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Waiting In Vain: Bristol Rovers Report

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 17/10/2004

A warm, bright still afternoon in the Theatre of Groans with around 100-150 of the Brizzolian Diaspora scattered across the Osmond Stand.



The Town fans stewed in their furry coats and hats: where was that biting wind, those rainstorms, that drizzle for the Brizzle? It's October, it's supposed to be mind-numbingly 'orrid. Maybe there weren't any sunspots today.

Andy Parkinson's mum made his costume for the last fancy dress party he went to. Including the moustache, I presume.

Town lined up in the cuddly 3-4-3 formation as follows :- Williams, Whittle, Forbes, Gordon, McDermott, Pinault, Fleming, Crowe, Sestanovich, Reddy and Parkinson.

The substitutes were Bull, Coldicott, Marcelle, Jones and Cramb.

Relax, Macca's back, the world can start spinning again. The Hocklesslessness of Town was accepted in silence by the singing ringing tree corner. With Ramsden and Hockless absent, Town wouldn't be able to take advantage of that well known phenomena, the goalkeeper's fear of the mullet. What about the programme proof reader's fear of spelling Ramsden? Ramsdon? C'mon, he's our own player, get it right.

Who is Glenn Downey? Has anyone ever seen him? Would you recognise him in the Chinese takeaway?

Bristol? What a disappointing show. No ex-Town occasionals in their starting XI, with just Pippa Forrester and that useless Trollope on the bench. No, I don't mean Stuart Campbell. I counted the subs, there were five of 'em, so Campbell couldn't have been amongst them. Shame on you Atkins. I must apologise to Atkins, in print, to set the record straight for his army of lawyers. I once referred to him as a charmless Celtic nerk. I really am sorry for that - he isn't Celtic. If you really want to know about the football then Brizzle played with 3 massive centre backs, a couple of wing backs, three scrumbly scrufflers in midfield and two upfront.

Dish of the Day: Dean Gordon's (and Clint Marcelle's) Rice and Peas. Urgh, it has coconut and evaporated milk in it. There aren't many West Indian restaurants in the North East Lincolnshire conurbation, so all you entrepreneurs out there listen up - there's a gap in the market with at least two potential customers. I'd still offer chips to capture that passing Yorkist trade.

Ah, the game.

1st half

Town kicked off, wearing black socks, towards the Pontoon and didn't keep it for long. It went long, it went out. Within a minute Sestanovich had tickled Parkinson free down the middle but….offside. Of course he was offside. Another minute another Town raid, Pinault carousing the ball down the left with Reddy roaming, barundling Edwards away. Sit down again, there's no-one anywhere near the penalty area, perhaps they were all in awe of Edwards' hair. He walked onto the pitch like he was walking on to a yacht, hair strategically dipped below one eye. More at home on the head of a Serie A reserve: it was long, it was slick, it was quifftastically grungy. He could lasso crosses away from danger. His feet were rubbish though. Reddy shrank in the face of such follicle magic, he's only just begun on his long road to hirsute freedom.

Whoops, Anderson, who no-one seemed to realise used to play for Hull, or if it isn't the same one he used to sing with Yes, slipped on an imaginary banana skin. Parkinson was away, scooby-dooing down the middle, head down. Yoikes! About 25 yards out Parky let fly and his shot went perhaps 3 feet before hitting a West Country boot. He could have passed to unmarked team-mates you know.

Sounds all Town, this first 5 minutes? It does, doesn't it? Funny that. All long ball nonsense from them and pure passing from us? Tut-tut , you shouldn't make assumptions. Let's look at the facts, Jack. Just the facts. To the astonishment of all, including the pigeons roosting in the Findus/Stones/Smiths Stand, an Ian Atkins side passed the ball to each other, on the ground. They looked quite good: organised football, not the expected Rugby Union team. Town's moments of danger were arising from dinks over the top, down the side, a more basic fourth division style. Style, we think we have it, but rarely bother to show it in the first half of home games.

Enough waffle, let's see action. No, I didn't mean down there… Whittle whittled away a stick, allowing Doc Dave Savage, Man of Bronze, to nick the ball away on the edge of the area. Twice. Mild peril for a few seconds, Forbes dealt with danger. Relax, calm down dear, it won't happen again for ages. Town are insured, they have the Forbes-Gordon three month cover plan. Eh, you what? Thirty seconds later Rovers should have scored. More dreadful doziness saw Rovers nick and knock outside the area. Pass, pass, move, ooooooh dear. Walker suddenly alone on their left, a dozen or so yards out and wide of goal. He opened up his body, cheerily waved the ball on its way and carefully it over and around Williams. And over and around the far post. Sloppiness unpunished. Walker almost crying.

