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Last Action Hero: Rotherham Report
By: Tony Butcher
A CLEAR, still, but surprisingly warm, evening in a suburb of Meadowhall with around 7-800 Town supporters bouncing along happily behind the goal, as seen to the right on television. An odd, slightly surreal atmosphere pervaded the Town support.
Rotherham Utd 0 Grimsby Town 1
18 Mar 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
It was a like a mass Pontoon day trip, an inversion of the normal procedure whereby the dour denizens of the Don Valley area pootle over to Cleethorpes for a fun day out at "reet good value". The home support was quiet, perhaps resigned to mid-table might have been, the rest of the season a chore to them. Fine by us, for the away end rocked and rolled its way towards kick off.
Town lined up in the usual 4-5-1 formation, as shown. Barnard played wide on the left, meaning Campbell played in Poutonâ€™s position on the centre right. There was some concern when the team was seen warming up with green bibs, but it didnâ€™t dampen the enthusiastic bobbing and bopping in the crowd, even that old staple the beach ball came out for a dance. There was definitely an air of anticipation within the travelling Townites. Itâ€™s March, the football season has just started.
Santos was virtually deified before the game had even started, such was the outpouring of love and affection to the Grimsby Gaul. A cheeky wave and thumbs up were enough to make growing teenagers swoon.
The pitch looked infirm, with more than a hint of 20 tonnes of sand about it, not to mention all those divots caused by the rugby matches. So perhaps Rotherham would abandon their world famous passing game?
Town kicked towards the Town support in the first half, and very little happened near us. Rotherham huffled and puffled around, being very basic, a sort of half trick pony. Their initial tactic was to duff up Coyne, for within the first few minutes Warne and then Mullin had barged into Coyne after heâ€™d caught hopeful, hopeless punts into the area.
Not so much late challenges as arriving tomorrow on a special charter flight. The referee had "little words" with the offenders and, essentially, wimped out. After five minutes, Barnard was laid out by Farrelly when Town were starting to break away down the left. Barnard had pushed the ball past this midfielder and would have been free down the left touchline, but received a hand in the face. Another "little word of warning" from this pusillanimous gull in green.
The minutes ticked by, the players collided with each other, and Town got a lot of throw-ins. Rotherham seemed incapable of passing to each other, for within the first 15 minutes they had passed the ball put of play three times and managed to throw the ball out for a Town throw in. Hands were rubbed in anticipation, for three points were being offered on a slowly heating barbeque. Despite this fantastically rubbish opening by our hosts for the evening, Town didnâ€™t do anything. Mansaram ran around, almost crossing once, erm, erm, Barnard was seen near us and Oster kept dribbling forward, but kept bumping into the fourth defender. Woah, did you see that? Rotherham crossed the ball, bringing an "oooh" from their strangely invisible support. The ball plopped between Coyne and Gallimore, with no-one else anywhere near. The cross was, like 95% of their attacks in the first half, a lump from their left to right, for their sole tactic seemed to be to lift the ball over and behind Gallimore. You canâ€™t blame them for that, it is the obvious thing to do. And boy, was it obvious, even Galli worked it out pretty quickly.
Shall we jump forward a quarter of an hour, not because I fell asleep, but because the game was devoid of what you, and I, might call football. Town just shuffled across the pitch, keeping Rotherham 30 yards out, so they just ended up chipping the ball into the box. Santos headed the ball out, or Coyne came out and caught it. Or, more often than not, Town got a goal kick. Some strange strangled noise emerged from the dourness, which suggested the locals thought something nearly happened, but it didnâ€™t look like it from our dark, dank corner. Town werenâ€™t in control, but were certainly untroubled. The Town fans were slowly, slowly, losing their enthusiasm and settling back into the default mode of raging silence, especially as Rotherham began to get closer and closer to the crosses that were being haphazardly pinged in the vague direction of Coyne. I cannot stress the word vague enough.
