Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
By: Richard Lord
AFTER the 3-3 draw at Stockport, there were many Mariners fans that didn't make the trip on Saturday, wanting to see their team and their newfound attacking dexterity on show at Blundell Park. So the defence had been leaking goals?
Grimsby Town 1 Gillingham 2
25 Sep 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
It didn't matter because at Stockport we actually scored to make up for the errors at the back. Could we continue this form? Simply. no, we couldn't.
Gillingham had managed to bring around 150 supporters up from Kent for the evening match. They spread themselves out centrally in the Osmond stand behind the goal. The home fans ushered and ambled in with great vigilance. Their beloved team had gone three whole games without a win and hadn't actually taken a lead since the Coventry away game. Last season this would have just been the norm, but tonight things were different. We were sixth in the table and Lennie Lawrence had previously stated that these were the teams to beat if we want any chance of staying in the top six.
It was a typical evening match; the fans turned up later than they usually do if it's a weekend match; the Main stand looked preposterously empty, the Lower Smiths looked full and the Upper Smiths just looked about as full as it gets when Town play opposition like Gillingham. Not very.
The teams ran out about 5 minutes earlier than usual, did their regular jumping about, stretching, reaching, and general warming up session. There was a minute's silence in remembrance of former Grimsby striker Marc North who died earlier that day. There was a request over the PA speaker to turn all mobiles off for this minute and as a result it was impeccably observed.
Town lined up to shoot towards the Osmond stand in the first half. Coyne ran about in goal clapping whenever chants of "Wales Number One" were heard, McDermott, Gallimore, Broomes and Groves lined up in front of him. Pouton, Campbell, Willems and Burnett were across the midfield, and Rowan and Jevons started up front. No Boulding on the bench, resulting in may Town fans staring at each other with amazed expressions.
At first, Gillingham looked like big hoofers of the ball, as the first 5 minutes were largely non-eventful. Town failed to win the ball, and when they did they gave it away going forward. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham's player/manager, was at the heart of every move and was the lynchpin in their midfield. Everything revolved around him. It would have been a good idea at the time to stick Willems on the aging midfielder and not let him create, but instead he was allowed to mooch around in midfield relatively freely.
As the game headed towards the 10-minute mark, Town had yet to create a shooting opportunity, mainly down to the fact that Gillingham were solid at the back, had a big keeper and their midfield kept the ball. Iffy Onoura and Marlon King were giving Broomes and Groves a hard time at the back, even when they didn't have the ball and the pair looked lively and innovative all evening. Their runs off the ball even caused Gallimore (now with a shorter-than-usual hair cut, but not shaven) and McDermott to get caught up with each other at the back.
Gillingham won several corners in the first half, and on 17 minutes one was cleared to set Willems running after the ball. It reached the Gills penalty area, but Menno gave up half way and came limping over to the dugout after obviously pulling up with a hamstring injury. Butterfield came on to replace Willems after a sympathetic round of applause was given to the Dutchman as he left the field. One of Gillingham's midfielders skewed a shot from all of 30 yards wildly wide of the goal, but this was to be bettered later on by a Gallimore effort from the same distance when the corner flag looked to be under more of a threat.
The home crowd were at this time getting on Town's backs and still we failed to look forward. Butterfield's first involvement in the game was to get a rollicking from Gallimore after one of Gillingham's players was allowed to run free down the right and cross, under no pressure whatsoever. For one reason or another he wasn't picked up when Hessenthaler played a clever ball down the line, but luckily the cross came to nothing and it left Gallimore screaming in the face of Danny B, until Broomes came across and pushed them both aside.
Mark Patterson runs down the wing with Stuart Campbell looking on
Butterfield replied with a quick run at the defence and a snap-shot, which was beaten away by Vince Bartram for a corner. I believe this was Town's first corner of the half and Town's first shot of the game, but it got some fans to their feet. There was, of course, no Menno to take the corner, and Campbell's cross was ineffective. Jevons and Rowan spent little time on the ball and most of the time chasing the ball as Gillingham passed it around from one side of the pitch to another.
Then the curious little Indian-looking referee failed to give a free kick as Alan Pouton broke through the midfield. He looked to have been checked by a defender, but the referee waved play on, and Gillingham raced towards the edge of the Town box when someone in Blue fell over, so the ref gave a free kick. Hessenthaler swept the ball in and Chris Hope jumped up under no pressure and just glanced the ball past Coyne into the net. Cue the customary crowd grumble, a shake of the head from Coyne and the Town defence looking at one-another with a 'wasn't my fault' expression. Then the realisation hit in. It was an ex-Scunthorpe man who scored, and it was from a set piece. Town fans slumped back in their seats.
Whenever Gillingham had the ball, they threatened. Balls were played down the right; balls were played down the left and through the middle. 90% of the time a Gills player would be caught offside much to the relief of the Town fans and I suppose credit should be given to the Town defence for keeping a tight line. But that's about all you could say on a positive note about the defence. Everything else was abysmal.
The game steadily progressed towards half time and as an attacking force, Town were truly dreadful.
Half time: Grimsby Town 0 Gillingham 1
"How did we manage to score three goals on Saturday" one bloke asked. "Well, it was against Stockport," replied the other, assumingly unaware that they were leading at Bradford at the time. Our attention was dragged away from the worst game of the season by two fighter planes passing by overhead. "Are you off to Afghanistan" chanted one lonely bloke, with one nearby shouting "Can we come with you", testimony to what a dreadful match this was. No one cared any more. Pathetic, useless, pitiable, hopeless, ineffective - all words used by Mariners fans at half time to describe the first half.
The defence: sloppy to give away the goal. Midfield: genuinely useless and couldn't win/keep the ball. Strikers: what strikers? Who were playing up front anyway? We never got to see them. The supporters just prayed for a BIG improvement in the second half, and I'm pleased to say, it did get a bit better.
The report continues in the second half.
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