Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
8 October 2002
Grimsby Town 3 Ipswich Town 0
A chill wind blew unsteadily from the Humber into the faces of those hardy folk in the Smiths/Stones/Findus Stand, on a grey evening. The pre-match warm up varied not one misplaced pass from the usual routine, but there was no Boylen cheerleading this time, just the distant sound of thunder as the crowd prepared themselves for more woe. Well, that was the Main Stand. There was a strange sense of fun pervading the Pontoon, as if the fans had really given up and were settling back to observe with amused detachment.
There were somewhere close to 1,000 Ipswichians gathered together in the gloom and once or twice we heard them sing something simple. That was before the game started, obviously. "Can you hear the Ipswich sing? Not yet, not yet", as the Pontoon whispered. Prior to the game Ronnie Moore, the Rotherham manager, was espied in the fish and chip shop formerly known as Hobsons. Make of this what you will. He likes to make mushy pea butties, which he constructed in the most dainty fashion.
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation as follows: Coyne, Ward, Ford, Raven, Barnard, Cooke, Santos, Pouton, Campbell, Kabba and Mansaram. The substitutes were Allaway, Rowan, Coldicott, Robinson and Livingstone. Interesting defence there, with none of Groves' first choices to be seen, to be sure. And gorgeous Georges in the centre of midfield. Bets were placed on how many minutes before he got a red card. Santos and Pouton together at last: potentially stirring, potentially bonkers. The return of the living Livvo was appropriately received by the crowd. We love him for the concept - its his aura that is important, not his body. He glows in the dark, you know, and glides six inches above the ground.
Ipswich kicked off towards the Pontoon and, disgracefully, kept passing the ball. Don't they know the proper way to start a Division One match? You kick it out of play, five yards above and ten yards in front of the left/right winger. And in the time it took you to read that sentence they missed an open goal. They passed the ball up, down, across, back again, and over to their right, with Finidi George surging into the penalty area. Barnard flailed away with his feet, trying to make a connection with something, as George tried to go inside, about 10 yards from the by-line. Barnard managed a superb cross, low through the penalty area between the six-yard line and the penalty spot. The ball rolled behind a stocky player with fair hair (which describes all their players except the ones who weren't), who crossed back to the far post. Bent headed down and back across goal to Miller, seven yards out, in the centre and completely, totally and, to emphasise the point, utterly unmarked. He leant back, shaped his body beautifully and swept the ball a foot over the bar as the Pontoon "ahhhh"-ed gratefully. Now that was lucky. Perhaps Pouton's lob-tackle own goal was a defining moment, where bad luck went out with a bang?
Town looked far perkier than against Reading, with Mansaram and especially Kabba looking extremely lithe and quick. It helped that the Ipswich defence was clearly full of old men, and they seemed to play near the halfway line, leaving loads and loads of space for our Octopussy two to run into. But the Town defence still looked like strangers in the night, with Ipswich looking tasty, tasty, very very tasty, when they attacked. They had pace, power and precision passing. They carved Town up almost at will, especially down the left, with Finidi George almost literally licking his lips at the sight of a barbecued Barnard.
Ooo, here's another. Pass, pass, pass, a dink over the top and Bent was away, free at last down the Town left, like a budgerigar who'd spotted the cage door open when old Auntie Hilda was cleaning it. Try as he might, Auntie Hilda Raven couldn't catch Bent, who, when about 10 yards from goal and a few yards wide of Coyne's left hand post, sent a wonderfully wicked, wobbling shot into the Pontoon, sliced as finely as a loaf of bread.
Santos made his first appearance of the night to volley the ball into the empty seats 'twixt Osmond and Findus/Stones/Smiths Stands for a throw-in to Ipswich. Nothing much appeared to be going on, with Ipswich tapping the ball between their defenders, when, suddenly, Campbell dispossessed the last defender in the centre, about 30 yards out. He carried the ball forward and out to the left, spotted Kabba, who was furiously waving his arms about, and caressed the ball into the muscular motorman's flight path. KABBA sprinted forward into the area, awaited Marshall's advance and from about a dozen yards out in the centre-left of the penalty area, dinked the ball over the keeper into the centre right of the goal. It all happened so quickly the Town fans took a while to react. Then we did, and how. We then looked at our watches: only eight minutes gone - plenty of time for Town to cave in.
Ipswich continued to weave pretty patterns in front, around and behind the Town defence. Too pretty by half, as they seemed to want to score the perfect goal. The next worrisome moment came when the referee decided to ignore a blatant shove on Ford inside the area by Bent, who played the ball out to the unmarked Miller, about eight yards out, just to the right of goal. Coyne "stood tall" and kicked the shot away with his right boot. Town weren't appalling, just having difficulty with clearly superior opponents.
