Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
14/12 Preston 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
SURE enough, changes were made. Groves was replaced by Cooke, with Santos retreating to centre half, Oster to the left and Pouton back into the centre. The whole thrust of the game was changed for several seconds, with Cooke shimmering down the right and whipping a dangerous cross to the near post.
Preston North End 3 Grimsby Town 0
14 Dec 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
And that is the full extent of Townâ€™s attacking in the second half. If you are feeling extremely benevolent, then Gallimore attempted a low, volleyed cross which went straight to their â€˜keeper, and Santos made two poor, long passes which sailed slowly into the gloves of an under-used athlete. Strictly speaking, I suppose, they were goal bound efforts.
Gazes wandered to the skies. Salvation in a snow storm? No such luck. Saved by smog? Alas no. Fog? Face the facts - the weather wouldnâ€™t rescue Town. Well, what about trauma. Amid cries for help from the psychologically distressed Town fans, the referee refused to abandon the game when Skora was stretchered off, having failed to live up to his name. He sauntered across the area from their right, drifted past defenders and, from 20 yards out, Poutoned a shot towards Morecambe Bay. He fell to earth clutching his head, seemingly in embarrassment. After a long delay, he was taken away by men in fluorescent jackets. Perhaps litter would stop play? Nope, despite the Preston â€˜keeper being circled and attacked by crisp packets, like vultures in a Western, the referee ignored the cries of "Stop this farce". He had, after all, no reason to run down that end of the pitch. Clearly, nothing was going to stop this game.
Soon after Cookeâ€™s cross, Preston had a corner on their left which was swung into the centre of the penalty area and headed just over the bar by one of their balding bruisers, probably Murdock. On the hour, another Preston corner, this time on their right, was slung high, way beyond the far post, way out of the penalty area. A pass inside and a cross arcing into the centre of the goal on the six yard line. Santos, stretching, lunging and hacking, sliced a clearance up towards Venus. The ball dropped down near Coyneâ€™s right hand post, bounced up and back towards goal. As two Preston players jumped at him, Coyne flapped the ball back across goal. HEALY eventually hooked a right foot poke through the sea of blue and into the left hand corner as Coyne fumed about something or other. No one cared or bothered about the possible foul on him, certainly not the referee.
Town subtly changed their method after this. Instead of passing directly to Preston players, they kicked it out of play. This did the trick. There was whole chunk of the second half, the 15 minutes after the goal, which contained nothing that pedants would describe as football. Gallimore lost his temper, throwing the ball back to Coyne in a stroppy way, earning from the home fans a sarcastic, Mark Lawrenson impression. "Oo-er" they chirruped. A few minutes later Galli may have been booked. Iâ€™m sorry, I lost interest when the referee gave Preston a throw in and I started to read the advertising hoardings. The Preston tannoy announcer took pity on all present and gave us a five minute Norman Collier impression. The splurts and gurgles emanating from the speakers for a second at a time were most entertaining. Was that a power chord? Name that tune. Is he singing? Is he being ill? What was that!
Then the game got a bit salty. Pouton reacted to a second whack from behind by shoving his assailant in the chest and "upper neck". A free kick to Town and Pouton was booked. A few minutes later and Gavin was slashed across the back of his calves in most unsubtle fashion. Gavin grabbed his little attacker, shoved him around, put an Irish finger in his face and generally made public his private anguish. A Town free kick, Gavin was booked and... the linesman furiously flagged. After a brief discussion, the referee wandered over to Pouton, waved another yellow card in his face and then dismissively aired a red card at him. Pouton went ballistic, Rodger stratospheric. Ward immediately replaced Mansaram and yet another major re-organisation followed. Ward to right back, Ford to centre back, Santos to the centre of a midfield three, with Oster wandering lonely as a cloud. No matter how much more of this you read, there wonâ€™t be another Town shot. That Cooke cross was the high point, or should that be least low point. A Town fan to my right never moved a muscle in the second half, staring ahead with eyes fixed. Had he frozen? He looked like a zombie (non-flesh eating variety). Heâ€™d been reduced to a temporary vegetative state by the Town turnips.
Preston now had even more space into which they poured bodies and occasionally the ball. Broomes came on at some point, which only a handful of Town fans noticed or bothered about Fortunately, Broomesâ€™ surge and shot down their right brought a goal kick, as the ball drifted just wide of Coyneâ€™s left hand post. Cresswell surged down their left, cut in and curled a drive a few feet wide of the same goalpost. Etuhu, unmarked at the near post, headed a cross from the left a foot or so wide of the other goalpost. Getting closer to that irrelevant fourth. And here it..isnâ€™t. A fast break down the Preston left saw Lewis (I think) hit a perfect dipping cross into the centre of the penalty area, Healy sprinted forward and, from about 8 yards out, headed powerfully straight at Coyne. A save at last! His first since November 30. Coyne protected his face with an instinctive parry, sending the ball high above his head and managing to catch it on the goal-line as it dropped and a couple of burly Prestonians approached. Apart from a couple of crosses wonkily cleared by Santos, that was all folks. The ten Town teenagers started to sing "Thereâ€™s only one Clive Mendonca" for no real reason other than seasonal ill will. They declined to sing a song for Jackie Bestall. How soon these people forget.
There were four minutes of added time which, it was announced, were "brought to us in association with" some sponsor or other. What has football come to when the added time is sponsored? I could go through every player and comment - a complete waste of time. Collectively and individually Town were dreadful, approaching the dross served up in the Reading game. The worrying thing is that there were arguments between players, or should I say between players and Gavin, who appears free in apportioning blame to his colleagues. We had the weird sight of Santos acting as an arbitrator at one point, calming people down. Now that is not what we signed him for.
Is there a positive to take from this? No.
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
If it was compulsory to choose one, it would be he who is referred to by the chairman as "our French colleague". But his performance was better than the rest only because the others were so, so poor. So NO-ONE.
Markâ€™s Un-man of the Match
So many to choose from but, with a huge sigh, I have to say PAUL GROVES, who looked shot as a first division player. If one clings by the fingertips to the positive, one would hope that he miss-judged his physical condition in returning before he was fully fit.
Mr P Prosser. Which, as everyone can see, rhymes with something. He did not appear to understand why people fell over in particular ways. He let things pass at times, applying sense, but at others was eager to book. Why he booked a Preston player for colliding with a Town striker only he knows. The Pouton sending off was at the behest of the linesman, so he neither gains, nor loses points for that. He gets 5.21. I donâ€™t know why, it just feels right.
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