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Ride a Black and White Swansong: Burnley Report
By: Tony Butcher
A sunny day, chasing the clouds away, with around 250 Town fans behind the goal to the right (as seen on television). The players, from both teams, ambled around, catching some rays, with Burnley players seemingly taking a mid-afternoon medicinal perambulation.
Burnley 1 Grimsby Town 1
22 Mar 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
Town, feeling frisky, used green AND orange bibs in the pre-match kick-a-bout. Now thatâ€™s confidence for you.
Town lined up in the regulation 4-5-1 battle formation, as shown. Campbell returned to the way leftish midfield position, with Coldicott taking up Poutonâ€™s role, whatever that is these days. The Burnley supporters silently seeped into the ground, almost unnoticed, whilst the Town fans sniggered at the errors in the programme. A big full face photo of Mark Lever was accompanied by three paragraphs eulogising Kevin Donovan. And why is it only official matchday magazine editors have spotted the remarkable similarity between Boulding and Danny Butterfield? Itâ€™s the clothes that gives it away - they wore the same coloured shirt and shorts last year. Must be the same person, itâ€™s too much of a coincidence. Or is it simply that they were next to each other alphabetically in last yearâ€™s squad?
The pre-match festivities were seemingly based on the personality of the Burnley mascot, who got a huge build up. So what? Then up struck Carmina Buranawhich sent the Rick Wakeman look-alike into a frenzy of 70s nostalgia. Ironic, given that aftershave is used after a shave, it being a literal word. Perhaps it was memories of all those shaves he didnâ€™t have. Apart from spotting celebrity look-alikes in the crowd, that was it, unless you were as fascinated as the Burnley stewards by the entrance strategies of the away support. Why did everyone used the centre left turnstile?
Town kicked off towards the Burnley support and immediately dampened the ardour by passing the ball around slowly and methodically, until it reached Gallimore, when method went out of the window marked "Whacko!" and he wellied it upfield. Even then the ball was not lost, as Campbell won the header and Town got a throw in. Hurrah, points make prizes.
To the huge delight of those present wearing black and white spectacles, real or imagined, the Burnley players didnâ€™t seem particularly bothered. Oh sure, they wanted to play pretty football, tippy-tappying the all around, trying to score a perfect goal for the end of season video compilation, but getting stuck in wasnâ€™t priority one, all other priorities rescinded.
Five minutes had got behind us before either team got round to shooting, and a surprise it was too. People had paid good money to sit on a wooden plank and they didnâ€™t want those people over there kicking a ball about fussing and generally causing a nuisance, did they. It was a lovely day and just right for a picnic in the park. Thatâ€™s disturbing the peace and tranquillity, we had sandwiches to eat, books to read, songs to sing and friends to hail heartily, and some heartily hail. It had been a sauntering opening from both sides, with Town a bit more up for it. Defending deeply and in packs, Campbell especially looked lively and alert when trying to break forward. Mansaram was proving a difficult man to mark, simply because it is impossible to predict what part of his body the ball will bounce off. And while you are mentally digesting that image of Mansaram, the return of the human octopus, Burnley wasted a supreme chance. Flipping the ball from left to right across the face of the penalty area, it was tapped into I Moore, on the centre left of the Town box, with his back to goal. Unmarked and free he decided to perform a double lutz with twist, dragging the ball backwards between his legs and turning, all in one movement. He managed to drag the ball out of play, when just controlling the ball and turning around would have presented a virtual open goal. Still, we enjoyed it.
There were several "nearly" moments from Town, which all faltered on the alter of Mansaramâ€™s mind. He was completely unable to run in the right direction when Oster made a couple of incisive first time passes. And I do mean run in the right direction, for the passes were perfect whilst Mansaram ran at right angles away from the ball. But it was a sign that Burnleyâ€™s defence was not rock solid. They held a very high line near the half way line, giving plenty of opportunities to chip the ball over and behind. Such morsels are clung to by the hungry hippos of hope. Coldicott, Stacy, back to Conan mode. "Seek and destroy", said Groves, and he did. He was everywhere, making some excellent blocks and tackles and even starting some attacks too. A bundle of confidence and energy he actually added to the team. The midfield worked beautifully as a unit, hunting in pairs to crowd out the Burnley dribblers (Little) and twisters (Blake), a thick monochrome wall was cemented into the 18 yard line, and Burnley, for all their shimmies and shakes, couldnâ€™t get through. There were occasional crosses, some of which remained in play, but little by way of action to keep the home fires burning. There was little from Little, which is always a bonus.
Town had sporadic forays into their penalty box, mainly through corners and free kicks. Within the first 10 minutes there was a bout of head tennis which caused a trifling amount of alarm and concern in the Burnley defence. Stand up, somethingâ€™s going on. Mansaram suddenly sent free down the centre right, behind the defence, bearing down upon goal. He cut in, awaited the defence, then lifted the ball against Beresfordâ€™s chest, and out for a corner. Oster fizzed it over, through the centre and a wodge of bodies to just beyond the far post. The ball hit Mansaramâ€™s knee and went out for a goal kick. This was all going swimmingly, huge expanses of time were taken up with nothingness, a void, the Town defence a black and white hole into which the ball was sucked and never seen again. Hughes and Coldicott were ferocious ferrets gnawing away at the ankles of Burnley players, snapping, crackling and popping the ball off their toes. Oh sure, Burnley sometimes had shots, but so weak and wide that they have asked that, for the sake of their families, the individuals are not identified and the details not be released.
