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17/12 Oxford 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
OXFORD replaced the unseen Brookes with Morgan, not that anyone seemed to care, or notice. They kicked off, they kept the ball, immediately switching it out to Morgan on their right wing. He hopped, skipped and jumped over an awful Bull lunge just inside the penalty area.
Grimsby Town 2 Kidderminster Harriers 1
59 minutes - Bull made a tackle.
61 minutes - first "Sort it Sladey" of the night
The crowd started to grizzle and growl, Town got worse and worse, clearances began to go up, then backwards, like a kick-about after a night out, incapable of basic foot and ball co-ordination. Forbes casual and flimsy, barged away, rolled away, perturbed by Bradbury, dishevelled by Davies. Danger lurked, danger averted when Townâ€™s twelfth man arrived. Donâ€™t look Ethel. It was too late. Here he comes, boogie-dy, boogie-dy. Out of the Main Stand, over the picket fence, the fastest thing on two feet. Davies about to enter the penalty area, confronted by a naked man. Davies went bananas, naked man hopped around and, eventually, two stewards walked after him. You know, if a man likes to show off his physique, invitin' public critique on an extremely cold December night in Cleethorpes is unlikely to realise your full potential. The thought crossed many a mind that it was a confused Cramb, out of the showers, back on the pitch in the hour of need. This was no way for Slade to sort it.
Football? Town? Actually there were one or two moments. Fleeting false hope on a frozen night of passionless football. Town strung 3 passes together with Fleming bursting forward a couple of yards outside the Oxford area. He collided with two defenders, they sneezed, they all fell down and the ball rolled to Mansaram, free inside the area. The referee gave a free kick to Town, who went for the subtle approach, Gordon annihilating the ball against the crossbar. The ball bounced eight miles high, players waiting, some laughing, some just shapeless forms. Warning for Oxford children: this scene contains minor peril. They panicked, everyone jumped up and down for a while like a tiny tot disco, and Oxford cleared it.
This Town, known for its sound of moaninâ€™ and groaninâ€™, finally had its fill of nonsense. Slade duly "sorted it" by taking off Bull and bringing on Sestanovich with about 20 minutes left. Of course, Town went to a 3-4-3 formation and looked far better defensively for several minutes. But the jitters jangled and Whittle took ages to clear a rolling ball by the foot of the left hand post. He ended up slicing the ball against Mooneyâ€™s head, a dozen yards out. Up in the air went the ball, over came Whittle who used his Mighty Boots to swish a clearance.... up in the air, the ball bouncing a dozen yards out. This was merely the most elegant of the seven ages of man Whittle went through.
Town made infrequent visits to the Osmond End, barely enough time to have a cup of coffee and a chat . And everything fell to Fleming. Poked wide, shinned wide, hooked over. Great moves all, wasted when the ball ended up at Flemingâ€™s feet. His efforts got further and further away from goal. Practice makes even less perfect with Tezza.
Sestanovich touched the ball three times. Nothing to report.
Oxford pressure. Nothing to report. Ah, yes there is. When Town hauled off Bull Oxford also made a substitution. So confident were they that they gave their coach driver 20 minutes in professional football. A Christmas present weâ€™d all love. He bore the name Wanless and Iâ€™m sure heâ€™ll have great memories to tell his grandchildren. Boy, was he "thickset".
A few dribbles from either side, not even memorable as they were happening, was the sum total of the last 15 minutes of play. Sometime during the second half Crowe knocked the ball away from near the Town line, but it was a rolling ball going well wide, not a goal-saver. That was just about their best effort on goal, Mooneyâ€™s legal requirement excepted. No efforts by them but they looked the better side and far more likely to score than Town. We just wanted it to end.
With a couple of minutes left Reddy replaced Parkinson. Parky had been his usual self in the second half, running around without achieving. Reddyâ€™s first touch was a pass out wide to the marauding Macca, his second to finish of the flowing move heâ€™d started, volleying straight at the â€˜keeper from the edge of the area. If itâ€™d had gone in it would have been a goal. But it didnâ€™t, so it wasnâ€™t. There were three minutes of added time during which Town held on, with much desperate hacking.
Urgh, first half adequacy dissolved into a second half shocker. No-one emerged from the second half with an enhanced reputation. Pinault was nullified by numbers and a subtle tactical switch. Town couldnâ€™t and didnâ€™t respond. The players were incapable and the (eventual) management changes to personnel and tactics did not inspire any perceptible change in the pattern of the game. Oxford and Town are two sides of the same coin, individuals capable of playing beautiful football, but collectively incapable of doing it very often. Both sides are better than most, but their problem is they believe that too. Belief isnâ€™t the same as being. Mr Slade should beware, too much hacking = sacking.
Weâ€™re condemning ourselves to another season in this boulevard of broken teams. Say it isn't so Ethel. Ethel?
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
A simple task in a simple land, for the first half puppetry it has to be Professor Pinault. All other beers were off tonight, only one pump worked for a while.
Mr R Booth. Booked Mansaram for a slightly late tackle, which was plain daft really. He also gave Town a couple of goal-kicks when the ball had clearly clipped monochrome boots. There was an air of fusspottiness about him which wasnâ€™t too tested by the teams, for it wasnâ€™t a particularly physical game. He did make it clear early on that he wasnâ€™t going to fall for falling, so bonus points there. If numbers have to be plucked from thin air, here are some: 6.673.
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