Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
Taking Tea with the Salisburys
By: Andrew Doherty
SPEAKING as a football tourist now living away from Lincolnshire, one of the minor disappointments of last and this season’s fixture list was that we weren’t going to play at Salisbury to add to our trips to Bath, Cambridge and York. Today, however, we got our chance.
But today was different. Whereas normally the prospect of a good day out outweighs the prospect of another dismal display on the pitch, today there was a pot of gold in sight. Success in the FA Cup second round could lead us to the mouthwatering possibility of a game against Manchester United’s reserves. And let’s face it, how could we not be confident? The fact that Salisbury play in the league below us counts for nothing, but then to get here we beat a league side over two legs, conceded no goals, and now have just come off a thumping 7 - 0 win in the league. It concerned me that the previous time Hearn scored a hat-trick, I saw him play inexplicably like a frightened rabbit in the following game, but surely our XI could rise to the occasion and do the necessary today. We don’t need culture on the pitch. That can be left behind in this historic city. We just want a result. The stage is set.
Replete with culture, retail, bakeries and tea shops, Celine and I caught the park and ride bus. We passed the pig farms and arrived in the middle of nowhere. After a short walk, we arrived at Salisbury City’s ground. Bedecked in green in spite of being the home of "The Whites", the Raymond McEnhill Stadium is neat with a smart main stand. It is typical of the modern top of the range non-league arenas. "Did you have a good journey" enquired the programme seller. It’s very civilised round here. "It’s now that time where I have to try to pronounce the player’s names" announced the man on the tannoy in self-effacing fashion. Sunday names were in order, much no doubt to the pleasure of the players’ parents. Emmanuel, Robert, Michael, Anthony, James and Bradley were all in Grimsby’s squad today. Shame about Charlie, Jamie and those other horrid modern names like Craig and Frankie. But halt. There was a problem. The man on the tannoy announced there was a queue at the tea bar in the main stand. We can’t have thirsty supporters. But a solution was on hand: "Tea can be obtained from the bar by gate 12, where there is no queue!" This vital information was repeated 10 minutes later.
James, Conor and co took to the field of play. For the record, Town lined up as follows: McKeown - Wood, L’Anson, Pearson, Townsend - Coulson, Disley, Panther, Green - Hearn, Elding.
Having looked sharp in the pre-match warm-up, Town, today wearing all blue, struggled when the game got going. The pitch was wet and slippery but Town put themselves under pressure by conceding possession too much. Salisbury started brightly and won a corner rather dubiously after Reid turned and shot over the bar. All the players of both sides prepared for the goal kick but in splendid isolation the referee signalled a corner. The ball was cleared but a succession of corners followed. L’Anson and Pearson won headers and l’Anson in particular anticipated and blocked well, reducing Salisbury to speculative and unsuccessful long range shots. Town’s clearances and ball control were creating problems. Captain Disley recognised this and signalled to his team mates to slow down and compose themselves as passes were being splayed without thought and the ball was routinely being lost. Town did have their moments, and Coulson and as he went on one of his trademark diagonal runs on 12 minutes, he was hacked down, resulting in a booking for the Salisbury defender.
Hearn won a corner on 15 minutes but the misplaced passes continued. On 23 minutes Town got into Salisbury’s box. The ball came out from the goalkeeper and Coulson sent in a shot which ricocheted off the underside of the crossbar. After this the game became becalmed as both sides struggled. The ground was quiet. It was if the match was being played in Salisbury cathedral. Even the Town fans, wearied no doubt by a 6 ½ hour trip and the lacklustre fare on offer, sang tiredly. A backpacked lad came round selling tea. This constituted a highlight. This was our gate 12. Finally after 40 minutes Town pulled themselves together and started to win the ball in midfield. Disley won a tackle and passes were threaded like a needle. Town now looked dangerous. A good headed knock-on from Elding resulted in a corner on the right. Pearson got a powerful header on target, which the goalkeeper tipped over. So the half ended Salisbury 0, Town 0.
If entertainment were needed, this game needed a goal. But this game wasn’t about entertainment. It wasn’t a good half as a spectacle but the remit was being met. Town were comfortable at the back but the distribution was poor until the last 5 minutes. Salisbury had most of the play but solid defence and poor marksmanship ensured they didn’t trouble McKeown in Town’s goal. Town had a couple of good attempts and looked the more likely to break the deadlock, but although Disley was showing resolve and Coulson shone in patches, our midfield needed to get a grip on the game. Tea was still available at gate 12, we were informed.
