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Heart of Darkness: Sheffield Utd Report
By: Tony Butcher
A temperate evening with a less than wicked west wind gently drifting across the faces of a packed Osmond Stand, stuffed to the rafters with expectant South Yorkists.
Grimsby Town 1 Sheffield United 4
The Town fans drifted in two by two, hurrah, hurrah, with hope in their hearts, but fear in their minds, especially when they saw Boulding on the pitch. In a suit. There wasn't even the Mighty Mariner for distraction, absent without explanation. Whodunnit? Who Killed the Mighty Mariner? And how? Obviously it can't have been shot, well not by any of the players. Perhaps a Pouton tackle, or Livvo stare? Does it matter? Was the crowd any less frenzied than normal?
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows :- Coyne, McDermott, Ford, Santos, Gallimore, Oster, Pouton, Hughes, Campbell, Livingstone and Mansaram. The substitutes were Allaway, Groves, Barnard, Chettle and Thompson. Oh how we sighed at the sight of the same leaky back five as normal. Sighing doesn't come close to the reaction to Livingstone, who has crossed the Rubicon, from loveable lump to dirty dishwater. Pull the plug out!
The Pontoon was by no means full of people, but initially full of voice, supportive despite the collective fury at Saturday's debacle, and the absence of the totemic Cooke. Kabba was given a traditional mixed reception, some boos, some applause, but absolutely everyone scared stiff of his power and pace. And then we looked at the rest of the their team and worried even more. Fingers crossed, let's hope they are saving themselves for their cup game. Toes crossed too remember. And ears.
Sheffield kicked off towards the Pontoon, McCall lofting lazily with a seven iron towards Kabba. Worryingly they didn't whack it straight out of play, showing some finesse and ambition there then. What has got into anagrammatically correct Neil "Colin" Warnock? They were passing it. And accurately. And he wasn't moaning from the start. Ah, that's better, they passed it straight to Town, who went on to dominate the first 23 seconds. Oster played a superbly weighted pass with the outside of his boot to Mansaram, who rampaged comically down the right touchline, eventually winning a corner. If only the game had ended there, we'd all have been happy.
Within a couple of minutes the Pontoon was deafened by a very loud hooter hooting, a bell clanging, and warning lights flashing. United simply passed quickly and accurately up and down the pitch, the ball eventually being slid carefully up to Kabba on the centre left edge of the Town penalty area. He laid a pass off to the unmarked winger under the Police Box (no, not literally), for once taking notice of Gallimore, who was helpfully pointing towards this little chap. Marking would have been even better, but why quibble about the finer points of the game. The ball was whipped in first time to the near post, where McDermott sliced the ball away for a corner. The corner was swiped away towards Mansaram near the half way line, who was beaten to the ball by a falling Blade.
A free kick was given, which they managed to advance about five yards down the touchline. Brown curled the kick into the heart of the penalty area and Kabba muscled his way in front of Ford and, from the edge of the 6 yards box at the near post, headed powerfully a few inches over the angle of post and bar. Cue songs of praise from some of the younger Pontoonites. A couple of minutes later, embarrassment. Santos knocked the ball back to Coyne on the left corner of his 6 yards box, who slipped as he went to smack the ball upfield. The ball squirmed off in a high loopy arc straight to Ndlovu, alone, on the penalty spot. Ndlovu tried to hit a spinning, dragging shot across Coyne, but scuffed it three yards wide of the left hand post. Phew upon phew, great miss and thankfully he didn't try and pass to the unmarked Kabba.
Maybe we've got away with it, eh? Ooh, maybe. A Town attack that actually got inside their area. And a shot. Pouton swept up a loose ball 30 yards out on the right, knocked it to Hughes, unmarked on the edge of the penalty area, who fell over the ball, but miss-controlled it straight to Mansaram. Flash, a-ha, who is just a man, with a man's left foot, cut infield and miss-hit a shot through a defender's legs and four yards wide. Who hit the "D" in NISA Today? Now you know the answer if it comes up in the pub quiz tonight. You never know, that piece of trivia might win you a crate of beer.
Hang on, what's this then? Suddenly they were attacking, following a raking cross-field pass by Brown directly to Ndlovu, bounding down their left towards goal. Oh bummer. McDermott strained to get back, Ndlovu looked up and, from the edge of the penalty area, dinked a cross towards the far post, which Santos shinned out for a corner. Thankfully Ndlovu had ignored the unmarked Windass . But was all this just delaying the inevitable? Yes, of course it was.
Town play with a permanent Sword of Damocles swooshing and swaying over the defence like Oster's hips at a 70s themed discotheque. And Hughes' hair. The corner was cleared straight to McCall, lurking 30 yards out in the very centre of the pitch. He clipped the ball out to Ndlovu on their left who, in acres and acres of space, controlled the ball, looked up and saw before him not a wall of monochrome, but a whole vista of exciting opportunities for the young, ambitious professional. From about 30 yards out, he drifted a cross through the Cumberland Gap and into the middle of the penalty area. The Town defence joined the crowd in watching events unfold, as WINDASS shook off his designated marker, which appeared to be the referee, and steered the cross low into the bottom left hand corner from close to the penalty spot. No time to reflect on such matters, you'll only cry, on with the game.
