Dead cat bounce

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

12 April 2003

Grimsby Town 1 Crystal Palace 4

A clear, blue sky, a simmering sun, and an empty ground with an empty feeling deep inside, oh yeah, greeted about 200 Palace fans on their final visit to Cleethorpes. Eventually some Town fans turned up and haphazardly placed themselves in seats, like Town defending a corner. Santos was soon spotted wearing a very natty frock coat and trendy spectacles receiving a bottle of champagne. So he was out then. The lovely sparkling hair of Richard Hughes was nowhere on view, so the Mediterranean gigolo look was absent from midfield. Had we anyone left? Ah, yes - that old bloke from the black and white pictures, Chettle. Only the older fans remember him. Even Terry "third messiah from the right" Cooke has played since Chettle last did. My, we are down to the scrapings at the bottom of that antique barrel found at the back of the boardroom.

Croudson was again leaping around in the pre-match kickabout, with a cheery, hearty gusto that contrasted with the dutiful meanderings of his fellow Mariners. The mood was not lightened by Dave Boylen's forlorn failure at whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Someone, somewhere "wahey”-ed with him. It was probably his cousin. Or his tailor.

Town lined up in the fans' favourite, 4-4-2 formation, as follows: Coyne, McDermott, Ford, Chettle, Gallimore, Campbell, Bolder, Groves, Keane, Mansaram and Boulding. The substitutes were Cooke, Livingstone, Parker, Soames and Thompson. No substitute goalkeeper, and loads of forwards on the bench, so just think of all those juicy attacking options. You have, and they're dehydrated.

Palace lined up in an all-white kit with a blue and red diagonal stripe. Very nice. Jogging Danny B trundled up to fit snugly into a right-back position, and was given the traditional mixed reception, a few boos, a few cheers, and a lot of apathy.

First half

Town kicked off towards the Osmond Stand and nobody can remember anything that happened in the first five minutes. End-of-season hackings, with the occasional fancy flick from those with expiring contracts. But one thing was soon clear - that the tiny Palace right winger, Routledge, was extremely quick and very tricky. Hold that thought; we shall be returning to it later.

Within the first 10 minutes, Palace had a shot, which went near, but not interestingly close in the context of what followed. Adebola and Whelan linked up and were supported by midfielders running past them. The Town defence seemed shocked and stunned by such tactics and, collectively, held the back of their hands to their foreheads and fainted.

Oy, you over there! Pay attention. Town attack. Town should score. After 10 minutes, Butterfield set up Boulding with a delightful pass to feet and off went the scamp down the left, beating one defender, then another. When near the by-line Boulding crossed low into the centre of the goalmouth, whereupon Campbell popped up from behind a strategically placed lamppost, slid forward and sliced the ball out for a throw-in. Yes, a throw-in.

Palace continued their occasional visits to the Town penalty area, with another couple of shots wobbling towards the Pontoon. The nearest was when a corner was allowed to travel without a passport to Butterfield, about 10 yards out, who swung a half volley a couple of feet past Coyne's near post. Routledge was still pestering Gallimore, twisting, turning and crossing without impediment. After about quarter of an hour, though, Town should have scored. A half clearance fell to Campbell, 30 yards out, right in the centre. He dinked a first-time pass over the top to the unmarked Keane, who knocked the ball out to the right, belted into the box and hammered a shot across goal and a foot or so wide of Kolinko's left post.

With the Town fans chuntering to themselves about thateree took pity, which was nice of him.

It was as bad as you think it was. It was the end of the first division world as we know it. Large elements of the crowd were baying for the introduction of Cooke. Yeah, of course, do you think the Russians would have invaded Afghanistan if Terry Cooke had been on the right wing? And Livvo would have to kill three keepers at this rate. I can't lie to you about our chances, but we had the referee's sympathy

Stu's half-time toilet talk

"I have more wood than you could shake a tree at."
"He's too small to be a mascot, but the right size to be Town's next striker."
"We might as well give 11 boxers contracts next year."
"What did George Kerr say about the fans preferring a 4-0 loss if Town go for it?"
"Can you shoehorn that into your next script?"

