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On the Hoof: Sheff Wed Report
By: Tony Butcher
A typical Sheffield afternoon, chilly, overcast with a blustery wind creeping through the hills and causing havoc with toupees and side partings. Around 1,500 Town fans gathered for the wake behind the goal to the left (as seen on television).
Sheffield Wednesday 0 Grimsby Town 0
19 Apr 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
There was noise, some support but, deep within the bowels, no heart, which is anatomically correct, if nothing else.
Town lined up in the usual away formation, 4-5-1, as shown. You wonâ€™t need to be told who stood where, so I wonâ€™t tell you. If you do, just guess, Galli did. Someone eventually realised that Santos was the youngest man in the back four, at just 31 years and 8 months. Ahh, experience, thatâ€™ll get us through, err, hopefully. Wednesday lined up with three hulking strikers but, unfortunately, no Sibon, who has provided us with many moments of mirth over the last few years. Itâ€™s such a shame they rid themselves of the lowland loafer. Is it any wonder that crowds are shrinking when clubs eschew the entertainers? Surely Townâ€™s decision to put Cooke on the bench, rather than in the crowd, fits snugly into that category. If he isnâ€™t going to weave his way around full backs, weâ€™d like to watch him eat savoury snacks in cruel and unusual ways. Thatâ€™s the way the Cookie crumbles his pies, or pasties, depending on your culinary definitions.
Town kicked off away from the Town support. The ball remained in play, for Town attempted to confuse their ailing, failing big time Johnny opponents by passing it to each other, well, until it got to Bolder, who spent the first 20 minutes passing to the stripes. On one hand itâ€™s nice to see him get the hang of this passing to footballers wearing striped shirts lark, a shame that Town were wearing the old flashing belisha beacon yellow kit. This week weâ€™re in polka dots, the next weâ€™ll be in stripes, Chris.
Wednesdayâ€™s methods, though unsound, were clear. Kick it high and long to the bulky, hulky blokes. You have to acknowledge their foresight, they have already started their preparations for the second division. By practising now, in simulated match conditions, they have a head start for next season.
A bit of realism at a club not previously renowned for any self awareness. All of which tells you that nothing happened in the first five minutes. Town passed the ball around pleasingly but, as we all know, the ball will, at some stage, go near Bolder or Gallimore, so all good things come to an end. Wednesday wellied, Kuqi, Owusu and Reddy bundled about and that was about it. The Town defence was four characters in search of an author, as there was no co-ordination, just individuals reacting. Against Wednesday thatâ€™s normally enough, as long as you donâ€™t fall over your own boot laces, or become mesmerised by the blue paint on those huge metal poles that keep the roof up, which is an equally apt description of their centre backs.
A shot, from "them", after five minutes. I am sure it looked exciting to the locals, even what professional pundits would call a chance. If only the average fans knew enough about the technicalities of the game then we could have identified it as "an opportunity". You see, from behind the goal, it looked like rubbish defending and a rubbish shot. There you are, what do we know? A long ball, straight down the middle, was headed on by Owusu about 25 yards out. Kuqi charged forward down an inside right channel, rampaged through the savannah, scaring the meerkats and water buffalo that had somehow strayed onto a little patch of green in South Yorkshire. Kuqi eventually caught up with the ball about eight yards out and a similar distance wide of goal, before hitting a tame dribbler low to Coyneâ€™s right. The Welsh one, as opposed to the Welsh One, plopped gently onto the inflatable plastic thing with no discernible difficulties. Opportunity knocked very softly for Kuqi. He got 24 on the clapometer. And I mean that most sincerely.
A few minutes later, our partners in relegation torpor had another shot. Again it was as a result of the ball hurtling through the air and Town defenders being a bit slack, though this time the case for the defence cites certain mitigating factors. A corner taken from their left looped into the 6 yards box. Players crashed into each other like frisky teenagers on a dodgems ride and the ball kept bob, bob, bobbing along at head height, at the far post. The ball finally dropped down and Reddy turned around and thwacked a drive from about eight yards out. Local journalists will be very tempted to use football clichÃ© number 38 and describe the ball as "rippling along the side netting", which at least conveys the fact that it went wide. The Wednesday fans leapt up and cheered, whilst the Town fans reclined in their uncomfortable plastic tubs with a satisfied smirk as the ball went a couple of feet wide of the post. Relax, if weâ€™re drowning, like a spurned lover weâ€™re taking them with us. After 15 minutes, Gallimore took a series of throw ins so slowly that the referee eventually penalised Galli for time-wasting. A little unfair, as Galliâ€™s brain works in a different dimension to other footballers. We all know Gallimore lives in the fifth dimension.
