Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
Another Gooseberry Fool for Tea: Bradford Report
By: Tony Butcher
A BRIGHT afternoon with a pesky cold, swirling wind blowing into the faces of the 5-600 Bradfordians in the Osmond Stand. The pre-match warm up revealed yet more missing persons. Have you seen Macca? Whereâ€™s Galli? Who, what, where, when and how?.
Grimsby Town 1 Bradford City 2
25 Jan 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
We knew the why - theyâ€™re all injured. Muddy, dead, gloopy, the pitch didnâ€™t look likely to suit any team that wished to pass along the ground. Advantage Bradford!
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, as shown. Set aside a few minutes whilst I explain where everyone played. Coyne, well, easy - he stayed in goal. Ward at right back, Barnard the new, improved Galli, Cooke on the right wing, Campbell on the left, Bolder alongside Groves in the centre. What an interesting midfield - the unconscious, the unknown, the immobile and the invisible. There are very few first choice players left standing, perhaps itâ€™ll be Danny and the Juniors next week, although that sounds more like a 1950s doowop group with sensible cardigans and winning smiles. Winning? Not a word that crossed many lips before 3 oâ€™clock, many would have settled for a sudden sea fog descending upon Blundell Park.
Bradford - the usual family fun selection of porkers and corkers, highlights and lowlifes. A terrible kit - yellow shorts with yellow and maroon striped shirt, we half expected a public health warning over the tannoy "these shirts can cause nausea and a loss of hope for all mankind". Did your grandfather fight a war for this sort of thing? I bet heâ€™s sorry we won.
Itâ€™s 3 oâ€™clock, itâ€™s Saturday, itâ€™s football. Or to qualify matters, itâ€™s Bradford who kicked off towards the Pontoon, using their feet to kick a ball. All similarity to association football ends there. It took six minutes for either team to have a shot, Ward, twisting eight yards out to volley a foot or so past Coyneâ€™s left hand post, following a cross from the Bradford right. In those six minutes the ball was on the pitch, as were the players. They, ball and human, occasionally met, briefly, but with little affection for each other, like a mismatched blind date.
The game was as one would expect, a boggy bundle in the middle. Bradford sought to use Wardâ€™s ability to foul without being seen, and Town, err, Town didnâ€™t have any method to start with. Groves and Bolder were too busy scrapping in the middle, Cooke occasionally forayed and forged down the right, but what could he do? Livingstone was sinking in the mud, the tide rapidly encircling him. Somebody call the coastguard! Boulding scampered about but kept bouncing off Molenaarâ€™s backside. And also trailed in his wake. The uncomfortable fact was that Molenaar consistently outpaced Boulding. The first quarter of an hour was what lazy hacks would describe as "a typical relegation battle". In other words it was rubbish, but not as rubbish as the linesman who ran the line for Townâ€™s defence. Hampered, no doubt, by the low sunâ€™s penetrating rays, he was blind to everything. The Town fans seethed and raged at his every non-decision from the start, diverting the anger from the players to an official. Weâ€™d already found our scapegoat. And then the referee decided to join his linesman in the stocks, as little decision after little decision went against Town. The crowd was beginning to fizz, which at least created an atmosphere.
After quarter of an hour, Town finally had a shot. Groves made a superb tackle inside the Town half, sliding across manfully, picking himself up and passing to Cooke in the middle, near the half way line. Cooke drifted across the pitch and tapped a short pass through the middle of the Bradford defence to Boulding, who let the ball run past him. The little one was free, on the centre left and didnâ€™t so much as sprint but glide gently across the mud and into the penalty area. As Davison advanced, BOULDING, about 12 yards out, passed the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the net, via the old Marinerâ€™s left hand. You know, at that point we were very happy.
The flow of the game didnâ€™t alter much, the wicked wind was blowing Coyneâ€™s drop kicks over Livvo, way past Boulding and straight into Davisonâ€™s arms. So possession was invariably post when Coyne had the ball. Bradford had trouble clearing, as the ball kept being blown backwards, but they had huge hulks in every area of the pitch, so they kept getting it back. There were isolated moments in this sea of dross, with their Ward proving, as always, a pest, and Cooke having flickering moments down the right. Townâ€™s attacking was principally Cooke dribbling, with sometime support from I Ward, with a few one-twoâ€™s to get behind their left back. It worked, to a point, but crosses didnâ€™t reach Town players. Behind, over and sometimes caught by Davison. A brief moment half way through the half saw Boulding almost, almost free again, this time on the centre right after being played free by Cooke. Boulding swayed across the face of the penalty are and straight into Molenaar. Yes, a highlight was going near the Bradford goal.
