Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
21 December 2002
Grimsby Town 2 Sheffield Wednesday 0
A grey, chill, still afternoon with the Osmond End completely full of yodelling Yorkists, with barely an empty seat to be seen. Except the front the row of the Upper Smiths/Stones/Findus, which was curiously devoid of much humanity. Town warmed up in yellow bibs, so a win was inevitable as the green had been cast into the vast cesspit of history. The pre-match entertainment was devoid of comic potential, until just before the teams ran out, when a group of teenage girls appeared in short Santa outfits. After much shuffling and nudging they eventually got themselves into what some would call a formation. Well, perhaps Lennie Lawrence was the choreographer - no width, running around without rhyme or reason, I'm sure that each individual was dancing in time with themselves. A cruel old cynic observed "less Cheeky Girls, more chunky girls". Bah, Humbug!
The pre-match kick-about saw much head scratching in the Pontoon, with ifs and buts and caveats, if not cravats, much in evidence. So is Groves at centre back? Santos? Ford at right back, or Ward, or Coldicott? Who is left back? Did anyone see Gavin? Who? Where? What? How? Errr?
Well, as 3 o'clock approached, Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows :- Coyne, Ward, Ford, Santos, Barnard, Oster, Coldicott, Pouton, Campbell, Livingstone and Mansaram. The substitutes were Allaway, Groves, Cooke, Gavin and Soames. Ah-ha, so that's what the team is. Another completely new back four, with two rickety full backs and strutting, sauntering centre backs. What's more, fluttering, flicking Oster was on the right with wandering Ward behind him, all alone with no particular place to go. I think it's called flying by the seat of your pants, Mr G. Let's hope Town weren't pants as a result. The result, that's what was important, we didn't care how we got there, we just wanted the result. Let's close our eyes and hope for the best. Were off!
Sheffield Wednesday kicked off, in a fetching bright yellow and pale blue ensemble, towards the Pontoon. Old habits die hard, they clearly still think they are a Premiership team, for they tippy-tapped the ball around and resolutely refused to belt it out of play for a throw in. To come to terms with loss (something they should have got used to by now) one has to accept reality. You're a first division team so whack it out of play 15 yards from the opposition bye-line. It's the law.
A cheap, mocking point, ! know, for they did actually keep possession effectively and forced a minor moment of temporary concern with a bit of interplay and a cross. The sheer size of their forwards, bulky and sulky, Kuqi and Sibon, caused a bit of concern, as did the thought of the huge Crane (unfortunately not called Derrick but Tony) at centre half lolloping forward at set pieces. But we forgot something, we've got lovable old softy Georges Santos now, 6 foot 5 and wheels of steel. Town had some kind of move down the right, resulting in an Oster cross which was clasped to his ample bosom like an asp by the diving Pressman, who was later asked to expose his sexy body by the partying Pontoon. A minute or so later, Mansaram had a shot, from the edge of the area, which went straight to the widest goalkeeper in association football history.
So a couple of minutes gone and all is fair in love and bore. We then had long periods of tedium, with the ball up in the air for days on end. They whacked it high to their big centre forwards and the Town defenders headed it high away. As their defenders were taller than the Town strikers, they simply headed it high back towards their huge strikers. Heads, heads, heads, snore. Town were playing into Wednesday's hands, with the head tennis broken only by back passes to Coyne, who simply whacked the ball high down the middle, thus setting the cycle going again. Like a huge to twist and turn his way past his marker on the left, before whizzing a low cross to the near post which made Pressman flop like a stranded whale at Donna Nook at his near post. Enough to "Oooo". But still Wednesday pressed forward, waiting for a mistake. And they got one. Santos, the rabid rock, lunged forward on the left edge of the Town penalty area to intercept an uninteresting punt forward, He slipped and managed to slip over and slice the ball high in the air. Kuqi ran on as Coyne ran out, then ran back again. Kuqi looked up, saw hordes of yellow wildebeest flowing across the savannah and managed to roll the ball to Barnard at the near post. Phew, wasteful Wednesday number two. Where are we now? Way past the half hour mark. Still the football was, frankly, dreadful, as it always is against *them*, from *that* Sheffield. Whichever *them* it is. Oh, here we go again. More humping and lumping from Wednesday. With a huge clearance from Crane whacked up down their inside right channel. Barnard waited under the ball, Santos drifted across and managed to jump into Barnard, the ball bouncing back off the international superstar's back. With the two Town defenders wrestling like Alan Bates and Oliver Reed, though clothed, thankfully, Kugi was alone, on the centre edge of the penalty area and free to score at will. He decided to hit a hooking, swinging first time right foot volley, which comfortably floated a foot or so over the centre of Coyne's goal. There were other moments of danger created, principally through their wingers shredding the under protected Town full backs, but nothing tangible resulted. Johnstone curled a cross over Coyne and a few inches past the far post when completely free inside the Town area on the left. Geary surged but crossed back to Coldicott. Kugi headed wide at the near post. Sibon minced. One of their anonymous midfielders shot softly wide. Nothing to get hung up about.
