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18/03 Rotherham 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NEITHER team made any changes at half time. The pattern of the game didnâ€™t change either, Town sat back, defending in two solid lines, with Rotherham scuffling around trying to work opportunities to cross the ball.
Rotherham Utd 0 Grimsby Town 1
18 Mar 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
And Rotherham got closer and closer to Coyne as Town players started to back off, allowing players space and time to cross. Fortunately, they were rubbish.
Town had the first shot of the half. Well, I say shot. It may be a slight exaggeration to describe Santosâ€™ tackle which launched the ball from the half way line back towards Pollitt as a shot, but times are lean, there is a recession, so Iâ€™m a-claiming it. After about 50 minutes a Rotherham cross was cleared to Woodhouse, 25 yards out on the Rotherham right, he cut inside and tried to curl a shot over and around Coyne. It did go into the top right hand corner.. of the Town support. Youâ€™re not fit to wear our shorts - thatâ€™ll teach him for turning down a loan move to Town. This, quite frankly rotten, shot enabled the ball boy in front of the Town support to reveal himself. Previously slumbered upon a canvas chair like a surly teenager ordered to look after his precocious and pampered eight year old sister, he rose and chased after the ball. He ran most strangely, like his limbs were two sizes too big; a three quarter sized Mr Slinky he loped around, torso one second behind his legs. I told you we had to find alternative ways of amusing ourselves.
Talk amongst yourselves for a few minutes, thatâ€™ll give you a taste of the fervoured, fevered football flung towards us. Oi, you over there, did you see that? A Rotherham free kick on their left was won with a pathetic dive, forcing all right minded people to rise up and moan, though some groaned. From about 10 yards out, right next to the touchline, the ball was curled into the heart of the penalty area. A Rotherham player rose at the far post and headed the ball on and there was a bit of head tennis and collisions. Someone dressed in red nodded the ball back towards goal from the left side of the area and the ball slowly trundled towards the foot of the right hand post. Coyne scampered across and scooped the ball away from the post, one handed, straight to McIntosh, about 8 yards out well wide of goal.
McIntosh, a huge hulking centre back, did a Poutonian step-over and crossed crisply into the crowd. You are fit to wear your shirt.
After 20 minutes Barnard was replaced by Coldicott, who took up Campbellâ€™s position whilst the Paul Daniels of soccer went to the left wing. At this point someone noticed Campbell and let out a delighted squeal, some say screech. The last time they saw him he was standing at a zebra crossing in Waltham. And do you know, Campbell played superbly from this point on. A whirling, twirling, whizzing and fizzing dervish, irrepressible. Slowly the game changed, with Town eventually starting to probe in attack. Several moments of danger were glimpsed as possibilities on the break, with Oster starting to drift into space and tease his marker, Mansaram started to roll around the big centre back down the flanks. Nothing tangible came of these moments, but the Rotherham defence was beginning to unravel. A Mansaram surge down the left ended with a defender passing back to Pollitt, who completely miss-kicked straight to Coldicott, about 30 yards out. The startled scapegoat intercepted the kick and tried to poke a first time shot towards the open goal. Branston, the equally bald defender, flew across and managed to get his chin in the way, the ball ballooning up and back to the â€˜keeper. Coldicott dismayed his critics with an adequate performance, making at least one bloke furious, incandescent with rage. How dare Stacy not be rubbish. This same Stacy-baiter berated Coldicott for passing the ball to Mansaramâ€™s feet, somehow concluding that the ball had been given away. Yeah, heâ€™s so rubbish heâ€™s passing to his own players now. Pfft, Townâ€™ll never get anywhere with that tactic.
Another Town break, another almost moment. And what an excellent break it was, down the left, involving Mansaram and Campbell, with Flash spinning and laying a quick pass to the unmarked Oster, about 15 yards out. Unfortunately, the linesman had flagged for offside. Offside? An alien concept to the linesman running the Town defence. At least three times he allowed Rotherham to play on when clearly, clearly and even more clearly, they were offside. Danger, mild panic, but no eventual shots. Gallimore, Santos and Ford all managed to hare back and block crosses for corners and throw ins. The most dangerous moment for Town was another non-offside decision (though this time the linesman was probably right) as all the Town players walked up the pitch, with a couple of strikers behind them . The winger raced onto a through ball and careered towards goal. And then over came the cavalry and a pillow was placed over that particular attack, putting it out of its misery. Rotherham brought on Byfield and abandoned their left hand side. Big mistake, for Town, although put under sever pressure, always had an outlet. Whenever Coyne had the ball McDermott peeled away and the ball was rolled to him. No more aimless, wasted, hoofs upfield, the old Town way of build from the back was forced upon them. And it worked, for Oster and McDermott roamed freely, like a proud lion and its cub, the mere sight of â€˜em forcing those meerkat defenders to scurry for shelter.
