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No Board Panic Measures!

By: Stuart Rowson
Date: 05/11/2001

WITH the defeat at Wimbledon on Saturday, the Mariners are now well and truly in a relegation dog fight. The heat is now on Lennie Lawrence with rumours of his job being in peril, but Stuart Rowson of the Grimsby Telegraph cautions the board against panic measures.

In his article today on Stuart gives his view of the events on Saturday and the need for caution in the boardroom.

In the end it was another defeat. A game that will go down in the record books as defeat number eight in a 12-match spell that has seen the Mariners steadily sink towards the bottom of the table.

To the few who made the near 500-mile round trip to watch the game, it was much more than that.

With manager Lennie Lawrence on the shortlist for the Barnsley job, question marks still surround whether he will still be at Blundell Park come this Saturday's game at Sheffield Wednesday.

If results don't pick up, and fast, he is in serious threat of the sack from a nervy board. But, at Selhurst Park, the Town players showed just what they thought about the black cloud hanging over Lawrence's future with the Mariners.

They battled, hassled and played as if their lives depended on avoiding defeat. It wasn't classy, or stylish, but it was packed with drive and a determination not to be beaten - or to lose their manager.

And, had it not been for an outrageous deflection, they would have returned with a point their hard work deserved.

Instead, Joel McAnuff's wayward shot hit his team-mate David Connolly and looped up and over Danny Coyne. It bounced, almost in slow motion, into the empty net and there was a sense of disbelief among the Town ranks.

Lawrence may have spent the early part of the season avoiding black cats and cracks in the pavement but, before Saturday's game, the entire team must have filed their way under a ladder.

At least results around them in the table went their way but they now stand just two points off the drop zone and are locked, with 10 other sides, in a relegation battle.

The rested Paul Groves was back to his best while Tony Gallimore made sure David Nielsen barely touched the ball in his unfamiliar right-wing spot.

Danny Butterfield ran himself to a stand still in the middle alongside a badly out-of-sorts Menno Willems as Town's defensive tactics kept Wimbledon bogged down in the middle of the park.

Stuart Campbell hit a difficult volley just wide and curled another effort wide of the post as the Mariners looked like they were set to reach half-time without conceding for the first time in 11 League matches. But it wasn't to be.

In a lightning break, Cooper and Connolly combined to feed Andy Roberts who thundered a stunning shot into the top corner from 25 yards.

Town, again, were chasing the game. Six free-kicks were wasted as Willems continually swung the ball over the heads of every body in the Wimbledon box and it took a Campbell curler to get the Mariners back in it.

Substitute Michael Boulding raced forward and, when Brown pulled off a great blocking tackle, Campbell nipped in to send a perfect curling shot into the bottom corner.

With that confidence booster they charged forward and Butterfield came agonisingly close to snatching the lead.

But from his 25-yard rocket, Kelvin Davis pulled off the save of the game to acrobatically tip the ball away from the top corner. Had it gone in, there was a feeling the Dons were ready to roll over.

Buoyed by their keeper's wonder stop Wimbledon fought their way back in it and Connolly and McAnuff both forced saves from Coyne before the gods shone on the home side.

When a Town attack broke down, Butterfield didn't have the legs to halt McAnuff and Willems seemed a spectator before his fluky effort went up, over and in.

Groves wasted a great chance to right McAnuff's wrong only to scuff his free header and watch the ball go harmlessly wide.

It was harsh on Lawrence's side and the game against the Owls, just one point below Town, is the biggest game they have faced all season.

Forget dreams of a trip to Old Trafford, defeat at Hillsborough could see Town in the bottom three for the first time this season.

Survival is the measure of Grimsby Town's success and the unlikely bonus of mid-table safety has already been sighted once.

After topping the table in September it's hard to take but, just like always, a long battle to beat the drop lies ahead and now is not the time for panic measures in the board-room.

Stuart Rowson
Grimsby Telegraph

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