The last five minutes of the first half were by far Town's best, with Livvo receiving a pass on the right of the Wednesday area, turning and crossing through the 6 yards box as Pressman and the defenders stared at each other, panicking in public. The resulting corner, taken by Barnard and officially described, as it was being hit, as "terrible" by a moany old Pontoonite, was clipped to the unmarked Pouton, right in the centre on the edge of the area. Pouton shocked all by shaping his body beautifully and cracking a left foot volley a foot or so wide of Pressman's left hand post. And that was the first half. Oh, there were the usual clatterings and clashings, huge swingeing scything tackles form both sides, with the referee finally booking an Owl for a shatteringly late, pre-meditated hack at Oster. A weird offside decision against Livvo who was flagged when, after attempting to pass the ball back to Oster, it was intercepted by a defender and kicked straight back to him. Huh? We should be used to it by now, but we still get indignant. Town were rather fortunate to be level at half time, with Wednesday having by far the clearer opportunities, and most of the possession. If heading the ball a lot counts as possession. It was a refined third division type of football, but not very. Unsubtle and very basic, they relied on running around and a bit of individual trickery from their foreign strikers, neither of whom looked that bothered.
The really annoying thing was that Town were letting Wednesday dictate the game, and rather dumbly trying to do the same thing - whacking it forward as high as possible, with rarely an attempt to build from the back. Blame the defence? Not really. They spent most of the time heading it clear. Whenever Coyne got the ball he dropped kicked it. Town were, quite simply, playing stupidly.
At least it was half time.
Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Now that hair's a long way from ho-o-o-o-o-o-o-ome".
"I think Donovan tracked back more than Oster."
"Santos is a real brick at the back. That's not what the Wednesday fans will be saying"
"Do you suffer from Tourette's syndrome?"
"Is their number 4 really called McLarge? Yes, of course, and their left back is McSmall"
No changes in personnel were made by either team at half time, though Oster and Campbell switched wings. And the effect was immediate. Oster was far more effective on the left, and Campbell, simply by standing in the right places, afforded protection to Ward. Town kicked off and tore into Wednesday. Instead of simpleminded whacks forward, the ball was deliberately played to the body of our strikers, or down channels for Mansaram to chase.
After a couple of minutes a town break down the right saw the ball chipped for Mansaram to chase. He hassled, harried and clipped a cross through the 6 yards box towards Livingstone. Livvo was surrounded by three defenders and was flattened. The ball was cleared for a Town corner and Livingstone got up and grabbed Monk by the throat, in response to an unsly crack on the ankles. The crowd rose to acclaim this mud-wrestling just yards from the Pontoon, and the referee gave them both a long, stern lecture on civics before play resumed. As Pouton prepared to take the corner on the Town left, Oster sprinted away from the near post, taking at least one defender within. Pouton continued with Plan A, subsection (d), and curled the ball to the far post. Pressman started to perambulate down the prom-prom-prom, where the brass bands play, taking in some cleansing sea airs. He collided with some ladies of leisure, sometimes known as his defence, and on the edge of the 6 yards box, whilst level with the far post, a great bird rose, like a golden Phoenix. SANTOS hung upon the air, a steely, gimlet eyed albatross, and powerfully headed the ball across towards the near post, where the ball bounced under a defenders flapping boot, hit the post and flew across into the far side netting. The crowd rose to salute this man of pleasure as he paraded before the Pontoon and down towards the Main Stand, where he lay down upon the turf before the managers' dug out and the Town players laid hands upon this new deity. Which is a bit different from the Buckley days of a firm handshake and a manly nod of approval. Emotion! And an ex-Blade to boot. Added Schadenfruede.
