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Boulding for Soup: Wimbledon Report
By: Tony Butcher
A BRIGHT, chilly, windless day in dreary, weary old SE London. Humanity? Nowhere to be seen: the occasional old lady pottering to buy some carrots for her boiling beef, two policeman walking back from the shops with their sandwiches, a young man returning a video cassette, but no football fans.
Milton Keynes Mercenaries 3 Grimsby Town 3
11 Jan 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
Not unless you count the eight men wearing blue and yellow scarves, munching some weedy looking chips, as football fans. They were chips, but not as we know them.
The surrealism continued as all fans were sent to the same ticket office, waiting for the Palace fans to finish futile attempts to purchase FA cup tickets. And when we finally got to the front of the queue, after about 30 seconds, they asked for our names. Yes, the tickets were personalised, perhaps as part of a Crowd Re-United scheme, where we get invited back once a year to recreate that oh-so-special occasion, when I was the only boy at the game, and you were the only girl. Well, history in the making perhaps, would we fall below the 849 for their Rotherham game? At 2:47 there were more Town fans than supporters of the team claiming to be called "Wimbledon". Come to think of it, there were more Town players on the pitch than "home fans".
The signs were not good, as the Town end (behind a goal, to the right as seen on TV) started to fill up, reaching perhaps 200, though the big stand opposite looked as dead as a Dodo. Some Franchise XI trainees appeared to our right and received much helpful advice - "thereâ€™s a seat to your left, no left, behind you, a bit further". An amateur statistician counted the dots at the Holmesdale Road end - 365. They have one fan for each day of the year. There were around the same number in the stand to our right, a few above us in the executive boxes, and the stand on the left was closed. So 1,000 at most were inside Dead Manâ€™s Gulch. As the Town wits sang: "We can see you sneaking in"
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, as shown. Boulding, of course, received as big an ovation as is possible in a dustbowl, the cheers floating away like balloons in a hurricane.
For those that demand such details, Boulding was allocated the number 9 shirt, thus continuing the campaign to expunge all traces of Phil "Yeh-vons" from history. Who? The pre-match warm-up was again done using orange bibs, so Town would not lose. The pitch looked quite hard, with bits of it gleaming in the later afternoon sun, suggesting some frozen spots.
Both teams played in blue, like a pauperâ€™s varsity match.
Town kicked off towards the emptier end, that is away from the Town support, immediately attempting to launch the ballistic missile that is Boulding. I think he has sugar in his fuel tank, as he had little zip and zoom. Easily brushed aside, outpaced and generally looking like he did when we first got him, he has plainly receded in the Premiership moneypot and needs re-coaching, it canâ€™t all be just lack of fitness.
The first moment to wake the bleary eyed traveller was in the opening minute, when Town managed to infiltrate the Oppositionâ€™s penalty area on the left, but a defender rolled the ball back to the goalkeeper. A bit too hard, as the ball bumbled and bombled across the face of the goal with Davis running after it, with his little legs pumping furiously. It brought a "wahey" from the Town support, which kept us warm for a few more seconds. The players were moving around rather gingerly, especially on the Town fansâ€™ right, with much tippy-tappy dainty turns and arms outstretched like a Scooby Doo monster, or as rigid as a juggernaut, depending on your age and cultural reference points. Chettle, in particular, was doing the Len Ganley stance.
The Opposition havenâ€™t changed their style, it is still up and at â€˜em, biff it to the big man and pick up the rebounds. Shipperley started as he meant to go on, moaning at the referee in the first few minutes when he failed to get anywhere near a free kick curled into the area and out of play. No crowd means the ability to hear everything the players say, and the referee. Ah, more on him later. Somewhere in the first 10 minutes Francis, their huge number 8 playing in midfield, steered a right wing cross softly wide of Coyneâ€™s right hand post. Well wide, very slowly, totally uninteresting, but outside in the cold distance there was a faint cry, a lone whale calling for its mate. Was it those people over there? Did they think it was close? Are they deluding themselves? Oh yes. The next time the Opposition threatened was a much less amusing thing. It had power, it had pace and most alarmingly, it had skill. Agyemong (yet another large, strong, quick player) received a pass 30 yards out on the right, with his back to goal. He turned, flicked the ball over Fordâ€™s head with his heel, like a modern day Eric Morecambe leaving the stage, and raced off towards Coyne. He allowed the ball to bounce once and, from the edge of the area, brought us sunshine by whacking a volley straight at Coyneâ€™s ankles, allowing our barking custodian to catch it cleanly and easily. And for many moons, grasshopper, that was it as far danger to Coyne goes.
