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Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

23 November 2002

Crystal Palace 2 Grimsby Town 0

A dull, slightly chilly day in dull south London. To alleviate the dullness Palace had designated this match Family Fun Day – but every day is a fun day with Grimsby! The ‘fun’ consisted of two people on stilts dressed in orange (as Fozzy Bear would have observed, had he got £20 to spare, "Fuuuunnnneeee"), a John Prescott lookalike (allegedly the sponsor's logo), a mixed-sex dancing troupe, which was hopelessly out of time and succeeded in churning up the middle of the pitch (an unsubtle bit of Franciscan gamesmanship, no doubt) and the Crystal Palace players warming up in a circle, jigging, jiving and doing Harry Worth impressions in time to the music. Town's contribution to ‘fun’ was to use green bibs in their pre-match warm up. Wilkinson's a local; he should know green is an unlucky colour for mariners, let alone Mariners.

Around 150 Town fans shuffled around with grim fortitude in the usual overpriced, badly situated bits of plastic and wood, only slightly cheered by the free four-bar Kit Kat with every hot drink purchased. Rowan, Cooke and Ward shuffled down the steps and into the heart of the Town support, which indicated to most that they weren't playing today. Rowan and Ward were impassive, but Cooke cheerily munched on a steaming burger (or was that what he called Groves?). Butterfield was soon spotted jogging and failed to receive hoots of derision, merely a "wahey" and applause from the 20 die-hard youngsters at the front. The matchday programme featured Jogging Danny B with a double-page action photograph. Technicians marvelled at the technology: surely they'd used one of the fastest shutter speeds available to catch him so perfectly, with no blurring. It was like a still life.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Coyne, McDermott, Ford, Gavin, Gallimore, Oster, Pouton, Coldicott, Campbell, Livvingstone and Mansaram. The substitutes were Allaway, Groves, Barnard, Parker and Soames. The last two sound like a pair of manservants.

The teams ran out to the usual jabbering nonsense from the garrulous idiot employed as the tannoy announcer, together with a tediously obvious underscore. Premiership pretensions lead to a severe loss of dignity at these grasping nearly clubs. Silence is golden. Oddly, Town emerged in the all-blue away kit, which of course meant that there was no colour clash at all. Of course not: those black and white stripes were just like those blue and red ones. Or perhaps they mistrusted Butterfield and thought he'd have an acid flashback and monotonously pump balls up to Town players. Who knows. Town played in blue, the referee in all black and let the heartaches begin.

First half

Town kicked off towards the non-supermarket end, the left as seen on television, with a McDermott surge down the centre right, winning a throw-in. The next 10 minutes were quite terrible, with Town playing as if clad in moon boots and moon suits. Slow-witted, slow-footed, just going through the motions, which is a description and a metaphor. Palace were just Palace, with extra Trevor Francis rubbishness thrown in. Their tactic was so cunning your gran could order it over the internet – hoof it up towards the really quick little number 8, Johnson. It caused a few minor flutters, and brought the locals to their feet occasionally, but nothing tangible or worth describing in any detail. A couple of crosses, which Coldicott cleared in the middle of the Town area, both from the Palace right, with Gallimore retreating in Corporal Jones mode. But nothing frightening, nothing remotely interesting.

After about 10 minutes a long punt down the Palace right by old Kit Symons (that's all he seemed to do all day, the boring long punter) went over Gallimore and over Gavin, with Johnson briefly behind the defence. Coyne rushed out to the edge of the area and dived at Johnson as the little baldyboy swayed to his right. The ball bounced off Coyne onto Johnson's shins and Johnson fell over Coyne. Only the most desperate Palace fan tried to claim a penalty, which was about 30 per cent of those present, but even they had no real heart in the claim.

Anything else happen in the first 15 minutes? A couple more Palace crosses, one of which Coyne punched away near the line; another looping gently through the area and away from the far post. Anything happen in the next five minutes? Nope, it was really awful. They hoofed and chased, Town occasionally put Palace under extreme pressure, pinning them back in their own half with long passes that drifted out of play for throw-ins.