Second half

Parker replaced Gallimore at halftime, a change that was greeted with a collective sigh of relief. Where were you when Town finally gave up on Tony Gallimore? I can tell you which step of the Pontoon I was on, and I demand a blue plaque to commemorate the moment. What will Galli do now? A potter or a poet? Both?

Within 30 seconds Palace nearly got another. Some one-twos on their left resulted in Gray drifting infield, towards the corner of the penalty area. As McDermott strained to block, Gray curled a shot just over the top left corner.

Palace switched off for the next half an hour, and Town did it to us again - rekindled that small, flickering flame of hope. But first the comedy. Mansaram, unmarked, received a pass just outside the Palace area on the left. He turned around, looked up, panicked and decided to avoid passing out to Campbell, instead flicking a pass with the outside of his left boot that would dissect the defence. It did, but it would have been handy if a Town player had been within 10 yards of his intended pass. It was a very telling moment, as he was, literally, clueless and ended up just kicking the ball away. A little later in the half he similarly embarrassed himself in front of the Pontoon when free inside the penalty area, missing his kick, getting the ball trapped between his legs, stumbling over the ball and falling out of play as the Palace defenders stood and watched, bemused at his befuddlement.

But Town did press forward, with the Pontoon actually making some noise in support. A few corners were won and, after just a couple of minutes of the half, unexpected, short-lived joy. Campbell floated the corner over from the left towards the far post, and CHETTLE sneaked around the back and, from about eight yards out, headed down towards the keeper's bottom left-hand corner. Kolinko saved, ruminated for a second, let the ball go, stretched an arm out, stopped the ball again and then finally gave up.

Town's escape bandwagon starts here? Well, sort of. Palace wilted, with Town, in the context of a Grimsby team, bombarding them, pressing, pressing, pressing. A minute or so after the goal, another chance. Mansaram and Boulding sprinted onto a dink over the top, with Boulding's pass/cross being blocked right back to him, about 10 yards out to the left of goal. He controlled the ball and played a perfectly weighted pass into the centre, right to Mansaram's boots about eight yards out. With a whole goal to aim at Mansaram sidefooted the ball rather feebly straight at Kolinko, who nudged the ball away from the line, back to a defender who was standing in front of him. Another bad miss. Another Town corner, another miss. The ball screamed into the middle of the six-yard box, with Kolinko flapping. Ford leaned backwards and headed over what he didn't realise was an open goal. Another corner, another missed header, again by Ford as Groves lurked.

Town were doing it again, weren't they. Giving false hope, as just one more goal would have seen the Palace implode. However, Town were intent on missing. After about 10 minutes of the half, Parker revealed his loopy long throw, and dangerous it was. From underneath the Findus/Stones/Smiths Stand he hurled the ball towards the near post. Groves, a couple of yards wide and out, nodded back to Keane, unmarked and about six yards out at the near post. Keane smashed his volley way over the bar. Boulding scurried free down the left, tricked his way past the big centre-half and made his way towards goal. When just six or seven yards wide of goal, and right on the by-line, he sneaked around Powell and, instead of crossing, decided to fall under an imaginary challenge.

And Town got an imaginary penalty, to set up an imaginary win. There was a goal-line clearance somewhere in the mayhem, as Town attacked in a frenzy of unlikely punts, shoves and waves. Keane infuriated the Palace players with persistent fouls, none more clear than when he jumped into Butterfield, laying him out. Strangely enough, no Town fans considered that a foul; though Powell did, and he ran over and pushed Keane to the ground, for which he got a yellow card. A few minutes later Keane jumped into another Palace player, causing another injury. Again Palace players went a bit potty and demanded action. They got it, from a strange source. With about 20 or 25 minutes left Keane was replaced by Livingstone, with the referee seemingly ordering the change.

