League Two Form Guide
Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
15/03 Watford 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO changes were made by either team at half time, though the Pontoon was cheered by the funky photographer who wandered up, crouched behind the goal and started taking snaps. A fabtastic sideburn and fuzzy afro affair, he had the amiable air of Bruno, keyboard wizard in Fame.
Grimsby Town 1 Watford 0
15 Mar 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
As the hair got closer the front of the Pontoon, they sang his praise in time honoured fashion, delving into their vast repertoire of classic songs and finding opus number two, "Caravan Song", though not the Barbara Dickson one. Oh, he was no match for their untamed wit. The back of the Pontoon harked back to the golden era of television cartoon capers. Appropriately, we were in the Wonderland Zoo -"Help, help, here come the bears". Letâ€™s split from this distraction.
The game meandered along quite nicely, Watford didnâ€™t press much, for Town began to exert some dominance in midfield, with Hughes and Groves forming a solid block. Town started to pass to each other, which was nice, and run around too, which was even nicer. Oster stopped being a drama queen and started to fight for possession, Campbell was irrepressible running hither and thither. Mansaram began to hold onto the ball better too, all of which meant the game was boiling nicely, with the ball flowing towards the Pontoon. There werenâ€™t too many chances, but pressure was exerted and many moments of danger created. McDermott began to buzz down the wing, and the old Town one-twos around the edge of the area were brought out of a dusty drawer. Oster had the first opportunity, bursting down the right, cutting in and dragging a left footed shot from just outside the area towards the near post. Gathered safely, not likely to feature on the end of season highlights tape, but it was a start, an indication of how the game was subtly changing. His hips were beginning to sway, always a sign of joy to come for Mariners. A free kick from the Town right was swung over to the far post, where Ford rose unmarked and looped a header over Chamberlain and onto the roof of the net. You could feel it, the first cuckoo of spring, life returning to Blundell Park, was this the spark? The bleak midwinter is behind us, was the Town tortoise coming out of its hibernation?
McDermott played a one-two with Oster, who stroked the a ball like it was his favourite cat and Townâ€™s Methuselah crossed, but it was blocked for a corner.
Pressure, the tourniquet perceptibly tightening, hope beginning to stir within the bosom of the Main Stand, the heart of the Pontoon, and the deeply furrowed brow of the Upper Stones/Smiths/Findus.
Watford had a few breaks, which threatened more than they produced. Almost moments, where final passes were overhit, crosses were sliced, nothing going near Coyne, hardly an effort towards goal. The danger was there, but it was more a theoretical possibility than a certainty. Gulp, here goes Smith behind Gallimore, in the area, free and....sliced into the crowd. Looking up, he probably spotted a distant relative in the crowd and his concentration was lost, as was the moment. Perhaps thatâ€™s the way forward, strategically placed relatives to confuse and distract opponents. O-oh, Santos slept and the ball was dinked down the middle, over his head. Helguson (I think) burst forward, into the area, Coyne came off his line, shepherded him wide, wider still, and ran back to goal. Helguson stopped, then advanced towards goal, closer, closer still along the bye-line then crossed into a thicket of players, with the ball being diverted by McDermottâ€™s shins. A scramble, a scrum, the ball was cleared, danger over, danger gone, relax.
Half way through the half, Barnard was upended near the touchline, about 35 yards out right under the Smiths/Stones/Findus Stand. Gallimore put the ball down, Barnard hit a superb, nay perfect, crossfield pass directly to the unmarked Osterâ€™s middle toe on his right foot. Well, almost perfect as Oster wanted it on his big toe. Oster, overshadowed by the Police box, but unhindered by any yellow shirts, held the ball up and then caressed it. The Pearl of the South Bank awaited the full back, teased him by rolling his foot over the ball, shaking his knees and other moveable body parts, and let the ball linger awhile, inviting a tackle, but a mere mortal cannot combat Oster in these moments. Oster cut inside and flashed a flat, low cross to the centre of the penalty area. GROVES, seven yards out at the near post and with his back to goal, flicked out his right boot and back-heeled the ball across Chamberlain and into the bottom right hand corner. The ball took an age to roll in, but the aim was true, and the crowd leapt up to acclaim the man, who ran in front of the Pontoon, arms outstretched shrugging and mugging to the jubilant dozens.