Around the 25th minute, Rotherham nearly scored in typically robust fashion. In other words, like a third division team. From their right they just wellied the ball high into the air towards Coyneâ€™s near post. The ball disappeared from view, then dropped vertically as Coyne was challenged by a big lumpy bloke. Big lumpy bloke rose above our flapping stopper and the ball bumbled off some fleshy part off his anatomy and stumbled towards goal. McDermott ran around the back and knocked the ball away from somewhere near the line. Good old Macca, where would we be without him? Well, 1-0 down. From this moment on the game was almost exclusively down the other end, with Rotherham, oh you know full well what they did - cross, corner, free kick, lump, welly, barge, bang, hoof, whack, thwack, crash bang wallop what a picture. And then there were those irritating but fear inducing long throws which zoomed into the 6 yard box. But weâ€™ve got Georges, so why worry? Worry because itâ€™s Town, thereâ€™s always a calamity round the corner, isnâ€™t there, especially with Ford in Mr Supercool mode. So cool he doesnâ€™t have to open his eyes, his mere presence on the pitch would be enough.
Wake up over there, Town are attacking. A corner, half cleared to the edge of the area and whoâ€™s this knocking at the door, ringing the bell? Itâ€™s Mr Santos, who leant back and swiped a stinging, singing half volley which shaved the post... of the fence behind the goal. It was perhaps a yard or two wide, but enough to rouse the Townites into an "Ooh" and an "Ahhh". Without a piano you have to make your own entertainment these days. Perhaps if FIFA really were interested in making the game more entertaining theyâ€™d introduce those moveable goals like they used to have in Itâ€™s a Knockout. Weâ€™d score more then, but weâ€™d have to have bean bags full of flour instead of balls, of course. A little later there was another Town attack, another Town chance, another "Ooh" and an "Ahh". Mansaram broke down the left, Barnard waddled up in support, got behind his full back and crossed into the centre of the box. The ball deflected up and over the defence and suddenly, but briefly, Mansaram had a full sight of goal, 12 yards out with the ball bouncing like a succulent kumquat. Eat me, eat me it screamed. Mansaram wafted his right boot around in a circular motion and radio contact was established. The merest hint of ball-boot synergy and the chance was gone. There were frequent "almost" moments when Town broke, but lack of numbers and fiddling about soon dampened hopes of actually seeing a shot on target. We hadnâ€™t had a shot, and then we had a shot, but heaven knows some were still miserable.
Rotherham blah, blah, blah, up in the air, header, bundle, blah, blah, boring, boring approximation of football. Iâ€™ll say this for them, theyâ€™d give Chesterfield a good game. Yet, in the context of the match, they were swarming all over Town. Lee managed to glance a header a foot or so wide of Coyneâ€™s left hand post, climbing above Gallimore to meet a deep cross from their left. Other crosses, other headers, nowhere near goal though. And then they surprised us, and probably themselves too. After a long series of two touch passes, stretching to perhaps four, Farrelly, on their right, 10 yards inside the Town half, spun around Hughes and zoomed forward. And kept on going, accelerating, drawing other Town defenders towards him like the Childcatcher offering "lollies and sweets my lovelies", he went straight towards goal. When about 15 yards out, he let rip and smacked a rising drive which stroked the top left of the crossbar as it passed Coyne. Yes Rotherham fans, you can "Oooooooooh" now.
Half time: Rotherham Utd 0 Grimsby Town 0
My it was awful and thankfully that was it, with the Town players cheered off, simply because we werenâ€™t losing and those three points were still on offer, at a knock down price too. Analysis, like resistance, is futile. Rotherham hoofed, Town sort of defended alright. A mixture of their ineptitude and Townâ€™s improved resilience and organisation resulted in what pundits up and down the country agreed - stalemate. Perhaps Rotherham have already started next yearâ€™s relegation battle? Thank goodness for Santosâ€™ head, and extremely large psychic aura, which acts as an invisible forcefield around his body; attackers have to detour around the back of Tesco to get around him. When heâ€™s in this mood, they might as well do their shopping.
It wasnâ€™t magnificent, but this is war, itâ€™s no good working on points for style. It was pretty, oh so pretty vacant football, but we didnâ€™t care.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"I seem to spend half my life buying blue cardigans".
The report continues in the second half.
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