The second half began with chances at both ends. First Salisbury’s Reid shot over the bar, then Town countered. Panther headed down, sending Hearn on a chase. Salisbury’s Chris Giles managed to cut out the threat and out the ball out for a corner, mouthing a load of abuse at Hearn in the process for no apparent reason. May I suggest that Salisbury’s committee sits down with young Christopher and has a chat with him over a nice cup of tea about ethical behaviour. On 52 minutes, Salisbury had an even better chance when Alexis shot wide when trying to direct his shot from the left. He was ominously unmarked. It looked as if Salisbury had realised that a central aerial assault was futile and were now concentrating on exposing Town by working across the pitch. Town meanwhile started to adopt the same tactic and the game improved as a result. Before that the game had to be stopped when a linesman was injured near the dugout. As he writhed in agony, the announcer saw a commercial opportunity: "As we have a break in play, I’d like to tell you that there are 20 of today’s matchday programmes left and you can buy one in the club shop after the game".
Commercial break over, it was back to the magic of the FA Cup and Town won a corner up the left on 58 minutes. Then on 62 minutes Coulson embarked on a brilliant run from the right, cutting defenders like a knife through butter. As he hit the centre of the penalty box, he took aim and spooned it over the top. The Town fans groaned. It was a great run but a combination of the ball’s bounce and Coulson’s loss of balance was our undoing. Town were now starting to create openings. Thanoj then came on for Panther and was soon part of a fluid cross field passing move before himself having a chance. Losing his balance, he was unable to get into position and the move looked to have ended. Hearn was having none of it and put a solid tackle in to win a throw for Town deep in Salisbury territory. Green was booked for a foul and then on 72 minutes and in time-honoured tradition Duffy came on for Elding. Personally I thought the managers might have tried Spencer for a change. The ubiquitous Hearn continued to press defenders and won a throw-in on 75 minutes, shortly afterwards attempting a goalwards chip which no-one was in position to run on to. A minute later the Salisbury goalkeeper miskicked under pressure and Townsend was hauled down for a free kick on the left. As the players got ready for the free-kick, Duffy had a private battle in the box with Salisbury’s pantomime villain Giles. The opportunity was wasted.
Town were completely in control against a tiring Salisbury side at this point. Led by Disley, every ball was being won in midfield and opportunities were being created. Hearn then headed down for Coulson who crossed from the left. The ball came back for Coulson who was able to chest the ball down but couldn’t find enough time or space. Hearn was then put through on 82 minutes but with two defenders and the goalkeeper bearing down on him he couldn’t quite get control and placed it too far past the advancing keeper to be able to turn. On 85 minutes Salisbury had a half-hearted shot, reminding us that this game and our chance of glory could still be lost. Two long throws from Wood gave Town a further chance but Salisbury’s defence held firm and Pearson was unable to get right behind his header. Hearn was then crunched after a one-on-one with the goalkeeper who punched the ball clear. On the stroke of 90 minutes Salisbury had a good chance when a dangerous cross came in, only for two players to get in each other’s way in their eagerness - we could breathe again. 6 minutes were added to cover for the linesman’s earlier mishap. Coulson was booked after running to retrieve the ball following his own misplaced pass. A long ball - legitimate in these circumstances - was heaved out of Town’s defence on 93 minutes and led to Hearn having another tussle with Mr Giles. The resultant throw-in led to a corner, but by this stage there were too many white and blue shirts, and there was no room for anyone. In spite of Town’s endeavours and domination, the game ended in stalemate. Salisbury City 0, Grimsby Town 0.
So the teams will line up again for a replay at Blundell Park. The fact is that both teams and both sets of supporters seemed united in relief and happiness at being in the 3rd round draw. After an uninspiring first half, Town showed greater technical skill and fitness in the second. Salisbury had chances but Town had the better ones and as the game went on, looked increasingly likely to break through the defence and score. Hearn, l’Anson and Pearson deserve special mention for sticking to their task and for their skill in carrying out their tasks. Coulson was dangerous as ever. My Man of the Match was Craig Disley, who orchestrated Town’s control of the midfield and epitomised the determination and spirit which earned us the replay and could have earned us victory.
It was the start of a cold December’s evening. Supporters of both teams mingled amicably as we waited for our bus back to the city. It was a shame that someone had to lose. But nobody had. The opportunity is there to take tea together and play Association Football once again but this time back up in Lincolnshire.
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