The Town fans rocked and rolled, taunting the now silent Sheffielders with songs, laughter, and jokes old and new. Were we counting our turkeys too soon? Yep, almost. Within a minute, Campbell tried an outrageous flick between his legs near the half way line. Well, we were outraged as he only succeeded in setting up a Wednesday counter attack. Kuqi hared away (ironic given his tonsure) down the right touchline. And on. And on. And on, into the penalty area and, about 10 yards out and 6 or 7 wide of goal, poked a shot wide of Coyne and a foot or so wide of Coyne's left hand post. His unmarked colleagues in the centre of goal were displeased. We weren't. Around this time there was a hubbub in the open space between the Smiths/Stones/Findus and the permanently temporary seats. It soon became filled with orange and yellow, as stewards and police became the bung in the bottle.
Town roared forward, with Oster finding the left side to his satisfaction, drifting into those dark spaces between defenders; teasing with his turns, pleasing with his passing. A half break down the Town left saw the ball returned to Barnard, on the touchline, about 10 yards inside the Wednesday half. Oster suddenly sprinted forward and Barnard played the most perfect pass down the touchline, around his marker and the full back. Oster cut inside the penalty area and, from about 8 yards wide of goal and 5 out from the touchline, dinked the ball back towards the goal as a defender made a desperate last ditch sliding tackle. MANSARAM, on the edge of the 6 yards box and level with the near post, tried to sweep the ball majestically in to the top corner, but missed the ball, Monk diverting it into the net off our little dazzler's shins. The ball trundled slowly into the bottom right hand corner as Pressman fell backwards, like an old Redwood Tree, tired of life. Who cares about the style, it was in, a goal, and a thoroughly deserved one for the Yorkie in our midst. Ah, the exception to the rule? The Town fans were quite content, and made public their satisfaction at such an unexpected turn of events. Mainly by jumping up and down like Kangaroos in search of a lavatory, and honking like bull seals in Spring.
Game over? Not with Town. There was 40 more minutes of apprehension and tension to go through. The game was still a great big fight, with the odd psychopathic Pouton attack on the ball, and a few underhand kicks and stamps from little Wednesdayites, principally aimed at Santos. The big man was big enough to rise above such childish things today, at one point getting up and turning his back on an Owl where once he would have flicked the miscreant away with a Gallic backhander. Just after the second goal, Wednesday missed another sitter. A corner from their left was swung into the middle of the box, perhaps 8 yards out. Sibon jumped, unmarked, and headed powerfully at Coyne, who made a reaction parry to his left. The ball was momentarily ballooning towards the corner of the net, but Ford managed to hook the ball away as a striker swung his boot. The referee gave a goal kick, and no-one around me was complaining. A few minutes later the compulsory daft defending moment arrived. A huge welly downfield arrived near Santos, deep inside the Town half, with no Owl near. Santos allowed the ball to bounce and headed it back to Barnard, near the left edge of the penalty area. He dallied so long that a forward awoke from his slumbers, so Barnard tried to pass back to Coyne, but underhit it. Coyne's fly-kick was charged down and the ball squirmed sideways across the edge of the penalty area towards an unmarked striker. Just as he was about to roll the ball into the empty net Ford slid in from behind to nick the ball away. Phew. They would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for our pesky kid. And soon Kuqi was off in a huff, being replaced by Proudlock. Mmmmm Proudlock, the young man who refused to come to Town on loan as he didn't want to go to a team in danger of relegation. Unlike Wednesday of course who, on this logic, are down already? Town threatened frequently on the break, with Mansaram tormenting the defence with his voracious appetite for chasing lost causes. There were some "nearly" moments, with crosses and passes that were intercepted as Town players were about to shoot. Or Coldicott had the ball.
