Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
Drawing to a Conclusion: Forest Report
By: Tony Butcher
A warm evening with a blustery wind billowing around the stands, severely inconveniencing the hirsute amongst the 400 or so Town supporters gathered behind the goal to the right, as seen on television. A parting on the left, became a parting on the right, though no beards grew longer on the night.
Nottingham Forest 2 Grimsby Town 2
10 Mar 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
Town limbered up below the weary gathering with a variation on the usual routine. A sort of half hearted swirl of passing and movement reminiscent of the Metropolitan Police Dog Unit display team, but without Livvo jumping through a fiery hoop, though a Rottweiler did attack a padded man, or was that merely Pouton shadow boxing with Darren Barnard? Ah yes, Barnard, good enough for Wales but not for Townâ€™s starting XI. Forest went all retro in their warm up, recreating the 1920s with an impressive chorus line of tap dancing boys with feather boas. Arms outstretched as rigid as a juggernaut, and toes a-tapping.
Town lined up in a 4-5-1 formation, as shown. It was exactly the same formation as at Ipswich, with the exception that Mansaram was up front, rather than Boulding. Cooke was in the stands, pieless and sans duffel coat, the milder weather allowing him the opportunity to showcase more of the Terry Cooke " Man About Town" range. Today Terry wore an olive green jacket made from 58% Cotton and 42% man made fibres, with contrasting dark brown flannel trousers. All available from Boyes and the club shop. Reasonable prices for reasonable people. Perhaps his jacket was more pickled onion than olive.
Immediately prior to the game, we watched seven men walk around the pitch dippling down divots in perfect harmony, clearly wanting to prepare a smooth pitch on which Forest could pass us to oblivion. One question, why was Danny Butterfield pictured above the Town squad on the back of the programme? Was this to frighten us?
Forest kicked off towards the Town fans and passed, and passed, and passed, and passed, eventually sending the ball up to Harewood after a minute or so.
Harewood was tightly marked but still managed to force his marker back. Nothing happened though, Town sat back into a solid wall of five across the middle, shuffling up and across, forcing Forest to pass sideways, then eventually to knock long punts down the channels, or up to Harewood and Huckerby. They pressed, they probed, they always looked on the verge of breaking through, but didnâ€™t. Somewhere in the first 10 minutes, from a Forest corner on their left swung high into the centre, Hjelde, unmarked and just 10 yards out, headed softly straight to Coyne. That was their early chance, their only one. They huffled and puffled, but theyâ€™d didnâ€™t blow the house down.
Town werenâ€™t bothered with attacking much, just disciplined defending. It felt like theyâ€™d forgotten how to attack for the most part, with a series of up and unders towards Mansaram or, more accurately, to where Coyne imagined Mansaram to be. Drop kick after drop kick sliced, hooked, looped and bumbled back to the Forest centre backs. Frustratingly daft tactics that merely invited pressure. But lo, a shot from Town sighted far away, on the horizon. And, come to think of it, the first one created in open play. Town retained possession, a novel thing that could be contagious, with several passes tapped sideways across the pitch. Pouton, on his own, about 30 yards out, spun and surged to his left. Incredulity was not confined to North East Lincolnshire as he attempted to whack, with his left foot, a shot. The ball spun off a defenderâ€™s boot and looped gently into Wardâ€™s arms. Hey, it was a shot and had some passing leading up to it. Innocent bystanders would, after much deliberation, have cast their vote in favour of the description "football"
So far, so fine. Apart from the free header from a corner, Forest had created zilcho. The muscular running of their fast frontmen had caused some mild panic in the Town support, but not on the pitch. The defence had shepherded them to safety, Coyne an alert, but unperturbed bystander, the midfield a quintet of quiet command. Half way through the half, after some Forest pressure was cleared towards the half way line, Mansaram ran back and challenged Scimeca as he raced forward. Mansaram hassled, a vague pest to the roaming rhinoceros, who barely noticed the fly buzzing around his ears. Unfortunately, the referee managed to see what no Town supporters saw and awarded a free kick, about 30 yards out to the left of centre. Way out, too far out for a shot. The ball was tapped sideways to Reid, an 8 year old mascot in professional clothing, who smacked in a shot from the centre. POUTON ambled forward, half turned, and the ball deflected off some part of his lower limbs, taking a gentle arc towards the middle right of Coyneâ€™s goal. Coyne was motionless within his lair, having set himself for the shot swerving off to his left, and the ball rolled down the back of the net. Just typical isnâ€™t it.
