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26/12 Oldham 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO changes were made by either team at half time, though it did start raining. The half started in a low key fashion, just a bit of hum-drummery in midfield, then whoosh. Barnard waddled Welshly down the left past a couple of opponents, dinking a pass down the touchline.
Grimsby Town 3 Oldham Athletic 3
Where are we now? To tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost count. Oh yes, half way through the half Boulding was replaced by Mansaram and to everyoneâ€™s surprise and delight Oldham took off Zola and replaced him with a gangly lad called Vernon. Not that that made much difference, for Oldham continued to stream forward, with Murray making some interesting late runs from midfield. Unfortunately, Hamilton forgot to run with him; fortunately none of his team mates saw what Murray saw, the whites of Davisonâ€™s eyes. Oh, Des, you target for faraway laughter, come on, itâ€™s about time you shined for Town. Here they come again, in the blink of an eye Johnson was free and powering down the middle, causing Ford to back pedal Ã la Gallimore. Vernon peeled away to the left edge of the penalty area and the ball was duly flicked out to him. With his back to goal, danger seemingly imminent, but not immediate, VERNON half turned and caressed a beautifully placed shot around Davison and into the bottom left hand corner, the ball merely licking the post as it rolled in.
That was it, wasnâ€™t it. No way back, and some of the less stoic Pontoonites went to the toilet. A resigned sigh was let out by 6,000 Grimbarians, as another defeat loomed in the gloom. Town did make efforts to attack, but all looked lost, hope gone, the end was nigh, with 18 minutes of Oldham fans chirrupping away in the distance. A final burst from Town, here it was, Barnard started, Mansaram was vaguely near, Campbell was flicked free behind the defence. Poggy came off his line and Campbell tried to flick the ball under the â€˜keeper. The ball ricocheted across goal and was half cleared to McDermott, 30 yards or so out, on the centre right. Macca advanced and flicked the ball over the top to an inside right position. JEVONS glided free, drifted wide and slid the ball under the Pogster and into the net. And the crowd went wild, roaring, roaring, roaring delight. A quarter of an hour left and even thoughts of victory started to flicker, flicker, flicker through the collective Grimsby mind. And what an odd mind thatâ€™d be.
Cas immediately replaced Hamilton, with Town having a notional formation of defence-Pouton-everyone else. Within a minute of coming on Cas terrified the onlooking Oldhamites as he outsprinted one, two three defenders down the right, stripping their defensive walls of paint. Into the area, Jevons at the far post, a cross, agonisingly inches behind the white booted angel of the north, whose second coming had delighted those devoid of faith in the Groves. Actually, this was Casâ€™s only meaningful contribution during his 15 minutes of fame; he was conspicuously trotting when carrying out defensive duties. Still, it was an exciting run and he had contributed at least as much as Hamilton, who has worn out his welcome with the random precision of his passing. There were a couple more nearly moments for Town, with crosses dipping through and across the area as Mansaram slithered towards goal, but Town werenâ€™t attacking during the last ten minutes.
Oh boy, those last ten minutes were wildly weird, wonderful in their own way, but so, so strange. Oldham pummelled Town, murdered Town, tore Town apart. Every attack brought something to write home about. Johnson turned and let fly from 25 yards, the ball deflected off a Town player and looped over Davison. He stood and watched, we sat and feared, the ball smacked off the crossbar and out for a corner. And another corner, and another corner. The ball dropped, Johnson turned, a free shot, six yards out, bodies arrived, danger averted. Another corner, the ball pinged around, ding-ding-ding. Tilt! Johnson whacked the ball against the post from about eight yards out. Town cleared, Oldham came back, the ball crossed from left to right, Eyre unmarked, about six yards out at a narrow angle. A volley steered low, Davison flying, saving, clutching the ball at the foot of the post. Back they came, 25 yards out, a midfielder strode forward and smackerooned a dipping, swerving shot through a thicket of players. Davison saw the ball late, it dipped and swerved away from him, going towards the right hand corner. At the last second Davison plunged to his right and clawed the ball off the line and around the post for another corner. Aw, a superb save, bringing the crowd to its feet. Every tackle roared, every misplaced pass by Oldham cheered, every second the ball was in the Oldham half cherished for its rarity value. The latent supporters eventually found voice, they could feel the beat of the Town tambourines, led by the singing corner, the Town players were swept on by the emotion.
Pouton, the rock, the very heart of the team, his presence enough to galvanise and inspire, felled by cramp with three minutes left. Oh what a man, his trademark merciless swoops were back on show, the sheer fist clenching (controlled) aggression saw Town through. Campbell scampering, Barnard, injured, back on his feet, Edwardsâ€™ head nearly knocked off by a piledriving thumper of a shot. One shake of his nut was enough, back to head away the corner. Could Town hold out? Three minutes of added time, the line holding, Oldham frantically scurrying around, crosses, turns, numbers piling forward into the Town box. Then it was over, the players hailed as heroes for the sheer will to survive. Determination, teamwork, camaraderie, guts, whatever plaudit you wish to throw at them, they deserved it. It wasnâ€™t anything to do with the quality of the football, for Oldham were superior in that respect, even in the first 15 minutes, but the fates were agin â€˜em. And Town refused to lie down and die, which is a bit different from some of the performances earlier in the season.
It would be nice to end a game with eleven players now and again and not to witness great goals scored against Town. But this was, in the circumstances, a point gained. Will this be the catalyst that finally sparks the Town engine? Is Pouton the missing link? Is Poutonâ€™s presence enough to turn the ugly caterpillar into a vibrant butterfly?
This game was all about emotion. Fingers crossed, on with the show.
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
It has to be said that Jevons took his goals really well and was seen to run around and help out in defence. It also has to be stated that Poutonâ€™s presence was enough to make up for the half man, half biscuit that accompanied him in the centre of midfield, though Pouton is clearly way off proper fitness and his movements were economical, shall we say. Campbell was all over the place, and Edwards defended well at important times, though his distribution was a bit off today. So where is this leading Nick? Up the garden path and to a Welsh Lovely, thatâ€™s where. Darren Barnard had a very assured game, doing a lot of little things exceedingly well, for without him things could have been much, much worse.
G Salisbury. Now hereâ€™s a thing. Is he rubbish for sending off Crane, or was he a relatively sensible referee who let the game flow and acted upon the advice of his linesman? Probably the best referee we have had so far this season (That is the faintest praise ever, I know) and fully deserving of a score in excess of 6.54. So he gets 6.55. He would have got higher if heâ€™d been really, really nice to Town and only booked Crane.
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