Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
10 August 2002
Norwich 4 Grimsby Town 0
An airless, broilingly bright day, with perhaps 500 or so Town fans scrunched up together in the old wooden shack (bottom right as seen on TV). Just like last April, it was sunny and the ground was full of chirruping Norwich fans, with the same foam and fur mascots, and the same insults flowing between the supporters. Ah, football, it's back, despite the world, nothing changes.
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Coyne, McDermott, Groves, Chettle, Gallimore, Cooke, Pouton, Coldicott, Campbell, Livingstone and Robinson. The substitutes were Hughes, Ford, Raven, Barnard and Rowan. Everyone played where you'd expect them to be, that's if you'd guessed correctly that the invisible man, Campbell, would be picked. If you did, advance three spaces. The matchday programme had just two errors in it. We have Alan Poulton in midfield (though at least they pronounced his name right when announcing the teams) and Stuart Cambell at number 8. A bit slow these Norfolkians, as the Town fans have been taking the P out of Campbell since last season.
The warm up was the usual to-ings and fro-ings, though the substitutes' shooting practice was a bit worrying. Little Bradley Hughes didn't seem able to stop any of the curls, chips and blasts from going in. We really do need Coyne to stay fit. The teams ran out to the strains of Star Wars. How yawnsome by the Wensum.
One of the teams kicked off, with Town playing towards the goal as seen on the left when viewed on a television, which is, in effect, away from the Town fans. The first few minutes were comfortable for your average Mariner, with no scares, just gentle tapping of the ball between Groves and Chettle, with the occasional punt towards Livingstone's head. After a couple of minutes, Town got a free kick out on the right, about 25 yards from goal. Cooke swung a low outswinger towards the near post which Livingstone glanced across the face of the goal. From our incredibly poor, and impaired, view it looked close. But it was Livvo, so excitement dissipated very quickly. The next few minutes saw a couple more Town attacks that promised, but delivered the usual. Robinson nearly turned in the box, Livingstone nearly smashed a stunning volley into the top corner. The ball dropped, his right boot swung, they did not meet. But "ooooooooh", as we like to kid ourselves.
The pattern continued, with Town having most of the possession, but having a disconcerting propensity to seek out Livingstone's head, which is a bit like seeking out new worlds, and new civilisations, with the ball going boldly where no ball has gone before. Even worse, Galli seemed to be the designated playmaker! Robinson hustled and harried, like a livelier Jack Lester. But the effect was the same as the real Jack Lester. Moments of danger that flittered before being frittered.
Norwich broke away effectively, which was a pattern throughout the match. How ironic that the home team had to rely on breakaways. Roberts, the hallucinating Town fans' Livvo, was a very strong target man, with flicks on and flicks back to his scurrying partner, McVeigh. The Town defence looked decidedly ropey when anyone ran at them. There was much retreating, especially by Mr Gallimore, who resembled a sleeping man on a lilo off Humberston yacht club. At ease with his life and oblivious to the gathering storm. Coyne fumbled a long shot from one of the little Norwich players (Mulryne, I think). Coyne seemed to go right, then left, before flailing to his right again, dropping the ball and flopping on it as it rolled towards some on-rushing strikers. Mmmmmmmm, a bit worrying. Another Norwich break, where the ball was laid back from the edge of the penalty area, resulted in a Norwich player placing a shot around Coyne from the left side of the area. Coyne, again, seemed to go the wrong way firstly, then he adjusted his feet and dropped to his right and parried the (rather slow and weak) shot away for a corner. The corner was swung in towards the far post, where Coyne punched away, the ball was returned quickly and Kenton, unmarked and about 15 yards out on the centre, headed firmly wide of Coyne's right hand post. Oooh. And then there was the quick Norwich break ("QNB") down the Town right where the ball was clipped over Groves and the offside Roberts (all the Town fans were level and he was at least a yard offside) stooped, about 10 yards out, and headed tamely to Coyne's right. Coyne easily drooped onto the header. A minute or so later another QNB down the Town left saw the ball looped over Groves and beyond the far post. Roberts sprang high and headed softly over Coyne and over the bar. The game was now 12 minutes old.
