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Sunday in the Park with Georges: Brighton Report
By: Tony Butcher
A bright, sunny and warm afternoon with a stiff breeze hurtling through the open corner and into the faces of the Smiths/Stones/Findus standers.
Grimsby Town 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 2
04 May 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
The entire Osmond End was packed full of Britghtonians, which made the stand look like a giant Tescoâ€™s bag, but a passionate, rousing, all singing â€™nâ€™ dancing one. The Town fans cast off their season long torpor and decided to have a little jig too, why not have a picnic in the Park?
Hot news of an important breakthrough in food technology, a massive leap forward for mankind. The official floozies wandered around the pitch chucking bags of fish and chip flavoured crisps to the goggling throng. Thatâ€™ll be "fish" flavoured crisps, wonâ€™t it. The excitement was such that the Pontoon barely noticed Michael Boulding walking amongst them, hair a-waving, suit a-shining, well itâ€™s so long since weâ€™ve seen him; last year, wasnâ€™t it?
In a throw back to medieval times, Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, as shown. Now, where do we start? How about Hughesâ€™ hair? Shorn of the flowing wavy-gravy locks, his last game for Town was an homage to Dickie Davies. A little white blob on the centre left, which is a description of his hair, not his personality. Perhaps he has a cunning plan Mr B, for his return to Portsmouth. A new haircut might con â€˜Arry. He isnâ€™t that trundler rented out to "no disrespect to the likes of Grimsby" (to quote the Townâ€™s official FIFA registered name), but a new, exciting Latin lover playmaker. The crowd were given one more chance to pine for Cooke as he ran up and down under the Police Box. Rowan sat on the bench. No-one knows why. Heâ€™s a footnote in comedy history, that famous double act, Rowan and Jevons Laugh-in. If you donâ€™t remember, just look him up in your Funk and Wagnallâ€™s.
For some reason Brighton brought along the staff of a local nightclub to play for them, appropriate for a Sunday afternoon, but not for the First Division.
They had several bullet headed Saxon motherâ€™s sons, who I presumed to be the bouncers, not the cloakroom girls, and all the DJs came too, which was nice. Their left midfielder, DJ Skunkboy, was listed in the programme as Nathan Jones. Yeah right, we believe that. Just as much as we believed his hair. Short cropped except for a huge blazing great pseudo Mohican down the middle, like a giant squirrel had been squashed onto his head, affixed with Bostick. Their left back was allegedly called Kerry Mayo, which we thought was the brand of high calorie salad cream he favoured. So on the left they had Porkie and Skunk, which sounds like a short lived buddy-buddy cop series from the 1970s.
Beasant was given an extremely warm and long ovation when he loped towards us, which engendered several ad-hoc history lessons being given to the teenagers. All they need to know was he played for us once when he had a perm.
Brighton, in a very bright all red kit, kicked off towards the Osmond Stand and it was clear theyâ€™d improved greatly since last September. Their long thwacks forward generally go near their own players now. Townâ€™s long hoofs are much more accurate, reflecting our greater experience of first division football. They go straight into the middle of the forehead of the opposition centre backs. Now thatâ€™s the difference in class between the divisions.
Minutes passed, the Brighton fans sang, the Town fans responded. A jolly time was had by all. And in between us 22 men were earning money. Brighton wellied it forward, but Chettle and Santos were unperturbed. They had a corner, it went into the area, it went out again. The away fans "oohed", the home fans sniggered. Town chance! The Town fans sniggered again. Mansaram was briefly free inside the penalty area, perhaps 10 yards out. He sidestepped one defender and turned around rather than shooting. Thatâ€™s our Flash, he sometimes resembles the uncoiling Alien, an uncoordinated gangle of limbs which, if left alone for a few minutes, could be lethal. Ooh, hang on, Brighton attacked. No, calm down, they crossed and Santos headed away. And again. No, sit down, Coyne caught the cross. Excitement! Action! Crosses! As the ball pinged around and, occasionally, out of the ground, the Town fans sat further and further back in their seats, a knowing smile growing ever wider. This was a lark, the first friendly of next season. For all their furious huffing and puffing, Brighton created nothing. There were moments of danger, but only from corners and free kicks, of which there were many courtesy of a referee who was having a bit of a laugh, seeing how many rotten decisions he could get away with. He must have been, surely? Thereâ€™s no other logical explanation for his behaviour.
