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Fear Is The Key!

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 02/04/2002

A COOL, bright day with a swirly-curly wind billowing around a completely full Blundell Park. Ah, a full ground, what an atmosphere. Er, what atmosphere? Being full merely means that there are bums on seats. There were an awful lot of bums in Cleethorpes on Easter Monday.

The pre-match entertainment was a boys choir singing various things, the "highlight" being "Sing When We're Fishing". It was very high.

Town warmed up by waving their arms around and skipping gaily across the pitch. It may be Easter but that is no excuse for acting like Easter Bunnies. Fortunately someone forgot to pack the pink bows. Dave Boylen appeared with a big black and white hat (which was way too big for him, he looked like a modern day Don Estelle) and Shaun Cunnington. There then followed the usual tired routine to each of the home stands. "1-2-3, shut up!", or did I miss-hear that?

The Osmond Stand was a riot of colour, well blue and white, and full of rather bemused looking Wednesdayites. They sang, but I didn't see any dancing.

Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation as follows :- Coyne, McDermott, Groves, Todd, Gallimore, Butterfield, Pouton, Coldicott, Campbell, Allen and Boulding. The substitutes were Croudson, Ford, Burnett, Falconer and Robinson. No changes whatsoever from the Birmingham game and still no sign of the likely lads, Bob (Taylor) and Terry (Cooke).

The Wednesday team ran out in a very fey, pastel kit of bright yellow shirts and powder blue shorts/socks. But they had three huge players, Sibon, Kuqi and McLaren. Sibon stood on their left wing and McDermott's head barely reached Sibon's navel. So there was a great deal of concern about the potential threat from "big ball" lazy hoofs. There was a great deal of disappointment that they had left out all their fabulously extravagantly coiffered Latinos. Pablo Facundo Bonvin, what a name, but, sadly, not having his boyhood dreams of running out at Blundell Park fulfilled.

A glance at the programme revealed the referee as….David Elleray. So there wouldn't be 22 left on the pitch then, that's for sure.

1st half

The game kicked off at 3:05 with Town attacking the Osmond End. Within a minute something happened. The ball was rolled up to Boulding, ten yards inside the Wednesday half, to the right of centre. He allowed the ball to go past, then turned his marker, Maddix, who hauled our Yorkshire Star down. The crowd bayed, the referee yanked out his yellow card. A minute later Kuqi peeled away from Groves at the far post to receive a cross from the Wednesday left, heading wide and weakly. A minute after that Boulding was sent free down the Town left, Pressman sprinted out of his area. OK, his feet moved a bit more quickly than usual - it was a Butterfieldian sprint. Boulding, about 20 yards out and right near the touchline, managed to charge down the attempted fly kick and ended up near the corner flag with the goal-a-gaping. Pressman started to run back, so Boulding cut back to his right foot and started to meander back and towards goal. When Pressman got back to his 6 yard box Boulding crossed with his right foot towards the far post. The ball plopped a yard or so wide with Butterfield near, or near enough to get some Town fans to "Oooo". That's those furthest away and with the worst view, probably those behind the pillars.

What an exciting three minutes, but there's more. Wednesday had another counter attack which ended with Kuqi totally miss-hitting a shot from the right edge of Town's penalty area. The ball dribbled and dropped well wide of Coyne's left hand post. The appropriate comments and gesture were made towards the Albanian Finn. All of which overlooked the way he had outfoxed the Town defence with some clever running across the back four into the void behind McDermott. Perhaps they had done their homework, as they sought, on the counter attack, to exploit the space vacated by McDermott, who seemed to be doing a double job on the right, with Butterfield having a watching brief on the half way line. A minute later Coldicott, from the left edge of the penalty area, had a shot half charge down, the ball skidding off the turf and ballooning up into Pressman's extra large chest near the right hand post. And a minute after that Wednesday had another effort on goal. Another miss-hit shot from the edge of the area, by Haslam I think. Again they had broken at speed, principally down the Town left through McCarthy, with strikers peeling to the right.

Six minutes, six things happened. An interesting, open game was developing. Both teams had leaky midfields, with gaps everywhere and Town, particularly, seemed intent on backing away from opponents. Pouton looked half paced and Coldicott took a long while to get in a few tackles, as he too looked to be a bit slow in reacting. And then the game went flat, sinking into a morass of turgid hoofs and midfield barging. Dull and poor, what your idle hack would call a "typical relegation battle". The next vaguely interesting moment came in the 17th minute when Campbell turned past two Wednesday defenders by shimmying left, then right, all in one movement. Both defenders tried to haul him down, but Campbell stayed upright and was free about 20 yards out near the edge of the penalty area. The referee blew his whistle and gave Town a free kick. This, of course, did not endear the Harrow schoolmaster to his Northern hosts. What became of the free kick? Nothing.