Town had, seemingly, weathered the minor squall, and for the next 15 minutes completely controlled the game. Coldicott and, especially, Pouton did what they pleased. In Pouton's case this was to show off. A couple of inconsequential long shots from Robinson and Campbell, both of which dribbled safely and slowly to the Norwich 'keeper at least kept the Town fans interested. After 23 minutes they purred, then gave a rousing cheer. Some interplay down the Town left resulted in the ball being laid across the half way line to Pouton. In one move he spun, back flicked the ball between his legs and into space, continuing his forward surge. Coldicott ran on and tapped a first time pass back into the space Pouton was heading for. Pouton then curled a pass with the outside of his right foot out to Cooke, who was a-hugging the touchline, 30 yards out. Cooke shimmied inside, then shammied outside before curling a flat outswinging cross beyond the penalty spot. Robinson feinted to go towards goal, hung back and met the header perfectly. Well, almost. His header curled a foot wide of the 'keeper's left hand post. Such a pity he's Lester-esque in his finishing. A minute of so later Pouton, energised by his successful trick, produce not one, not two, but three step-overs in a long and winding run down the Town left. He crossed and the unmarked Robinson, leaning back, headed well wide. The long and winding run didn't lead to a score.
Campbell fizzed down the left, drifting past a couple of defenders and curling a right foot cross towards the near post, which was sliced out for a corner. The Norwich 'keeper then dropped the ball from the corner under pressure from Livingstone, Unfortunately, the ball bounced back into his hands as he turned and grasped the stinging nettle.
So far, so good, the Town fans realised that their yellow clad hosts were silent. There was only one team in control and it was the monochromes. Oh how the Town fans crowed, and just as they crowed their mightiest they were eaten by an unexpected fox. With about 30 minutes gone, Norwich broke away down the Town left. Nothing particularly worrisome, just a few passes up to the edge of the box, then a lay off to a midfielder about 25 yards out. The old Town defence had, again, repelled the raiders. Nothing to worry about. Oh, there was. Mulryne whacked a middling shot. Coyne went to his right then suddenly changed direction and plunged to his left. The ball drifted wide of Coyne at chest height and into the net. That old deflating feeling came back. We'd forgotten, over the summer, what it was like to follow Town. Now we remembered.
Town did try to respond, visibly upping the tempo, with Cooke whipping in cross after cross, but either Robinson miss-timed his leap or it was intended for Livvo. When Cooke dies they'll find that written on his heart.
Norwich still broke away dangerously, but rarely actually had an effort on goal. Much potential danger, not much produced. Rivers regularly drifted past Lilo Galli, the most fearsome moment being when he drilled a low cross back from the bye-line which missed everyone. Roberts bundled and barged his away around the field, regularly giving away free kicks and occasionally making interesting passes to McVeigh. Chettle and Groves dealt with them to a certain extent. Chettle had a pleasing tendency to stand in the right place, which was fortunate because his legs move slower than Groves'. But, there's always a but, the defence always looked like it was about to make a mistake. And with three or four minutes left to half time they did. A QNB was half repelled, the ball was chipped in from their left midfield towards Roberts at the back of the penalty area, about 15 yards out. He drifted away from Groves and tried to place a dinky little header behind Chettle. The ball hit Chettle and bounced free to McVeigh, about 12 yards out, who placed a right foot shot across Coyne and into the right hand side of the net as Groves and Chettle were prostrate before him. A clumsy, scruffy, daft goal to concede. Despite bossing possession, Town were 2-0 down. Annoying, very annoying indeed. In the last minute of the half Gallimore managed to whack a shot a foot over the bar when 20 yards out and right in the centre. I can't be bothered to clutch at any Livvo straws - there were quite a few moments when you thought "if only it wasn't Livvo who the ball was running to". God bless 'im, and all who sail in 'im, but...