Town started to pass it a bit, though it often foundered upon the titanic Livingstone and the little Jack Sprat Boulding. However Cooke, and especially Campbell, were a different kettle of fish. A flowing move down the Town left, involving Groves and Livingstone, saw Campbell dribble down the touchline, play a one-two with the Livvosaurus and, from 20 yards out, hit a shot straight at Davis. A little later he tried again, receiving a throw in around the same spot, hooking a weak root footed shot over his shoulder and a yard or so wide. Only the coldest and most desperate Town fan "oohed" with any conviction. Perhaps they should have been convicted for wasting an "ooh" on that. For entertainment we had to console ourselves with the brief momentary glimpses of goal, a Cooke free kick that drifted through the 6 yards box as defenders and strikers alike danced the night away near the ball. And was it here, the triennial McDermott goal? Coldicott disposed of Francis on the edge of the Town area and played the ball up to Livingstone. Eventually Groves trundled forward, looked right and released the Macca with a perfectly weighted crossfield pass. McDermott surged up, then in, exchanged passes with Boulding (I think) and, from 20 yards, curled a left footed drive into Davisâ€™ midriff. Now, more potential excitement. Davis completely fluffed a back pass, skewing a high slice out towards the left edge of the penalty area. Cooke bumped the left back out of the way and was free on goal. Hawkins hauled Cooke down with a push, pull, trip and shake. A yellow card for Hawkins, a free kick for Town. Gallimore waddled forward and bets were placed on which A he would hit in the stands - Eagles (lower tier) or Palace(upper tier). Oh you cynics, so little faith in the Dallymeister, for he curled a rather excellent low free kick into the 6 yards box, towards goal. Boots swished, knees knocked, several players sneezed and fell over, but the ball was cleared. Very quickly, and very worryingly. Off the Opposition hared, swarming in a great big pack of ravenous hounds. Suddenly Francis was free, beyond the defence, as the ball ricocheted and squirmed through a gap. Coyne raced off his line and threw himself at Francis, who was just 8 yards out, towards the near post. The first shot was heroically saved, but rebounded sideways. Francis pursued the ball, Francis was pursued by a tsunami of Town defenders, eventually being drowned by Chettle, Coldicott and Coyne, making a second smothering save, as befits a comfort blanket.
With about 10 minutes left to half time Town broke down the left, with the move foundering at the last when a defender rolled the ball back to Davis. Slowly. Livingstone ran on, gathering momentum like a rolling rock, almost getting near enough to Davis to see the whites of his underpants. Davis was clearly fazed by seeing a wild beast roaming the hills of Norwood, panicked and passed directly to Cooke, about 20 yards out near the left corner of their penalty area. Cooke carefully controlled the ball, looked up and placed a perfect cross onto BOULDINGâ€™s head, which like the rest of his body was right in the middle about 8 yards out, the ball bouncing into the â€˜keeperâ€™s left hand side netting, via a glove. How quaint, a Grimsby goal. We laughed, we danced and sung, but at whom? Was there anybody out there to taunt? The Opposition defence had, at times, and especially in the creation of the Town goal, been staffed by Bingo, Fleegle, Drooper and Snorkey. Hours of fun for everyone.
The Franchisers upped their pace a bit, becoming a bit more direct and it wasnâ€™t exactly plain sailing to half time. In fact nothing like plain sailing, as the Town defence was continually troubled by crosses from their left arcing towards Shipperley at the back post. Simple tactics really as deep crosses were headed back, or often rebounded back, into space on the edge of the area. A couple or so minutes after the Town goal they "scored", but only after a huge assist from the officials. The referee decided to allow Williams, the only player in football who has a larger derriere than Livvo, to barge Boulding over. A clear free kick, nope, play on. The ball was immediately knocked into the area, with the ball glancing off Chettleâ€™s head. Ford ran around the back and played the ball away, but the linesman flagged for the ball going out of play. Sirs, it didnâ€™t. The corner was half cleared to a little player, possibly McAnuff, stood 25 yards out, who hit a thwacking great drive, which managed to pass through the wall of players racing out of the area. Coyne saw the ball late, but flew to his right and punched the ball away. A superb save. But straight to Francis, who slid the ball underneath Coyne. Despondency, then delight, for the linesman had seen what we all, intrinsically, sub-consciously, knew. Offside! Itâ€™s the decision we would all have made, so it must be right. As halftime approached with the carefree abandon of Burlington Bertie from Bow, they should have scored again. For the umpteenth tome a long diagonal ball from their left bumped towards Agyemong, rebounding into space, this time for Shipperley, just 20 yards out, unmarked and in the centre. He placed a shot, with great precision, into Coyneâ€™s stomach.
And that was the half that was, with just a few things left out - the usual shots from outside the box by the Opposition, which caused naught but boredom in the heart of our man of Harlech. A distinctly average encounter from two mid-table teams, with a soft referee, who was caving in to the baying home supporter, oh that deafening sound, terrifying in its intensity. We must congratulate Mr Livingstone on only taking 30 minutes 23 seconds to leave earth today when attempting to head the ball. Like a Saturn 5 rocket he has a pre-ignition sequence to go through, any small deviation or variation in outside conditions will cause him to abort take off. We donâ€™t want him to explode, do we. Gallimore had played well in the first half, making at least two excellent covering tackles as the ball dropped near a striker, and his distribution was neat, tidy, efficient and proficient. Cooke was tackling back like a terrier and even Campbell had been spotted. Coldciott seemed more aggressive than of late and, with Groves, had just about managed to keep the looming danger that was Damien Francis away from goal. Boulding was clearly unfit, and had no tricks up his sleeve to overcome this basic problem. So, apart form his goal, he was a bit of a waste of time. Now thatâ€™s a big "apart from", isnâ€™t it.
Half time: Milton Keynes Mercenaries 0 Grimsby Town 1
Half time was a happy time, Town winning, Wednesday losing, and even the lack of hot food was taken as an acceptable quid pro quo. No food equals three points was nearly fine by us. Odd that they only had five burgers and no pies. Perhaps their landlords had hidden the keys to the freezer.
Still, all was well, though Boulding had to be substituted soon, he could hardly move by the end.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"The ref is watching this game through a prism".
The report continues in the second half.
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