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Giving it all Away: Coventry Report
By: Tony Butcher
A clear afternoon with a surprisingly chill and occasionally stiff breeze blowing haphazardly around the ground. Around 300 Midlanders joined in the holy commune of morose silence, arms folded, head bowed, cheeks jowled, it was difficult to work out whose expectations were lower.
Grimsby Town 0 Coventry City 2
01 Mar 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
Ours. Always are, arenâ€™t they. Thatâ€™s the definition of a Grimbarian.
The pre-match warm up was enlivened by nothing more exciting than the Mighty Mariner banging a drum and turning his head backwards, like the Exorcist, but without the green vomit and spiders crawl. Perhaps he should try that next time to enlarge his repertoire? Or maybe he should re-enact great scenes from great movies (suggestions to the club only), though Iâ€™d plump for the scene in Alien where android Ash gets his head knocked off by a fire extinguisher. The footballers? Well, there were some interesting omissions from the squad, and Iâ€™m not referring to the unmystifying absence of J Rowan, a local boy. No Barnard, no Cooke, Livingstone sporting an orange bib, Groves wearing tracksuit bottoms like knickerbockers; with just the addition of a baggy cloth cap and a walking stick he would have been the spitting image of George V. Iâ€™m digressing again, arenâ€™t I?
Town lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, as shown. Oster played around, about occasionally near, Boulding, Campbell on the right and Hughes on the left. Hughes, Oster and Pouton all received cheery welcomes. Coventry lined up in a 4-4-2 formation wearing a striking all yellow ensemble, with royal blue flashings running from shoulder to hip. Very tasteful. Up front they had Lincolnshire Lad Julian "Ooh look at me hair" Joachim and Matt Jansen. Everyone ignored Jansen, forgetting heâ€™d decided to join Coventry instead of us. We canâ€™t even be bothered to heckle the opponents these days. Everyone ignored Joachimâ€™s hair, which was an act of kindness on our part, but there again Chippo was on the pitch, and one bad hair is enough to distract even the most diligent member of the Anti Hairy League. At right back they had a little lad called Whing, which was a shame for lazy hacks, as Whing on the wing has a nice ring to it.
Coventry kicked off towards the Pontoon. The ball didnâ€™t go out of play. The crowd barely noticed the game going on, bored very quickly, for nothing was going on. Town started incredibly sluggishly, and worryingly ineptly. There was a shambolic structure in front of us swaying in the wind. Hughes drifted infield so far he was virtually standing on Coldicott, Santos and Ford were still awaiting a formal introduction from the partyâ€™s host. Campbell decided McDermott needed help and played so deeply he was a mini-Macca, but without the sense of positioning, timing and strength, or indeed sense. Oster and Boulding kept running into the same places. Pouton trotted, Coldicott sat in front of the defence, Gallimore was Corporal Jones. Ahh, Galli. The tone was set early on, after just a couple of minutes when Coventry broke down their right. Hughes was still in his hotel, combing his hair to get just the right curl above his collar, and two Coventry players belted down the touchline. Gallimore took one step forward, then turned around and sprinted towards the corner flag pursued by two men in yellow and a ball.
Coventry had a plan, that was clear. Their midfielders, especially the human dynamo, Pead, hared around and hassled any meandering monochromer who had the ball. Their central defenders didnâ€™t allow Oster or Boulding time to control the ball and turn past them. Their forwards moved. Their midfielders passed, their full backs ran up in support. They played like a team. Thatâ€™s almost cheating, donâ€™t they know the rules of football? Itâ€™s March, our opponents are supposed to lay down before us. Jansen and Joachim kept drifting off their markers into space, with Pead and Chippo bursting past Coldicott and the inert Pouton. The ball was rarely whacked forward, but tapped into the spaces. It was most disconcerting to see a whirl of yellow swirling around static black and white. Five minutes - a shot. Coventry broke as described in the last sentence, ending with Eustace whacking a shot from 20 yards which sailed safely over the centre of the goal. Town had brief encounters with the Coventry penalty area, but it was unrequited love. Boulding almost dribbled into the area, but he never had the ball under control and simply Donovaned into the defender; that is he ran into Eustace and fell over like a prawn. After about 10 minutes, Town got a corner on the left, played short to Hughes who had drifted into an interesting position just inside the penalty area. Hughes faffed about and the ball eventually made its way across the face of the area to Coldicott, who sidestepped a couple of challenges and briefly had a sight of goal before a third defender tackled him. The ball squirmed out to Gallimore, 25 yards out, who smacked a first time drive through the area. The ball was deflected at an angle of 78 degrees, spinning curiously, but slowly towards the goalkeeper on the left hand side of his goal. Boulding advanced and the â€˜keeper easily scooped the ball away from footballâ€™s greatest tennis player ever. In short, a messy scramble with a rubbish shot.