This little slap in the chops worked wonders and Town's double diamonds almost brought the crowd to its feet. At last some football, with Pinault scurrying about, beating out the rhythm, pushing, probing, passing to Reddy. The coolest Kilkenny cat in Lincolnshire danced and sung his way through several challenges out on the left. Into the area, by chance two passing glances meet. A short pass to the unmarked Transit Stan, a wiggle, a woggle, a blocked shot ricocheting to Parkinson and a sea of blue and white crashed over the little pebble. His shot rebounded away, looping, dropping on the centre left edge of the area. Pingu propelled a superb volley which managed to crawl over the crossbar as Miller flapped airily and possibly fairily. That's better.

Around the 20 minute mark Reddy was flattened after challenging for a long punt. He stayed down and barely moved. Eventually Sestanovich rolled the ball out of play. About three people bayed for retribution, but they were the ones sat behind the big red pillars in the Pontoon. It was simply a clash of heads. That's all. Reddy recovered, in the sense that he got back on his feet and those feet moved in a relatively co-ordinated fashion. His hair wasn't ruffled too much, so all was right with the world.

Town had a rather good spell of pressure just after this incident, Bristol pinned back on the edge of their penalty area, Town rolling the play left and right, right and left, teasing, testing, wolves waiting to pounce on any mistake. Sestanovich moved! Drifting infield, attracting the bees to his little pot of honey as he glided across the face of the penalty area 25 yards out. What this? What's that distant object moving at speed? It's…it's…Macca jetsetting upfield and making a fantastic diagonal run behind the wing back. Sestan espied the old drag racer and dinked a perfect pass behind the defence and onto Macca's chest. McD fended off Ryan and zoomed towards the bye-line. Windy Miller came out, two defenders raced across and, from about 5 yards wide of goal and at the bye-line, McDermott slid and poked the ball across the face of goal. Bumble, trumble, drumble, crumble in agony as no Town player arrived to poke the ball in from about a foot out.

Bristol Rovers? No, they got to the edge of the area and turned to stone when they saw Gordon, or had their pockets picked by Forbes. They looked pretty nifty though, always on the brink of doing something dangerous.

Hey, half an hour gone and Sestanovich moved again, dreaming past a couple of defenders and tapping the ball to Crowe, unmarked, 25 yards out in the centre left. Crowe took two touches, looked a bit bored as no defenders bothered to approach him, then smacked a right foot shot goalwards. Miller stood and stared as the ball managed to curl across the angle of post and bar. A belated "oooh" from the Pontoon.

It was all going nicely-nicely along, not too much danger at either end, especially down the Osmond End. Then Town dozed off again. Einstein Agogo and Savage played a little wall game in front of the Town defence, leaving Doc free 20 yards out in the centre. He took careful aim and, pfft, just think Pouton on a bad day. The ball stayed within the DN35 postcode. Another minute, another chance, and boy what a chance. Town gave the ball away, didn't tackle, didn't cover and we watched as a blur of blue swirled around the Town penalty area. One-twos, give and goes, two unmarked inside the area on their left. A certain goal. About a dozen yards out, a few yards wide of the penalty spot, Walker placed a low shot across Williams. We sat expecting a goal, that barely audible resigned hum that accompanies disappointment. The ball rolled slowly towards goal, past Williams, towards the net, beyond the post. A corner given. Must have been a darn fine save. Hats off to Mr W. Phew and a half.

What else happened? For them Walker nearly went through on goal again, but after Town's defence insisted upon an offside decision, the flag went up. And quite right too! I think Agogo had a shot which flashed yards wide, and that's it. They caused concern with their intelligent counter-attacking, but there was always a minor hero on hand to whisk danger away, usually the omnipresent McDermott. He was magnificent, a perpetual motion machine, always available, always attacking. Flicking and tricking the ball up to Reddy, McD took the return pass and flibbled a shot straight at Miller from 25 yards. A little later Pinault and Sestanovich tried long range shots, both dribbling through almost apologetically.

Near the end of the half Town contrived to not score again. Pinault took a short corner to McDermott, who returned the ball to the unmarked French fancy. Pingu advanced along the touchline, curving infield, then back out as a defender belatedly wandered across. The penalty area was packed, but Pinault had a cunning plan, for he curled the ball between Miller and the near post, at shoulder height. Miller was clearly expecting an outswinging cross and the ball floated across the face of goal, about a foot or so out. As usual, no Town player was goal-scrounging.

That was the first half that was.

Interesting football, and they had been, by a distance, the best team Town had played so far. They looked like they could defend, they looked like they could attack, they looked, overall, like a team who knew what they were doing with no obvious weak points (except Walker's shooting). They should have scored two, Town could have scored two. Parity was just about right.

For Town, Sestanovich was a concern. A couple of good passes, but that was about all, he barely moved from a five yard circle just inside the Brizzle half. He didn't look fit. Pinault was trying, but there wasn't enough movement, so Town ended up lumping long high balls towards Parkinson. Everyone on the pitch looked content to be not losing.

Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk

"I'm at the age for badminton and Mintos"
"I wouldn't say I wanted to shoot Burnsy, unlike Tony Blair"
"Has Reddy improved since the bang on his head?"
"Now, I didn't think Jane Asher was Paul McCartney's girlfriend in 1962."
"Parky's a headless chicken without a head"

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