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Bingo!! - First Half
By: Tony Butcher
A pleasant evening in what tourist guides describe as a major seaside resort, with around 100-150 Town fans sprawled over some temporary seating down one side of the pitch.
What a strange land we visited. Desolate and bleak, concrete and candyfloss, the answer to that infinite imponderable "why do people come to Cleethorpes for a holiday?" has finally been answered. Because they went to Blackpool last year and have a taste for the jet set lifestyle. What colour was that kettle that just shot over my head?
With ample parking in the flatlands and badlands around the ground an imposing modernist structure loomed before us. Mmm, it would be difficult to claim they'd paved paradise to put up this parking lot. Where's the away end? Go under the bridge, up the steps, over the road, under the bingo hall and up a gum tree. Like walking back through the decades, the Town support emerged in an open area infested with puddles and with a fantastic view of the Timeteam's latest dig. That was once a football stand? Did they take the roof off to keep the Universal Business Rate down to a manageable size? Opposite the poor and huddled Mariner masses was the swishing swoosh of newness, the Pricebusters Matthews Stand. Demeaning an icon or what! What next? The Mothercare Maradonna Stand? The Costcutters Charlton End? The Kwiksave Kilmore railing? The ground is clearly in a state of flux, with the next stage being an approaching blow torch.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows :- Davison, McDermott, Crane, Edwards, Barnard, Crowe, Hamilton, Daws, Campbell, Onoura and Boulding. The substitutes were young Jevons, young Mansaram, young Bolder, young Hockless and young Young, which makes him sound like a panda, doesn't it. So Crowe for Cas was the only change from Saturday, with everyone where you'd expect them to be.
The pre-match warm up and entertainment was suitably downbeat, bordering on the non-existent, though there was a series a tannoy announcements. Or was that the local Bingo Hall? "On it's own, number one, blind Davison" "Two and Six, pick'n'mix, Jason Crowe". Just before kick off the Blackpool supporters rose to their feet to acclaim some bloke who had wandered onto the pitch. A private investigator was contracted and it emerged that this man was a popular former player, a Mr Paul Groves. Oh, our Grovesie. Or to give him his full title, according to the nylon generation, "Sort it out Groves".
And the game hadn't even started yet.
Town kicked off towards the goal behind which humans lay, sat, slumped, slept and daydreamed. In other words to the right as seen by the Town fans, to the left as seen on television. The ball was tapped back to Crane who whacked it down the left. Eventually sanity was restored when one of the Blackpool players sliced the ball out for a throw in. That's the way to do it, well, the way 1st division teams do it.
Fifteen minutes of comforting, slow, tippy-tappy football followed. Lovely. Nice, quite charming in its olde worlde way. Like a pair of woolly slippers and a hot water bottle, it was so relaxing to snuggle up and watch the way things were. When everything was in black and white. You knew where you were in them days. The names change but the Town on song remains the same. Possession, passing, practically no action. It may have quietened the Blackpool supporters, but they were so far away it was hard to tell. Oh, look out, Boulding's free. Crane chipped a first time pass up the right wing, to accompanying groans from the polenta reading poetry eaters. Boulding leapt free, twisted past one defender, zoomed towards goal and dragged a very forgettable shot into the side netting. What was that? Sorry, forgotten already.
Woah, an Onuora flick on the edge of the area, Boulding almost free. If he'd been awake that is, narcolepsy spreading from terrace to pitch. Or perhaps he'd been bedazzled by the 5 man passing move that preceded, including Daws dummy and Hamilton hop. A Town corner, the usual routine, with Barnard clipping the ball to someone 30 yards out. Campbell scuffed the shot and the ball ping-ponged through the area, with a minor scramblette in the middle of the box, and rolled way past the right hand post. Well, something almost happened, but at least it almost happened in front of their goal. Blackpool got into the Town half a couple of times, with Sheron finding space between Barnard and Edwards. Finding space is one thing, doing something when you are there is another and Sheron did what he always does against Town (and most other teams for that matter) and that is nothing, sir.