Mansaram, back to Mansaram. Weird man, Mansaram. He controls the ball like someone reading instructions from a manual, all done in easy to follow steps. Sometimes he seems to be awaiting body parts ordered over the internet and the courier hasnâ€™t arrived yet. At others he turns like he is still tightening the bolts on his limbs; Mansaram Meccano man. Mostly infuriating, but fleeting moments of genius, like the two occasions he dribbled down the right and crossed into the box, behind and over the advancing Campbell. He had a shot once, dribbling, dobbling, bobbling and a dobbin bobbin of an effort. And another one, with Campbell and Oster screaming for a pass, he sliced a shot just over the bar at the back of the stand, disturbing a couple of irate drinkers. "Did you spill my pint?".
Shall we shout, or should we scream? Oh Galli, Galli what have you done? Back to Mr Grimsdale again. Twice he managed to set up Burnley attacks when he fell over the ball in comic fashion, cloth cap askew, braces twanging, tripping over his oversized boots. Fortunately, nothing serous flowed from the attacks, a cross into the crowd and a side footed shot well wide and well weak. But the fear was that Burnley would remember him from times past and decide to attack him. Just after the half hour mark a defining moment. Burnely exerted some pressure, but Town forced them to keep passing back to their centre backs on the half way line. Suddenly, Davis sprinted forward and a pass was laid out to him, right in the centre, 25 yards out. Davis shaped to thwack a pile driver into the top corner, but Stacy surged forward and threw himself at the ball, blocking mightily, the hills rumbled and shook at this collision and the Town support rose to acclaim Coldicott, who remained motionless, clutching his leg. Play continued with the ball being flipped out to their left wing, the flat cross was fizzed into the near post. Little sauntered unmarked into a position about seven yards out and flicked a header just over the angle of near post and bar. Coldicott was still still, Groves frantically called for the stretcher, which was eventually brought out by some very lackadaisical blokes in tracksuits. And still Coldicott didnâ€™t move. Some Burnley fans jeered and slow handclapped, which riled the Town support, who rose up and even started chanting for Coldicott. Eventually, Stacy was wrapped up in a blanket and taken away on a stretcher. A great shame in many ways, for in the context of this game he was the leading light , the numero uno, the putative man of the match. It looked a very serious injury, and it took about four minutes to deal with it. Bolder came on in a straight swap.
The game continued in the same pattern. Burnley pressed, but without much conviction, and Town broke away, almost doing things, but never quite. One of the Burnley players decided to fall over in the area near Santos. No penalty. Little bumped into Hughes, fell to earth and caught the ball, expecting a free kick. The referee gave Town a free kick for handball, booked him and advanced 10 yards for dissent. Marvellous, less fat too. Half time, letâ€™s get to half time at 0-0, then weâ€™d be happy. The game meandered along, without incident, without interest, until a couple of minutes before halftime. Town had a throw in near the half way line on the right. A completely boring position, so people took the opportunity to tune in radios, phone up friends and generally prepare themselves for the halftime festivities. The ball was lifted over the top, down the right, and Davis lumbered after the ball, with Campbell scurrying after him. Again no danger, a humdrum back pass and welly up field would follow. Boring, boring, Oh. Davis stumbled and bumbled about in true Titus Bramble fashion, allowing Campbell to kick the ball away and race off towards goal. Beresford half advanced and started to flap as Campbell poked the ball under him and into the centre of the net. Here we go again, as happy as can be, that little travelling knot of Grimbarians leapt around like it was a Tuesday night in Rotherham. Yes, we were that excited.
This goal energised Town, for they swarmed all over Burnley for the remaining minutes. Gallimore and Campbell linked down the left, with the scurrying Scotsman crossing low to Mansaram, at the near post, ten yards out. Mansaram allowed the ball to run across and run up his left boot, spun and miss-hit a right footed volley into the ground, the ball rolling gently to Beresfordâ€™s right. Worth an "ooh". A minute later Campbell again scampered down the left and crossed dangerously, a corner resulted. Town were passing and moving, even Gallimore advanced upfield to join the fun.
Half time: Burnley 0 Grimsby Town 1
There you are, itâ€™s half time now. An odd game so far, with Burnley playing the role as scripted by Town fans - they turned up for a kick-a-bout. Marvellous. The only fear was that their manager, who looked 20,000 leagues less happy than your average Town supporter, would give them one of his legendary rollickings at half time and make them try for at least 20 minutes. Only Gallimore in the defence had looked remotely ropey, with Santos a big man again and Ford concentrating. Just before half time Ford did cause a flutter or two when he decided that it was the appropriate moment to show off his ball skills dong a double drag back and lay off to Santos. The fact that Ford was the last defender and he had two strikers virtually standing on his toes is of interest to historians only. Anyone else to mention? Well Oster flittered and flattered, trying too hard to do the spectacular thing and Mansaram was all over the place. The rest were just very professional and disciplined. With Town where they are they satisfied rule one - run around a lot.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Howâ€™s your mother?".
The report continues in the second half.
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