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08/04 Sheff Utd 2nd Half

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 25/06/2000

Sheffield Utd 0 Grimsby Town 0
08 Apr 2000, Nationwide League Division 1

After 2 or 3 minutes of hobbling around, Gallimore was replaced by Der Kaiser, Mr Livvo. Town switched to a 5-3-2 formation with Livvo at left centre back, Groves central centre back and Lever right centre back. D Smith and Butterfield acted a wing backs, and Pouton (left) and Donovan (right) flanked Coldicott in the midfield. For 10 or so minutes Town were a little disorganised with players visibly uncertain where to stand. This resulted in Town being constantly under pressure as they were also failing to clear properly, rarely reaching touch. However Sheffield did not get any efforts on goal, merely shooting very wide from outside the area. Their preferred route to goal was a deep cross to the far post where they attempted to get the big players (usually Bent) jumping with our little full backs/wing backs (usually Butterfield and D Smith). Either the little 'uns timed their jumps perfectly or one of the centre backs covered adequately. Lever and Groves were most prominent in this.

Until injury time Coyne did not make a save in the second half - such was the quality of defending and, of course, Sheffield attacking. There were several dangerous moments which were neutralised by such gems as the Lever head (getting in the way of a fierce shot from the edge of the box), Butterfield's shins and back (blocks at the far and near post following crosses) and a Livvo bicycle kick (when he was "last man" and two Blades were running forward to a headed flick on).

Around the hour Town started to exert some control over the match, retaining possession and passing through the midfield. The first attack of any intent from Town saw Donovan slice a shot high to the left of the goal, from a central position 20 yards out. It followed some harrying and scampering by Clare and D Smith, who linked down the left and slipped the ball sideways to Donovan. A couple of minutes later Town nearly scored. A break down the Town right was half repelled, but Clare stole the ball back , held the line and awaited Butterfield as he sprinted forward. Clare played the ball behind the full back and Butterfield took the ball on and crossed from near the bye-line. His low cross went across the face of goal and out to the left hand side, about 8 yards wide of the goal and 3 or 4 in from the bye-line. D Smith tried to drive the ball back between the 'keeper and the left hand post, but it was diverted on to the post and out for a corner.

A few minutes later Butterfield curled a pass down the right touchline towards Ashcroft. A defender stretched to hook clear but the ball went to the unmarked Clare, about 20 yards out, just to the right of centre. Rather than take the ball forward into the huge space between him and the goalkeeper Clare tried to hit a half volley into the bottom left hand corner. He missed by a couple of feet. He didn't last many more minutes on the pitch after this, being replaced by…..Black (the man who fills me with inertia). Black ran on and immediately swung a free kick, about 20 yards out to the left of the goal, into the penalty area. It was half cleared to the edge of the box where a Town player whacked in a shot towards the 'keeper's bottom left corner. It hit a defender suspiciously close to an arm, near the 6 yard box, and was walloped away.

A few minutes later Pouton dribbled into the penalty area at speed, on the Town left, past a defender and fell down claiming a penalty. As part of his shirt was at least a foot above his head and in the right hand of a Sheffield United player, this suggests he was fouled. Only a suggestion of course. Where's the evidence, eh?. Town only had one more effort after this, a 6 man one-touch passing move down and across the Town left, which resulted in Pouton dragging a right foot shot a couple of feet wide of the 'keeper's right hand post.

And that was that, as I often say, apart from a huge scare in the last minute. Livvo, under no pressure about 20 yards out, gently headed a loose high ball back to Coyne. Unfortunately a Sheffield forward was behind him and running at full speed towards the ball. Coyne raced out and knocked the ball over and away from the Blade, collecting it a few yards to his left (whilst Livvo held his head in shame and disgust). The 4th official put up the extra time board showing 3 minutes. The tannoy announced 3 minutes of extra time. So the referee played 1 minute 50 seconds. And everybody was grateful for him cutting short the tedium. Pity he didn't think of that an hour or so earlier.

Generally Town deserved the point more than Sheffield United. Town were solid, but mundane. The Blades were rotten (or should that be oxidising before our very eyes, playmates). The local paper said Warnock had given 7 players free transfers - perhaps a few more after today's anaemic display. The ball was rarely on the ground, but when it was Town had no difficulties whatsoever. There were few opportunities to attack, especially through the middle, where Pouton only had a couple of chances to do the "Pouton surge". Ashcroft was largely ineffective, spending most of his afternoon playing for free kicks. In the end his attempts were rather cursory and very unconvincing. Strangely there were a couple of moments when he sprinted and got stuck in. But only a couple. He had an irritating afternoon (he was irritated and so were we). He did three sumptuous first time lay-offs and passes to set up Sheffield attacks. Clare was by far the busier and stronger attacker, though his decision making was poor (he shot when he should have passed and vice versa). I cannot remember Coldicott losing any tackles or challenges and even Donovan showed some strength and determination in defence. Apart from Gallimore, none of the defence put a foot wrong (Livvo nearly put a head wrong with his last minute boo-boo) and Coyne touched the ball less than a dozen times.

Gallimore was very odd. A couple of times after he had made errors, he turned round and raged at no-one. It was a bit like those embarrassing drunks who wander round shouting at themselves and imaginary demons. Quite.

There really was no point in this game being played. No-one was interested. It was very boring (Even the Lever moment was a damp squib - he hit a back pass far too hard, wide and high leaving Coyne to thwack a hasty fly kick under pressure). There weren't even any bad hairstyles to keep the discerning viewer amused. Still, does the "occasion" matter if Town kept a clean sheet and edged towards the comfort zone?

Grimsby Town
D Smith



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