Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
New Boots and Santos: Sheff Wed Report
By: Tony Butcher
A GREY, chill, still afternoon with the Osmond End completely full of yodelling Yorkists, with barely an empty seat to be seen. Except the front the row of the Upper Smiths/Stones/Findus, which was curiously devoid of much humanity.
Grimsby Town 2 Sheffield Wednesday 0
21 Dec 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
Town warmed up in yellow bibs, so a win was inevitable as the green had been cast into the vast cesspit of history. The pre-match entertainment was devoid of comic potential, until just before the teams ran out, when a group of teenage girls appeared in short Santa outfits. After much shuffling and nudging they eventually got themselves into what some would call a formation. Well, perhaps Lennie Lawrence was the choreographer - no width, running around without rhyme or reason, I'm sure that each individual was dancing in time with themselves. A cruel old cynic observed "less Cheeky Girls, more chunky girls". Bah, Humbug!
The pre-match kick-about saw much head scratching in the Pontoon, with ifs and buts and caveats, if not cravats, much in evidence. So is Groves at centre back? Santos? Ford at right back, or Ward, or Coldicott? Who is left back? Did anyone see Gavin? Who? Where? What? How? Errr?
Well, as 3 o'clock approached, Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows :- Coyne, Ward, Ford, Santos, Barnard, Oster, Coldicott, Pouton, Campbell, Livingstone and Mansaram. The substitutes were Allaway, Groves, Cooke, Gavin and Soames. Ah-ha, so that's what the team is. Another completely new back four, with two rickety full backs and strutting, sauntering centre backs. What's more, fluttering, flicking Oster was on the right with wandering Ward behind him, all alone with no particular place to go. I think it's called flying by the seat of your pants, Mr G. Let's hope Town weren't pants as a result. The result, that's what was important, we didn't care how we got there, we just wanted the result. Let's close our eyes and hope for the best. Were off!
Sheffield Wednesday kicked off, in a fetching bright yellow and pale blue ensemble, towards the Pontoon. Old habits die hard, they clearly still think they are a Premiership team, for they tippy-tapped the ball around and resolutely refused to belt it out of play for a throw in.
To come to terms with loss (something they should have got used to by now) one has to accept reality. You're a first division team so whack it out of play 15 yards from the opposition bye-line. It's the law.
A cheap, mocking point, ! know, for they did actually keep possession effectively and forced a minor moment of temporary concern with a bit of interplay and a cross. The sheer size of their forwards, bulky and sulky, Kuqi and Sibon, caused a bit of concern, as did the thought of the huge Crane (unfortunately not called Derrick but Tony) at centre half lolloping forward at set pieces. But we forgot something, we've got lovable old softy Georges Santos now, 6 foot 5 and wheels of steel. Town had some kind of move down the right, resulting in an Oster cross which was clasped to his ample bosom like an asp by the diving Pressman, who was later asked to expose his sexy body by the partying Pontoon. A minute or so later, Mansaram had a shot, from the edge of the area, which went straight to the widest goalkeeper in association football history.
So a couple of minutes gone and all is fair in love and bore. We then had long periods of tedium, with the ball up in the air for days on end. They whacked it high to their big centre forwards and the Town defenders headed it high away. As their defenders were taller than the Town strikers, they simply headed it high back towards their huge strikers. Heads, heads, heads, snore. Town were playing into Wednesday's hands, with the head tennis broken only by back passes to Coyne, who simply whacked the ball high down the middle, thus setting the cycle going again. Like a huge tape loop - whack, header, header, header, whack, header, header, whack. Throw in. Whack, header, header, header, whack, header, header, whack. Throw in. Michael Palin popped in and uttered "Don't you get a sense of dÃ©jÃ vu?". Yes, nicest man in Britain, we do.
Ah at last, something worthy of description. A Wednesday free kick on the touchline in front of the howling Lower Stones/Findus/Smiths stand (it was never a free kick!) was chipped towards the edge of the penalty area. Kuqi made a curling run around a bunch of static defenders to head firmly down and a foot or so wide of Coyne's right hand post. Coyne ambled across his line, as the ball was always drifting wide. Luckily for him. Any more? Well, Mansaram was being a right pest to the Wednesday defence: twisting, turning, rolling and raiding. He surprised Pressman with a snap shot on the turn form 20 yards, way to the left of goal (that's the Town left not "theirs"). The shot went straight into the ample girth of the aged Wednesdayite at his near post. Ooh, hang on, how could I forget - Pouton in "left foot shot shock". Pouton in "shot stays in ground shock". Leaving aside the Pouton shot which dribbled a few yards wide of Pressman's left hand post after an outrageous goose-step step-over (it stayed in the ground - progress!) there was a quite exquisite move down the Town right, started by Ward. The ball was fizzed up to Mansaram in the centre, he rolled away from his marker and played a pass out to Livingstone, on the right edge of the penalty area. Livvo controlled, turned and passed back inside all in one longish movement. Pouton ran forward and tried a first time swiping, left foot shot, which cannoned off a defender and looped over Pressman, landing on the roof of the net in the centre. We oohed more in surprise than excitement. The scoreboard had been turned off, just in case Pouton shot.