Eventually Blackpool played the ball out to their left, enabling the far sighted to note that Danns was wearing white boots. Pfft, and before a suitably laconic comment could be thrown towards the pitch we were blinded by the light. Coid had scintillatingly sizzling silver boots. That don't impress Macca, for Coid cut loose like a deuce, another runner down our right. McDermott calmly shepherded this little lamb away from goal, away from the ball, away for a goalkick. Bump, that Town feeling. Just when you feel at your most relaxed something happens. Only this time, as Sheron had the ball, it didn't. Fortunately. Barnard threw the ball straight to a Blackpool player and off they went, dribbling straight down the middle, sucking in the rest of the defence. With Barnard upfield still waddling back, an inviting hole was espied where the Welsh wanderer should have been. Sheron shuffled into it and the ball was eventual ly shifted over to him. Alone, free, inside the area about 12 yards out, Shezza tried to side foot the ball, but Davison stood tall and finger tipped it over the bar with considerable ease. What a fine miss.
What more can I say? More minutes past where Town passed and Blackpool occasionally broke upfield. They ruined their chances by passing to Sheron. Except the time they didn't, when a loud klaxon sounded in the head of every Mariner. Wellens was free right down the middle, Crane nowhere to be seen. Wellens hared off towards goal pursued by McDermott and Edwards. Hail the wizened one, for McDermott managed to schmooze the midfield muffler away from goal, then placed himself between the orange raider and Davison, allowing Edwards to nip in and tuck the ball under his jumper for safekeeping. Normal service resumed.
Hamilton tried his luck from about 25 yards, managing to squirm his shot way, way off to the left of goal, almost hitting the advert for Shire Industrial Estate. Come to think of it, it was probably nearer the industrial estate than the goal. Pouton would be proud of you! Someone else tried something and something happened, whatever, you know, that sort of totally forgettable, briefly interesting thing that Town specialise in. Crowe cut in from the right, drifted across a defender and tried to curl a left foot shot into the far corner. It hit a defender. Yes, that sort of thing. That was a highlight, by the way. McDermott spent a lot of time roaming down the right, but the movement stopped when he got over the half way line as Crowe simply stood still and Onuora didn't bother to move to that Tony Rees position towards the corner of the penalty area. Wall pass? Wall pass? We don't do that at Bramall Lane. Hoof it man.
McDermott's roaming led to a few moments of concern as Blackpool started to play with a bit of tactical astuteness. Come on, that's cheating, this is division two. They simply exploited the fact that McDermott went forward and Crowe didn't provide much cover, so one of their midfielders kept trotting towards the vacant right back spot when they won possession. They didn't so much as have a sniff of goal though, the Town defence was most unified, even Crane wasn't that far out of position, by historical standards. Edwards was magnificent, being the solid rock at the heart of the defence, reading play, stretching legs, heading away, covering for the occasionally erring, wandering partner. Erring? Wandering? Not always, I said occasionally, for in the last few minutes of the half Crane was useful, not to say vital. Sheron was sent free down the Town left after a Town attack was broken up. Edwards chuntered over and, from the bye- line, Sheron dinked an excellent cross over Davison. Crane stretched and stretched and stretched, enough to glance the ball just over the lurking Taylor, with the goal a-gaping.
And that was the first half. Not much to it really. Davison was forced to make a, that is singular, save. However, although Town seemed to have the majority of possession, Blackpool created more moments of danger. They looked very dangerous when surging forward on the break, but required Town to give them the ball first. And that's something that rarely happened. Hamilton and Daws were an effective block in the centre, whilst both Campbell and Crowe worked hard to squeeze their wingers, though not literally, they weren't that friendly. Up front Town barely existed. Onuora seemed to be working towards the soubriquet "the new Livvo", with his energetic pursuit of the ball a couple of seconds after it had gone. Boulding just doesn't look fit, not having that zip we are accustomed to.
And some spots of rain appeared, forcing some concerned Grimbarians to run to their cars for umbrellas and coats. Of all the open terraces in all the world it had to start raining on this one.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
Click here for part two!
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