Nationwide Division One, 4/11/00
By Martin Blanc
In years to come, as the entire BSaD archive is perused by nouveau fans from our Premiership-runners-up season of 2006/7, let them note that this was the weekend that half the country was submerged by water. Though, oddly, not the only football ground below ground level (a Trefor Jones factlet). In fact the only evidence that it had been slightly damp in these parts was the high slippage rate as we cavorted around the pitch with increasing fluency, and demolished a side that may unfortunately, to some extent, have resembled us in the Premiership last season.
It was, in fact, an antidote to a wet weekend. All four goals were beautifully set up and worked, each having an air of exhibition about them, showing four of our strengths in the same ninety minutes. And in between there was other nice stuff too, mostly from the boots of Nielsen and Wooter. Let the archive also show that we played like league leaders for the first time since we became league leaders. Two final words about the Man Utd game: one, we let the team down. Just coz we don't care, they still needed a bit more support, or at least voluble companionship, as they sank without trace; and two, why didn't we play our youth team? They're unbeaten in seven or eight. That would have stuck it to Fergie, and the stupid cup. But anyway, we started as if the last of Wednesday's drivel was just being exorcised. Plenty of messy defence, and no taking charge of the game. We had to contend with Robbo being injured, and GT came up with a way more adventurous option than dusting down Gibbsy. Milo Perpetuini was inserted at left-back, much to his initial frustration, but with Pagey giving him a firm guiding hand, and rather too frequent back-up, he really came into his own as the game settled down. It was he who cleared off the line as Baardsen had a predictably busy opening ten minutes to his comeback game. And though he mightn't have the bulldog instinct, nor indeed much interest in defending at all, he's certainly got a more cultured left foot that was used to sweet effect in the first half as the game opened up. We just had to deal with the unfocused and pedestrian aggression of the Grimsby team, but since in a boot-to-head clash with Pagey, their forward's foot wound up more injured than our bald, brave captain, we seemed destined to have the upper hand here too.
There wasn't really a fear that this time we'd fail to score even after so much pressure. It was Saturday, after all, not Tuesday...and once Nielsen had showed the ball the way to the net via an offside tap-in, we knew we were on the right track. Two minutes later, Gifton's excellent jinxing along the goal-line gave him a carbon copy tap-in, and thus bolstered, he retreated to midfield to boss the game. Our fondness for one-touch football has sometimes, against better teams, given away possession too easily, or left us looking like we don't know what to do with it once we have it. From the time we went one-nil up, it all looked more like a training ground routine. And, miraculously, even Wooter, the splendid Wooter, can do it - he doesn't have to hang onto the ball when the speed of the move is everything. So his beautiful first-time cross set Tommy Mooney up for a brave diving header that...well, went in. It was turning into a day at the office.
So, to liven things up, in the second half we got clever, a.k.a. very silly. There may be some training ground award for Nick Wright Of The Day, but Darren Ward attempting a bicycle kick ten yards inside his own half and then pulling his thigh and having to go off certainly wins the Stupidity Urn. This left Easton and Perpetuini rivalling one another at much closer quarters than just for a spot on a teamsheet. Milo stuck to his task well enough, content to let Clint waft forward and let GT and the crowd draw their own conclusions. Which I will copy, thus maintaining my new season's resolution of being nice to Clint.
And so we waited longer than we should have for a third goal, though when it came it was as samurai an incision as the second: Mooney freeing Gifton down the left and the big guy gliding into the box before Gillette Mach 3-ing it past the keeper. Sooo smoooooth. This got Nordin really hot under his little collar. He was going to have a goal if it killed him. Which, as we all know, is just not what he does. Does best? Does at all. He should be able to score, sure. But he never can. Long shots? Hit the post. Volleys from the edge of the box? He slips over at the crucial moment. Headers? Please....
So, the only way he knew how - he was going to have to walk it into the net. And off he went - steaming down the right, cutting inside for once. Wooter not going for the touchline? Something afoot here. And on he went, eating up the ground, swatting the defenders away until he ran out of pitch and turned left. And on he went, into the six-yard box...he's never going to succeed, is he? There's forty-two yellow shirts waiting for a cross. And it's not coming. And he shot, from about the first row of the Rookery. It was that tight. And of course the keeper had it covered. Flat Stanley could have had it covered. But at least we got a corner. From which Tommy Mooney wrapped things up and gave the scoreline the healthy glow it deserved.
So, yes, we could say Grimsby were carrying a lot of injuries, were unlucky, were any number of things we possibly also were last season. But those things don't score goals and hence don't win matches four-nil.
But we do. And long may it continue.