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Fade to Grey: Doncaster Report
By: Tony Butcher
A pleasant, temperate evening with around 800 Town fans relaxing behind a goal. Expectations were high, after all "we" are the big boys now, so all those little refereeing decisions would go in our favour, the luck would flow, like a mountain stream, weâ€˜d let our luck flow.
Doncaster Rovers 3 Grimsby Town 2
12 Aug 2003, Carling Cup 1st Round
Some teenagers were aghast at the standard of the ground - they were clearly too young to remember the jumpers for goalposts days in the old fourth division. "You think this is bad, luxury!". Well, when in Rome, as Jimmy Hill once said in Paris.
Town warmed up down at the other end, in front of 9 steps of empty concrete and some salmon pink safety barriers - the terrace had not been given a safety certificate. Perhaps it hadnâ€™t dried. Were the 9 steps of empty concrete a metaphor for the new Town? The good news was that there was a new toilet block somewhere in the ground, which was loudly trumpeted by their tannoy announcer. Not literally trumpeted in Herb Alpert style, that would be too much to expect, a little light Latin lip movement in South Yorkshire. The bad news for anyone wearing sunglasses was that the toilets at the away end didnâ€™t have any working lights. Thatâ€™s both male and female toilets. We really were spoiled in our previous life, werenâ€™t we.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, as shown. In other words, the same as on Saturday. Ah the opening day of the Nationwide League season, which is increasingly known as the traditional curtain raiser to the traditional curtain raiser of the season. Always different, always the same. A quick glance at the programme revealed yet another exciting new player for Town, a tricky winger called Paul Smith. Groves really is a sneaky one, we have a secret player! It seems that Smith moved to Hillsborough in June... Hang on!
Doncaster warmed up right in front of the Town fans, nothing too wild to report, except McIndoeâ€™s Bobby Shaftoe boots and their use of a rope ladder (unfortunately not a gold lamÃ© one, so Little Richard was absent from the training routine). Skipping and hopping across the horizontal ladder, bets were being placed on which of these strange men doing impressions of rabbits would tumble first. None did.
As is traditional at this stage of the season "the pitch looked good". There you are, had to be said. Lovely and green, perfect for a team like Town. It was all set up nicely and Grimsby expected every man to do his duty. Wake up Simon Ford.
And I havenâ€™t even been rude about the chubby local lasses with pom-poms holding out for a "heeer- row". Whoops, have now. They werenâ€™t even in time with themselves
Town, in that plain greyish thing labelled the away kit, kicked off towards the massed ranks of Marinerdom waiting behind the goal. Tip, tap, sideways, the ball meandered back through the team and was eventually hoofed down a channel. Clearly we havenâ€™t worked out what the proper second division way of kicking off is. How many seconds before it is launched out of the ground?
The next four minutes were down at the other end, as Doncaster pummelled through Town. They were exactly what one would expect - a vigorous, direct team. They have a method and nothingâ€™s going to stop â€˜em. Town just didnâ€™t cope well, with the a load of corners forcing Town back. We were shown five different corner routines, perhaps the first in the series "50 ways to kick the ball out"? Perhaps a little too dismissive, as each corner rained in it dawned on the Town fans that Doncaster knew what they were doing, whilst Town simply watched and wondered. In the case of Crane and Ford, that was wandered. The grumbling started, and it was only 7:48.
At 7:49, the grumble started to rumble. A deep corner was flung beyond the back post, way outside the area and their right back played a lifted, side-footed volley from 25 yards which looped high towards goal. The ball rebounded off Davisonâ€™s right hand post and was scrambled away with what dignity the Town defence could muster. So none then. Town? Well, Boulding had run towards the ball quickly once.
Still Doncaster poured forward, using Fortune-West as an awkward wall with players buzzing around him, bursting beyond the Town defence. What a loose description that is. Four men stood in a line in the same conurbation. There seemed little organisation, with individuals saving the day with last minute tackles, with Cas being the most prominent dangersaver. It wasnâ€™t pleasant viewing, for the Town fans at least. Town barely got beyond the half way line, with far too many long balls down the wings or up in the air to the forwards. Isnâ€™t that Anderson supposed to be any good? Where is he? Ooh, thatâ€™s lovely, that is. After about 10 minutes Town attacked! Anderson touched the ball for what seemed like the first time, drifted infield from the touchline and, about 30 yards out, dinked a perfect pass over and through the Doncaster defence. Crowe sprinted in from the right wing and got to the ball just before the â€˜keeper, around the penalty spot. There was a tackle, the ball reared up and suddenly the diminutive dasher was past the goalkeeper and heading towards the bye line, to the left of goal. From a narrow angle he curled the ball across the face of goal and .... a free kick was awarded to Doncaster for handball after the linesman flagged furiously, which made Crowe furious and he was booked.
