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Grimsby 1-1 Stockport
By: Stephen Bateman
After a sub-standard performance in front of a healthy Blundell Park crowd, the Mariners should consider themselves lucky to have escaped from this Boxing Day encounter with a point. Wayne Burnett's second half screamer saved Grimsby's blushes having fallen behind to Stockport after 40 minutes.
In the unexpected absence of Stuart Campbell, Lennie Lawrence fielded Tony Gallimore at left-back, pushing Knut Anders Fostervold into a four-man midfield, with Kevin Donovan once again playing slightly off David Nielsen up front.
Town should have taken the lead in the 11th minute, after a Tony Gallimore free-kick bounced behind the Stockport defence, before Nielsen smashed the ball over the bar with only goalkeeper Lee Jones to beat.
Kevin Cooper tormented Gallimore throughout the first forty-five minutes, forcing a fine save from Danny Coyne after being allowed to loop in a cross-shot as the ever valiant defender stood off him.
Although it should be pointed out that Gallimore was returning to the side after recovering from an injured shin, he looked completely ineffective as he turned in yet another performance that was, quite simply, unacceptable.
Time and again, the hapless defender backed away from any yellow-shirted player that came within ten yards of him, inviting players to fire the ball into the Town area, unchallenged.
Gallimore's passing was little better - an accusation that can be levelled at a number of Town players, who constantly sprayed the ball to nowhere in particular, vainly hoping that either Donovan or Nielsen may be standing in the way of their 'pass'.
Lennie Lawrence acknowledged the fact that Gallimore had turned in yet another chronically poor performance whilst also standing by his player, offering fans the excuse that he hadn't trained for two weeks:
"Gally did very well to play. I wouldn't want anyone to think that it was his fault. He hasn't even had a football session for two weeks since he got injured. We bunged him in and he did well to get through the forty-five minutes really," said Lawrence.
If he was so patently unfit, this rather begs the question, why on earth was he playing in the first place?
By "doing well to get through the forty-five minutes", one can only assume that Lawrence is applauding the fact that the former Carlisle man lasted three quarters of an hour without feeling the need to sit down, pop a can of Guinness and spark up a cigarette.
If Gallimore continues to turn in such inept performances, questions must be raised as to whether or not he has a future at Grimsby Town.
Little consolation can be gleaned from the fact that his poor performance did lend balance to the Grimsby defence, as right-back Danny Butterfield was equally appalling.
The experienced Rob Matthews (pictured) took constant advantage of Butterfield's positional naivety, as the Stockport midfield channelled ball after ball over the top of what appeared to be an embarrassed sixth-former, who had somehow managed to accidentally get himself involved in a First Division football match.
Danny Coyne kept the Mariners in the game after thirty minutes when he saved a Jarko Wiss header at point-blank range.
It was Butterfield who was at fault for the Stockport goal, with Rob Matthews steaming past the youngster who stood, arm aloft, with a frightened and bewildered look on his face as he pleaded for an offside decision that would never come.
Matthews stormed into the Grimsby area where he drew Coyne, before curling a right-footed shot around him, into a vacant Town goal.
Mercifully, Gallimore was replaced at half-time by Steve Livingstone, who immediately went alongside Nielsen, thus giving Grimsby fans hope that a few midfield hoofs might bounce off a black-and-white body and into the Stockport goal.
Within two minutes of the re-start, the Mariners had a chance to draw level. Menno Willems played Kevin Donovan in, whose shot was well-saved by Jones.
Livingstone posed constant problems for the Stockport defence, setting up Willems with an excellent opportunity to equalise, only for him to blaze well wide of Jones's goal.
Credit must also go to the substitute for his part in the Grimsby goal. His physical presence forced a fluffed Stockport clearance which dropped straight to Wayne Burnett in the 68th minute.
Burnett immediately pulled the trigger and fired a screaming 20-yard shot into the top left-hand corner of the Stockport net.
County pressure increased immediately, as they forced a goal-line clearance from the seemingly omni-present Livingstone, before a Wiss header bounced just past Coyne's right-hand upright.
So, Lennie Lawrence and his on-loan army secured another point, although this was a game that many expected Grimsby to win.
The only real positives that could be drawn from this performance are the contributions from Livingstone, Stacey Coldicott and Zhang Enhua.
The Chinese defender read the game immaculately and was hardly ever caught out of position, whilst his distribution in the second-half especially was as accurate as that of anybody else on the pitch.
Coldicott hassled the midfield all afternoon, being a constant thorn in Stockport's side. Unfortunately, the midfielder's vertically challenged stature did serve to cause the odd embarrassment as the ball bounced over his bald-headed pate on more than the odd occasion.
Grimsby: Coyne, Butterfield, Fostervold, Gallimore (Livingstone 45),Enhua (R Smith 87), Willems, Coldicott, Burnett, Groves, Donovan, Nielsen.
Stockport: Jones, Nicholson, Flynn, Clark, Cooper, Woodthorpe, Gibb, Wiss, Wilbraham, David Smith, Matthews.
Referee: R Furnandiz
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