Dejection, deflation, dismay and many other words beginning with d too. And b and s, and, well, I canâ€™t remember any beginning with q, x or z. Pouton was energised by this misfortune, flying into tackles for the next five minutes like a raging bull. Frenetic, splenetic, his anger brought forth added determination but detracted from the organisation, for Forest had a bit of a surge, during which they had a cross which zipped though the area. A little late another fortunate effort when a clearance hit one of their midfielders and spun behind the defence to Huckerby, on the Town left, just inside the area. He swept forward and smacked a low shot across Coyne and off the foot of the far post before everyone realised the linesman had his flag up. Silly us, it was Harewoodâ€™s hyphenated henchman, Darren Huckerby-Offside, a name too long for his shirt. How else would he be free? The pattern of the game remained Town setting up a Maginot line and Forest seeking to nip round the sides using Blitzkrieg tactics, otherwise known as hit it long and let the fast men run. The steely determination of the Town players didnâ€™t let that happen. McDermott was simply McDermott, placing himself between man and ball, defending without tackling, easing away his man. Gallimore, yes, Gallimore, was solid. Despite Harewood being at least 156pmh faster, Gall was determined and pushed his body to its physical limits, fighting off the speedster, even using McDermottian tactics to cut off all available roads to the ball. Credit where credit is due, Galli rocked! The only times he was beaten were as a result of deflections or defraud, such as when Harewood pushed him over when chasing a ball over the top. A dangerous moment which came to naught as Harewood hit the bye-line and crossed low, hard, but Coyne scooped the ball up at the near post. Similarly Huckerby, briefly, managed to barge his way free down the Town right and, deep inside the penalty area, turn inside and clip the ball straight to Coyne at the near post. A shot? A cross? Who knows, least of all Huckerby. He swung his boot and hoped for the best which, for us, it was.
And then a funny thing happened on the way to the second division; Town started to retain possession. And how. They passed the ball slowly, but deliberately, across the midfield, back to the defence, back across the park, up, down, back, sideways, seemingly going nowhere. Mild frustration from the Town support turned to smiles as Oster suddenly spun and hit a first time pass to McDermott on the touchline, just inside the Town half. A-ha, free at last, bounding down the wing. The cross was blocked and a corner followed, nothing great in the pantheon of football, but a start, and tactically astute too, for Town had slightly bored Forest and pulled them out of position. A start. Then they did it again, 20, maybe 30 passes, everyone involved, ending with a Mansaram surge and miss-hit shot. You know professor, we may have something here. What is the formula? The missing X factor was passing and movement. Sure, it wasnâ€™t at speed, but it was passing with purpose. Half-time was approaching and Town were at least doing something, though Cooke chose this moment to sneak off to eat his pie in private, away from the stern gaze of the crust police. I canâ€™t recall exactly when the move started, maybe in the 38th minute, perhaps even during the pre-match warm up, but the ball was flipped around the Town team, slowly at first, the pace gradually increasing, always to a spare man, there was always someone free. The clock ticked, it was almost half time. Town had had the ball for several years but hadnâ€™t got out of their own half. The impatient amongst the Grimsby Diaspora, specifically a lady sat to my left, groaned "we always pass it so slowly", just as Campbell upped the pace, knocking the ball down the left hand touchline. Oster stepped over the ball, allowing it to roll into a space behind their right back. Mansaram sprinted forward, controlled the ball, cut infield and swooshed towards goal. From somewhere near the bye-line he cut a cross back into the penalty area. A big, yawning, gaping, pleading hole into which, as if by magic, GROVES rumbled, stretched and steered a shot across Ward and into the far corner. The Town support almost spontaneously combusted in pleasure. A stunning team goal, where everyone seemed to touch the ball. How many passes? 17? 53? 912? Yes, thatâ€™s it 912 consecutive passes and we had witnessed the greatest goal ever scored, ever, tonight, in Nottingham, by a man called Groves.
This must have been very confusing to the casual viewer. That little team down at the bottom, the one with the funny name, was the one passing the ball. Forest were very direct, nothing like the slick, groovy machine that demolished Town in September. Forest are supposed to be the purest football team in the first arenâ€™t they, not some kind of cut price Crystal Palace? Didnâ€™t bother us, we quite enjoyed them trying to hoof their way ineffectually towards Coyne. Theyâ€™d forgotten rule two of hoof, lump it high into the penalty area, for Grimsby canâ€™t deal with crosses. And then it was halfâ€“time, and my were we pleased. Who cares that it probably looked quite dull on television, with Town stifling the game. Town have no duty to television companies. There were few incidents of note in the half, just lots of tackles and clearances, each one cheered to the concrete rafters. Mild moments of worry sprung up when the referee was indulgent to some strong challenges on Town players, in particular when McDermott was cracked on the ankle by Williams. More than one Mariner noted that Pouton got a red card last Tuesday for a very similar tackle, and such are the vagaries of life. You know thatâ€™s the problem with life, other people. In footballing terms thatâ€™s generally code for the ref. Anything else? How about Osterâ€™s triple pirouette, proving heâ€™s three times better than Kingsley Black? Itâ€™s a wonder he didnâ€™t fall over at the end with his head a-swirling.
Half time: Nottingham Forest 1 Grimsby Town 1
Thatâ€™s it, first half over, a lot, lot better than anyone expected, but we had that Grimsby feeling - they arenâ€™t setting us up for anything but heartbreak, to make our disappointments deeper.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Youâ€™re eating a treacle sponge?".
The report continues in the second half.
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