Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
Chilled, not frozen, out in Fenland
By: Paul Ketchley
ONCE upon a time and not a long time ago either, Cambridge United against Town would have been a Championship fixture but no more - welcome to the world of BSP. For those who haven't been there, for the Abbey Stadium think Underhill, a slightly smaller Vicarage Road, or the old Manor Ground in Oxford.
We got the new modern stand for some reason and the 2,000 Cambridgeites huddled silently in a variety of cobbled together constructions one of which housed their Social Club. Heaving it wasn't.
For some strange reason the goal mouth at our end was probably ten yards in from the edge of the pitch so there was a huge space behind the goal covered by four or five ballboys (or is that ballchildren these days?) perched on little plastic seats.
It was a bit cold I suppose but nothing like as cold as Blundell Park on any Saturday afternoon between September and March so it was a bit surprising to see people at our end huddled up in cosy leg warmers in the top row. Maybe it was the effect of altitude? The band kept themselves warm by their exertions.
Croudson was warming up in the goalmouth with Rob Peet so we assumed Kenny was still feeling his hamstring, but Ademeno was resplendent in bright blue boots as Town warmed up with some neat triangles so he looked like he would play a part.
Town played in their sky blue strip with a black swirl whereas Cambridge were in a 1950’s Wolves lookalike strip of old gold shirts and black shorts. You half expected Billy Wright to lead them out but they were mostly big blokes with a centre forward who wouldn't have looked out of place in a coal mine and two colossal centre backs.
Town went into a huddle before kick off and lined up in a sort of 4-4-1-1 formation of
Cambridge kicked off and whether by accident or design kept the ball in play until it came down to the right hand corner in front of us where Garner wellied it off one of their players for a goal kick.
Style determined the content of play. The 1950’s Wolves look-a-likes played a retro style game of orthodox rural simplicity. Meaning they ran around a lot, got the ball out wide and banged it into the middle at every opportunity in the hope of the big number 9 getting on the end of it. At the back they dispatched every high ball forward from the heads of their big centre backs.
Town had an approach which you might call confused modernism following the Buckley school of art and design. You couldn't imagine them as Coventry City with that black swirl on their shirts, and they just over-complicated moves with flicks and steps overs which were just a bit beyond their ability to pull off. On the other hand in Connell, Ademeno, Coulson, Eagle, Wright and Atkinson they had something the golden tops lacked entirely - namely decent footballers. There was nobody in an old gold shirt you'd want to bring in but half a dozen in sky blue that the home fans must have looked at with envy.
Early on Coulson demonstrated why he’s an England "C" candidate with a run from the right and a shot which flashed across the goal, Eagle looked promising on the left and Connell showed why he was the leading scorer in the league and probably way above this standard of football.
Most of the Cambridge pressure was coming down their left and Garner, who made you realise what Macca brought to right back, looked decidedly ill at ease. A couple of attempted clearances went straight to a Cambridge player or rebounded off them into risky positions. Somehow Kempson didn't give the same level of confidence that Atkinson was alongside him either. It was a bit like Lever playing alongside Handyside.
Somehow the thought surfaced that Garner was a decided weak link in the back four and whilst you couldn't see Cambridge creating a goal you could see a defensive lapse giving one away. And that’s what happened. A throw on the right hand side went straight to a Cambridge player who tapped it down the line with Garner AWOL. Hudson threw himself despairingly into a lunging tackle which Willmott stepped over and from the right hand corner in front of us put the ball to the near post where Danny Wright, their number 9, whipped the ball into the goal. Dismay and depression fell on the crowd behind the goal.
Coulson tried to even up the score almost immediately but the keeper pushed it round for a corner.
The game went into a state of torpor. Time passed. The Town fans (300 of them) got behind the team. The band played. Time passed. On the field the ball got pumped around. Time passed. The Cambridge fans were politely silent, or were they there for other purposes, perhaps they were more interested in studying the effects of close to zero temperatures on the growth rate of grass under the latest low energy floodlighting systems. They didn't make a sound and resembled so many stuffed dummies huddled into the various stands that make up the ground. Silence reigned at the far end.
Every attempt to rouse them failed. "you're just a small town near Histon" sang the Town fans. No reaction. "you're coming last in the Boat Race" Nope - nothing. They didn't sing or make a sound and no degree of provocation was going to get them to respond. For atmosphere you can score the Abbey Stadium in minus numbers. We won the entertainment stakes hands down.
Back on the field the ball was going backwards and forwards to no good effect and apart from a notably duff clearance by Kempson there wasn't much to tell. Then a long ball from the Town right went cross field towards Eagle. It would probably have been a bit difficult to control but Eagle had already intimidated the full back enough for him to make sure of things and put the ball out for a throw in level with the penalty spot.
Someone (Eagle I think) took the throw and gave it to Connell who gave it back to Eagle who was by now free and inside the penalty area. He took the chance and slotted the ball into the far corner of the goal. Cue celebration at the away end. It was no more than Town deserved because they were by far the better footballing team on the night.
Coulson then went forward with the intention of making it two only to see his shot go just past the far post before the half ended with a burst of Cambridge pressure which lead to a corner on the Town right. The fourth official had shown one minute of extra time and the sensible thing for them to do would have been to have got on with it and punted the ball into the box with all their big guys present. Whatever happened the next thing would have been the half time whistle. But for some reason Cambridge faffed about and spent an age getting sorted out. The referee then made one of his few better decisions, ran out of patience with them and blew for half time.
Stu’s half-time toilet talk
The report continues in the Second Half
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