I would like to say Town gathered up their skirts and had a go, but they didn't. Mansaram kept falling over the ball, Hughes joined Livingstone in the invisible club, recently vacated by Mr Campbell. Nowhere on the pitch were Town their equal, with the possible exception of Santos, who kept running, jumping and heading, a one-man defence. Ah no, not again, here they come. Like a permanent tape loop, Town attack, Sheffield get the ball 30 yards out and fling an accurate long pass down the wings. This time Brown, and another wonderfully weighted whack to Windass, on their left, with only Gallimore between him and glory. Looking up, Windass saw waves of red and white crashing over the feeble sea wall and he tapped a short pass into the middle of the penalty area. Kabba, with no Town player within five yards, saw Coyne race off his line and tried to show off, back-heeling the ball first time. Coyne plunged to his right and knocked the ball out of the area. Only Pouton reacted and he did a trademark sliding swiping full frontal assault on Kabba to stop the follow up.
The corner was worrisome, but I won't bother describing the minor details of history, for every attack was worrying. Crosses drifted through the area, players surged free, and only the Sheffield inadequacies were preventing the score increasing exponentially. 25 minutes gone, only 1-0, should have been at least 3-0. Are we lucky or what? No, we 're rubbish.
Tippy-tappy football down on the Sheffield left after a free kick was half cleared saw the ball knocked back to some bloke or other about 40 yards out. A long diagonal ball was clipped in towards the far post. Let's stand around and see what happens shall we? Murphy, about 7 yards out, tiptoed through the tulips and around the back of Livingstone to pass the ball across the face of goal to KABBA, unmarked in the centre just 8 yards out, who miss-hit the shot into the bottom left hand corner. Cue arguments between Gallimore and Pouton and a booking for Kabba, who indulged in some stomping taunting of the Town fans, jumping around and mouthing something, which was unlikely to be "I'm sorry, I really like you". Perhaps quite the opposite.
There was an attempt to rally by the Pontoon, mixed in with some more earthy contributions. Town did rally, in that they didn't concede another goal for a few more minutes. Well, they did, but it was disallowed for offside, it having taken the linesman 30 minutes to work out how to use his flag. Murphy bundled the ball in at the far post after it was played in diagonally from their left. Now where did you read that before? Town huffed and puffed, you can't fault that, they were just devoid of wit. Twice, dangerous moments were created by Oster dribbling into the area, but twice crosses were pulled back way behind the Town strikers. Strikers? Did I say strikers? I meant those two males dressed in black and white that the tannoy announced before the kick off as "also appearing".
I'm wasting time here: next goal, just after the half hour. A Sheffield corner from their left was headed away by Santos. The ball bounced out straight to their full back, KOZLUK, who, about 30 yards out, hit a first time half volley. The ball fizzed through the centre, through a bunch of players all running out of the area, between Kabba's legs and into the net, low to Coyne's right. Kozluk went berserk, running around in circles, ripping off his shirt and twirling it like a small plastic windmill, bought from the seafront just 50 minutes earlier. From centre of the Pontoon there was a suspicion of offside against Kabba and a little criticism of Coyne, as the ball went very, very close to him. The crowd were stunned, isolated pockets of anger and defiance, but mostly stunned, resigned silence. Town had been ripped apart by a superior team with superior individuals. My, how that hurts. One of life's certainties is that Warnock's teams play brutish, detestable football. A certain critical reappraisal is in order.
Deflated, defeated, on the verge of complete humiliation, Town finally pricked the Blade balloon. A couple of minutes after the third goal Town (or rather Campbell) won a free kick about 25 yards out near the Main Stand. Hughes curled the ball onto a defender's head and Pouton intercepted the clearance, knocking it straight to Campbell, in the middle of the penalty "D". CAMPBELL took one touch and belted a right foot shot in off the bottom right hand post. Huzzah, something positive to get us off our seats.
After this, Sheffield concentrated on blocking, rather than full pelt attacking. That isn't to say they were devoid of intent, for every breakaway was highly alarming, but Santos, with a little help from his friend McDermott, managed to hold back the tide. And yes Gallimore, you do sing out of tune, please walk out on us. I have a vague recollection of Kabba wasting an opportunity inside the Town area, slicing the ball well wide, and of Montgomery swiping a shot into the Pontoon from the corner of the penalty area. Oh, and the usual crosses through the area, usually with Ndlovu wandering around near the ball at the far post.
They had a free kick too, with a Town wall made out of wattle and daub, without the daub, or much wattle either come to think of it, which Brown curled safely wide of Coyne's right hand post. Town pressed and had a few almost moments. Mansaram almost broke free, but the goalkeeper raced out and plucked the ball off his feet at the edge of the area. And then, just before halftime, an almost, almost moment. Town exerted some pressure, with Pouton at the heart of it all. He won the ball, he lost the ball, he won the ball, he lost it. Then he received it back from the marauding McDermott, and dinked a left (yes, left) footed pass over the top of the United defence from about 25 yards out on the Town centre right. Campbell snuck around the ball and, on the edge of the six-yard box, tapped the ball back across goal as the goalkeeper rushed out. The ball rolled slowly towards the penalty spot and Mansaram unwrapped his prized left boot and hit a shot low towards the bottom left hand corner of the gaol. The 'keeper was beaten but a defender sliced the ball off the line for a corner. The corner came to nought and then it was half time.
Were Town atrocious or were United excellent? Put it this way, if had Town played like that on Saturday they would not have lost. Still, 45 minutes left and Town were starting to come back. Anything could happen. Including more disaster, of course.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
Blundell Park, still only in Blundell Park. You know, some day this war's gonna end.
Second Half Click Here!!
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