But the clues were there, as Town's strikers were causing problems for their defence. Ipswich players kept losing possession dozily, or passing directly to a Town player stood right in front them. You know, it was if they'd played three games in six days; they looked like they didn't really want to be in Cleethorpes on a cold October evening.
And from one of Ipswich's misplaced passes Town did it again. Ward intercepted a slow crossfield pass intended for Wright, who jogged back lightly. Ward knocked the ball forward on the ground to Cooke, just inside the Town half, near the touchline. Cooke dribbled forward and played a simple ball down the 'channel' for Kabba to sprint on to. Kabba duly did so, surged into the area, awaited Brown's tackle and ensured that he failed to stop himself falling over the sliding bones of Wayne Brown's body, mouldering in the grave. The referee pointed down towards what looked like the six-yard box, and it eventually transpired that a penalty had been awarded. The indestructible POUTON, Captain Scarlet for the night, picked up the ball, walked back and stroked a right-foot shot low into the net on the keeper's right-hand side. The keeper went the right way; so did the ball, but quicker. Not even 20 minutes gone and 2-0. Who'd have thought it, eh?
And still Monsieur Santos had not been spotted in anger. Despite his physical absence from the vicinity of the ball, he brought a certain something to the midfield, which looked far more solid. Perhaps it was because he seemed to take up 50 per cent of the pitch with his wide shoulders, or maybe he tried the old school bully trick, threatening to "sort them out later in the bikesheds" if one of the little Ipswichians had the temerity to run past him. You will be pleased to hear that Town eschewed the mind-numbing long ball thwackings of recent weeks, with passes carefully played to feet, or weighted properly into the spaces betwixt and between Ipswich defenders. I say defenders - they were more like a bunch of blokes strawberry picking.
Still Ipswich poured forward; they may have been hopeless at the back, but in midfield they weaved mighty handsome webs. Chances came and went like a DFS sale, now on! Some slick passing and flicks and tricks around the centre-left edge of the Town penalty area resulted in Wright hitting a first-time scruffy shot through Raven's legs. It bumbled and bobbled towards the bottom right-hand corner. Coyne scurried across and just managed to fingertip the ball around the post for a corner. The corner was half cleared, with McGreal, in the middle of the area, trying a cheeky back-header, which went straight, and slowly, to Coyne.
Holland had another scruffling first-time shot from the centre-right of the area, which trundled pleasantly into Coyne's arms and yet more joy and fun for the faithful when George was played in behind Barnard. George flew past the man who has arguably the best left foot on his body, got to the by-line and dragged a low cross back towards the penalty spot. Miller swooped in and swept the ball over the bar. Lovely.
There were more Ipswich efforts which proved harmless, initially worrying until they actually had a shot. Finidi George dragged a shot across the face of goal, the ball dribbling and drabbling a couple of yards wide of the right-hand post. They all seemed like that, either so mishit that the ball barely ran out of play, or they kept lifting the ball into the Pontoon. How frustrating it must be to be an Ipswich supporter. Such pretty football, so many chances, such rubbish shooting. At least Town are usually consistently rubbish, so we don't have that elusive, destructive thing called hope.
But today, today was different. Town were definitely 'up' for the game, buzzing and barnstorming through the first half. Kabba should have scored at least one more. He received a pass near the halfway line on the left with his back to goal, rolled, twisted and barged his way through three tackles, burst into the penalty area, cut across and, from about 10 yards out, to the left of centre, tried to whack the ball over Marshall, who came out and did a super point-blank block. About 10 minutes later he did the same thing on the other side, with Marshall again blocking bravely as our loan star terrified the Ipswich old men with his pace and muscles.
Apart from a Campbell free kick out on the Town left, which he curled through the penalty area just wide of Marshall's left-hand post, Town didn't have any other efforts on goal. So that was it, 'just' the two goals then. It could have been 4-4 at half time; it wasn't; and in celebration someone out near Sussex Rec sent up some fireworks. The crowd celebrated too, "woo"-ing as every rocket burst forth a million bright ambassadors of mourning for Ipswich.