So, the first 45 minutes of the season passed, and boy how Town had passed. Beautifully at times. A joy to behold the intricate passing movements. Between the penalty areas Town had been superior. If only we were marked on points for style. Norwich were very ordinary at times, frequently passing the ball out of play and displaying a certain unease when approached by strangers. Many times they miss-controlled under pressure. Coyne was not solid, seemingly being at fault for the first goal, the second was a typical goal conceded by Town, a bit of sloppiness, and an inability to deal with loose balls in the box. So was there hope? Of course not, it was merely a matter of keeping the score down. There was great world weary annoyance that what the absent fans read in black and white will not reflect what the black and whites had produced. Campbell looked far sprightlier than he has done since he signed permanently, allowing the cynics suggested that competition for his starting place has caused him to try a just a little bit more. Oh, how cynical.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Those trousers belong at Woodstock". "Livvo is, err, is, err, indescribable today." "Half of Barnsley's defence isn't going to keep us up". "What a lovely bridge". "That, sir, is a cheese pie!".
Abandon all hope, all ye who enter. It got worse, much worse. As the sun got higher, the day hotter, the Town players wilted. The defence just looked, well, old. There's no other way to describe the back four. McDermott was probably the pick of them, but that isn't saying much. One day we'll have live without him. It's approaching very quickly, as even he was making mistakes, looking tired and small. Chettle just ran out of steam, Groves creaked and made us groan, whilst Gallimore substituted his panicky retreating of the first half for standing in no mans land during the second. Campbell disappeared again, so was no help to Corporal Jones.
Most importantly, the referee and linesman came out in green shirts, having been wearing black in the first half.
The first 15 minutes of the second half were dull, poor but even. Town never threatened really, whilst Norwich hinted at a threat when a Town attack foundered. The best chance Town had was when they were awarded a free kick 30 yards out. A Norwich player stopped Town taking it quickly and was booked (presumably for stupidity - Town were never going to score, so why kick it away?). The referee marched forward 10 paces (that's ever decreasing paces, they got smaller and smaller as he got nearer and nearer the penalty area). Ah, a chance for Gallimore to waste it. You think I'm being too negative? Gallimore waddled forward and slapped it into the shins of the 3rd player from the right. Norwich broke away. Danger was only averted by a poor Norwich pass which Chettle, the only Town player back on the edge of the Town penalty area, managed to divert when three yellow perils roamed free as a bird.
After 56 minutes Robinson was replaced by Rowan. There was a rumble of discontent that Livingstone remained whilst the hard working loanee was taken off. At least Robinson was a nuisance to Norwich. Rowan still looks like a 14 year old Nintendo addict in need of several large meals, and played like one. He was easily brushed aside, even by the smallest of the Norwich players, and added value only because the referee took pity on him and eventually started to award free kicks for bullying in the schoolyard. A few minutes after Rowan arrived the third goal arrived. Again sloppy, slacky, play by Town down the left. Gaps everywhere, no cohesion, no Campbell. A Norwich player (I don't care who), about 30 yards out, chipped a pass into a space between Groves and Gallimore. The ball skipped off the grass and the bounce deceived the stooping Groves, who missed his intended header. Coyne came out, stopped, than came out again as Mulryne made a deep, long, unattended run. He controlled the ball, flipped it back inside and calmly walked (yes, walked) past Coyne and slowly caressed the ball into the empty net. A really awful goal to concede, humiliatingly inept defending and maybe even goalkeeping. At this point the Norwich fans started to delude themselves into placing any importance on this result - they even started to laud their central defender, Kenton, for his unerring ability to run faster than Livingstone "you'll never beat Daz Kenton". It was nice of them to bring a smile to our faces in these troubled times.
A couple of minutes later Campbell was surreptitiously kidnapped by aliens and replaced by Barnard, who is stockier and taller. Within a couple of minutes of coming on Barnard had whacked a 20 yard volley just over the bar following a half cleared corner. The word is rasping. Around the same time, one of the Town players had a drive deflected up and over the bar, with the Norwich 'keeper stranded. A fleeting moment of hope that summed up the day - a maybe moment, but we needed luck to make it a happy moment. To follow Town is to add up the "ifs" in life.
