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The Kids are Alright: Derby Report
By: Tony Butcher
A STILL but initially chill day in some wasteland on the edge of town. Around 750 Town fans of all ages, sizes and hairstyles gathered behind the goal to the right (as seen on television) with absolutely no expectation of anything other than midland misery.
Derby County 1 Grimsby Town 3
26 Dec 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
After watching the warm up (used bright orange bibs today, thankfully ditching the unlucky green) those expectations somehow got lower. I donâ€™t see any wobble, whereâ€™s Barnard? Pouton? Livvo? Who are those guys? A first aider was almost required as someone nearly fainted at the sight of an incredible hulk sauntering in blue. Chettle? A man lost in the mists of time, so long ago, was he just a dream?
As you can tell, there was much confusion on the terraces as we played the game of guess the team. Then guess the position of each of them. No-one won, for Town lined up in a 4-5-1 formation (initially described as 4 - everyone else) as shown. Youâ€™ll need some clues as to who played where, as there were 5 centre backs, 3 wingers, a fullish back and one striker. Coyne was easy to predict, as he continued to play in goal. The rest drew lots to see who played left back and lithe, speedy Steve Chettle *won*. Pass the smelling salts. Chettle at left back? Yep, and Gavin at right back. Santos and Ford in the middle. Now midfield was an interesting Heath Robinson contraption. Groves was the rock in the centre, flanked by Ward on the right and Campbell on the left. Cooke was a right winger and Oyster (as the tannoy claimed) was at left wing. At that just left Mansaram, all alone for Christmas. The combined age of the substitutes only just surpassed Chettleâ€™s age in earth years. So we sat back, awaiting the inevitable slaughter of the innocents. How well would the Town Reserve team do against the club that used to be Wolves, and now can be again. One always needs something to aspire to.
For those excited by these things, there was a park and ride scheme operating from the car park to the ground. Hop on a golf buggy and a man in bright clothing would whisk you away to a fantastic land of fantastic possibilities.
As the teams were announced, the Derby fans sang "Who are you" at the Town players. Coincidentally, that was exactly what the Town fans were singing.
Derby kicked off towards the Town support and the first couple of minutes were uneventful, giving plenty of opportunities to gaze in puzzlement at the pitch. Just what was the Derby formation? It seemed they had three at the back, with two wing backs. Christie was up front, but in between it was difficult to tell, perhaps they all stood together because of the chill, as their shirts were a little too thin. Whatever, it suited Town perfectly as there was no overt width in the Derby team, leaving Chettle unmolested, for the time being.
After a couple of minutes the ball was played back to Coyne, who took an interminable time to wind himself up to welly the ball down field. Timewasting already? Eventually, Coyne cracked a long punt down field onto Mansaramâ€™s head. Well, I think it was Mansaram. Coyne had taken so long eyes had started to wander. Yes, I stick with Mansaram, who, on the Town centre right, just inside the Derby half, flicked the ball on towards the corner of the penalty area. The Derby left back (tall, gormless, hopeless) turned like a three legged ox weighed down by a rusty plough and Cooke was away. From the edge of the area, perhaps 10 yards out, Cooke drove in a cross that seemed to curl away from goal. The goalkeeper managed to parry the ball into the ground and it continued on through the goalmouth. OSTER ran in from just beyond the far post and headed the ball back across the â€˜keeper and, well, there is only one way to describe it - in. A little corner of Derby that will be forever Grimsby erupted in a huge guffaw. A disbelieving hoot and howl of incredulous joy. Followed 2.43 seconds later by "It wonâ€™t last".