A Town shot! McDermott raced forward into the area and managed to wildly slice his shot almost over the top of the stand. Personally I blame the government for not banning Rugby Union. And another shot: Coldicott, at the end of a stuttering five-man move, cut inside and curled a left footed shot to the goalkeeperâ€™s ankles. The shot was powerful, well, compared to a 2 watt bulb. He miss-hit it, so what, these things happen, at least it was a shot. Yet another shot - like London busses, eh? Mansaram, drifting and shape-shifting through the left side of the Rotherham defence, cut back from the bye-line into the area and dragged a weak shot two yards wide of the near post. As the game drifted towards its inevitable 0-0 conclusion, spaces appeared everywhere as players tired. Rotherham kept on surging forward, piling on pressure, if not efforts on goal. Heroic defending kept them at bay, none more so than a breakaway towards the end down the Rotherham right. The ball was crossed, a muddle, a huddle and not so much the Mother perhaps the Great Auntie Bunty of goalmouth scrambles. Barker was alone 7 yards out and tried to place the ball. But from a land far, far away, Tony Gallimore travelled upon his trusty white steed, placing his chest in the way, then his shins as a Barker tried again. Up went the linesmanâ€™s flag and Town got a free kick, who knows what for. Another breakaway and another unlikely hero. Campbell hoovered up the turf to reach a midfielder as he was about to crack in a shot from the edge of the area, after a cross was half cleared.
Tick-tock the clock marched on, the pressure from Rotherham increased, not through great football, but sheer muscle and willpower. They threw men and balls higher and higher. Corners, throw-ins, the 6 yard box was packed more densely than your grandmaâ€™s favourite cushion. But reader, your heroes did not fail you. To a man they stood firm, resolute, with passion and power, they repelled the missiles that rained down upon them. With a couple of minutes left, Livingstone replaced Mansaram, much to the chagrin of the Town support, who wanted Town to win. How would Livvo help, that donkey, that dormant dinasour? Still Rotherham pressed and Town broke down the right. Coldicott spun near the half way line and to the usual chorus of disapproval hit a superbly weighted pass over the top of the left back for McDermott, who knocked the ball against his opponent. Corner! Last minute! Up went Ford and Santos, over went the cross, out went the ball, up field raced the Rotherham players. The crowd roared, twenty players hurtling towards us, then Ford stopped them. Passed to Santos, who passed back to a Rotherham player, 30 yards out. Stomachs churned, eyes dropped, hands went to mouth, tears to the eyes and Santos redeemed himself with a hassle, hustle and tackle. The ball broke to Campbell and the Town bench stood up and waved the players forward. The Town fans were on their feet roaring, a deafening roar forcing the ball back towards Pollitt. Campbell knocked the ball down the left wing and, well, we entered a twilight zone where the laws of physics and logic were inverted. Livvo beat the offside trap and bounded down the touchline like a starving, salivating leopard. He looked up and rolled a cross through the penalty area to the totally and utterly unmarked Oster, perhaps 10 yards out, in the centre. OSTER leapt up and steered a right foot shot high into the net to the â€˜keeperâ€™s left. The ball seemed to take an age to curl over and past Pollitt and then the whole Town end disappeared in a sea of writhing, leaping, rolling hugging happiness.
It was pandemonium, 700 people falling about, drunk on joy and relief. Oh the irony, Town scoring a last minute winner. The last few seconds of play were not actually seen by anyone, for the mass was still celebrating. The game ended with the Town players racing around, jumping on each other, sprinting to the Town support and joining the party, which became a street party as we all wandered deliriously around the back streets of Rotherham, people hanging out of car windows, maniacally beeping their horns, singing, dancing, leaping and now believing again.
Deserved? Who cares. Itâ€™s about time Town reclaimed some of those lost last minute points. Coyne made a couple of saves only and Rotherham, for all their pressure, didnâ€™t create much. Hit and hope football relies on luck and they didnâ€™t have any. Town were solid, resolute and eventually triumphant. And Livvo had a fantastic two minute cameo. Word up Livvo. The Town support was magnificent, only occasional groans were heard, and they were right behind the team, roaring them on, from start to finish.
Never mind the quality, feel the three points. Go on smile, you know you want to.
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
Ou est la plume de ma tante? Despite a dreadful error in the last minute, which was conveniently overlooked by all, Monsieur Georges Santos, gets many a nod for a terrifically towering performance. Itâ€™s like having a solid, double brick wall in front of Coyne.
M J Jones. Didnâ€™t book anyone, didnâ€™t have any big decisions to make, but seemed a bit weak. Leant towards Rotherham slightly in his kindly interpretation of some of their challenges. Was Gallimore holding or did the Rotherham player place an elbow across his neck? And why did he keep telling Town players off when Rotherham fouled? He didnâ€™t fill Town fans with confidence, so he gets a surprisingly low score - 4.96.
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