Trampled underfoot

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

25 August 2003

Grimsby Town 3 Wycombe Wanderers 1

A bright, warm afternoon with a bit o' breeze fluttering across the pitch from Main Stand to Stones/Smiths/Findus. Around 63 Wycombe fans were spotted (that'd be the lesser spotted variety) deep within the bowels of the Osmond Stand, though they were quite vocal, being clearly heard by the silent Pontoon. A curious atmosphere to start with, like a friendly. After just one win are we all too relaxed about life?

The second division is proving to be a huge disappointment for those who like their opponents to be extravagantly named and spectacularly coiffed. Wycombe had only Darren Currie's slightly dishevelled boy band look and Jermaine McSporran, who sported neither ginger hair nor a Wycombe-patterned kilt for shorts. How do these teams expect to be promoted if they have sensible hair and sensible shoes? Equally disappointing is the pre-match warm up. They kick the ball to each other and back again: no fancy-dan sub-aerobic video ballet dances. Just occasional trots and sprints.

Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation as follows: Davison, Crowe, Ford, Crane, Barnard, Cas, Hamilton, Groves, Campbell, Boulding and Rowan. The substitutes were Edwards, Mansaram, Ten Heuvel, Bolder and Parker. The receding Ten Heuvel finally replaced by perky Rowan, then, who was no doubt encouraged by his GCSE results last week. With Anderson gone, Campbell shuffled over to the left, with Groves forming a less than mobile midfield partnership with the Great Desmondo.

In a break from recent tradition, the game actually started at three o'clock. At this rate it might end before five and the Town fans could, after all, hear that much-trailed interview with Brian Laws on Radio Humberside. Who could ask for anything more?

First half
Wycombe, dressed in red, kicked off towards the Pontoon. Take a little nap for five minutes. Nothing happened. The ball went up in the air; the ball came down. Throw-ins, goal kicks and more throw-ins. Wycombe played with two very wide wingers, Currie in particular being literally very wide. Silky smooth touches, rolling the ball under his feet, swaying his hips. Lovely, but a waste of time, as he did it at warp factor 0 speed. I think your Great Auntie Dot could have outpaced him, especially if you haven't got a Great Auntie Dot.

McSporran and Currie a-hugged the touchline, meaning there were large gaps for players to stroll into, depending on who had mis-controlled the ball. Or kicked it out of play, which is what Wycombe spent the first few minutes doing. Wycombe's strikers were big, old, Iffy Onoura and young, spindly and tall Patterson, who dwarfed Crane. Go on, guess what their ''style' of play was? Curiously, they kept crossing the ball low and flat. No problem for Town.

After about seven minutes Town, finally, strung passes together. And boy did they. Groves dispossessed a Wycombe midfielder near the away team's dugout, turned once, turned twice Dick Whittington, and curled a perfectly weighted pass between two defenders for the rampaging Barnard to run on to. Barnard got to the by-line and hit a fast, curling cross to the far post. Cas, all alone, and about eight yards out steered a volley a couple of feet wide of the left post. He should have scored, but what a superb bit of fast interplay; the Wycombe players hardly moved.

Wycombe? Chances? None created; just a couple of long shots that drifted over and wide and then 'that' save. Which save? 'That' save, from the returning hero. Wycombe were awarded a daft free kick 25 yards out; the ball was lofted into the box; there was a bit of head tennis, a scramble, a block, a bump, a barge, another scramble; and the big centre-half, Rogers, fair murdered the ball with a smacking, whacking thwack from about 20 yards out, in the centre. The ball zoomed through the pack of exiting defenders and Davison, magnificently, flew horizontally to his right and punched the ball away fcould actually string more than two passes together, in a line, one after the other, this year. Cas frightened the life out of them on the three occasions he touched the ball; Rowan was proving a more effective link player than Ten Heuvel, if not exactly dangerous; and Campbell was sparky. Crane had no difficulty heading the ball, and Ford was in overdrive, purring across the park to dispossess and ease strikers away from goal. All in all, acceptable and rather comfortable, if not earth-shattering.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"This coffee's worse than the ammonia at Molineux."
"Wycombe are like an inept version of last year's Town."
"Charlie Mapes? Sounds like a chirpy cockney wideboy with connections."
"Davison's much better than before. With us, not Bradford."
"Where's your Citroen gone?"