Then gradually the worm turned. Town stopped aping Palace and began to pass to each other; and, more dangerously, Pouton and Oster began to dribble down the centre. A couple of Oster surges suggested a certain je ne sais quoi, and after 20 minutes came a Town attack worth describing. Pouton thrashed away in midfield, eventually winning a tackle right on the centre spot. He surged forward and, 25 yards out, caressed (by his standards) a pass to Livingstone on the left wing. Livvo, unmarked in the space where the Palace right wing-back should have been jogging, awaited one of the centre-backs, cut back onto his right foot and, from just inside the penalty area, perhaps 16 yards out, curled a beautiful cross into the heart of the box. Mansaram, beyond the far post, tricked his marker and swayed out, then across to the penalty spot. Completely unmarked, and with all the time in the world, Mansaram decided to flick a bullet header into the far corner. The ball grazed his forehead and drifted two or three yards wide of Kolinko's left post.

Palace continued to hump high balls towards the lumpy Adebola, who was causing Gavin and Ford difficulties, mainly because the referee didn't see anything wrong with Adebola using his bulk to barge and bundle Town players out of the way. Fortunately, Adebola was unable to shoot, twice getting himself free inside the penalty area, to the right of goal and ‘doing a Jevons’ by scuffling a shot gently into Coyne's arms.

Oh yes – there were more crosses, which Coldicott cleared, and none of which brought anything remotely like a goalscoring opportunity for Palace. It was noticeable that at corners and free kicks their number 10, Derry, hung around about 25 yards out and no Town player bothered to mark him, but the ball wasn't going near him, so why bother?

Woh, hang on – Palace had a shot! Black, who appropriately seemed to be playing in the black hole behind Adebola and Johnson, hit a first-time shot three yards wide of Coyne's right post from the left edge of the penalty area. The Palace fans "ooooooooh”-ed, but without cause. Shall we be kind to them and say they were being ironic? Only one team was playing football, if only in spits and spots as it started to drizzle. Mansaram and Oster almost scored a sublime goal, with some fast one-twos through the left of the Palace box. As Mansaram was about to sweep the ball in, Mullins stretched forward and nicked the ball away. A few minutes later Oster surged down the centre and slipped a perfectly weighted ball to his right. Livingstone, in space about 12 yards out, near the edge of the penalty area, let fly and hit a programme seller behind the goal.

The game was meandering lazily towards half time and some more free Kit Kats when something surprising, yet unsurprising, happened. With about five minutes left Oster attempted to dribble through two Palace defenders about 10 yards inside the Palace half, just to the right of centre. The ball bounced up and the referee gave handball. Oster stopped playing, picked up the ball, moaned a bit, then lobbed the ball gently back three yards to where the ‘offence’ occurred. The referee immediately pulled out a yellow card and marched the ball 10 yards forward from where he was standing, which wasn't where the free kick was originally given. The Town fans all sunk down, knowing what was going to happen next. The ball was pumped up to the edge of the box and half cleared to Derry, about 25 yards out, in the centre. He leant back and thwacked a volley to Coyne's right. The ball hit a Town player on the edge of the penalty area (PROBABLY GAVIN) and spun away into the bottom left corner. As Coyne stood helplessly on the other side of the goal, the tannoy announcer played some music and gleefully introduced the goalscorer as Shaun Derry, getting the crowd to bark the name back at him. The Town fans barked something too.

Just after the flukey goal Palace had another shot, excited as they had become. Someone surged down the Town right, cut inside and smacked a rising shot a foot or two over the bar from the edge of the area. Apart from another Adebola muscle, hustle and scuffle into Coyne's arms, they did nothing else; not that they'd done much in the first place. Town, on the other hand, had a couple more efforts. An Oster corner from the left was half cleared to Campbell, 25 yards out. He hit a deliciously disguised pass with the outside of his left boot back out to Oster. And to think that the Palace fans thought he was shooting. Oster controlled the ball immediately, awaited the defender, swayed outside, then back inside, drifted into the penalty area and from a narrow angle about eight yards out slightly mis-hit a shot, which was half blocked by a diving challenge; and the ball bounced up comfortably into Kolinko's midriff.

A couple of minutes before half time Pouton flayed away in midfield and the ball fortunately bounced forward. About 30 yards out he tried an audacious lobbing volley. Was this the moment we'd expected, the Kolinko Clanger? Like a hazelnut there's one in every bite. Kolinko was off his line and back-pedalled, just managing to palm the ball back into play. He fell back into the goal, with the ball bouncing around three yards out. Kolinko lost his footing as he attempted to get up and who better to be pounding forward to tap in the rebound than Livvo? Well, anyone I suppose. Just our luck it was the slowest player on the field, failing to reach the ball by perhaps a yard. His mind was there, his feet weren't.