After about 65 minutes Town nearly scored again. A Barnard corner from the right was glanced across goal by Ford, through the 6 yards box, past Livvo and several works of public art in yellow. Oster retrieved the ball as it was about to go out and, from the bye line, about 10 yards wide of goal, chipped a hanging cross over Pressman. Santos steamed in and, from about 5 yards out with two defenders hanging on to his ego for dear life, thudded a header against the cross bar. Wednesday didn't give up and pounded the Town area with crosses and long balls. The long balls didn't work, but the crosses did, almost. Some little man scurried down their left and cross into the middle of the penalty area. Sibon, unmarked, stretched forward and from about 8 yards out, steered the ball wide of Coyne's left hand post. Proudlock, about 20 yards out on their left, hit the top of the scoreboard, the ball ending up in Chapman's Pond. Sibon, again about 8 yards out, headed another left wing cross woefully weakly into Coyne's arms. A corner from the Wednesday left, swung into the middle of the area about 6 yards out was headed over by persons unknown (I'm sorry I could not pick them out in a police identity parade, and they left no fingerprints or DNA) as Coyne stood two yards behind, punching the air in slow motion, like Sylvester Stallone in *that* film.
There were probably other Wednesday near misses, but none that really registered down at the Pontoon. The game had 0-0 written all over it, but somehow Town had scored two. Town roused themselves to attack occasionally, with Oster vibrant and full of venom, even tackling firmly. After about 75 minutes a Pouton corner from the left, swung into the near post, about a dozen yards out, was glanced a foot wide of the left hand post by Ford. In the last few minutes Mansaram was set free inside the penalty area, just 6 yards out, behind the defence and with all the time in the world, or so he thought. With Mansaram playing at 33rpm, and the rest of the world at 45, Monk slid in from behind and knocked the ball out for a corner. With about 5 minutes left Ward was replaced by Gavin, a straight swap, no tactical or positional changes were made. Gavin touched the ball a couple of times, looking solid enough. The last few minutes were taken up with Town time wasting, principally through Barnard and Livvo. Good old Livvo, he chased everything, trying his best to keep up with play, and dropping back to assist the defence at the end. We even had the remarkable sight of Livvo matching a defender stride for stride. Let's just draw the most discrete (and heavy) veils over the matter of Livvo's elbows. Best not to mention it in front of the children, it'll frighten them.
Two minutes of added time meandered through to the predictable position of the referee ending the game. Up went the Town fans, off went to Wednesdayites. The Town players saluted the fans and vice versa. Happy Christmas.
Not a great game, not a wonderful performance, as Wednesday created a numerous clear chances. But they didn't score 'em. And never looked like scoring, even if they'd been left alone for several days. For Town, this performance was light years from the inept flounderings at Deepdale. Collectively, there was a will, a purpose, with Pouton almost reckless in his attempts to command every inch of the pitch. The defence was fine down the centre, with the flanks just a little flakey (bring back Galli and Macca and all will be right with the world). Campbell didn't seem to do anything, but his presence was enough at times, with Oster much more effective on the left. Just keep him there will you, Mr G.
So, clear black and white water between Town and those perennial strugglers, which is nice. How can we account for this change in fortunes? Must be those yellow bibs.
Nicko's man of the match
Extremely honourable mentions in dispatches to the meaty, beaty, big and bouncy Pouton, who has been energised by the threat to his Sponsors' MoM awards, and the effervescent Mansaram. But you know and I know, it's the big man. He's massif, he's immense, he's awesome when his head is screwed on right. He's GEORGES SANTOS. Are you?
Mr M Halsey
Quite Admirable, as he DIDN'T send off Livvo. For once, bonus points to a referee for not doing what he should have done. Overall he kept the play going, one or two decisions that baffled, but nothing too serious on the whole. He was ok. 7.102.