A curious half, as Town looked the more clinical finishers of the two teams. Weird. Kabba played like a maniac, as in a good maniac. Ipswich were scared stiff of him. Mansaram was less effective, but still caused difficulties, with his puppet on a string routine. I-I-I-I-I-I-I wonder if one day that he'll con-trol the ball. He is entertaining, and I call as my first witness the moment he was sent free inside the Ipswich half. The ball bounced high; he controlled with a strange part of his body, sending the ball even higher. He stood on the ball; his arms shot out sideways like an albatross hanging motionless upon the air; he stumbled, twisted, turned, fell over the ball, was tackled, fell over the ball again, and eventually passed the ball out sideways.
Santos made three excellent blocks/headers inside the Town area in the last few minutes of the half. Hello Mr Santos, how are you today? He was economical with his movements, but they were good movements: no rabid assassination attempts were made. In the parlance of the pro, "controlled aggression". Campbell was quite sprightly, looking a bit more like the man he used be, casting aside the shadow hanging over he. And, in the end everyone was looking fine - no-one appeared out of their depth, or below par. Even Barnard was getting to grips with the onerous task of being Gallimore's replacement. He didn't try any sub-Gallimorian drag-backs, even doing some McDermottesque rolls and blocks off the ball. By the end of the half the back four looked like a unit.
The crowd roared the players off the pitch, turned to each other and smiled a vacant smile. Such uncharted territory this season. Goals! Excitement! Pleasure! Come on down to Fungus World. Our mushrooms are magic!
Last season, at the darkest hour, we had the Kestrel of Doom fluttering around the stands. Perhaps Town have found the Pixie of Hope, for wandering in front of the Pontoon at half time was a little man, with a big beard and gnomic woolly hat. The gnome named Grimble Grumble.
Stu's half time toilet talk
"I don't understand what's going off out there."
"Little Wardy's playing great."
"I don't go in the Main Stand, it's full of dentists."
"He claimed not to have noticed the rippling 50-foot inflatable bananas."
"Ward's my next door neighbour, you know."
After all that excitement, you'll need a few calming moments to collect your thoughts and stabilise your heartbeat. Which is what the first five minutes of the second half were. It seems Ipswich made a change at half time, but no-one noticed. They replaced Miller with someone who looked exactly like him, but didn't miss open goals. Mainly because he didn't get near enough to miss, which was fine by us. You see Ward's pocket? It's bulging. That's because their left winger was inside it.
After about five or six minutes Ipswich had a goal disallowed. It isn't worth describing in any detail, as the linesman's flag had been up ages before it was whacked in. The Ipswich fans and players hadn't noticed, but we had, and so had the referee. At least it woke them up and gave them something to chunter about on the long and winding road back to Suffolk.
Ipswich pressed, without much conviction and certainly without the incision and precision of the first half. Town were much tighter at the back, far more organised, with Ward and Raven having particularly fine games. Ipswich were adept at switching play from one side of the pitch to the other, seeking to send the wingers behind our full backs, with Ward seemingly the targeted weak spot. He wasn't. Ipswich had a few half-scrambles in the Town area, a few headers softly lolloping to Coyne, a few shots from outside the area that went high and wide. So nothing worrying at all. There was some concern that Town were doing their old trick of sinking further and further back inviting a couple of sucker right hooks, but hey, the world is different now. The foot is in the other boot these days. Well, it was on Tuesday.
After about an hour Ipswich had another corner, another aimless cross into the middle of the penalty area, half cleared, returned and cleared again to Mansaram just outside the area in the middle. He turned and passed to Kabba in the centre near the halfway line. Kabba zipped forward, driving at the heart of the retreating Ipswich defence. A huge, huge gap opened up down the Ipswich left into which Santos, the hard nut who is Cape Verde's finest export after soft fruit, loped. From near the corner of the penalty area, about 20 yards out, he hit a superb, fast, low cross in between the goalkeeper and the panicking defence. KABBA, about seven yards out, almost level with the far post, sailed gracefully through the air to volley the low ball to the 'keeper's right. In Town terms it was magnificent - a fast counterattack, destroying, shredding and obliterating the opposition, and a great finish. It was exactly the sort of goal that is usually scored against Town.
And the fans did sing and dance all night, those memories of March came flooding back. Irrepressible, passionate football that swept aside the unwary and complacent opponent. Town players were in full flow, finally looking like a decent first division team. It's only taken two months. And, in celebrating the goal, the whole team ran over to hug Groves, led by Kabba, which was nice.
Almost immediately after the goal Mansaram was replaced by Livingstone, with both players receiving massive ovations. Livvo didn't so much sprint on as get on the pitch. Generally the ball was played to his feet, but once or twice, especially towards the end of the game, he headed the ball, and we all winced. Livvo's physical contribution was, errr, negligible. He did have one effort on goal, just after he came on. Set free down the Town left he tried the most delicate of lobs from 20 yards, which arced beautifully into Marshall's midriff.
