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Deepdull Dross: Preston Report
By: Tony Butcher
A GREY, gloomy, shivering afternoon with about 150-200 Town supporters wrapped in several layers of wool behind the goal to the right as seen on TV. My, what a strange construction Deepdale is. Part Hawthornes, part H G Wells.
Preston North End 3 Grimsby Town 0
14 Dec 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
An unfeasibly complex tripod-like Meccano construction held up the floodlights and there was plenty of pipework and breezeblocks to excite the amateur architects amongst us. As with many new stadia, there was a heady atmosphere of remote silence.
The Town players ambled around without purpose or conviction in the pre-match warm up like theyâ€™d rather be out Christmas shopping. The tannoy was so inaudible, just a series of mute grumbles, gurgles and mumbles that it needed Sherlock Holmes to deduce the Town squad. Town lined up in the all blue kit in a 4-4-2 formation, as follows: Coyne, Ford, Groves, Gavin, Gallimore, Oster, Coldicott, Santos, Pouton, Livingstone and Mansaram. The substitutes were Allaway, Ward, Cooke, Soames and Thompson. Brows were furrowed at the sight of Ford at right back, Santos in centre midfield, Pouton on the left and Oster on the right. The word "unbalanced" floated on the breeze. So no dietary tips from Terry Cooke today.
Preston kicked off towards the Town fans and ran around exactly like they did at Blundell Park just one month ago. A blur, a blizzard of white, like a novelty paperweight won at the Boysâ€™ Brigade Christmas fete. Town were lethargic and reactive or, to use a technical term, rubbish from the start. Within a couple of minutes, Preston had a couple of corners, the second of which, from the Town left, almost brought a goal. A short corner was eventually tipped back into the middle of the Town penalty area, about 15 yards out. The ball was flicked on and big Lucketti, on the right edge of the Town area, steered a right foot volley about 2Â½ inches wide of Coyneâ€™s left hand post. Another couple of minutes, another couple of deeply depressing moments of non-defending, the return of the Keystone Cops; hacking, thwacking, falling, then calling each other. Gavin giving Groves a fearful earful for some timid tackling.
Preston almost scored again with another cross from the Town left, steered wide of Coyneâ€™s left hand post. Almost an exact replica of the previous chance. Oh, and another cross fizzing towards the unmarked Cresswell. There were more moments of danger with Cresswell bursting down the channels and causing much flappage from the Town defence.
What was Townâ€™s response? Oster beat Edwards and, from deep inside the penalty area near the bye-line, crossed to their big centre half at the near post. What an awful game, and just 10 minutes gone. It was already lining up for a mundane stuffing, with the adequate defeating the atrocious. For the umpteenth time, Preston simply chipped the ball down the channel between Groves and Gallimore. Groves, 30 yards out, stretched, missed and crumpled. The ball zipped off the sodden turf and into the area. Coyne hesitated, then sprinted off his line towards the edge of his area about a dozen yards out. He dived across as Healy approached, missing the ball and sliding towards some crumbling masonry. Healy considered the invitation carefully before deciding not to avoid the grey mass approaching from the east. Over he went, out went the refereeâ€™s arm and a penalty it was. Game over. ALEXANDER waddled forward and whacked the ball down the centre left as Coyne dived right. We might as well have gone home there and then.
There was a Town counter, a near miss, a shot even. A brief, brief glimmer of artificial hope. After about a quarter of an hour, Town won a corner on the right which was hit high to the back of the area and there followed some comedic bumbling as boots were wafted by several innocent parties. But Preston had been fooled by a series of superficially slapstick shots which, to the untrained observer, looked like miss-hits. Finally, Groves, on the left edge of the area, hit a slicing, swerving..er thing, which sliced and swerved to the unmarked Oster on the right, about a dozen yards out and wide of goal. He controlled the ball and smacked a right-footed drive a foot or so over the angle of post and bar.
Ten more minutes of turgid Town, with no more than three passes made before either a whack in the air towards the immobile Livvo and the ineffective Mansaram (who was the only Town player who could raise sufficient energy to move) or a pass to a Preston player, cutting out that tiresome build up play. Not once, not twice, but three times a malady. Groves continued to have a total and utter shocker, seemingly incapable of co-ordination, his foot bone was not connected to his ankle bone.
Light relief came through a familiar source, the ever-reliable Gallimore. He used his arguable left foot to curl a clearance down the touchline, out of play and back in again. The ball chased the linesman down the line like he was Duncan Norville. Donâ€™t delude yourself, we didnâ€™t, it was already a case of how many from Preston. And here comes the second. After about 25 minutes, after the usual set of clearances and clashes in midfield, the ball ballooned up in the air near the halfway line on the Town left, with Groves and Cresswell jumping together. Suddenly, Cresswell was running flat out down the touchline towards the penalty area. Coldicott ran across but CRESSWELL stepped inside the most timid of tackles, continued forward and, on the edge of the six yard box, toe poked the ball between Coyneâ€™s legs.
And you know, this will surprise you, it didnâ€™t get any better. The only Town player who had been performing adequately had been Santos, whoâ€™d been cheered at every swiping, scything tackle. But even he started to make some basic errors, missing tackles and generally sinking towards the rotten standard of the rest. Preston attacked at their pleasure, but didnâ€™t seem to have the will to humiliate, settling for an ambling ascendancy with occasional bursts of intent from Healy and Cresswell. I have a vision of Cresswell bursting through the defence on the Town left and hitting a low shot just past Coyneâ€™s right hand post. Did it happen? Was it all a dream? There may have been more efforts on goal by Preston, but who cares? Coyne certainly did not make any saves in the first half and there werenâ€™t any more moments which excited the local population enough to utter a faint and distant "oooh".
You may wish to cut out and keep this next bit - Town had a shot and it was on target. Mansaram twisted, turned and curled a low left footed shot from the left edge of the Preston penalty area, which made their â€˜keeper lie on the ground and hold the ball. He seemed reluctant to let go of it. Perhaps intrigued by this strange slightly luminous lemon object that had come from afar. There isnâ€™t anything else that could possible be described in the first half. Even before the second goal a few Town fans were bemoaning the failure of time to move at the pace of modern life. The ten Town teenagers decided to taunt some local school children, just for something to do. Youâ€™ll be pleased to know they managed a score draw. One thing looked clear, changes were needed at half time, with Groves the most likely to disappear. Quite ironic, given that he hardly appeared in the first half.
Half time: Preston North End 2 Grimsby Town 0
There were three points available to any one who could be bothered. Or, more likely, stay awake.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"My Dadâ€™s not big on subterfuge. Heâ€™s a lorry driver."
The report continues in the second half.
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