Second half
Within a couple of minutes of the restart Wycombe nearly scored by accident. The usual hopeful hoof into the penalty area, a rebound, a ricochet, the ball flew over Ford and a striker was free. Davison raced off his line and flung himself at the feet of this interloper, a few yards out wide of the right post. The ball was blocked for a corner and serenity was restored.

Town pushed, Town probed; small moments when something almost happened. The Wycombe defence rocked, it rolled, it fell flat on its face in a collective panic. Rowan and Boulding hassled defenders as the ball dropped about 25 yards out on their left. The solution? Pretend you're Der Kaiser and pass your way out of trouble. The ball was rolled to their right-back, about 30 yards out. Campbell nipped in, nicked the ball off Vinnicombe's toe and swept on towards the bye-line. In one move he crossed and Boulding caressed the ball across the goalkeeper with a loving volley from somewhere near the penalty spot. The ball was a blur as Town mauled at speed. The small matter of Rowan being wrestled to the ground as the ball was crossed is now irrelevant.

And from this moment the game opened up into a frenzy of attack, attack, attack, attack, from both sides now. McSporran was sent free down the Town left after Hamilton was caught betwixt and between, like a very large rabbit. The ball was crossed early into the near post and one of the strikers, unmarked, sent a diving header towards Josh's Fish Bar, rather than Davison's crossbar. That's what we like to see.

A little later Onuora muscled Ford away and from about eight yards out glanced a diving header wide of Davison's right post. A free header from a corner sent wide of the angle of post and bar, and a few more crosses, dives and scrambles followed at sporadic intervals, but never, ever, did Wycombe look like scoring. Sanchez fiddled with substitutions while Wycombe burned as Town's searing pace cut them apart, almost at will. The dam had burst and only Rogers stopped Town.

Boulding: twist, turn, fouled; Rowan: turn, twist, fouled, in rapid succession, but no penalty given. Boulding crossed, Campbell crossed, just too high for Cas, just too high for Rowan, nearly, so close, almost; that deserved third was tantalisingly close. Sweet beautiful passing down the left saw Wycombe dazzled into submission, with Groves edging across the pitch and smashing a drive a foot or two over the bar.

Another few minutes and Groves was at it again, dragging a shot through defenders' legs and straight at the keeper. Then Campbell did the same after more dancing and prancing down the left. Anything else? Of course, the obligatory Casblaster. Surging, sweeping, swooping, the Town fans swooning as Cas glided in from the left and, from about 25 yards, hit a piledriver at the goalkeeper's head. The sheer force of the shot knocked Talia off his feet. Let's hope Cas continues his accuracy as someone in the Pontoon will get their hat knocked off.

For a wonderful five-minute spell Wycombe imploded, incapable of passing, controlling or in a couple of cases, standing up. They graduated from passing excellence, for Wycombe were not capable of dealing with crisp passing movements done at high speed. When Town click they are awesomely funky. There are still gaping holes and yawning gaps, or is that yawning holes and gaping gaps? But it seems that most second division teams are quite capable of falling over their own feet in front of goal. How many saves has Davison made this season? Exactly. Don't we just know that Bristol will be a different kettle of Brussels sprouts.

So, ignoring the central midfield, and the defence (organisationally, not individually), it wasn't too bad at all. The Town jelly is setting slowly. It will always wobble, for that's the essence of Town, isn't it.

What more could you want? Three points and the crowd skipping its way down Blundell Avenue, whistling merry tunes with a smile upon its collective face.

Nicko's man of the match
Well, where do we start? Quite a few fine individuals, with Ford again cool, calm and collected, Boulding a scampering pest all game, Rowan lively (in his own way) and Cas the runaway train. But they seek him here, they seek him there; that darned elusive Camp(er)bell was the fizzing ticker at the heart of the pummelling second-half performance.

Official warning
Mr C Webster was nowhere near as dreadful as the last time he set foot on our shores. Not great, irritatingly lenient at times, but nothing too much to complain about. The small decisions were quite odd at times, but he was determined not to book anyone (only a couple of clattering Chairboys forced him to flash the yellow card), which, for Town this season, was a blessing. Feeling generous. He gets 5.98997.