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What Went Wrong?

By: Richard Lord
Date: 19/09/2001

IN THE WAKE of Grimsby's heavy 5-0 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace, the result has left many Mariners supporters reflecting back over the match and asking, "what went wrong?"

After picking up 14 points from just 7 games and progressing to the League Cup Third Round it all fell apart at Selhurst Park. For me, work commitments meant I couldn't travel down to watch the game but as usual I switched on the radio and sat down at my computer for the evening.

There was no doubting for one moment that I thought Town didn't have a chance of winning and I fully expected them to continue their great form. Perhaps that was where it all went wrong. The heavy expectations, which lay on the manager and team, might just have crushed them to defeat.

For the first time this season in the league, manager Lennie Lawrence was forced to change the starting eleven due to injuries. David Smith entered at left-back in Tony Gallimore's absence and Michael Jeffrey replaced Phil Jevons. Perhaps the most dubious decision to be made by the gaffer was to rest David Beharall and play Marlon Broomes in defence.

Beharall's attendance and record in defence speaks volumes for itself. Seven league games and just six goals conceded with five clean sheets. It would be easy and perhaps naïve to believe that this was solely to blame for the grave defeat. But quite why Lawrence chose to break up the Groves/Beharall partnership in defence, only he himself knows.

Listening to the radio it was clear the front two were not getting the service they expect from midfield. This factor had also been evident in the home and away games I have attended so far this season. Whilst Rowan and Jevons have looked sprightly up front, they have never really had the full support from the midfield and as a result the team have struggled to score goals. The indistinguishable link between midfield and attack needs to be breeched, a service Paul Groves used to provide so well in his midfield days.

The midfield is also a talking point for discussion. Butterfield looked more inventive on the right against Forest at the weekend and the consensus amongst Town fans would be to swap Pouton and Butterfiled's roles around in midfield. Alan Pouton is no winger and neither is Campbell. The absence of natural wingers is painfully obvious to see in the squad and with Pouton and Campbell being the type of players they are, they can't offer the natural width you'd expect of a 4-4-2 team.

Last night produced very little goalmouth action where Grimsby were concerned. However, last season was a stark contrast as Town did create the chances - they just failed to convert them. Now we find ourselves in a position where chances have all but dried up despite the influx and development of some talented forwards at the club. The emergence of young Johnny Rowan and the purchases of Jevons and Boulding can only add to the squad's depth but the chances just aren't being created.

Perhaps the 5-0 drubbing was a sign of a tired team. The game last night was Town's fourth in just eleven days and one of those games went to extra time and penalties. Ultimately this poor result may serve the Mariners a favour in the long term, much in the way that Holland's 2-0 win over England restored some sense in the nation. We're not unbeatable and maybe the rout that many Town fans witnessed last night is only going to expose our weaknesses, in time for the manager to sort them out. You don't need reminding how England performed in their next match.

However, more importantly, it's now in the past. What happened, happened and nothing can be altered. All the players and staff can do now is look to the future - and Stockport this Saturday. It's at times like this that the club need your support more than ever, and with reduced ticket prices for the match there's no excuse not to go.

What are your views on what went wrong at Palace after Town's otherwise superb start to the season? Have your say on the Message Board.

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