There were brief moments when Town threatened to pass to someone who may have thought about shooting, and even a moment when someone did pass to someone who did shoot. McDermott chipped a long high pass down an inside right channel. Boulding sprinted clear and allowed the ball to drop, controlling with his thigh. He cut inside the defender and completely miss-hit a left foot shot, which dribbled pathetically through to the goalkeeper. For the avoidance of any doubt THAT was Townâ€™s shot on target. The only one, not even a blocked tackle or badly placed through pass that can be spun by the official Downing Street spokesmen into a shot. There is no need for any pre-emptive action, for there is not one shred of evidence to suggest that Town strikers would pose a threat to any one in the future. After Jansen had curled a shot very wide of Coyneâ€™s goal, no, itâ€™s more accurate to say very wide of the penalty area, inertia set in. This looked like a terrible 0-0 game, and only 15 minutes gone. A couple of minutes later this looked like a terrible 0-1 game. Hughes absent, Gallimore flapping, Coventry right winger, a little chap named Partridge, in loads of space about 25yards out . He curled in a cross towards the centre of the penalty area, but no danger, Ford was in front of Jansen, time for a snooze. Oh deary me, FORD, near the penalty spot, flicked a superb header over Coyne and in off the underside of the bar. Stunned silence, followed by crumpling shoulders and a brief moment of support and defiance from some of the Pontoon, as they attempted to lift the team. They were the younger members of the Pontoon, who lack the experience to see when the horse is dead.
Town did respond, well, sort of. Coldicott crunched, Campbell whizzed and a cross finally went beyond the first defender and their goalkeeper punched the ball away as Boulding challenged. A brief flurry of activity only. Town were just inept. Hardly three passes were strung together, with every Town player seemingly having a difficulty with the colour yellow. They looked up, and just could not see that big bloke dressed in yellow stood 10 yards away. All of which simply allowed Coventry to break away, usually through Partridge, who terrorised Gallimore all afternoon. A series of crosses from their right curled into the centre of the penalty area, with Coyne alert and plucking them all from the air, or scooping off the turf. With about 10 minutes left to half time, something finally happened. Unfortunately it happened in front of the frustrated and seething Pontoon. Santos intercepted a pass then proceeded to tap the ball directly to a Coventry player 10 yards outside the Town penalty area on the left. He raised his arm slowly in apology, turned his back (yes, turned his back!) on play and walked back towards the corner flag. Partridge ran past the French Fancy and the ball was simply stroked into the huge space behind the Gigantic Gangly Gaul. Santos saw this, but still walked. Partridge raced into the area, hit the bye-line and cut a cross back into the centre. Chippoâ€™s shot was blocked, it fell to Jansen, around the penalty spot with Coyne running back towards the goal, and the shot was sliced to somewhere in the extremities of the Pontoon. Lucky Town, shoddy Santos. Disgraceful play really but, as it is "Gorgeous Georges", he didnâ€™t get any heckling from crowd or players.
Only one more effort on goal in the first half, when Chippo blocked an attempted Santos chip deep inside the Coventry half. Chippo raced onto the loose ball and dribbled up to the Town penalty area, before curling a shot a few feet wide of Coyneâ€™s left hand post. Thatâ€™s it. Coventry wasted oodles of opportunities with overhit and underhit passing, and just plain careless play. Town had a series of corners which were all wasted, just like the crossing opportunities. Each and everyone failed to rise above the Coventry player at the near post. In the last minute of the half there was a minor scramblette in the Coventry penalty area, with a deflected shot that bumbled through towards their â€˜keeper with Town players hopping about. The half ended, some booed, others ran off to the toilet as quickly as possible.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Coventry City 1
Analysis? The word rubbish sums it up. Everything was wrong: the players attitude, the formation, the tactics. The team was totally imbalanced by Hughes, who is as much capable of playing in a wide position as Coldicott. Boulding and Oster fluttered occasionally, but these butterflies were crushed upon the wheels of two giant centre backs. Oster tried to do it all on his own, and all the other players seemed like they were content for that to be the modus operandi. Pouton was a waste of space, the adrenalin soaked rampaging of the Stoke game was replaced by a delicate wallflower, glued to the same spot. He did one step over, which was a step over in the right direction, but that was all. At one point he surged upfield from the Town penalty area, down the left, and at no point did he have the ball under control, which rather sums up his contribution today.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"There was more football played when I went to the dentist".
The report continues in the second half.
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