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Catch the Pigeons: Leicester Report
By: Tony Butcher
A pleasantly sunny afternoon, though there were few tales of drunkenness and cruelty, in the Stadium of Savoury Snacks, the architectural centre of "new football".
Leicester City 2 Grimsby Town 0
05 Apr 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
Around 750 Town fans were shoved into a slither of blue plastic behind a corner flag, marvelling at the clear site lines, adequate leg room (for those under 6 foot tall) and the cavernous silence. But not the toilets, which would be adequate for an away following of 93 (inclusive of half a dozen total abstainers), though spirits were lifted by the betting boards, which offered odds on Rowan being the first Town scorer in a 3-0 win. It is entirely possible that I am still laughing at that thought.
Town lined up in the fun-for-all-the-family formation, as shown. Cooke was names as a substitute, presumably because there is no one else left whose voice has broken or who has obtained a cycling proficiency certificate from the local council. And now the complicated bit: who is who and who played where. The back four was as youâ€™d expect. The midfield? Campbell on the right wing, Keane on the left, Bolder flanked Groves on the right with Hughes in the centre left. Easy really, wasnâ€™t it. Keane is built like a squashed Pouton, a very squashed Pouton; bullet headed and squat he pointed a lot in the pre-match kick-a-bout, in which, incidentally, the orange and blue bibs were used.
As three o-clock approached the atmosphere in the ground reached snooze pitch, the Leicester fans were curiously quiet. Bored? Apprehensive? Or were they a bit brighter than your average Wolves fan and refused to count their headless chickens before theyâ€™d blown automatic promotion? Two minutes before kick-off, a load of Town fans stood up and started singing very loudly, which visibly bemused the Leicester fans sat near us. Perhaps the Town fans thought theyâ€™d never get the chance to be heard during the game, what with 30,000 satisfied midlanders waiting to party, so theyâ€™d get their whole repertoire in early. Which they did, every single one of them, just one line each in throaty defiance, and then the game began.
Leicester kicked off towards the end where the Town fans were (to the right as per TV, it seemed). They didnâ€™t kick the ball out of play, which is almost cheating. Thatâ€™s the way we do things down here in the first, any more of that sort of thing and we wonâ€™t let them play with our ball next year. We have standards.
The opening couple of minutes were fast and a little frantic, with each team having a thrust parried easily. Then after two minutes and three seconds Townâ€™s concentration, hitherto perfect, was broken. Rodgers was allowed to clip in a cross to the far post, from their left near the corner of the penalty area. The ball floated over Santos to Benjamin, about seven yards out. Oddly he chested the ball behind himself, then tried an Izzettian overhead kick, which arced over Coyne and over the bar, kissing the roof of the net on its way to San Jose. A minute or so later, Leicester broke exceedingly quickly, like Mr Kiplingâ€™s cakes, and Benjamin was released on the left of the Town penalty area as Santos hesitated. Benjamin pulled back his right leg and whacked a thumping great shot... against the swooping eagleâ€™s talons, for Santos saved the day with his enveloping presence; like Draculaâ€™s cloak he wraps himself around his prey, who is transfixed with fear and awe. Fortunately for Benjamin, Santos didnâ€™t sink his teeth into his flesh. Well, he doesnâ€™t play for Sheffield United anymore. Town are vegetarians.
Town! Attack! Shoot! Yes, something happened, and it happened right now, with some nice passing and moving down the centre and right, involving Bolder (the man who moves like a prototype android, each limb moving in sequence, only after the previous limb has completed its action). You canâ€™t hear the motors though (and nobody has since 1980). Repulsed by the old Titans in the centre, the ball rolled back to McDermott who looped a high cross over to the far post. Impey missed his header and Mansaram, perhaps a dozen yards out and wide of goal, lashed a first time, swinging and dodging volley towards the top left hand corner of the goal. The ball hit Taggart on the back and ballooned up and over the angle of post and bar. Worth an "Ooh" and got an "Ooh". "Ooh". The corner fizzed through the centre of the 6 yards box and the referee gave Leicester a free kick because someone fell over. Thatâ€™s the story of most corners; the ref arbitrarily gave a free kick to the defending team because someone hit the turf gurning. It didnâ€™t take long for the two teams to work this out, so each set piece became a contest in falling over in the most amusing and unlikely fashion. Like a Monty Python sketch made flesh. Groves won, with some lovely accidental collisions with Taggart, who became very agitated. And it was this that provided most of the interest in the first half, for Town players took it in turns to wind him up, indulging in a bit of antaggartism. On one glorious occasion four, yes, four heavily striped footballers walked into, tripped, nudged and shoved the chunk of mature Irish cheddar within the space of 10 yards. Groves, Hughes, Campbell and Bolder all had a nibble on the cheese dip.