Wednesday continued to cause minor palpitations with their counter-attacks. Kuqi was a real handful, but rubbish at shooting. He sliced, he hooked, he wafted, he spooned, he missed. A reliable striker who misses for fun. Hey, I haven't mentioned Sibon yet. That's 'cos he did nothing of note. If you are being picky then, yes, he did have a shot from outside the area, but it was so wide, high and miss-hit that even Pouton would have been embarrassed. In the whole of the first half Coyne made one save, when a shot from the edge of the box trickled towards him. Wednesday were just rotten at shooting, which was very fortunate considering the positions they were allowed to get into. The Town defence was saved on three occasions by Gallimore racing across from left back to cover other people's slackness, with Todd being the slackest of the slackermost. His Birmingham daydreaming continued, with a couple more lazy moments where he simply turned his back on the ball when near him. The most worrisome moment was late on in the half when the ball was passed back towards him by Gallimore. Todd, just outside the area on the left, simply let the ball roll and roll and roll. He stood watching, and Coyne had to sprint off his line and welly a clearance down field as Kuqi lumbered forward. Emblematic, symptomatic, Todd on automatic.

Ah, that's better, Wednesday's moments out of the way. Now for the rest of Town's important contributions to road safety. After 30 minutes Pouton was set up for a shot from a central position, just outside the penalty area, following a surge down the right by McDermott. Pouton carefully stepped outside his marker, then curled a right foot shot towards the bottom left hand corner. Pressman saved easily, not needing to displace any hairs on any of his bodies. Coldicott, with great determination and furious anger, dispossessed a Wednesdayite in midfield, about 30 yards from goal, beat off (almost literally) a couple of challenges and poked a right foot shot over the bar from the edge of the area. The ball wobbled over like a balloon caught in the wind. Boulding dribbled down the left touchline, cut inside and hit a slowly bumbling pass/shot across the face of goal, the ball apologetically crossing the bye-line a yard or so wide of Pressman's left hand post. Again Butterfield was in relatively close proximity to being near, almost. A Butterfield corner from the right drifted towards the far post, where Groves and Todd climbed all over each other, with Groves glancing the ball a few feet wide and high of the right hand post. How the referee didn't give a penalty for the foul by Todd on Groves I will never know. Well, I would have given it. Which leads me on to the curious case of Mr Pouton and the unusual tumble. Pouton, who improved as the game wore (and bored) on, surged across the face of the Wednesday penalty area, from right to left. When he was approaching the corner of the area, he cut inside, towards the bye-line. A couple of Wednesday players ran across. One stretched to tackle and Pouton fell. A small knot of Town supporters in the Main Stand went bananas, as did Pouton. Goal kick. Pouton complained again to Elleray. Still a goal kick.

And lastly, your honour, near the end of the half, Town attacked somewhat chaotically down the right; winning, losing, then winning back possession in a series of bad passes and thrusting tackles. Pouton, who else, won back possession 30 yards out and passed outside to McDermott (I think), a couple more passes and Boulding was free down the inside right channel. Boulding spun past his marker and hit a right footed volley way over the bar from a narrow angle, perhaps 12 yards wide of goal. Allen, alone near the penalty spot, raised both arms horizontally, then let them drop. It's called exasperation. Apart from that, nothing else happened, unless you want to read 350 words describing McDermott surges down the right which ended up with corners or throw ins? You don't? Didn't think you did.

As the crowd were contemplating exactly how much added time there would be Elleray ended the half. A quick glance at the scoreboard showed that 44 minutes had elapsed since the start. So that's minus 30 seconds of added time, which was probably a statement by Elleray on the quality of the game. No-one could argue with that. The game was bad, with very little "football" being played. Town players were simply not moving, as evidenced by the interminable delays at throw-ins. And yes there were several foul throws too, especially by Burrows, who leant down so far, and so far forward, he almost let the ball roll down his neck. The match was, to quote an eminent philosopher based in the Pontoon, "Rubbish".

As the crowd shuffled off to their various toilet facilities the word in the queues was "Sort it out Town". This will not do.

Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk

"The sell by date for these rolls says 20 March. Bit like Todd then."
"Is Kuqi the Albanian for portly?"
"It's MIDI enabled but a bit dusty"
"Boulding's staring at his feet again." "We never lose when Ellie's here."

The report continues in the second half.

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