Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
8 April 2003
Grimsby Town 0 Wolverhampton Underachievers 1
A clear, still, chilly-chilly evening time with around 400 Wolves fans slumped expectantly in the Osmond Stand. Some Town fans were spotted within the area known to many as Blundell Park, though not many, and certainly not heard. There was no defiant air; those that had bothered to rise up from their sofas simply stared at the pitch. Why were we here? Duty, habit, ambulance chasing? Welcome to our house of fun.
With five minutes to go before kick off a squeaky squawk pierced the air, for Dave Boylen wandered onto the pitch to resume his career as forlorn camp comedian Ted Bovis. His attempts to rouse the crowd into a frenzy were met with apathetic shoulder shrugs and a few turned backs. Diddy Dave, you're flogging a dead horse. It's over - walk on by, like those missing fans.
There was a cheering sight though: Steve Croudson was leaping around saving shots from the substitutes; well, those that were on target. With Coyne not to be seen and Allaway rolling around in his baggy trousers practising with the goalkeeping coach, there was a momentary frisson: was he playing? Nope, the club was just proving all those rumours wrong - he does exist, he isn't a tax dodge. Cooke and Livingstone took turns to batter the seats in the Pontoon. A clanging, clunking ker-ching resonated through the barely populated popular stand as Livvo took aim. It wasn't his limbs a-churning, or mind a-turning, but one of his shots broke a seat. That's no way to earn a new contract, unless breakages are deducted at source.
Town lined up in the new usual formation of 4-5-1 as follows: Coyne, McDermott, Ford, Santos, Gallimore, Campbell, Bolder, Groves, Hughes, Keane, Mansaram. The substitutes were Allaway, Chettle. Livingstone, Boulding and Cooke. In other words, same as last time, despite all those broken bits. Perhaps Santos is like Worzel Gummidge, having a vast selection of heads stored in a barn. Today he chose his sanguine head. Wolves had a load of blokes we'd heard of, in a 4-4-2 formation, and they played in all gold. Which Wolves would turn up? The abject dogs who capitulated to Brighton, or the triumphant trouncers of the Toon army? Personally, I hoped for the 4-1 shot "abject dogs". Which one is right, Geoffrey?
One of the teams kicked off, which is fairly normal these days, with Town defending the Pontoon end. The first 10 minutes were fine, rather fine. Not tremendously exciting, but Town were the dominant team, passing and moving, or in the case of McDermott, vrooming down the right. Wolves were outmanoeuvred in midfield, with Town making the extra player count. It was all very pleasing. Mansaram almost turned himself and Lescott inside out, twice, when attempting to wriggle free inside the area. As usual, though, he rather ruined his own chances of success by spinning back inside, into a clump of gold. Still, a fine move led up to it with first-time passes across the pitch, then down the left, involving Gallimore, Hughes, Groves and Keane. After about five minutes a lovely flowing move down the right, with McDermott and Campbell linking, jinking and dinking, saw the ball flipped inside to Hughes, on the centre right edge of the penalty area with his back to goal. The lolloping loanee spun and hooked a shot straight to the lime and limpid green goalkeeper at the near post. Worth the hint of an "ooh" and a clap.
And still the ball travelled southwards, rarely being inside the Town half. Crosses, corners, free kicks, we had 'em. Shots? Errrrrr... ell, that's being greedy. The Pontoon was raising a collective and hopeful eyebrow at the performance so far - 10 minutes of not-badness. But gnawing at our innards was the feeling that things were going far too easily. Wolves hadn't attacked yet.
Around the 10th minute the game suddenly opened up. A Wolves back-pass was slightly underhit and Murray, the mint in goal, almost passed the ball to Campbell, who bothered the keeper like a cheeky chihuahua nibbling at a giraffe's toes. Campbell fell over Murray as the ball was hacked clear and quickly flicked upfield down their right. Santos dozed a bit and Blake peeled away from the Magnificat's shoulder as the ball was tipped towards the left edge of the Town penalty area. Blake barged his way past Santos and muscled his way towards goal, allowing the ball to bound free like a beachball in Mablethorpe. He caught up with it and lashed a shot into the side netting from a very narrow angle as Coyne wrapped himself around the post. Thankfully, Blake was avaricious as he had looked up, seen Kennedy unmarked at the far post, and still wellied it wide.