Derby ran around a bit more, with Gregory pacing the touchline whistling to his players like a demented farmer with a querulous pack of hounds. It was slightly disconcerting to see the movement of Christie (especially) when Derby attacked, always peeling, darting, spinning into spaces between defenders. But weâ€™ve got Georges. The next effort on goal was, again, Town, following on from some lovely passing and movement down the right, a blur of blue shirted marauders. A corner from the right, curled high and away from goal by Oster to Groves, about 10 yards out and 5 wide of goal. He knocked a loopy header back across goal and the goalkeeper got in an awful tizz, almost catching a defenderâ€™s head, rather than the ball, as it arced past him towards the top left hand corner. The ball dropped off some part of his anatomy and he managed to fall on it as it bombled around inside the 6 yards box. All very nice so far, with Town knocking the ball around pleasingly, none of this whack it to Livvoâ€™s head nonsense that often sums up away performances.
Ah, but Derby couldnâ€™t be so dreary for 90 minutes. Could they? Surely they would realise Chettle was at left back? Ah, here it comes, here comes the fright. A whirling dervish of a move down the centre saw Morris and Christie exchanging passes and spinning, like a wheel within a wheel. The shot was a wretched waste, sliced wide and high from the centre edge of the penalty area. But Derby started to get up a head of steam, probing, thrusting, falling over. Their first real effort on goal was a Christie bicycle kick from about 8 yards out, to the left of goal. This followed a corner, a bit of head tennis, a scramble and the Christie extravaganza, which bounced across the face of goal and into Coyneâ€™s arms. Derby werenâ€™t actually creating any clear chances, just crosses that drifted into happiness behind the goal, or straight onto Santosâ€™ huge head. The greatest danger for Town was Gavin, who kept heading sideways across the pitch, instead of clearing. This resulted in three chances for Derby players to advance on the penalty area. Each time they wildly sliced the shot towards the furthest outpost of the Town support, the ones almost sat in the car park. It was noticeable that the Derby players all struck their long shots the same; a swipe across the ball, trying for power and for a fade away from the â€˜keeper. Fine by us, as the shots kept swaying away, never, ever, looking likely to bring tears to Town.
Whoah, you lost concentration there, just like the Town defence. Suddenly the ball was played over the top, down the centre right after a bit of slackness from Town. Christie was away, alone, and sprinting. Into the penalty area, towards the corner of the 6 yards box. Coyne stayed on his line, Christie drew back his foot and was about to shoot. The Town fans sank back below their seats in preparation for the equaliser, then rose as one to acclaim the greatest tackle since sliced bread. Santos, of course Santos, had glided back gracefully across the turf, floating, not touching the ground. As Christie prepared to shoot Georges was still 3 yards behind, but he leapt forward and clamped his legs around everything that moved, dinking the ball away for a corner. Câ€™est magnfique. He hovered above the barley and swooped like a hawk upon the poor, unsuspecting fieldmouse, with barely a blade of grass disturbed. A surgical strike, quite, quite brilliant, and fully deserving of the roaring rousing standing ovation. Still Derby huffed and puffed, but were not forcing Coyne into making any saves. Or should that be the Town defenders ensured that Coyne didnâ€™t have to sully his shorts.
Ah, spoke to soon. Oster knocked a corner to Campbell, standing outside the penalty area on the centre right. Campbell took too long and was dispossessed, crumpling and claiming a free kick. Play on! Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. With just Ward and Gavin back, Derby broke forward in huge numbers, which appeared to exceed 10. A sheet of white came towards us, a blizzard even. Morris was free on their left, with seemingly nothing between him and Coyne. When he got to the edge of the penalty area, he tried to flip the ball inside to the unmarked Christie, but only succeeded in smacking the ball against Grovesâ€™ thigh. The ball arced gently towards goal, as Coyne was momentarily wrong footed. A minor gulp from the Town fans, as an own gaol looked likely. But, fortunately, there was little pace and the ball looped gently straight into Coyneâ€™s midriff. What were we worried about? This Derby team looked clueless, and without heart. They were never going to score.