And then it was half time. After a rotten opening quarter of an hour Town had improved and were approaching adequacy. A draw at half time would have been perfectly logical and any neutrals present may well have used the phrase ‘fair’ too. Town created the best chance (Mansaram's), whereas Palace hadn't really created anything. It was the usual artless whacks and hopeful ricochets. And they had what they hoped for.

The most annoying thing was that Campbell clearly had the beating of their right wing-back, but Town just didn't bother with the left hand side. The Phantom Menace was eating the Jogging Lettuce for afternoon tea, but they stopped serving the sandwiches.

Stu's half-time toilet talk

"Who put horse tranquillisers in the pre-match beans on toast?"
"Macca doesn't look fit today."
"The second tap only works in the Premiership, and you get hot water in Europe."
"Shall we tell Warnock that Groves wants to sign that Phil Jevons from Hull? What a double whammy!"
"He wrote for Hale and Pace. And Russ Abbott. I'd keep that quiet too".

Second half

Neither team made any changes at half time. And the game started then stopped, as the Palace centre-back, Mullins, collapsed in a heap, holding his face after challenging Livvo. When I say challenge, Mullins headed the ball out with Livvo near. Perhaps it was Livvo's psychic aura again; the imminent arrival of Livingstone's visage was enough to cause psychological trauma in the soft southerner. Or maybe he headed Livvo's shoulder.

As in the first half, nothing much happened for ages. Town had a five-minute spell of pressure, and occasional football, during which the referee annoyed and perplexed many non-Crystal Palace fans present. Campbell was fouled as he burst through 25 yards out on the centre left. A Palace player stood in front of Campbell and delayed the free kick as the little scamp was trying to take it quickly. The referee decided to give Campbell a stern lecture for complaining. Palace player not booked; free kick not brought forward 10 yards. The fleeting thought crossed many Town fans' minds that it was possible to conclude the referee wasn't being consistent. Oster took the free kick, curling it low and slow a yard wide of Kolinko's right post. No excitement.

A couple of minutes after that, the big one, the usual one, the ‘ref done us down (maybe)’ moment. McDermott surged infield inside the Crystal Palace half and rolled a pass to Livingstone, just outside the penalty area on the right. Livvo let the ball roll on downstream and into the penalty area. Mansaram ran across to receive the pass and was bundled over from behind. At all relevant times his feet were in the area; only his body left the box after he was fouled. The referee pointed to a spot – not the spot – one foot outside the penalty area right in the centre. Much arm throwing and head rolling from the Town players and support. Gallimore took the free kick, curling a low, powerful shot around the wall, with Kolinko parrying the ball away from his right post, seemingly via the woodwork (or whatever they make the goalposts out of these days. MDF?) The referee pointed to his whistle, waggled his finger at Gallimore and made Town take it again. This time Pouton curled it around and over the wall to Kolinko's left, whereupon Trevor Francis' "best mate, honest" punched the ball away for a corner. Galimore jumped around in a tantrum cos Pouton wouldn't let him take the free kick, and Gavin headed the corner wide and high. And that was as good as it got for Town.

Palace had barely got in the Town half during the first 15 minutes. The ball had, of course, but rarely was a Barca wannabe in close proximity to that obscure inflatable object of desire. For once I am not referring to Livvo. Then, in one bound, Palace were free. A break down the Town right, some one-touch passes into space, and finally Gray passed to Adebola, about 10 yards out and the same wide of goal. Adebola flicked his marker aside, strode forward and smacked a left-footed shot against the side netting and into his paymasters behind the goal. We weren't worried; it was Adebola, who just looked like he'd miss.

At this Francis hauled off Black and replaced him with Aki Riihilahti (how else can you get rid of all those vowels at Scrabble?). I wondered what he'd done since directing Leningrad Cowboys Go America. The Palace fans booed; Black ripped off his shirt and flung it at the bench; and Palace won a free kick near the halfway line. The ball was lumped forward towards Adebola, who had his back to goal. There was a bit of heaving and ho-ing, he turned to his right, knocked a couple of Town players aside and was free about ten yards out, to the left of goal. No worries, it's ADEBOLA, he never scores, he's rubbish...he's scored. The lumbering loper smacked a low shot across Coyne and into the bottom left corner. It couldn't have been closer to the post without hitting it. Here we go again – a rubbish Palace team stuffs Town. Why do we bother coming here?