Still Doncaster muscled forward, creating danger, but not many clear cut chances. There were crosses, some falling to boots, a couple of scrambles inside the box and several long shots. Davison was forced to make two excellent saves when their right back advanced and, from virtually the same spot about 25 yards out to the centre right, thwacked goalwards. The first Davison caught low to his right, the second forced a lunging, plunging, groping tip away from the top right hand corner. The ball dropped towards two lurking hoops, but Davison recovered to plop upon it safely. More corners, more breaks, more wibbles in the heart of Town. It was all very frenetic, up and at â€˜em stuff, with Town not coping well as a team. The Town fans started to taunt the homesters with "who are you?". At least I think it was aimed at the Doncaster fans, it may have been a polite enquiry of our own team, as there were many, many hushed conversations and quizzical enquiries of "who is that?" when Town had the ball. Can you tell your Anderson from your Barnard from 50 yards?
After 24 minutes a huge cheer rose from the Town fans - Disco Des finally touched the ball. Fact or fiction for comic effect? It isnâ€™t a bluff, itâ€™s true. Sadly big Dessie was awful for the first part of the game, cumbersome, lumbering, badly placed, just dreadful. He looked unfit, or we hope so. We want Des the Dude, not Des the Dud. Then, suddenly, he grew into a major influence, driving forward from midfield, having a high (compared to Pouton) ratio of successful passes - nearly 50% went within a year of fellow Town players. Town started to gain some control. Not much, but some, with Ten Heuvel gradually beginning to hold off his marker and flick little lay-offs in a weird meld of Rees and Woods. Letâ€™s hope heâ€™s Roods rather than Wees. And another thing about the saucy Hollander up front, heâ€™s very good at winning free kicks. In fact for the first half Town won a lot of decisions, simply through their greater "professionalism". Boy do we know how to fall well.
Which brings us nicely to the all important 38th minute. Under a lobbed punt forward Ten Heuvel remained firmly on the ground and stood in a funny way (I donâ€™t mean he looked like a tea pot). The referee immediately gave a free kick, about 20 yards out, just beyond the left hand corner of the Doncaster area. Barnard, Anderson and Campbell stood around and appeared to mess up a routine, but the ball was eventually rolled sideways to Campbell who smacked a drive towards the centre of the penalty area. Warrington started to dive to his right and the ball was beautifully steered into the left hand side of the goal by the head of a DONCASTER DEFENDER. Fantastic, after last yearâ€™s procession of rotten fortune maybe our luckâ€™s in?
Town began to do some lovely passing and movement, especially down the right, with Ten Heuvel flicking, Boulding sprinting and Cas kicking the ball out of play. Has he an adverse camber on his boots? Perhaps he should be told "Right foot in right boot". Well heâ€™s European, they drive on the other side of the road, donâ€™t they. Or is that a metaphor? Smug wisecracks aside, Cas had a strange first half, being dreadful at passing/crossing, but linking well with Crowe and Ten Heuvel in opening up the Doncaster left. Moments of fleeting danger wasted by woeful crossing, such as when the three cavaliers oozed through the opposition, with Crowe being released near the touchline, just inside the area. He spun and pulled a cross back, straight to a Doncaster player, with no Townite within 10 yards.
Any more chances to describe? Yes, just the one, when Ten Heuvel held off his marker , allowing the ball to roll free in midfield, creating space for Campbell to advance. The captain miss-hit his shot from 20 yards, the ball bombling across the lush green grass of Doncasterâ€™s home, straight to the goalkeeper. Thatâ€™s it, the well of desperate recording has run dry, thatâ€™s all folks from Town. Doncaster pressurised, but nothing too alarming occurred. The last quarter of an hour of the first half saw Town ascend. Danger lurked from Town, whereas before only the air of surly failure had hung around their shoulders, like disaffected youth on a street corner.
Half time: Doncaster Rovers 0 Grimsby Town 1
So there we are, a fortunate goal and a fortunate lead. Was this to be the triumph of the will of the individual over the collective enterprise?
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Itâ€™s just a mish mash of pom-pommery".
The report continues in the second half.
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