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Winter Wondeland
Winter Wondeland

Cultured Football

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 10/12/2006

I went to the opera yesterday. The anti-hero got red carded early on after naively getting involved with a crime he didn’t commit, then after going off the rails finally committed an act of violent conduct against the principal character.

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A sort of Wayne Rooney figure, really. The heroine and the anti-hero’s rival were vain, untrustworthy jumped up prima donnas. They obviously took their lead from the Premiership. I couldn’t see Alan Buckley putting up with this lot. There’d be some discipline, team work and efficiency if he was involved. It wouldn’t make much of an opera though.

Today it’s off to BP for yet another cultural experience. Today we’re up against mid-table Shrewsbury. We’re in Winter Wonderland at the moment with two successive wins behind us. Tuesday’s windfest at Barnet proved that we have the steeliness to grind out a result but I had concerns at the number of chances we allowed. Some tightening up was needed. The last time I saw Shrewsbury was a couple of seasons ago when we were in disarray and they looked well organised. We lost 0-1. So I expected us to have our work cut out today.

I travelled up on my own for reasons which are too boring to explain, more boring indeed than a Sigur Rós record. I met my mate Andy Humberstone in the Yarborough Hotel. This gave us the chance to put the world to rights over a couple of very nice pints. It was a good job Andy’s partner Ruth was there to contribute common sense and act as timekeeper. We had a footballing appointment to make, but first it was off to the St. James takeaway on Brigogate. £1-50 for haddock and chips, a tray and a fork. "Heaven", purred Andy. I couldn’t agree more as the warmth of the gastronomia juxtaposed with the cold Grimbarian air. I spotted a "For Sale" sign in the window of this centre of culinary excellence. No, it wasn’t an advert for a P reg Peugeot with 6 months tax and MOT, but "For Sale. Home Made Fish Cakes". No reference to vulgarities such as price or quantity. The essence of Grimsby in a shop window. Our version of gold ingots. Home made fishcakes. Culinary culture.

Andy and I continued to analyse matters of world importance as he drove us to BP, comparing our encyclopaedic knowledge of league grounds. Andy’s knowledge is awesome. I asked how he acquired it. "It’s all down to chewing gum", packets of which held this vital information on cards in pocket form. "It was inedible".

We arrived. Andy recalled his last experience of being at BP, for the Northampton replay. "I went in a box. It’s no good. You can’t swear in there". One to remember for the next time I go to the opera. Oh, he meant because of children present. Still, you can’t be too careful. Rule one: it’s OK to swear in the Lower Circle and the Carlsberg Stand, but not in the boxes.

The tide was in. I looked around me. The game was sponsored by Grimsby Fish Market. A sign at the Pontoon end advertised Patterson’s pickles - I hope not. The game began.

First Half. The first few minutes amounted to both sides jockeying for position. Shearer in the Shrewsbury goal made a hash of a clearance on 6 minutes, and on 9 Shrewsbury threatened momentarily with a good passing move. On 10 Newey made a surging run for Town, while back up the other end Whittle showed authority with good ball control and a neat pass back to Barnes as the Salopian hordes descended. Shrewbury had the first corner on 12, which Jones headed clear when under pressure. Shrewsbury gained a second corner from the return but it came to nothing.

By 17 minutes the aim of the whole exercise seemed to have become one of getting the ball over the Main stand. AB was agitated. This seemed to have the effect of some attempts at passing. Jones tried to put Paterson away on the right but the ball went too far on 18 minutes, before Hegarty and Pulis started an ultimately unsuccessful passing sequence. A P & O cargo ship steamed by in the background across the icy cold blue river. "Like an Icelandic fjord" observed Andy.

In the meantime Till tried to get round the Shrewsbury defence but Hope was having none of it. On 23 a Hegarty tackle showed promise but instead of being used constructively the ball was hoofed away. It was clear that Shrewsbury had a plan of tight marking and not allowing us the option of passing to unmarked players. This was in spite of us having wide players in Till and Hegarty. It was working. "They’ve got us sussed" announced Andy.

On 25 minutes Newey positioned himself well to cut out a dangerous ball. Town’s first opportunity came a minute later when Paterson ran in from the left and with a narrow angle, forced a Shrewsbury defender to head across his own goal and concede a corner. Shrewsbury then took the initiative with some good build-up play and Herd fired in a free kick on 27 which Jones headed clear, before clearances from Fenton and Jones again and successive blocks from Newey and Whittle repelled further waves.

A Fenton pass to Hegarty on 30 resulted in a Town free-kick but overall the principal source of entertainment was watching the ball being heaved out of the ground. Shrewsbury had a shot but it was sliced wide. Fenton added to the jollity by clearing the main entrance of the Main stand. Andy started to concentrate on domestic fiscal policy by working out how much this ball-heaving was all costing per minute, when Town went on the attack.

On 38 minutes, Ravenhill found himself in space in the Shrewsbury half, slipped the ball forward, the defender slipped and deflected the ball into the path of Paterson who in spite of being wide on the left saw an opportunity. He carefully aimed a right footed shot past Shearer which rolled against the right hand post and went in. Grimsby Town 1, Shrewsbury 0.

Shrewsbury attacked immediately but the ever determined Whittle got the ball before Asamoah who would otherwise have been clean through. Town had two further attacks in the half and Shrewsbury had another corner which amounted to nothing. Right at the death Ravenhill started a move with Hegarty who got the ball to Newey to cross. A corner was won, but there was no time to take it. 1-0 it was at half-time.

Half Time Verdict. The first half was distinctly uninspired. Conditions were good, there was no wind by usual standards but a combination of tight marking by Shrewsbury, indifferent play by Town and a predisposition to heave the ball onto or over the Main Stand made for a frustrating half. Shrewsbury’s passing was better but Town were 1 - 0 up thanks to a defensive slip, superb composure and finishing by Paterson. Apart from this, Town had no shots on goal.

The report continues in Part 2

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