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01/03 Coventry 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NEITHER team made any changes at half time, though Town did emerge very, very late, leaving the Coventry players standing around like curdling lemons for nearly five minutes. Town were ever so slightly better for a bit.
Grimsby Town 0 Coventry City 2
01 Mar 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
Boulding almost broke clear after Oster tricked, but didn’t. The resulting corner finally brought some salty skill to the dinner table. Taken short on the Town left, Oster shimmed infield then swayed to the bye-line, foxtrotting past the defender, he cut infield and, from just inside the penalty area, curled a cross towards the far post. The ball skidded off a defender’s head, just missing the far post and another corner followed, but failed.
The momentum was beginning to swing towards Town, Hughes finally did something, a cracking tackle in midfield which allowed Pouton the opportunity to kindle the fire in his belly, to get that testosterone a-pumping. Pouton surged down the middle, with Oster and Boulding unmarked to his right. Thirty yards out Pouton decided to thwack a low shot into the bottom right hand corner of the gaol. Deciding and doing are two mutually exclusive concepts for Pouton in this mood. The ball dribbled over the grass like an apologetic serf, passing several yards wide of the goal, with barely enough energy to disturb a sleeping steward. A brief moment of hope, the finger tips were about to lose their grip. After about 10 minutes, Coventry roused themselves from their temporary torpor. Jansen was suddenly free and behind Santos 10 yards to the left of goal. Santos managed to get out of a trot and swooped down upon Jansen as he was about to shoot. Santos slid into touch, the ball and Jansen remained on the pitch. Coyne raced out of goal and blocked the resulting shot with his chest. The corner, from their right, was smacked towards the centre of goal, about 10 yards out. Konjic, the big Bosnian bruiser, barged forward and smacked a powerful header back across goal. Campbell, standing next to the post, wobbled on the goal line and the ball seemed to brush against his thigh and out. There was a bit of a scramble as the ball came in, then out, with Chippo surging forward down the middle, about 25 yards out. Chippo fell before a Town boot came near him, falling spectacularly, with a piked double Lutz and twist. The referee ignored this overtly theatrical tumble, allowing play to continue, which was a Town break.
Oster, supported by Campbell and Boulding, drove forward with just a couple of defenders back peddling. Instead of passing to the unmarked Campbell, our hero attempted to chip the goalkeeper from about 40 yards out. The ball drifted a foot or so over the bar. Sounds close, it wasn’t. It never looked like it was going in. It was over indulgent nonsense, and Chippo was booked by the referee for his dive and claimed injury. Chippo had stayed down so long he just had to go through with it, limping somewhat suspiciously away with the physio as the referee shook the yellow card towards him. The Coventry fans howled further displeasurable sentiments towards the referee as Pead lay down holding his fetlock and play continued, with Town absolutely refusing to kick the ball out.
Around the hour mark Mansaram was seen preparing to come on. At last, but too late. After about 62 minutes, Joachim wiggled himself clear to the right of the Town area, turned, cut in, and dribbled past Ford, who lunged. Joachim tumbled, the ball went out of play and the referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot. EUSTACE strolled forward and smacked the penalty down the middle as Coyne dived right. The ball hit the underside of the bar and rolled down the back of the net. Within a minute or so Mansaram replaced Pouton, which annoyed sections of the crowd, who had conveniently overlooked Pouton’s ineffective amblings. He just looked unfit. Town reverted to 4-4-2 with Oster on the right wing. Within a couple of minutes Town created something with actual factual football. You know, passing, movement, excitement. Mansaram robbed a Coventry defender 25 yards out, near the Police box. Oster combined with McDermott, who surged forward into the penalty area, receiving the wall pass back. McDermott, at pace, reached the bye-line and pulled a cross back past the sprawling ‘keeper to Cambell, at the near post two yards out. Under pressure, Campbell managed to knock the ball a foot or so wide of the near post. If anyone was in any doubt that Town would lose, then this rather confirmed it. A resigned air fell upon the crowd, and seemingly the players, for the rest of the game was just seeing out time for the sake of it. I suppose they had to play the next 25 minutes, for the rules of football state such.