There was a Town move, somewhere on the middle of the half, which could be categorised as adequate. It ended with a clipped cross from the left, beyond the last centre back, for Livingstone, 10 yards out, who headed straight at the goalkeeper. Only the youngest three Town supporters raised themselves from their seats in anticipation, the rest of us were firmly glued to the plastic. Livvo did manage to get the grumpy Grimbarians off their seats a few minutes later in what can only be described as the curious case of Mr Livingstone's bottom. A Cooke corner from the left was swung high, high, high beyond the back post. Livvo wheeled away from his marker and the ball bounced off his, hahem, "lower back" and gently into the goalkeeper's arms. Debate raged on Livvo's intentions. Was he (a) letting the ball bounce of his bottom, bamboozling the defence with his posterior skills, whilst spinning to hit a terrific volley into the top corner? or (b) completely clueless? The jury didn't even retire for contemplation - cluelessly guilty.
Norwich began to blossom, pinging first time passes across the pitch, one touch flicks and tricks, with supporting runs. At 3-0, with the sun out, a deflating opposition of old men with a kid and a crock up front, it's the very least they could do for their paying public. Rivers (I think) burst in to the area on the Town left and hit a hard low drive across the face of the goal. Another one of them turned on the left edge of the penalty area and curled a shot across the face of goal. Coyne had to race out of his goal a couple of time, a few desperate hacks at crosses, a few bundles around the edge of the area and Town were men on the edge of a total breakdown. However it was still only 3-0.
Nope, it was four. With less than 20 minutes left Pouton and Coldicott dispossessed Holt, 30 yards out from the Town goal, then stood around as Holt's legs whirled and won the ball back. He tapped the ball into the space between our former "clogs of war" and the vanishing centre backs. Another little pass and McVeigh was all alone, inside the area. He awaited Coyne's arrival and carefully lifted the ball over the grey man and into the bottom right hand corner.
What more to say? Nielsen came on for the last 15 minutes, to much vocal comment from the thoroughly dismayed Town supporters. A couple of headers and nothing much else from him, he was easily dealt with by Simon Ford, who came on for the last 10 minutes to replace Chettle. A Norwich corner from their right was swung high to the far post where a central defender headed wide from about 2 yards out. McDermott was outpaced on a QNB, the cross was hit towards the near post, about 10 yards out, and Roberts dived forward and headed quite wide and high. And Town had a couple of chances. Firstly Livingstone turned the ball inside to Rowan, about 8 yards out, just wide of goal. He was unmarked and he carelessly leant back and lifted the ball way, way, way over. Then Livingstone was free, inside the box, five or six yards out to the right of goal. He just couldn't catch up with the ball. Why bother? It'd be a wasted goal, wouldn't it. Town aren't going to score many, so they all have to be important goals, you know, the 1-0's. Fifteen'd do.
Ah, back to the game. A couple more Norwich chances pinged across the area, both involving Kenton. Didn't go in, so what, who cares, game lost anyway. There were three minutes of added time, during which Town fans trickled away like disappointed suitors. By the wonders of technology the happy news spread like wildfire, Millwall had imploded. Town weren't bottom anymore, and some cheery souls taunted the Norwich fans with that. And then they realised that Town's goal difference is already 10 worse than Rotherham's.
Is there anything positive to take from this? Well, yes. The first half was a decent performance, with Town playing excellently for 20 minutes, the half time score really flattered Norwich. Robinson seems to be a workaholic, but in the grand tradition of Grimsby Town strikers, cannot score. Barnard has a thumping shot, but didn't do anything else to allow anyone to have strong views on his capabilities. The negatives were Coyne's odd footwork (he kept going the wrong way for long shots), Groves' carelessness (in one instance in the first half he passed directly to McVeigh 30 yards out and had to save the day with a last gasp sliding tackle back to Coyne), Chettle's slowness, Gallimore's doziness, McDermott's receding powers, Rowan's physical weakness, and Livingstone's existence. It wasn't all bad, just mostly.
Roll on Wimbledon. Let's hope we do.
Nicko's Man of the Match
It can only be a half man of the day. So who will take the half biscuit? Pouton had an excellent first half. Let's leave it at that.
Annoyed the home fans by booking a couple of their players and not letting Roberts get away with too many gratuitous cloggings. And mostly by not booking Livingstone for some typically late challenges. No huge decisions to make, seemed to be adequate. An extremely acceptable 6.63