And then they did, just after the half hour mark. The Town defence knocked the ball around in midfield, just inside the Derby half. Eventually the ball was played out to Chettle, who took an age before trying to knock a chip towards Mansaram. Whoops, a Derby player charged down the chip, with the ball rebounding into the Town half, where there was no-one but Coyne, far, far away, a ships smoke on the horizon. Morris, previously comfortably numb, suddenly woke up and exited his own half, pursued by a bear. Santos caught up with him, but back pedalled, and back pedalled, and was now inside the Town penalty area, on the centre left. MORRIS kept on going in a straight line and, from about 15 yards out, curled the ball over and around Coyne into the middle right hand side of the goal. Yes, thatâ€™s right Derby supporters, we arenâ€™t singing anymore. Not at the moment, anyway.
Derby tried to up the pace and Gregory, again, changed the tactics. At one point Barton ran over to Farmer Giles for a natter and was clearly given instructions to stand on their right touchline. It only took Gregory half an hour to realise that Oster was not tracking back much and Chettle was often a solitary, but not sad, figure. This resulted in a series of crosses which produced not one chance for Derby. Santos and Ford headed, kneed, shinned, and occasionally used ESP to guide the ball away from goal. There were moments that the locals may claim were chances, but they werenâ€™t. Morris shinned a volley at Coyne from a dozen yards, but the referee had already given Town a free kick. A couple of superficially interesting moves across the face of the Town penalty area brought Derby the opportunity to slice more shots wide. Ah, 38 minutes and Coyne had to make a save. A corner was half cleared to Lee, about 30 yards out in the centre. For once, a long shot was on target, but luckily for Town it was fairly straight and Coyne only had to hop half a step to his left to tip the ball over the bar. Which he did. Town were not a moribund attacking force, just that there were not may clear shots. A Groves header over the bar from a corner, A Gavin header softly to the â€˜keeper from another corner. Oh yes, the moment that caused 437 of the Town supporters some embarrassment. A neat build up down the Town centre and right saw the ball played back to Groves, on the right edge of the penalty area. Grovesâ€™ cross shot careered off a defender and spun a foot or so wide of the â€˜keeperâ€™s near post, hit the metal pole behind the goal and ran across the back of the net. Some thought we had scored, they were red facedly wrong.
There were two minutes of added time in the first half, so the referee played three, just to give Derby a few extra opportunities, but they werenâ€™t good enough to create anything. And that was the first half. Funny, very funny, from the Town perspective. A ramshackle bunch of misfits, all the wrong players in the wrong positions and theyâ€™d played superbly, all things considered. If only the Derby supporters knew that they were playing a mixture of reserves and youth teamers, theyâ€™d have been even more annoyed than they were. For they were starting to turn, like an old cream pudding. Each misplaced cross, witless wallop and stumbling tumble was met by a steadily increasing rumble and growl. The principle target seemed to be their number 17, Boertien, who was appalling: just think Lever on a bad day playing as a winger. The boy Boertien looked like someone who won a game of footy in a Christmas raffle We liked him immensely. Despite a few wobbles (and the goal), Chettle had played admirably, sitting deep and not allowing any stray Derby player to get too close and thus swish past him. Santos was continuing his reinvention as renaissance footballer, Mr Calm, Mr Cool, the peacemaker, the steadying influence at the heart of the team. And that tackle. Buy the video just for that tackle. Everyone else was doing their job: Ward, scurrying around as a disciplined defensive midfielder, blocking and not shocking; Campbell too, making some clever, dangerous runs from midfield to support the brave Mansaram, who received a whack in the back, then a kick up the calf in quick succession. But he, and no-one else, ever gave up or watched as a Derby player ran past. They all worked and worked and worked, covering, tackling, shackling. Even Cooke was doing bizarre things, like a triple spin inside the Town penalty area, to dribble the ball away to safety. But it wasnâ€™t all defence, there was some good old style Town passing going on. Whoâ€™d have thought that at 3 oâ€™clock?
Half time: Derby County 1 Grimsby Town 1
The half time entertainment was a penalty shoot out in front of the Town supporters. Little Derby fans against Little Town fans, with the Derby Mascot in goal. Every Derby penalty was saved, and every Town penalty was scored coolly. Heroes all.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"I was woken up by a non-existent church organ".
The report continues in the second half.
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