Watford got "stuck in" for a couple of minutes after this, but their new found enthusiasm ended when the referee told them to calm down. Nice of him. Town were visibly more confident, and were suddenly rather free flowing. The goal forced Watford to attack more, creating spaces which Oster thrived in, particularly on the counter attack. A rapid break by Town, down the centre, saw Oster free and surging towards goal, with Mansaram and Campbell racing up in support. Oster zipped to his right and smashed a firm shot at head height to Chamberlainâ€™s right, forcing a very decent save. Mansaram was sent free down the left, but was so far in front of the rest of the team he was forced to dribble back towards the half way line, and tapped the ball to Gallimore, who swung a high loopy cross to the far post, headed on by Hughes. Barnard sneaked around the back and, about 12 yards out at a narrow angle, hit a tremendous right foot volley which slightly deflected off a defender and zoomed towards the very top left hand corner. Chamberlain sprinted across the ball smacked onto the outside of the post. It was getting quite exciting and enjoyable too. Town began to flow, to pass, to look a team again. But thereâ€™s always a moment or two of daftness. Watford brought on a huge bullet headed centre back, Dyche, whose first contribution was to head a free kick to Coyneâ€™s right from about eight yards out at the far post. Coyne slowly fell upon the ball, for it seemingly lacked power, seemingly and fortunately. Dyche thereafter contributed greatly to Townâ€™s safety by being the most comically inept defender seen for a very long time. Incapable of kicking a football, at times he was incapable of standing up, like a footballing Dickie Henderson, or perhaps a heavily sedated hippopotamus in its last moments of consciousness.
Still Town prodded at the open wound that was Watfordâ€™s decidedly rocky defence. Again Mansaram was sent free down the left. Turning Dyche and sprinting towards goal, he suddenly realised he was on his own again. Mansaram dillied and dallied and waited for support, which came in the rather portly shape of Barnard, who waltzed towards the bye-line and crossed to the near post. The Pontoon sat down, sighed at an opportunity squandered through lack of forwards and waited for the â€˜keeper to pick the ball up. Sometimes it pays to be invisible, for Campbell appeared from behind a bush and nipped in front of the goalkeeper, spun and hit a first time shot from a very narrow angle, perhaps four yards from the near post. The ball hit a defenderâ€™s boot, looped over Chamberlain and spun away past the far post. The game isnâ€™t over, for Watford suddenly burst into the Town penalty area, with a dink over the top down their right. Ford challenged Helguson (I think) and the ball went out of play as the Watford supporters and players leapt up and down claiming a penalty, for either a hand ball or a push. Although 120 yards away it was clearly seen through Grimsby Town sunglasses that it wasnâ€™t a penalty. Thatâ€™s a certainty, no doubt about it, oh no, definitely, for the referee didnâ€™t give it and they are never wrong (when it suit us, of course).
The storm weathered, the points were there for the taking, only the introduction of big Gifton Noel-Williams caused concern but, though he may be big, he ainâ€™t as big as Gorgeous Georges, so there. Town had the last chance, when Mansaram was sent free down the right hand touchline by a lovely weighted pass from Oster. Mansaram looked up (maybe a first) and spotted one defender running towards him and Darren Barnard steaming in on sunlight beams on the left hand side. Mansaram curled a low, slow pass though the centre of the penalty area, tempting Chamberlain off his line. The ageing stopper got to the ball just before Barnard, who slid in with all weight possible. There was a two minute delay as both received treatment from the physios, with a sideshow of one Watford defender claiming Barnard fouled Chamberlain and the Pontoon hoping the goalkeeper was crocked, for Watford had already used their three substitutes. Tell Alec itâ€™s nothing personal, itâ€™s only business. That was, basically, essentially , and ultimately, that. Town spent the last five minutes playing the ball into the corners and wasting time, which they did very successfully. Weâ€™ll gloss over Santosâ€™ terrible mistake in injury time, when he tried to dribble forward and was dispossessed on the half way line. The Watford players would like to gloss over their stupidity in running offside. So we will.
In the end it doesnâ€™t matter what the performance was: finally, finally Town win, and keep a clean sheet. The first half was poor, the second much better, with the defence finally re-united on Planet Earth, Ford having been beamed in from another galaxy at half time. Watford played like they wanted to win for about 20 minutes, then they seemed to shrug their shoulders and trot about. I liked that attitude. This was another of those games where entertainment was a miss-spelt four letter word, but thatâ€™s not the point, is it.
It was not pretty, it was not very good, but it was three points and, in the end, effective. The crowd got what they wanted, for before the game pockets of Pontoonites were heard saying the same thing: "Iâ€™d settle for three points in a scrappy game". We got it right there.
The duck isnâ€™t dead yet.
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
Very difficult to decide, especially for anyone wearing ridiculous eyewear. No-one was consistently good, all made mistakes at some point. Barnard was most solid, if a little one paced, Oster had the worst of times and the best of times in the two halves, Santos made many showy, but important, interceptions, often covering up his own positional errors. Groves had a rotten first half, but mighty second. Mmm, difficult, but through the haze Nicko ponders, cogitates and decides - Campbell, â€˜cos he noticed him for once.
Mr P Prosser. Not bad, a couple of iffy decisions during the second half, when Groves made two excellent tackles but the referee gave fouls. One always felt heâ€™d make the right decision. And if Watford should have had a penalty he definitely did!. You wouldnâ€™t mind having him again, his name may rhyme but he wasnâ€™t, as the Pontoon sang (almost) "The refereeâ€™s P Prosser". The Norwegian jury went out, came back and awarded the following marks - 7.3709.
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