Now Bradford caused no end of problems. No, let me rephrase that, the linesman with the yellow flag nearly caused a riot. His continual failure to flag for offside eventually seeped into the consciousness of the Bradford players and they didnâ€™t even try to keep onside, waltzing merrily into any old gap. A series of panic inducing moments followed, with players free inside the area and crossing to no-one. The Bradford right winger, Francis, at one time walked four yards beyond the last Town defender and the ball was duly passed to him. So offside it was hardly worth appealing. Play on, and he did, crossing through the 6 yards box and out for a goal kick. After about 25 minutes the linesman eventually put his flag in the air. The Pontoon rose as one, cheering and clapping as if a conquering hero had returned. And they kept on going, the cheers crashing in waves upon his little head, for at least 30 seconds. Around the same time the linesman sank to the ground in front of the Police Box, clutching his head. Wracked by inner doubt? Tortured by guilt? Psychological turmoil caused by a necessary recognition of his own contradictions? Perhaps he had hit himself, acting upon the suggestions from the Pontoon, for he needed some sense knocked into him. He received treatment from the Town physio and there was much shoulder shrugging from the substitutes who were warming up behind him. A mystery, wrapped up in an enigma, much like Neil Woods.
Any more pie? Well, Groves tried a long shot which sliced extremely wide. There were no more Town shots even worth forgetting. Bradford, huffled and puffled, but looked clueless. Despite having been given the right to roam they looked totally incapable of scoring, like Sheffield Wednesday but without the "style". Woah, hang on. Another non-offside decision. Lawrence belting down the middle, behind the defence with just Coyne to beat. Coyne stood tall and Lawrence drifted to the right and, from about 10 yards out, drove a low shot against Coyneâ€™s shins. They looked like they wouldnâ€™t score unless Town went home. They desperately needed help from a higher being. And they got it, courtesy of Livingstone. In injury time, Town attacked down the right, Cooke was fouled and the referee allowed pay to continue. Livingstone bounced off two Bradford players and then challenged Molenaar. As he passed Livvoâ€™s elbows were, like the tide, high. Molenaar plunged to the turf, clutching his face and a gravedigger ran out to deal with the corpse.
The referee, stood just a few yards away, immediately pulled out a red card. Livvo and several Town players lost their temper, jumping up and down, remonstrating wildly. Groves ran up to Molenaar and made his views known whilst standing above the lumpy lowlander. A certain air of distrust had built up between crowd, players and officials, as the referee had been keen to penalise Town for minor matters, even booking Groves for a very humdrum, mistimed tackle, but ignoring things done unto us. As any Town fan will testify, Livingstone has the meanest and sharpest elbows in professional football, so if he had elbowed Molenaar, the head would have displayed signs of damage. There were none, and he was soon up on his feet after Livingstone had finally departed. Molenaar fell to earth like an elm raddled by disease. La-La-Livingstone, "hardest" in the Grimsby team, now thereâ€™s a cat that really was gone. What price a new contract now?
Half time: Grimsby Town 1 Bradford City 0
Here we go again. Is the Town supporterâ€™s life going to be a never ending cycle? What happened this time last year? Bradford at home, big centre forward sent off at the end of the 1st half, game lost. But, at least, this time Town were winning. An awful match, in terms of quality, but the Town players were committed (yes, Livvo should be committed for giving the referee a reason to send him off), with no criticism emanating from the stands for the 10 men standing. Groves had been a commanding presence in the middle, Bolder an adequate Coldicottian destroyer, Cooke a persistent danger and, above all, and send out the tribunes, hark to the world, Barnard had been excellent, really excellent. Alert to danger, always covering around the back of the centre backs, a few perfect tackles, his distribution was pin point, he looked rock solid. But, but, but, the referee, the linesman, Town only had 10 players, the wind, the pitch. The world was ganging up on Town. Bradford needed help and they were getting it in spades.
Fasten your seatbelts, the second half is going to be a bumpy ride.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Thatâ€™s what friends are for - running away".
The report continues in the second half.
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