As a result, Town went to a 4-3-3 formation and immediately missed another chance. Chettle lumped a long diagonal pass over from the Town left. Livingstone, beyond the far post and about 10 yards out, rose like an angel, hanging in the air and guiding a header back to Campbell, who screwed his body around and mangled a volley into the ground. The ball bounced twice across the face of goal and with Kolinko frozen on his line Boulding launched himself towards the ball as it passed the far post. Inches away from ball, post and body.

That was just about it as far as Town were concerned. Twenty minutes of pressure, some excellent chances appearing - I would not go as far as to say “created”; they just happened, as if by magic - and no-one remaining calm enough to score. Just after this bobbling Boulding miss Palace made another substitution: off went Whelan and on came Freedman, a man who has a contractual obligation to score against Town. Within a minute of his appearance he nearly, and probably should have, scored. A throw-in on their left, just past the dug out, was glanced infield to Freedman, who had sprinted around in a huge arc. He zoomed towards the centre, easily beat the left defender and, in one movement, swiped a shot across the face of goal, missing Coyne's left post by perhaps three and a half inches.

A couple of minutes later Adebola woke up and rumbled his way through three challenges, making his way from the left edge of the penalty area to somewhere near the right corner of the six-yard box. Just as he was about to shoot the ball jumped up off a divot and he hooked his shot across the face of goal and just wide. Another fast break, another golden opportunity to rub Town's face in the Blundell Dirt. Who cares about the details? It didn't go in; the defence was shredded.

Freedman, in the last few minutes, had a shot saved by Coyne (yes, his first save of the match). Again he burst through from their centre left, drifting past the last defender and was free on goal, on the edge of the area. All these chances rather blurred into one after a while. The game was up, the season was up, the Palace players knew a win bonus when they saw it. A long procession of Town fans trooped out of Blundell Park, bringing one positive to the afternoon - clear roads around Brereton Avenue.

With a couple of minutes left Campbell was replaced by Cooke. Now, if Town had left Campbell on no-one would have noticed, or cared, nor would it have made any difference. A minute later the iron law of football kicked in. Last-minute goal against Town. Parker, who had hitherto been a vast improvement on Gallimore, was finally beaten by Routledge, as Palace played keep-ball on the Town left. Adebola turned infield and passed to Butterfield, about 25 yards out near the corner of the penalty area. Butterfield strolled forward and rolled a pass infield to FREEDMAN, level with the near post, who leaned to one side and lashed a terrific, curling first-time shot which pinged into the top left corner. A rather superb finish, and some more Town fans left. There were four minutes of added time, which were an irrelevance. The game ended in silence. We went home and prepared ourselves mentally for next season.

Oh, what to do, what to do? It was quite clear that the players sent out were not, collectively, a first division quality team. Perhaps only six would be first choice, if you count Gallimore, which I don't think you can anymore. This isn't a free go at Galli; he really looked beyond repair mentally. There are serious inadequacies (at this level) with the reserve players who are filling the gaps, and let's face it, even the loanees and reserves who have patched up the team are now injured. Groves has simply run out of rabbits and top hats. We knew it would come one day, but it is never pleasant to be around when it does.

Now the only thing we can look forward to is relegating Sheffield Wednesday. Like a spurned lover we'll take them down with us.

Nicko's man of the match

For the second game running the most coveted award in this sentence goes to John McDermott, for simply trying all game and being mostly adequate.

MarkEMark's un-man of the match

Let us bow our heads and pause for a few moments, to look back on the joy Tony Gallimore has brought to all our lives. Is it possible for anyone to fill the void left by the left-back? He was beyond parody, and on the very limits of pity.

Official warning
G Laws

He did extraordinarily well to avoid sending Keane off and to ignore McDermott's game of basketball inside the Town area. He was heading for 12.78, but ruined it all by allowing the game to reach the 90th minute. Surely there was some reason to abandon the game? Fog? Low-flying aliens? High-flying aliens? Aliens? Oh, he was so unTownphobic I have to give him 7.3.