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Big Wednesday - First Half

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 28/10/2003

WE present here Mr Butcher's report which will not be in its usual format this time as Rob Sedgwick is on holiday enjoying the delights of Yorkshire. This should not however spoil your enjoyment.

A bright, temperate and clear autumnal afternoon with the Town fans peering down upon the world from the upper tier of the Leppings Lane stand, like a thousand Caesars.

The thumbs were ready to twiddle. Oh look, there's that Terry Coke bloke, or is it that Terry Cooke blooke. He's supposed to be good, isn't he. Sorry. My mistake, it's one of the double hernias that is the club mascot, Hootie and the Blowfish. A mixed reception for Cooke from the Town fans, perhaps 60-40 favourable.

Excuse me sir, but what's that! A chubby lad with silver boots and a blue streak down the middle of his hair. Not looking "cool", but more like the Daily Mail's version of "one of those punk rockers". Ostentatious badge kissing is bad enough, but dying club colours into hair goes beyond silly straight through to downright suspicious. Proudlock, proud of his locks? Ah, yes, we remember him well. He rejected Town as he didn't want to get involved in a relegation battle - he has Donovanian ambitions. As usual the Wednesday 'keeper was tubby Pressman, resplendent in fluorescent orange, looking less like a footballer than a lifebuoy. The rescue helicopter will be here soon, his family shouldn't worry.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows :- Davison, McDermott, Crane, Edwards, Barnard, Cas, Hamilton, Daws, Campbell, Onoura and Boulding. The substitutes were Young, Mansaram, Crowe, Hockless and someone called Jevons. Campbell, of course, shuffled to the left wing to allow Dynamic Derrick, Disco Des's doppelganger to play in the centre. That shaven headed skinny lad, who's he? Must be the new player, Jevons. Let's hope it isn't a case of meet the new flop, same as the old flop.

The match day programme's featured player was Shefki Kuqi. Mmm, loaned him to Ipswich a couple of days ago, didn't they? It's nice to see that Wednesday are nurturing the beautiful game, abandoning their hoof it and hope style. For on page 36 the director of the Owls academy takes a full page to detail a training routine - an "advanced skill" - practicing long, lofted passing. Hang on….

The musical prequel to the team entrances was Simple Minds. How self effacing. The music to watch the minutes go by before kick off was Hi Ho Silver Lining Just for Proudlock, eh? So they are Wolves wannabees? I forgot they are *massive*, aren't they. Well, so is elephant dung. And Pressman.

And in today's programme Stuart Campbell was played by Stuart Campbell.

1st half

Town kicked off away from the Town support and spent quarter of an hour practicing a training routine from the Grimsby academy - passing the ball to team-mates. It was just like old times, passing, tackling, hassling, moving, shooting, not scoring. Within the first couple of minutes Wednesday did manage to get inside the Town penalty area, but only as they had been given a free kick when one of their players tripped McLaren. Oh, I mean Crane, yes, Crane, he gets paid by Town doesn't he. Crane tripped McLaren. Rubbish free kick, Wednesday not seen in Town half for another 20 minutes. Literally.

After a couple of minutes Town should have scored, after neat interplay down the right saw Cas flying, flowing and fooling the left back. Cas crossed from the bye-line and Onoura, at the near post about six yards out, headed a foot wide.

A couple of minutes after that another sumptuous, contemptuous bit of Town play. Wednesday faffed about just outside their own penalty area as Onoura, Hamilton and Daws harried. Hamilton, about 30 yards out, intercepted a pathetic pass, played a quick one-two with Onuora, then slid a pass to the unmarked Boulding, out near the left corner of the Wednesday area. Boulding zoomed in towards goal, stopped, cut back to his left foot and Mustoe blocked the resulting thing. Shot, pass, cross, whatever, it ended up as a corner. Barnard stroked the corner back to Campbell, about 30 yards out to the right of centre, who thwacked a first time running half volley which bent through a thicket of players on the edge of the area. Pressman caught the ball at chest height, but awkwardly as it curved away from him. He started to shake his hand, hold his side and limp, just to cover all angles. After several minutes the game continued, flowing towards the injured orange beachball.

Barnard fell beautifully near their penalty area, got up and whacked the free kick straight in to the wall, Gallimore style, though there was a soupcon of suspicion that the ball was stopped by an errant blue hand. A couple of minutes after that more comedy non-defending allowed Boulding to scuttle away down the left, twist past a pile of decaying Wednesdayites and flip a cross over to the far post. Cas, completely and utterly unmarked, chested the ball down and, from about 10 yards out, volleyed it towards the rear of the Spion Kop, as Pressman flung himself forward. Cue panic stricken change by Wednesday, for off came their left back, Beswetherick, a man with hair longer than his name and talent shorter than his socks. Such a shame, we were really enjoying his contribution to world peace. Such generosity of spirit, such determination to please guests.

On in his place came the be-bandaged Haslam. Growls reverberated, the other Wednesday substitutes trotted up and down the touchline and a chant of "you're not fit to wear the shirt" were flung towards one of them. It looked like Owusu was the brunt of this outpouring of Yorkshire angst, brewed with Yorkshire Water, no doubt. Still, nice to hear, though if they were being literal they should have sung it at chubby Proudlock.