You can go and make a cup of tea now, the game was devoid of action for another quarter of an hour. Make a sandwich, you have time before the next incident. Put some pickle in it. Go and buy some if you havenâ€™t any, thereâ€™s plenty of time Somewhere within this shopping break, Santos was injured when making a fruity challenge in midfield. He looked very injured and spent the next ten minutes hopping after Kuqi, which doesnâ€™t say a lot for the Albanian Finnish finisher, does it. Anyway, back to the story of Bertâ€™s blanket. After 25 minutes a funny thing happened. Town won a free kick (no, thatâ€™s not the punchline) about 30 yards out, somewhere on the right. The ball was gently swung into the very centre of the Wednesday penalty area. Helpfully the Owls were nowhere to be seen and Groves, near the penalty spot, attempted to steer a volley wide of Pressman. The pneumatic tyre bounced to his right and just managed to claw the ball around the post, with Hughes lurking at the far post. The resulting corner, from the Town left, was swung... hang on, Iâ€™ll get this useless peace of information out of the way first. Keane did what he has done at every single corner since his arrival, he ran quickly from the near post to the corner taker. The ball was swung in to the near post, half cleared and eventually looped away to Bolder, 30 yards out. As the cynics groaned, Bolder hit a fantastic dipping left footed volley which looped over the onrushing defenders and towards the top right hand corner. Pressman bounced once on the ground and boinged up magnificently, punching the ball over the bar for another corner. I canâ€™t be bothered to stress how superb the save was, it was annoyingly effective. And that was the punch on the line. I suppose the jokeâ€™s on us both, in the end.
You can go back to your snack now, for the rest of the half was devoid of goalmouth incidents. There were isolated moments when it appeared that there was a distinct possibility that an event was likely to occur in the future, but these fizzled out. Town were playing neatly, with some effective promptings through the midfield, where Hughes was an increasingly influential figure. Annoyingly, the ball kept being played to Bolder, who hasnâ€™t quite grasped the finer subtleties of association football. He can do the running around and kicking people bit. He often accurately passes opponents to Groves, itâ€™s the ball thatâ€˜s the tricky thing. If only FIFA would pass one of those innovative rules changes and ban the ball from the pitch. Boulding twice managed to scuttle away down the right flank, isolated against Danny Maddix. The first time was wasted when Boulding did a Donovan and tried to dribble through the antique centre back. The second brought the Town fans to their feet, as our baseline basher scampered into the area, with Maddix retreating like Gallimore on rollerblades. Unfortunately Boulding, when near the 6 yards box, decided to drift outside Maddix, and onto the right foot, and his cross shot was blocked for a corner. For Town that was it, just a couple of breakaways and crosses to, well, no-one. I will admit that I did see Stuart Campbell on the pitch during the first half. He took a throw in.
Just before half time Chettle fell to the ground and clutched his back, but after a few moments of grimacing and stretching he returned to the pitch. Around the same time Wednesday had another chance, again created through hoofs and chasing. Town backed off the Wednesday wide players on the left and allowed them to loop in a cross to the far post. The ball bounced once and a small dark haired player raced in, jumped up and from about eight yards out, cleared the ball over the bar for a goal kick. It is difficult to identify the Wednesday players, they have the same public profile as junior cabinet ministers, and their numbers and names were in black writing, with no panels on the back of their striped shirts. If I was forced to guess who missed this chance, Iâ€™d plump for Bromby.
After two minutes of added time the referee ended this rather prosaic doodling of a game. Wednesday were a stereotype of a team near the bottom - all big blokes hustling and hoofing. My they hoofed. Town were calm, small and pretty (not literally, of course), with occasional bouts of defensive narcolepsy. Wednesday were very fortunate to have got to half time with no bookings, especially their centre backs who, on one occasion, did a double hackâ€™nâ€™trip on Boulding as he turned past them on the half way line. Both Maddix and Smith should have been booked, but only received a little lecture from the man in black (yes, the ref was Johnny Cash today). There were a couple of penalty appeals, within 30 seconds of each other. Kuqi bounced off Santos and Boulding was shoulder barged by Maddix. Or was it the other way round? Depends on the stripes in your specs, really. If youâ€™re looking for laughs, then we have Grovesâ€™ unique take on the Pouton step-over - we have the Groves jump-over. He literally leapt up and did an extravagant, elaborate jump over the bouncing ball, twisting in mid-air. Or perhaps Gallimore, the chugging cherub. Fortune smiled on Town as Wednesday never really prodded at the stuffed toy on the left. Only once did they try and Galli was lost, if not in France, then in the Channel Islands. Pity poor Galli, itâ€™s so very lonely when youâ€™re 200 light years from home.
Half time: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Grimsby Town 0
So there we are, a score-line that did no-one but the pitiably poor Potters any good. Town were comfortable, but hardly threatening. Was it time to stick or bust?
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"He looks like heâ€™d be called Colin".
The report continues in the second half.
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