That was it – game over, 30 minutes left, just a matter of how many they could be bothered to score. Palace players were invigorated by the second goal, suddenly bothering to hoof and run, rather than just hoof. A couple of minutes after the goal, Gray turned the flagging Macca inside out, cut into the penalty area and, from about eight yards out wellied a right-footed drive at shoulder height towards the left corner. Coyne plunged to his left and parried spectacularly. His first save of the day, and a superb one too. As it turned out, his last save too. Curious game.

From the corner, swung in to the near post eight or nine yards out, Riihilahti thumped a smackingly hard header a few inches over the centre of the goal. Close, but Coyne had it covered. So calm down, all you Pallisers. McDermott was immediately replaced by Parker, the boy scout doing bob-a-job week at Town. A few minutes later another corner from the Palace right, swung in to the near post, was glanced by Powell across the face of the goal and just a few inches wide of Coyne's right post. Hmmm, getting closer – and even we thought it was going in.

Did Town attack? Sort of. Oster had some fleeting moments where possibilities were possible, but never probable, but Town didn't even get into the Palace penalty area again. There was a shot, from Campbell, 30 yards out when he received a throw-in and tried a Pouton-like lobbing volley, but it went a yard or so over. No-one kidded themselves that Town would be scoring one, let alone two. It's Selhurst – what do you expect?

With about 15 minutes left Groves replaced Coldicott, and about the same time Palace brought on a little ginger scamperer, Williams. He scampered around and allowed the home supporters another chance to "ooh" when he tried to chip Coyne from just inside the penalty area, on the left. The ball landed on the roof of the net, but Coyne was always in control. The two-goal lead brought forth the usual attempts at lame humour from opposition fans, Yeah, yeah, yeah, fish, north, et cetera. Some of the chanting aspired to coherence. Sometime, who cares when, Derry curled a free kick from about 25 yards onto the face of the crossbar, with Coyne motionless and probably bored.

The last act of Livvo was a recreation of Hoddle's finest goal. Livingstone twizzled near the by-line, about 10 yards to the right of the Palace goal, flicking the ball between his legs, spinning and instantly chipping the ball on to the roof of the net. OK, I admit it, it was an attempted cross. In the context of the second half, it was a Town chance. Livingstone was replaced by Soames with eight minutes left, and Soames' only contributions were to tell Oster off for not passing to him and to give away a free kick by viciously throttling a Palace player's arm with his own bare throat. What an evil goblin he is.

There is very little else to describe, another Adebola mis-kick inside the penalty area and that's your lot. Palace fans had the chutzpah to shout "hoof!" when Groves cleared a cross. Or perhaps they appreciated the style of the swinging boot, being long-term connoisseurs of the lumpy approach to football. Oh yes, I have forgotten Livingstone's attempt to strangle Riihilahti after the spiky-haired Scrabble cheat caught the back of the Livvosaurus's head with his forearm. Amazingly, the referee merely told Livvo to calm down and gave Town the free kick.

And here's another small incident not worth a hill of beans – Ford's decision to play as a right winger for a few minutes. And quite decent he looked too. So another block for Terry Cooke then. There was a longish stoppage when Ford headed the back of Adebola. The whole ground heard a mighty snap as bone hit bone, but Ford got up, threw the bandage away and rode on into the dust.

That's it: three minutes of added time, no more action, no points, and frankly no point in turning up. No-one was awful, no-one was good. A few Town players were a little annoying in their indulgences, particularly Oster, who wanted to shimmy too far, and Pouton who stepped over continually, but couldn't pass. He also seemed to tackle timidly. McDermott was not fit. Gallimore improved after a shocking opening quarter of an hour. Galli needs something to wake him up, to fire his ire. He improves with rage. Gavin and Ford were fine, as Palace didn't break through the centre, relying upon the hoof and hope. Palace needed space to use Johnson's pace, which they got only after the second goal went in. But let's not fool ourselves: once the referee didn't give the penalty Town were quite poor. In the end Town didn't deserve anything from this game. They did for an hour, but games last a bit longer than that.

Write it off, forget about it. It was dull, it was poor, it was typical Town at Crystal Palace.

Nick0's man of the match

Very difficult to decide, as there was good and bad in everyone. Ford, just. He seemed to make less mistakes than anyone else.

Official warning

Mr T Parkes

Interesting, as he was mainly unobtrusive, rational and competent. Except for a couple of decisions that decided the game. His first acted as a catalyst for the first goal, and the non-penalty was just illogical. He was heading for a high 7, but he lost 2.023 for assisting the home team and some more for not landing on both feet when pirouetting. So, and I know many will disagree with this, he gets a spankingly high 4.8906.