Coventry enjoyed themselves, realising that Town were beaten and just waiting for the referee to end the misery. They were intent on piling on more of it, with Partridge the source of their devilment. Sometime within this nether world of the last 20 minutes Partridge dribble towards Gallimore, who just backed off, and off, and off, like those contestants in It’s A Knockout with an elasticated rope tied to their midriff and a tray of water in their hands. Galli kept dropping the water. Back to Partridge, who went down the left, cut past Gallimore inside the penalty area and curled a shot from a dozen yards to Coyne’ right. Coyne reacted late and parried the ball sideways, straight to the unmarked Jansen, who sliced the rebound wide from the centre of the area. An indeterminate amount of time later this scene was replayed, this time Coyne dived to his right, punching the ball superbly, but straight to the unmarked Chippo who mangled the ball wide from about 6 yards out. Chippo began to enjoy himself immensely, having declared a 12 mile total exclusion zone around himself, which Town dutifully complied with. He could do what he wanted, but fortunately that didn’t included shooting straight, the nearest he came was after a 30 yard unmolested surge down the middle and a whipped shot which zoomed low across Coyne and a yards or so wide of the right hand post.
It looked like half the Town team had given up, with them ignoring McDermott’s attempts to rally, many a back was turned as McDermott exhorted his troops. It was all very like those old Spike Milligan shows where the sketch had run its course, and they don’t know how to end it. Just think of the Town midfield shuffling slowly across the pitch towards the tunnel - "What are we going to do now? What are we going to do now? What are we going to do know?" Vast areas of Blundell Park were left uninhabited, with Hughes and Coldicott trotting back when Coventry attacked, and Ford and Santos divorced. What about Campbell? He gave Gallimore as much help as Hughes had done in the first half and oh how right that he is described in the club calendar as the midfield magician. As in the ability to disappear in a puff? Coventry probably had other efforts on goal, who cares, so what, the Town fans seeped away steadily as the game drifted. A flock of starlings swirled around Blundell Park in the last five minutes, was I dreaming or were they flying in formation and spelling out the word "garbage" in the sky? If you really want to know, Boulding was replaced by Livingstone with what may have been 15 minutes left. Again sections of the crowd booed, but hey, what had Boulding done? Apart from take a few heavy tackles and limp? Near the end Coldicott was replaced by Groves, to much sarcastic cheering. Harsh on Coldicott, he was not the worst Town player, by far. But he is the official club scapegoat, the latest in a long line stretching back to Phil Bonnyman, Bobby Mitchell and beyond into the era of short shorts and black and white photographs. Livingstone’s first two contributions were fouls, so he’s back to form then.
To enliven proceedings Coventry brought on a substitute, Engonga, which the tannoy pronounced as "a conker", though at least one person miss-heard this as "a plonker". I’ve given you the line, now you make your own joke, inserting the Town player of your choice deep within the punchline. There were three minutes of added time, which enabled more people to leave early, thus clearing the streets for the die-hards. Rarely has Brereton Avenue been so free of traffic at 5 o-clock. Perhaps Mr (K) Livingstone should have had a perpetual Town game in inner London, rather than a congestion charge?
Perhaps the only way to deal with this game is to bury your head in the sand for 48 hours and hope things will get better. Certainly the team selection was bizarre from the outset, as if the management team had asked Lennie Lawrence for some tips. There was no part of the team that looked competent, with the best performers being merely adequate. Santos was occasionally disgracefully indifferent to events happening inches from his boot, whilst Ford seems to be playing in fear of fault. Gallimore, pfft, Coldicott like Ford, Pouton unfit, Hughes a slow coach out of position, Boulding weak, Oster wanted to do it all on his own. Campbell? Who? Rotten, rotting, going, going, almost gone. The second division doesn’t seem so bad a prospect, does it?
Almost over now. Can you see any glimmer of hope?
Nicko’s Man of the Match
No-one deserves it. Perhaps McDermott was the least bad, in that he made no mistakes and played adequately.
K Hill. Disgracefully, I can find nothing to complain about. That’s two weeks running Town have had competent referees. That’s not football as we know it. His mark? Well, a grudging acceptance that 7.562 is appropriate.
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