Testing, testing, one-two. Hmmmmm. They were just warming up, weren't they. A couple of minutes later, with nothing happening of any consequence in midfield, they stopped testing. Wolves won possession in their own half on their left; the ball was played up to Miller near the halfway line, who laid a first-time pass off behind the Town defence into a huge, huge gap. Blake bounded free down their centre left, with Gallimore the nearest landmass, somewhere off the port bow, visible only using powerful binoculars. BLAKE hared off towards goal and, from about a dozen yards out and seven or eight wide of goal, belted a low shot across and under Coyne into the bottom left corner. The ball seemed to go through Coyne's legs, which hinted at a little embarrassment for the man in grey when he next sits on the coach to Wales' training ground. The Town fans let all that inflated hope be expelled from their lungs, crushed by reality. It was a like a mass out-of-body experience, disconnected from the pitch, almost invisible observers.
Once in the lead, not twice shy for Wolves. They continued to break at speed and with enormous purpose. They were never more dangerous than when Town had the ball, especially at corners and free kicks, which were uniformly awful, barely rising above the first defender. Ford fell apart, joining the crowd in watching the events from afar in total silence and with no discernible body movement betraying his emotions. He didn't bother marking Blake after a Wolves attack was half stopped out on the Town right. Blake wandered into space down the touchline and the ball was duly passed to him. Off he went, leaping like a happy rabbit in spring, without a care in the world. When he reached the by-line he crossed, which is only sensible, to one of his team-mates, which is even more sensible, if not unusual in the confines of the Theatre of Groans. Miller zoomed towards the near post and, unmarked and just five yards out, side-footed just wide of the gangway that leads to the toilets.
Wolves had by this time worked out how to stop Town. Easy, let them do what they want until the edge of the penalty area then simply stand near them. Bolder, Keane, Groves and Hughes, all perfectly adequate stoppers, but no tricks, no pace, no threat. Campbell was a whirling dervish of activity, but he kept running into defenders. It was left to McDermott to cause them problems with his constant overlapping. His best moment was probably when he linked up with Campbell, drove towards the touchline and wriggled past the marker along the by-line. Only a last-gasp, sliding, swiping tackle stopped him advancing on goal.
Don't get too hopeful - here's another sitter missed. Again down the Town right, with Town half clearing, but the ball breaking to Kennedy, who flighted a first-time cross into the near post. Blake, on the edge of the six-yard box, ripped his way through an invisible challenge and headed firmly and thoroughly wide of the near post by the enormous margin of 18 inches. Some more outstretched hands and bemused looks inside the Town defence.
And again. An instant replay. Kennedy, space, wide, right, cross, unmarked player six yards out. This time Ince threw himself forward and headed a couple of inches wide of the top right corner. Kennedy was superbly handled by McDermott, though, whenever he tried to beat the Methuselah of Grimsby. The problems Town had were when Kennedy received the ball in space (often on breakaways and the confusions of half clearances). He sure can cross when given time.
A Town attack worth mentioning! A return to the confident passing and movement of the first 10 minutes saw the ball fizz and whizz down the pitch from Town left to Town right, involving Groves, Campbell and Mansaram and finally McDermott (I think), who pulled a cross back from the by-line towards the centre of the box. Hughes, unmarked and about a dozen yards out on the near side, steamed in and sliced a low first-time shot across the face of goal and just past the post.
Apart from a bit of pressure late on in the half, after Murray had dropped a cross and the ball kept getting lofted into the area, that was it as far as Town attacks go. Butterflies crushed on a very small wheel. Wolves had one more really close effort, when Kennedy, again, was able to get some space in a breakaway, got to the by-line and chipped a cross directly onto Miller's head, eight yards out, just to the left of centre. Miller leant back and steered a weak header to Coyne's right. Coyne flopped onto the falling star, making it look far more spectacular to the distant dentists and hacks in the Main Stand than need be.
Ford topped off a terrible first half by receiving a throw-in from McDermott in the penalty area and slowly, slowly, turning and barely making contact with a back-pass to Coyne. Pity Blake was in the way; pity for Blake the ball went through his legs and just reached Coyne, who fly-hacked it upfield. What's worse, the Pontoon could see what was going to happen even before Ford received the ball. He telegraphs his errors to his opponents several days before the game.
That's it, over (first half, game and season). There was a smattering of boos, but mostly a hubbub of resignation, for not many Town fans are now willing to delude themselves. A good opening, then a goal conceded and all Town's weaknesses exposed thereafter. They ran around, they tried, but they just weren't good enough to create any problems for a solid upper-mid-table team of other people's rejects, once-weres and some could-bes. At times like this you need a bit of what you might call luck, or a saviour. Now where is that Michael Boulding?
