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22/12 Sheff Wed 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO changes in personnel were made by either team at half time, though Oster and Campbell switched wings. And the effect was immediate. Oster was far more effective on the left, and Campbell, simply by standing in the right places, afforded protection to Ward.
Grimsby Town 2 Sheffield Wednesday 0
21 Dec 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
Town kicked off and tore into Wednesday. Instead of simpleminded whacks forward, the ball was deliberately played to the body of our strikers, or down channels for Mansaram to chase.
After a couple of minutes a town break down the right saw the ball chipped for Mansaram to chase. He hassled, harried and clipped a cross through the 6 yards box towards Livingstone. Livvo was surrounded by three defenders and was flattened. The ball was cleared for a Town corner and Livingstone got up and grabbed Monk by the throat, in response to an unsly crack on the ankles. The crowd rose to acclaim this mud-wrestling just yards from the Pontoon, and the referee gave them both a long, stern lecture on civics before play resumed. As Pouton prepared to take the corner on the Town left, Oster sprinted away from the near post, taking at least one defender within. Pouton continued with Plan A, subsection (d), and curled the ball to the far post. Pressman started to perambulate down the prom-prom-prom, where the brass bands play, taking in some cleansing sea airs. He collided with some ladies of leisure, sometimes known as his defence, and on the edge of the 6 yards box, whilst level with the far post, a great bird rose, like a golden Phoenix. SANTOS hung upon the air, a steely, gimlet eyed albatross, and powerfully headed the ball across towards the near post, where the ball bounced under a defenders flapping boot, hit the post and flew across into the far side netting. The crowd rose to salute this man of pleasure as he paraded before the Pontoon and down towards the Main Stand, where he lay down upon the turf before the managers' dug out and the Town players laid hands upon this new deity. Which is a bit different from the Buckley days of a firm handshake and a manly nod of approval.
Emotion! And an ex-Blade to boot. Added Schadenfruede. The Town fans rocked and rolled, taunting the now silent Sheffielders with songs, laughter, and jokes old and new. Were we counting our turkeys too soon? Yep, almost.
Within a minute, Campbell tried an outrageous flick between his legs near the half way line. Well, we were outraged as he only succeeded in setting up a Wednesday counter attack. Kuqi hared away (ironic given his tonsure) down the right touchline. And on. And on. And on, into the penalty area and, about 10 yards out and 6 or 7 wide of goal, poked a shot wide of Coyne and a foot or so wide of Coyne's left hand post. His unmarked colleagues in the centre of goal were displeased. We weren't. Around this time there was a hubbub in the open space between the Smiths/Stones/Findus and the permanently temporary seats. It soon became filled with orange and yellow, as stewards and police became the bung in the bottle.
Town roared forward, with Oster finding the left side to his satisfaction, drifting into those dark spaces between defenders; teasing with his turns, pleasing with his passing. A half break down the Town left saw the ball returned to Barnard, on the touchline, about 10 yards inside the Wednesday half. Oster suddenly sprinted forward and Barnard played the most perfect pass down the touchline, around his marker and the full back. Oster cut inside the penalty area and, from about 8 yards wide of goal and 5 out from the touchline, dinked the ball back towards the goal as a defender made a desperate last ditch sliding tackle. MANSARAM, on the edge of the 6 yards box and level with the near post, tried to sweep the ball majestically in to the top corner, but missed the ball, Monk diverting it into the net off our little dazzler's shins. The ball trundled slowly into the bottom right hand corner as Pressman fell backwards, like an old Redwood Tree, tired of life. Who cares about the style, it was in, a goal, and a thoroughly deserved one for the Yorkie in our midst. Ah, the exception to the rule? The Town fans were quite content, and made public their satisfaction at such an unexpected turn of events. Mainly by jumping up and down like Kangaroos in search of a lavatory, and honking like bull seals in Spring.
