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Scene of the Crime
Scene of the Crime

Bovril and Fish

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 10/11/2010

CAMBRIDGE IS a city of culture, intellectual excellence and inspiring architecture. So here I am on a cold Tuesday night in November to watch Town. I’d never been to the Abbey Stadium before but I do know the area a bit, having worked for a short time nearly 30 years ago at the nearby Coldham Lane railway sidings.

There used to be a great cheap pizza place called Colonel Fudpuckers, as I recall. I distinctly remember having 99p on me and a pizza cost the unlikely sum of 98p (and no Rob, I didn't leave a tip). Is it still there, I wonder? The thing with night matches is there’s no time to take in the sights or the eateries. It’s purely functional. You get there, you watch football, you go home. This is the antithesis of Abercrombie and Fitch, an establishment I was introduced to a few days ago. When I heard the name Abercrombie and Fitch, I assumed it was a firm of solicitors. In fact it’s a swanky place which is about illusions. It has dimmed lighting, hulky body-building males, ambiance ... oh, and you can buy a shirt there. Even my English Bulldog mate Yorkie knows about Abercrombie and Fitch. It’s even infiltrating his psyche. This is a worry. What’s the world coming to? So quick, let’s get back to Coldham Lane, north Cambridge in November. This is where we belong. We have a game of football to watch. don't forget to wrap up warm.

The R Costings Abbey Stadium is a neat ground. 2303 spectators, among them 306 Grimsby supporters, waited expectantly. Town’s players, in the turquoise away strip, huddled together in the cold. Was this team bonding or a method of warding off the cold which was of Grimbarian proportions? Town lined up as follows:

Croudson - Garner, Kempson, Atkinson, Ridley - Coulson, Hudson, Wright, Eagle - Ademeno, Connell. Fitch and Abercrombie didn't even make the substitutes’ bench.

Most of the first half was uninspiring. Town showed more enterprise than Cambridge and had a couple of half chances, but it was mostly lacklustre. The exception was Town’s Ademeno, who looked dangerous and capable of beating players each time the ball came near him. Unfortunately, while there was plenty of endeavour up front, mid- to long range balls were being pumped up the field from the back and then cleared with ease. Cambridge were about the same but there was evidence that they were more determined. On 22 minutes, Town’s defence fell asleep and allowed Willmott to get round the back on the left hand side. Willmott sent in a low Gareth Bale style cross to the feet of Cambridge’s Wright who slipped in behind the defence and slotted home. Cambridge United 1, Grimsby Town 0. Town didn't learn anything from the first twenty minutes and continued to misplace passes. Rob and I discussed American Football. The match in front of us was mere backdrop.

On 41 minutes a long high ball was floated to the left side. The Cambridge defender needlessly rose and headed it out of play. From the throw-in, Town took advantage, worked the ball into the box where Connell turned neatly. The ball was slotted to Eagle who controlled the ball, picked his spot and drilled it into the bottom right corner. Cambridge United 1, Grimsby Town 1. The half ended farcically when Cambridge dithered over a corner, the referee got fed up having to wait for his half-time cup of tea, and blew his whistle to end it.

1 - 1 at half time was fair, I think. There wasn't much pattern to the play but Town were enterprising up front. Long passes up the pitch weren't giving the strikers much chance. This was something which Neil Woods needed to sort out. Cambridge were about the same, probably displaying more skill in midfield but again needing to organise themselves better.

I tried to text the score to Andy Humbo, but it was too cold to hold the phone. Have you ever tried texting anyone in a -15 wind chill factor? The message probably read something like "ATcambrh.g.e,/ ‘ ! h/u", so he was none the wiser. Either that or he thought I'd become a professor of Mathematics and stumbled on a formula which he’s still trying to work out. I have received no reply.

Second half. Half-time shivering over with, off we went again. Town were clearly under instructions to penetrate deeper into the Cambridge defence. On 47 minutes, a well-worked intricate move got Grimsby in the box. Trickery and battling from Eagle, Coulson, Wright and Ademeno led to a pass to Connell who slotted the ball wide. He was offside anyway but this was promising. Cambridge came straight back and a dangerous ball ran right across the Grimsby goalmouth from the right.

On 55 minutes Wood came on for Garner. Town started to lose their way while Cambridge engaged in a series of attacks. Following one of them, Town looked to break out and did so when Ademeno ran on, turned a defender and unselfishly laid the ball off to Coulson whose low shot beat the goalkeeper. Cambridge’s day was saved by their defender, another Coulson, who bravely scooped the ball over the bar for a corner. If we had hoped for momentum and fluidity following this attack, we were to be disappointed. However on 73 minutes Ademeno, to whose foot the ball seemed to stick like glue, got a low left-footed shot in after a Connell lay off but the goalkeeper got down in time.

Town’s performance was patchy but the front line looked like they could unlock the defence. Cambridge also looked like scoring and almost did so following a mix-up in Town’s defence. Croudson’s displeasure could probably be heard two miles away in Fen Ditton. Cambridge then hit the bar, and then forced a brilliant save out of Croudson. The game was now picking up as both sides pressed for the winner. After a period of Cambridge pressure, Connell had a couple of chances. The second was an audacious chip, whose excellence was matched by a superb save by Naisbitt in Cambridge’s goal.

The skilful Ademeno was now limping and was replaced by Corner on 80 minutes. On 82 minutes the battling Wood forced a corner but nothing came of it. On 85 minutes Gobern came on for Coulson. Town had some good chances but Cambridge were still pressing too, and at times were ominously walking through the Grimsby defence. They seemed to have a chance to score every five minutes. Town continued to battle, and on 89 minutes Eagle had a shot in the penalty box which bounced awkwardly and was headed out desperately by a defender. In the end, time ran out for everyone and the game finished at: Cambridge United 1, Grimsby Town 1.

Verdict. Like the first half, both sides had good chances but neither side was dominant. Cambridge created more clear-cut chances but Town were dangerous in patches and looked particularly skilful and potent up front. Town needed to be more incisive in midfield and the quality of distribution wasn't always good but overall this was encouraging. It was obvious that Town had practiced their passing movements during training and unlike the Eastbourne game where a lot of the time the passing had obvious no end result, the interplay was positive. It helped that accompanying Connell in the attack was Ademeno, whose skill, work rate and team work were outstanding and earns my vote for Man of the Match. Connell and Eagle looked dangerous as usual, and Wood once again impressed me when he came on, adding an extra dimension and plenty of determination up the right. Croudson in goal was excellent. My main concern was the Town defence which looked vulnerable. The understanding wasn't always there and Town looked particularly frail against the angled run and pass, suggesting that they were a bit square and static - subject of the next training session, Mr Woods? The Cambridge goal resulted from a combination of this and a lapse in concentration. The second half in particular was entertaining and 1 - 1 was a decent result against a good side who had a lot of options, can create a lot of chances and probably can play better themselves. Although the performance wasn't perfect, I think we can be satisfied.

The cold had set in and I could hardly move from my seat when the game ended. Do Abercombie and Fitch make woolly hats, gloves and snow shoes? If so, I might be interested. No, I think not. On second thoughts I'll stick to having a Bovril.

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