Stu's half time toilet talk
"It's like watching dry paint dry."
"Now you're a part-time lumberjack do you wear high heels?"
"Playing one up front is madness."
"It must be easy for Wolves - Ince hasn't sworn yet."
"Do you think we should sell off our place in the first division on e-bay?"
Neither team made any changes at half time, much to the surprise of many a fleece-wearing Town fan, not to mention those with gloves, hats, trousers and shoes. I have no information regarding those wrapped inside cagoules.
Ah, well then - the second half. Like watching a movie you'd seen a dozen times. You know what's going to happen; it won't particularly satisfy you, but you might as well carry on watching to the end. You've nothing better to do at the moment. I can recall Wolves having only a couple of shots in the second half, though they always seemed in control of matters. After about 50 or so minutes Blake, on the centre right edge of Town's box, spun around Santos as though he were a mere mortal, and was free inside the box with Coyne advancing anxiously. Blake tried to place the ball high into the net to Coyne's left, but the grey man didn't have a totally grey day, for he superbly tipped the ball over the bar with an instinctive parry.
Towards the end of the game the Wolves substitute Cooper messed up a lightning breakaway down their right by stumbling when trying to poke a shot towards goal. The ball went way, way wide of Coyne's left post. They might have had other shots, but I am afraid my brain, much like Ford's, had long since disengaged from this ‘contest'. They had a goal disallowed for offside. Interested in that? Thought not. They had a couple of free kicks too; equally dull conclusions, though. Your life would have been more enhanced by cutting your toenails than knowing that, eh?
Town had the ball most of the time and did have some moments when the crowd was forced to stand up in anticipation of something potentially happening near the Wolves goal. After about 55 minutes Santos won a tackle on the Town left using all his wit and ingenuity (he brushed a littler man aside). He surged forward and curled a low pass out to Keane with the outside of his right boot. Zut alors! Keane scurried free down the by-line, looked up and crossed right into the centre of the penalty area. Mansaram, unmarked, rose on the wings of a dove near the penalty spot, soaring skywards with grace. He guided a glancing header across the keeper towards the top right hand corner as the Town fans rose up to salute Flash. They turned away in sorrow, not anger, as it drifted a few inches wide with the goalkeeper well beaten.
A few minutes later Keane showed why he is a Preston reserve, for a long diagonal pass whistled over the top of the left-back straight onto Keane's foot. His clodhopping control volleyed the ball out for a goalkick. Just after the hour Boulding replaced Boulder and Town finally reverted to the old comfort blanket of 4-4-2, with Mansaram no longer a lonely soul, tired of waiting for help. As a result, Hughes and Groves anchored the centre as Keane played on the right, and Campbell the left. There was a bit more fizz about Town, with only the linesman thwarting Boulding on three occasions, all within a couple of minutes of each other. On only of these occasions was Boulding one step beyond the defence. One of the decisions was so rotten the Pontoon's view of Boulding was obscured by not one but, count them, two gold shirts. Boulding was free but overran the ball anyway. But why let that stop a good old-fashioned rant.
Town poured forward, except on the left, where Gallimore was berated for his lack of adventure, first by Groves, then by Santos. Oh what a contrast to the right side, where McDermott kept trying to set up the old one-twos in the area. Unfortunately, Mansaram has been given the video only for part one of Tony Rees: His part in our victory - how to win games by influencing people. Mansaram received, but didn't realise he was supposed to pass the ball back.
Now the bits that managers describe as "the positives" to take out of a game. You know the sort of thing - shooting in the vague direction of the opponents' goal. Boulding was sent free down the left touchline, stepped inside Irwin and made his way along the by-line. About eight yards wide of goal he pulled the ball back to Mansaram and was clattered by Irwin just as he released the ball. Mansaram, unmarked and about 10 yards out, eschewed the notion of passing to his team mates closer to goal, awaited two tackles, spun and tricked his way free, then leant back and flailed wildly with his right boot, sending the ball way over the bar towards the back left of the Pontoon. A couple of minutes later he did the same trick inside the penalty area, wasting a breakaway by trying to spin and shoot in one movement when surrounded by a wall of Wolves.
Still more pressure, but nothing to get near Murray, the increasingly jovial dawdler, who couldn't take a goal kick slowly enough. A Town corner from the left was well flighted, dipping into the middle of the area, seven yards out. Ford momentarily appeared to be about to volley into an open net, but he was pulled back by his marker and the goalkeeper caught the ball unchallenged. Ford just stopped and shrugged his shoulders when he was impeded, which is yet more evidence to show tha