Sometime within the great amorphous goo that was the first 20 minutes, Town got a free kick about 25 yards out, right in the centre. Gallimore took a deep breath and prepared for action. The back row of the Pontoon took a deep breath and prepared to catch the ball. Gallimore smacked a low drive which, to the consternation of all, failed to hit the shins of the bloke two from the left in the wall. Beasant was so flabbergasted he dived very late to his left, the ball ricocheting off his shins to Campbell, eight yards out and to the left of goal, who slid forward and whacked the ball high over the bar as he was challenged from behind by Porkie the barrow boy. Worth an "oooooh" in anyoneâ€™s book.
Brighton had a few more crosses. Groves was forced to clear a corner with his chest. Then Brighton had a few more crosses. Kitson headed eight yards wide from the centre of the penalty area, which was extremely close by the standards Brighton had set themselves. Later on, at some indeterminate time that was certainly before half time, but after the kick off, one of their players had a shot. It went Poutonianly wide, almost Mansaramianly sliced.
After about 22 minutes something happened. The ball was bundled about in midfield, with Campbell in the centre circle, stretching and looping a "pass" over the top of Porkie the barrel-chested boy. Thompson, hitherto a lightweight ponce, full of shrugs and sneers, chased after the hopeful punt (thatâ€™s the pass, not the full back). Mayo, a couple of yard outside the penalty area attempted to control the ball as it dropped over his head. Heâ€™d seen McDermott do it, so he was darn gonna show these doubters that he could do it too. He couldnâ€™t. The ball lurched off his foot into the path of the scampering Scouser. Mayo stretched again, like he did last summer, allowing Thompson the opportunity to avoid falling over the lingering limb. Like any self respecting Liverpudlian, he never looks a carthorse in the mouth. Down he went. The Pontoon cried penalty, the referee pointed to the spot. How we laughed at Thompsonâ€™s tumble and that the fall started outside the penalty area. It was, in the language of pundits, "highly debatable". In English it was "dodgy". Keane sprinted 40 yards and grabbed the ball as Thompson tried to pick it up. They then had what Allan Mullery once described as a "minor fricassee on the touchline", with Campbell joining the debate. All three had a barney, with Keane clearly the hardest, so he won. No, not hardest, maddest: the bloke is bonkers. Mad Dog Michael wrenched the ball away from Thompson and placed it on the penalty spot. It rolled away. He put it back. It rolled away again. Three Brighton players had a tussle with Mansaram on the edge of the area. The referee pointed to his whistle and wagged his finger. Culip, the meanest looking centre back, walked across Keaneâ€™s path. Keane strode forward and the ball started to roll towards goal, caught on the breeze. Now what would anyone expect at the seaside, those ball always fly away across the sand. KEANE caught up with the ball and placed it into Beasantâ€™s bottom right had corner, as Old Dave lurched to his left. Off came the shirt, into the crowd went Grimsbyâ€™s favourite leprechaun and down went the Brighton hearts. Now, that tattoo on Keaneâ€™s back, it looks Gaelic to me. That, or the tattooist canâ€™t spell.
Apart from the goal, Townâ€™s only moment of interest came a couple of minutes later. Keane and Mansaram buzzed around the edge of the Brighton box, robbing the ball off a couple of dilatory defenders. Hughes was played behind the defence on the centre left, just inside the penalty area. He turned and hit a low dribbler across Beasant, which was saved quite easily. Add to that a few McDermott surges, including one down the left, and thatâ€™s your lot, as far as Town are concerned. Hughes and Groves passed it adequately through the midfield, but Campbell was again an ephemeral presence. Thompson was weak and adept at running away from the ball. Mansaram has perfected the spindly spin, which defenders have long been able to anticipate. I will stand up and be counted. I was there when Mansaram last had the ball under control. It was in November. Defensively there were no concerns at all. Is that Zamora bloke playing?
Brighton had a few more crosses and the game petered away, if something can peter away from nothing. Brighton were competitive, in the same way Livvo is competitive. A bunch of lumpers and thumpers, they were extremely basic in their tactics and skill levels. Shall we be fair to them and say they have over achieved? It just shows how far a bit of organisation and determination can get you - almost safety in Division One. There were a few injuries to Town players, the longest stoppage being for Chettle who, in the 43rd minute (itâ€™s always the 43 minute) stayed down after a well timed tackle stopped their number 9, Hart.
Half time: Grimsby Town 1 Brighton & Hove Albion 1
It wasnâ€™t a bad Second Division game, and in some ways enjoyable, though that may have been the result of the complete lack of tension for the Town fans. At least the Town players were trying and the defence looked very solid for once. You know, whatever, here comes summer.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"All things must pass. Not Macca they wonâ€™t".
The report continues in the second half.
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