing fop. He replaced their left back and immediately slotted into a left flounce position. Of course the cerebral Town fans requested clarification of the location of his mobile home. For some, all taunting roads lead to Romany.
Ainsworth immediately tore down their right, sailing past Gallimore and Coldicott, sending in a dangerous dipping cross, which was a precursor to a bit of pressure, but again no shots. After three minutes of Ainsworth darting and dinking, normal service resumed and we all slumped back to the cold comfort of turgid Town and woeful Walsall. Wake me up when itâ€™s over, the point in the bag. Out of the blue they scored. Was anyone paying attention in the "build up"? There seemed nothing to concern ourselves with, the ball over of the Walsall left, near the touchline, near the half way line. The ball was flipped up to Leitao, who appeared to miss-control the ball, it bouncing up off one of the more bony parts of his anatomy. He flicked it over his shoulder and forward. Junior did the same, simply helping it on into the Town penalty area. Rather than chasing back, the two Town central defenders appeared to be idly watching developments with unamused detachment. Coyne half came off his line, stopped, dived and LEITAO slid forward and placed the ball under Coyne and into the centre left of the goal. A firework exploded to our right in celebration at this unexpected event. So, two shots, two goals. And two rather silly goals too. There was a bit of arguing with officials as the Town players claimed an offside, impossible to tell from 100 yards away. It just looked like typical Town slackness. What was Santos saying about concentration?
It was all rather boring after this, the creative tension dissipated. We knew Town werenâ€™t going to score again, and were going to lose to a very, very ordinary team. Like Bradford, but without the stripes. Thoughts turned to Aranaldeâ€™s hair, which shimmered down his neck like tadpoles in a drain. And his gloves, which were probably a present from his auntie Juanita last Christmas. And his boots, which were Santa red. He got himself booked for lunging and lumping Campbell on the touchline, which should have been his second yellow card of course. The first being for lack of taste. Even Aranaldeâ€™s personal grooming couldnâ€™t sustain the interest levels. There were just a couple of more Walsall attacks, a deep cross from their left to the far post went straight on to Juniorâ€™s big fat head. Unmarked, perhaps 5 yards out, he tamely nodded the ball back to Coyne, the perfect backpass. And there was a very dangerous cross , again from their left, which fizzed through the 6 yards box, missing all humanity and Santos, as it careered crazily towards a damp photographer.
The Town fans were far too busy moaning at Walker when he took his goalkicks, slowly, slowly, wasting time. His routine was to carefully place the ball next to a divot, stamp the divot down, walk back, move the ball to another divot, stamp that down, apologise to the referee, adjust his shorts (for they kept riding up his backside, allowing certain observations to be made regarding his post match activities to supplement his income) and eventually hack it upfield. With about 15 minutes left, or so it felt like, Soames replaced Barnard, who had earlier received some treatment for a whack on the back. Soames twisted, turned and was a gentle pest for a while, like a stockier Daryl Clare. His major contribution to the entertainment was a chase down the right to reach a chip towards the corner, a turn and cross from the bye line which rolled slowly to the near post. As Livvo was "sprinting" forward towards it, hoped were not raised. Town did have a few efforts towards goal, a few miss-hits from the edge of the area, and, near the end, a careful twisting chip from the left edge of the penalty area by Oster, which missed by a few inches. Do you really want to know about Osterâ€™s shot from the left, 20 yards out, which sliced so far wide it went out for a throw in? Thought you didnâ€™t. Or Poutonâ€™s first time right footed drive from almost exactly the same position which slammed in to the empty seats 15 yards to the left of goal? Thought you didnâ€™t. Too late, youâ€™ve read it already.
Dribbling away to another silly defeat. And now it was confirmed. With a couple of minutes left Walsall got a throw in on the Town right, just inside the Town half. Lobbed down the touchline into space, Leitao chased it. Gavin was on the ground, Leitao running free. Santos sauntered over, backed off, allowed Leitao to turn. The ball was played back to WRACK, about 12 yards out, and well wide of goal, who hit a right foot drive with the outside of his boot, the ball swinging away from Coyne and high into the top left hand corner of the goal. What was Santos saying about concentration? A third stupid, sloppy, dopey, lazy goal conceded and all three points presented to Walsall on a rather cheap plastic tray.
Who cares how long was left, nothing happened, nothing would happen, of course. The performance was infinitely superior to the supine death throes of the Lawrence era that were served up a year ago. But the result was the same. Some of the Town players need a good clip round the ear for the cavalier way they treated this game. Walsall may have been poor, but you still have to do something about winning. The defence, almost to a man, has a tendency to raise the hand rather than chase back. Relying on the benevolence of linesmen is not a wise defensive strategy. Legs, as well as the right arm, have to move occasionally.
Whatâ€™s a clean sheet?
Nickoâ€™s man of the Match
Two candidates have been proposed. Alan Pouton, for his work rate, determination and a 20 minute spell of dynamism, but Nicko has opened the box and revealed TONY GALLIMORE as his choice. Pouton canâ€™t pass or shoot, Gallimore, apart from a 3 minute spell when Ainsworth first touched earth, was clam, sober, and solid.
Markâ€™s UnMan of the Match
John Oster for, frankly, mincing around in self indulgent fashion for the entire game. He has the skills to kill with simple passing. Itâ€™s Grimsby, not Hollywood.
Mr R Pearson
The only quibble is minor really, he booked a couple of players (Gallimore and possibly Gavin) for slightly miss-timed sliding tackles. In the conditions, he could have merely waggled his finger rather than his pencil. Unassuming, average, 6.108 for not falling over.
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