Apart from a Coldicott booking for something not apparent to the Pontoon, and Livvo being booked for a frightening perpendicular tackle, the game was devoid of much incident. The referee was clearly getting annoyed with Town's moaning, especially when a pass was played up to Mansaram just inside the Wednesday area. He tried to spin past his marker, but the ball hit his marker's hand and was cleared. Mansaram, Pouton and, most of all, Barnard berated the referee all the way down the pitch and could be clearly heard arguing with the green man, even in front of the Pontoon. They also started to complain about what Wednesdayites would claim are firm but fair challenges, but to the trained Town eye looked like forearms to the back of Livvo's neck. A particularly sensitive area of his body.
All of which is pussy footing around the fact that it was a very poor football match, but high on commitment. So the tackles were flying in, with Pouton the most incredibly reckless, fortunately missing with two terrifying sliding full frontal assaults on defenders. But still Wednesday were in the ascendancy, with Town under pressure. Johnstone, on their left, had enough space to form a commune, with Oster ignoring defensive duties and Ward looking permanently startled, like a footballing Ken Dodd. After about 20 or so minutes, Johnstone and Geary exchanged passes down the touchline and in a bound, like a Victorian hero, Johnstone was free. He veered into the penalty area, got to the bye-line and laid a slow pass back to an onrushing, anonymous midfielder. The shot, from just inside the penalty area, about 15 yards out, was miss-hit, and bumbled and bombled across the towards the Coyne's left hand post. The Town fans sank into their seats and prepared for disappointment. As the ball entered the 6 yards box, as if by magic, the Campbell appeared to knee the ball away from a Sheffield Wednesday player stood near the far post. So that's where Campbell had been; like the first cuckoo in spring, this called for a celebration. So we cheered.
Town's sporadic attacks were centred upon Mansaram, who again managed to twist and turn his way past his marker on the left, before whizzing a low cross to the near post which made Pressman flop like a stranded whale at Donna Nook at his near post. Enough to "Oooo". But still Wednesday pressed forward, waiting for a mistake. And they got one. Santos, the rabid rock, lunged forward on the left edge of the Town penalty area to intercept an uninteresting punt forward, He slipped and managed to slip over and slice the ball high in the air. Kuqi ran on as Coyne ran out, then ran back again. Kuqi looked up, saw hordes of yellow wildebeest flowing across the savannah and managed to roll the ball to Barnard at the near post. Phew, wasteful Wednesday number two. Where are we now? Way past the half hour mark. Still the football was, frankly, dreadful, as it always is against *them*, from *that* Sheffield. Whichever *them* it is. Oh, here we go again. More humping and lumping from Wednesday. With a huge clearance from Crane whacked up down their inside right channel. Barnard waited under the ball, Santos drifted across and managed to jump into Barnard, the ball bouncing back off the international superstar's back. With the two Town defenders wrestling like Alan Bates and Oliver Reed, though clothed, thankfully, Kugi was alone, on the centre edge of the penalty area and free to score at will. He decided to hit a hooking, swinging first time right foot volley, which comfortably floated a foot or so over the centre of Coyne's goal. There were other moments of danger created, principally through their wingers shredding the under protected Town full backs, but nothing tangible resulted. Johnstone curled a cross over Coyne and a few inches past the far post when completely free inside the Town area on the left. Geary surged but crossed back to Coldicott. Kugi headed wide at the near post. Sibon minced. One of their anonymous midfielders shot softly wide. Nothing to get hung up about.
The last five minutes of the first half were by far Town's best, with Livvo receiving a pass on the right of the Wednesday area, turning and crossing through the 6 yards box as Pressman and the defenders stared at each other, panicking in public. The resulting corner, taken by Barnard and officially described, as it was being hit, as "terrible" by a moany old Pontoonite, was clipped to the unmarked Pouton, right in the centre on the edge of the area. Pouton shocked all by shaping his body beautifully and cracking a left foot volley a foot or so wide of Pressman's left hand post. And that was the first half. Oh, there were the usual clatterings and clashings, huge swingeing scything tackles form both sides, with the referee finally booking an Owl for a shatteringly late, pre-meditated hack at Oster. A weird offside decision against Livvo who was flagged when, after attempting to pass the ball back to Oster, it was intercepted by a defender and kicked straight back to him. Huh? We should be used to it by now, but we still get indignant. Town were rather fortunate to be level at half time, with Wednesday having by far the clearer opportunities, and most of the possession. If heading the ball a lot counts as possession. It was a refined third division type of football, but not very. Unsubtle and very basic, they relied on running around and a bit of individual trickery from their foreign strikers, neither of whom looked that bothered.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0
The really annoying thing was that Town were letting Wednesday dictate the game, and rather dumbly trying to do the same thing - whacking it forward as high as possible, with rarely an attempt to build from the back. Blame the defence? Not really. They spent most of the time heading it clear. Whenever Coyne got the ball he dropped kicked it. Town were, quite simply, playing stupidly.
At least it was half time.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Now that hair's a long way from ho-o-o-o-o-o-o-ome".
The report continues in the second half.
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