There was a three minute hold up when Santos headed the back of Benjaminâ€™s sturdy cranuim. Santos simply fell to the ground, motionless. And he didnâ€™t move for a couple of minutes. Not at all. The Town fansâ€™ mood sank lower and lower, but rose with the man. Although he wasnâ€™t a well man at all. Leicester, not being dim, spent the next five minutes whacking up high balls for Santos to head, which he eventually did. The defenestration of Georges brought forth a further gilt edged, golden, and some say easy, chance for Leicester. A corner was won on their right, with Izzet bounding across to take it, right underneath the Town support. Around 50 Town fans loudly reminded the cockney chappie the final scoreline on Wednesday night, and of course he crumbled, literally bursting into tears, screaming that he couldnâ€™t take anymore of this, running off the pitch and...of course he didnâ€™t. He flipped over a perfectly flighted cross into the centre of the goal, about eight yards out. Elliott rose above the peasants and guided a header back down towards the foot of Coyneâ€™s left hand post. Benjamin, unmarked, snuck around the back and wafted his right foot in the approximate area of the ball. Warning lights flashed on our map. We eventually opened our eyes and to our surprise it was still 0-0, as good old Trev had missed the ball, just a yard out from goal. A minute or so later a Leicester surge down their left resulted in ping-pong crosses, blocks, deflection and reflections on what might have been, as Benjamin thwacked a drive from the centre, 20 yards out, which sailed through the air with the greatest of ease and missed Coyneâ€™s left hand post by a few inches.
The game entered a curious period when neither side had a clear cut opening, but there were many "moments of danger". Walker dropped a corner, but only to himself, as the ball bounced back in to his arms. McDermott made a couple of superb runs down the right wing to provide overlapping support to Bolder, who had dribbled down the centre on breakaways. The resulting crosses were blocked for corners. No action to report. Scowcroft bundled about, Benjamin surged, Rodgers and Impey crossed, but no saves to make, or chances created. Town blocked, Town headed, Town smothered with numbers. The occasional cross got through, but the headers were wayward or, more often than not, a free kick was given. Rodgers flung in a couple of long throws, but Santos dealt with them by falling over most convincingly. The nearest Leicester got was after a break down their left, a cross and a clearance by Santos, which hit Scowcroft on the hand. The referee allowed play to continue, with the ball at the feet of a Leicester player eight yards out. But Ford and Santos flung themselves at the ball and the shot was blocked, the ball dribbling to Coyne. Groves headed a Gallimore free kick just over the angle of post and bar from close in and, well, thatâ€™s just about all the Town attacks that resulted in something barely tangible. The movement was interesting and fluid, but the final ballâ€¦. that phrase again, it could be cut and pasted into every report.
Near half time Santos stooped to head whilst Scowcroft leapt to kick and there was another couple of minutes stoppage for the physio to come on and glue Santosâ€™ head back on to his shoulders. Half time, nearly half time, could Town hold on? Yes, for the nearest Leicester got was another Benjamin long range shot, this time from about 20 yards and near the right corner of the penalty area. The ball wobbled towards Coyneâ€™s left hand post, but Walesâ€™ occasional bench-sitter majestically soared across and tipped the ball away for a corner. A minute or so later Mansaram twisted left, turned right, shimmied, shammied and drifted past Elliott and Taggart. Right in the centre and on the edge of the penalty area he miss-hit a low shot through a defenderâ€™s legs for a corner. The corner flew over to the far post, where Groves chased after it into the corner flag, did a slow motion step-over, then a full blown, authentic Pouton step-over. The referee ended the half immediately, for what could top that?
Half time: Leicester City 0 Grimsby Town 0
It could have been worse, and was adequate, especially given the personnel on the field. Bolder was very impressive when he didnâ€™t have the ball. He ainâ€™t no passer, thatâ€™s for sure, but he tackles like a relentless tiger (rather than a hopeless Tiger). Keane, well, he ran around a lot, waving his arms in Donovanian fashion when approached by an opponent, always rushing to the left touchline when Coyne had the ball and rushing towards the corner taker. He got in the way of Leicester and stood in the right places, which is a start, I suppose. Ford was his usual lackadaisical self, the King of Cool mixing solidity with some bizarre clearances, none better than his groin away of a cross.
But 0-0 it was. It ainâ€™t our fault if Trevor Benjamin canâ€™t shoot straight. But he was having an awful lot of shots, one was bound to go in sooner or later, wasnâ€™t it?
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"At least Gillingham painted the walls".
The report continues in the second half.
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