Game over? Not with Town. There was 40 more minutes of apprehension and tension to go through. The game was still a great big fight, with the odd psychopathic Pouton attack on the ball, and a few underhand kicks and stamps from little Wednesdayites, principally aimed at Santos. The big man was big enough to rise above such childish things today, at one point getting up and turning his back on an Owl where once he would have flicked the miscreant away with a Gallic backhander. Just after the second goal, Wednesday missed another sitter. A corner from their left was swung into the middle of the box, perhaps 8 yards out. Sibon jumped, unmarked, and headed powerfully at Coyne, who made a reaction parry to his left. The ball was momentarily ballooning towards the corner of the net, but Ford managed to hook the ball away as a striker swung his boot. The referee gave a goal kick, and no-one around me was complaining. A few minutes later the compulsory daft defending moment arrived. A huge welly downfield arrived near Santos, deep inside the Town half, with no Owl near. Santos allowed the ball to bounce and headed it back to Barnard, near the left edge of the penalty area. He dallied so long that a forward awoke from his slumbers, so Barnard tried to pass back to Coyne, but underhit it. Coyne's fly-kick was charged down and the ball squirmed sideways across the edge of the penalty area towards an unmarked striker. Just as he was about to roll the ball into the empty net Ford slid in from behind to nick the ball away. Phew. They would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for our pesky kid. And soon Kuqi was off in a huff, being replaced by Proudlock. Mmmmm Proudlock, the young man who refused to come to Town on loan as he didn't want to go to a team in danger of relegation. Unlike Wednesday of course who, on this logic, are down already? Town threatened frequently on the break, with Mansaram tormenting the defence with his voracious appetite for chasing lost causes. There were some "nearly" moments, with crosses and passes that were intercepted as Town players were about to shoot. Or Coldicott had the ball.
After about 65 minutes Town nearly scored again. A Barnard corner from the right was glanced across goal by Ford, through the 6 yards box, past Livvo and several works of public art in yellow. Oster retrieved the ball as it was about to go out and, from the bye line, about 10 yards wide of goal, chipped a hanging cross over Pressman. Santos steamed in and, from about 5 yards out with two defenders hanging on to his ego for dear life, thudded a header against the cross bar. Wednesday didn't give up and pounded the Town area with crosses and long balls. The long balls didn't work, but the crosses did, almost. Some little man scurried down their left and cross into the middle of the penalty area. Sibon, unmarked, stretched forward and from about 8 yards out, steered the ball wide of Coyne's left hand post. Proudlock, about 20 yards out on their left, hit the top of the scoreboard, the ball ending up in Chapman's Pond. Sibon, again about 8 yards out, headed another left wing cross woefully weakly into Coyne's arms. A corner from the Wednesday left, swung into the middle of the area about 6 yards out was headed over by persons unknown (I'm sorry I could not pick them out in a police identity parade, and they left no fingerprints or DNA) as Coyne stood two yards behind, punching the air in slow motion, like Sylvester Stallone in *that* film.
There were probably other Wednesday near misses, but none that really registered down at the Pontoon. The game had 0-0 written all over it, but somehow Town had scored two. Town roused themselves to attack occasionally, with Oster vibrant and full of venom, even tackling firmly. After about 75 minutes a Pouton corner from the left, swung into the near post, about a dozen yards out, was glanced a foot wide of the left hand post by Ford. In the last few minutes Mansaram was set free inside the penalty area, just 6 yards out, behind the defence and with all the time in the world, or so he thought. With Mansaram playing at 33rpm, and the rest of the world at 45, Monk slid in from behind and knocked the ball out for a corner. With about 5 minutes left Ward was replaced by Gavin, a straight swap, no tactical or positional changes were made. Gavin touched the ball a couple of times, looking solid enough. The last few minutes were taken up with Town time wasting, principally through Barnard and Livvo. Good old Livvo, he chased everything, trying his best to keep up with play, and dropping back to assist the defence at the end. We even had the remarkable sight of Livvo matching a defender stride for stride. Let's just draw the most discrete (and heavy) veils over the matter of Livvo's elbows. Best not to mention it in front of the children, it'll frighten them.
Two minutes of added time meandered through to the predictable position of the referee ending the game. Up went the Town fans, off went to Wednesdayites. The Town players saluted the fans and vice versa. Happy Christmas.
Not a great game, not a wonderful performance, as Wednesday created a numerous clear chances. But they didn't score 'em. And never looked like scoring, even if they'd been left alone for several days. For Town, this performance was light years from the inept flounderings at Deepdale. Collectively, there was a will, a purpose, with Pouton almost reckless in his attempts to command every inch of the pitch. The defence was fine down the centre, with the flanks just a little flakey (bring back Galli and Macca and all will be right with the world). Campbell didn't seem to do anything, but his presence was enough at times, with Oster much more effective on the left. Just keep him there will you, Mr G.
So, clear black and white water between Town and those perennial strugglers, which is nice. How can we account for this change in fortunes? Must be those yellow bibs.
Nicko's Man of the Match
Extremely honourable mentions in dispatches to the meaty, beaty, big and bouncy Pouton, who has been energised by the threat to his Sponsors' MoM awards, and the effervescent Mansaram. But you know and I know, it's the big man. He's massif, he's immense, he's awesome when his head is screwed on right. He's GEORGES SANTOS. Are you?
M Halsey. Quite Admirable, as he DIDN'T send off Livvo. For once, bonus points to a referee for not doing what he should have done. Overall he kept the play going, one or two decisions that baffled, but nothing too serious on the whole. He was ok. 7.102.
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