Kabba almost scored another with about 20 minutes left. Town played some nice one-touch passing football down the right, with Ward twice dispossessing Ipswich players to maintain the pressure. Cooke, about 25 yards out, hovering just in front o the defensive line, played a brilliantly weighted pass between the left back and centre back. Kabba hared on and attempted to dink the ball over the sprawling Marshall, who just managed to block. The ball bounced loose, but into the path of the now rolling Marshall.
A couple of minutes later, for the nth time, Kabba rolled around after a challenge holding his leg. This time it was serious as he pulled up limping, clutching his hamstring, immediately hobbling off the pitch and calling for the physio. So, with 15 minutes left, young Mr Robinson arrived as his replacement.
Within a minute or so he should have scored. A simple ball over the top was missed by one of the ageing rockers in the Ipswich defence and Robinson was away, free behind the defence and in the centre. He bumbled the ball goalwards, chased it and, from about 15 yards out, to the right of centre, wellied an awful, slicing right-footed shot just underneath the roof of the Pontoon, way wide of goal. This boy's a natural for Town! About five minutes later he was off again. Sent free down the Town left he took a while to compose himself before cutting inside and trying a deft chip from 20 yards. He got more elevation on it and I am sure that if Marshall hadn't caught it the ball would have spun back to within a foot or so of the hole. It was such a lovely sand iron from the middle of the fairway. A gimme, and Marshall took it.
Woah, there's more where that came from. Somewhere in the last few minutes Robinson was sent free down the Town right. He drove into the penalty area like a man with a C-reg Nissan Cherry. Drifted wide of goal and, from a narrow angle six or seven yards wide of the goal, dragged a shot across goal, the ball rumbling and tumbling a yard wide of the keeper's right-hand post. He fits in so well, doesn't he. Like a smaller, faster Livvo, with echoes of a distant time, ol' tirelessly Nogan.
Cooke got in on the act of chipping badly, chipping badly straight at the keeper from 20 yards, when a pass to Big Georgie would have been a better option. Oh, and Cooke tried one of those Ipswich specialities, a low scuffler, which, like their shots, was untroubling to a sentient being. Campbell had a super little dribble down the left and fell down in the area. No penalty given - not surprisingly, as it wasn't a very good fall.
Ipswich didn't give up and continued to play the same passing game that looks so nice. It was like watching a superior version of Alan Buckley's Grimsby teams. But still they couldn't shoot. A couple of long shots wafted on to the Osmond Stand roof; another couple of weak headers, straight at Coyne; and finally Cyril, isn't this where we came in? A fast break down their left, a low, fast cross and a midfielder slid in, unmarked about 10 yards out, carefully placing a volley over the scoreboard to a land far, far away, where Noggin the Nog lived with his friends, i.e. the Memorial Hall car park.
There were four minutes of added time, which meant that Coldicott had 10 minutes on the pitch, having replaced Ward and gone straight to right back. Ward got the applause he deserved.
So there we are then, another win - two in three games, which is a statistical improvement. More importantly, the team, individually and collectively, is starting to look like it's 'any good' again. Not wonderful, but certainly competent. That's a huge step forward for man, a giant leap forward for Barnard-kind.
But what have they done? Just as we'd given up, the fingertips get a slightly firmer grip on that ledge. Why do they give us hope? It's cruel.
Another dozen games like that and we'd just about be safe. Simple, isn't it.
Nick0's man of the match
I won't fall for Pouton's last-minute double step-over and cross, but he was much, much better than has become the norm. Santos seems to have 'presence', and what a wonderful cross. Oooh, I could go in about them all, but, to make up for Saturday's lack of MoM there is a double nomination today, for vastly different reasons. KABBA and WARD. Kabba virtually crushed them on his own, becoming what we thought he was, but hadn't been yet. The highest compliment to be paid to Ward is that we did not miss McDermott at all. Cool and composed in both defence and attack, have we got McD's long-term successor here? Careful nurturing required. He looked very good.
Seemed to only want to book players for not retreating at free kicks, yet didn't bother to book two Ipswich players who wouldn't go when he marched through Georgia to get them back. Turning to look at him and contemptuously shuffling two inches: it was farcical, given that the referee was about five yards behind them. He gave the penalty, so no points taken away for being kind to us. Mmm...overall, a bit anonymous. I digress; you just want to know the scores on the doors, Isla. 6.27.