Pressman held play up again after a corner, holding his hands and grimacing. Two, count them, two stretchers made their way up the touchline. We know he's wide, but really, two stretchers for Mr Pressman? No, the stretcher bearers suddenly turned right and ran up the side of the Spion Kop. Heading for the hills already? Had enough? Wednesday's child is full of woe?

Ah, that's nice for them. After 23 English minutes they had a shot. Wednesday got so close to Davison they could actually see that his shirt was red, not the usual blue. That close! Wednesday broke away with Proudlock turning Crane and the ball was eventually clipped out to the skipping Cooke, who, on the left edge of the Town area, stepped inside Barnard and flashed a low shot across Davison and a foot or two wide of the right hand post. Sounds more interesting than it was, for it never, ever looked likely to cause Davison any concern. However, we shouldn't be too hard on Wednesday, for they had managed a shot, which is a positive for them to take from the game. Cooke had another shot some time later which Davison saved low to his right, the ball squirming away with Edwards calmly sweeping up, with brown overall and flat cap at a jaunty angle. Stand up, Cas is away! Huh! Davison threw the ball to Cas, who headed the ball forward, over the defender and into the Wednesday half. He was away down the touchline, free as a bird, but the linesman, bizarrely, managed to flag for offside. If you can work that one out you deserve a blue plaque on your wall. I promise to visit too.

Around the half hour mark Pressman walked off and was replaced by Nixon. Impeach him now! Sorry wrong Nixon, wrong decade. Old Eric, the annoyingly competent ex-Tranmere 'keeper came on. He's 41 you know, and still has all his own black hair. Within a minute another long, long stoppage. Boulding, on the edge of the Wednesday area in the centre, flicked the ball over the top of the mesmerised defenders. Cas muscled through and only Wreckless Eric stood between him and goal. Out came Nixon, and the ground shuddered as they collided. Cas never got up and was stretchered off, being replaced by Hockless. Campbell moved to the right, with Hockless playing as the left midfielder. Such a big shame, as Cas was thoroughly enjoying his day out and from this moment until half time, whenever that would be, the howling Owls managed to gain some control. Well, in comparison to the jerry built crazy paving that had been their way until then.

One of their nondescript midfielders wellied a shot comfortably over the bar from way, way out. A small child stirred in the third row, everyone else continued their conversations. With about 10 minutes left Crane was very fortunate when Ndumbu-Nsungu knocked the ball forward about 40 yards out down the centre and fell as Crane lunged from behind. Now if young N-N had simply fallen naturally and not tried to re-enact the final scene from Platoon, then a free kick would have been awarded and a red card produced. I haven't mentioned Ndumbu-Nsungu before, and with a name like that how could I. He was their version Mansaram - his arms are wicked and his legs are long. More long balls, sorry "advanced skills" flew forward and eventually a chance was created. Or happened. Mustoe burst forward and, from about 25 yards out, flicked a header forward down the middle. Crane, believably to those with a doctorate in Cranewatching, decide to wander to his left, leaving a nice big space in the centre. And who was pounding through this space? Why none other than Proudlock, who Crane had been marking three seconds earlier. Proudlock bumbled forward, waited for Davison then, from about a dozen yards out in the very centre of goal, tried to lift the ball over the red duster. Davison held a hand high and parried the ball away to the right. Marvellous save, miserable shot. Fine by us.

N-N was sent free but dragged a shot from the left side of the Town area so wide it never went out of play. Cooke shot wide from outside the penalty area, no tourists were injured in the incident, and the game meandered towards four o'clock, the now traditional time for first halves to end. Suddenly we awoke, as McDermott and Campbell, teased, pleased and twizzled down the right. McDermott cut infield and dinked a swinging cross in towards the near post. Boulding sneaked in front of his marker and, from just outside the six yards box, headed firmly, but inaccurately. The ball missed the angle of post and bar by a foot or so. In about the 5th minute of added time a Cooke cross from their left was half bundled clear from the centre of the goalmouth, but N-N acrobatically scissor-kicked from eight yards out. Davison plunged rather too theatrically to his left to save, allowing the Wednesday fans to believe they'd almost scored. Perhaps Davison was bored. In the last minute Boulding should have scored after being sent free down the right. He scuttled into the area and dragged a weak right footed shot low across Nixon, who plumped onto the ball.

That was it, the full 51 minutes, with our hosts dominating several seconds of play, forcing Davison to make, oooooh, a couple of saves. For them, that was it, the occasional breakaways and an opportunist, speculative overhead kick. Town were just better, looking like a team full of pros, tidily, cleverly controlling the game and, when Cas was on the pitch, with danger lurking in every crevasse. Hamilton and Daws commanded the centre of the pitch, Edwards was extremely solid and there were no problems at all for Town. Until Crane butted in, stupidly fouling (exhibit A being his push on Proudlock when the ball was going out of play, giving Wednesday a free kick on the edge of the Town penalty area), meandering about and generally getting in the way.

It was all going very well. Bring on the empty horses.

Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk

"She'd rather sleep in Morrison's car park than come to Hillsborough"
"They've got Mumbo-Jumbo up front? No, that's Turner's team talk".
"Proudlock is a utility player, he can clean ovens and boots"
"We're doing our best to avoid victory"
"Crane's the only Town player who'd get in the Wednesday team".

Click here for part two!

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