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02/03 Notts Co 2nd Half

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 03/03/2004

NEITHER team made any changes at half time. Town kicked off, ambled and shambled, and Thorpe decided to hit a vicious lobbing volley from 40 yards, which apologised profusely as it eventually passed the County keeper, stubby Garden on his left.

Home > 2003-2004 Season > Reports > Notts Co (a)

Notts County 3 Grimsby Town 1
02 Mar 2004, Nationwide League Division 2

Thorpe looked sheepish, standing in that "I'm just as disappointed as you are" way that footballers have when they've done something rubbish: legs apart, hands on hips, head bowed to one side, then right hand scratches an imaginary itch on an imaginary nose as both eyebrows are raised.

Town - all Town, by the way - decided to attack the non-icy side, through Hockless, who hugged his touchline and was fed a constant stream of passes. Long ones, short ones, high ones, low ones. Some accurate ones in between too. After about five minutes Barnard (what was he doing over there?) tippled Hockless free behind the defence. He zipped forward to the edge of the area and crossed low across the face of goal - and behind the Town striker (and Mansaram).

Another minute or so, another Town attack. Passing, movement, one-touch, two-touch, skating around the statuesque Countyers, the ball went from left to right, eventually ending up at Hockless's feet. He dipped left, then right, swooshing past and, about a dozen yards out and perhaps 10 wide of goal, thumping a shot across Garden. The tubster parried the ball aside, across the face of goal. But no Town players were there. Shame.

Campbell - yes, Campbell - infiltrated the space between the County defence and midfield. He surged forward down the centre from the halfway line, tickled Jevons clear and, just as last week's deity was about to score, along came Oakes' long, long legs to smother the shot near the penalty spot.

Still more Town, this is more like it, that old razzle dazzle one, two, three, four can I have a little more, all together now... except Mansaram. Everything foundered upon his bony knees. He mostly managed to avoid the ball by running in circles. If, by a freak of nature, he failed to miss the ball, he just got in the way. It would have been better if Town had simply taken Rankin off and played with 10 men for all the use Mansaram was. With every error the Town fans' growling rose in volume, to such an extent that some began to boo him.

And at that moment, the nadir of Mansaram's career, he did something right. He chased the ball into the corner on the left, turned and hit an good low cross to the edge of the penalty area. Hockless hung back, popped up in space and screwed a first-time shot a foot or so over the bar. Jevons walked over and put a consoling arm around the dazzler's shoulders.

Still Town, still Hockless. Probing, Ford rampant and roaming, using Thorpe as a Reesian wall for Hockless to bounce off. In again, past one, past two, Hockless shimmied and shanked a shot over the bar. Armstrong with a wonderful, wonderful crossfield pass to Jevons, a la Luton goal, with Billy Whiteboots shivering infield and passing to who else but Hockless. The shot went over the bar. Or wide, or maybe hit a defender. One of those anyway. You get the drift: Hockless shot, didn't go in.

Whoops, Town are Town, farceurs to the last. County nibbled the ball down their right touchline behind the Town defence. Armstrong set off and shielded the ball as it rolled out of play. Except it didn't; it just stopped. Armstrong and Antoine-Curier had a wrestling match and the ball rolled infield. Heffernan raced on, zooming into the area as Crane stood at the near post, eventually abandoning his position when Heffernan started to get close to goal. The cross was deflected for a corner.



Parker87 mins
Mansaram16 mins


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All of which neatly brings the subject of the linesman up for discussion. The one under what used to be the Main Stand had an interesting interpretation of when the ball is out of play: the whole of the ball has to be over the whole of the Trent before it's a throw-in.

Whoops again. Town took a corner, County broke away, only Hockless back, but fortunately Heffernan absolutely insisted on standing inside the Town half, and so was offside when the ball was eventually lobbed forward.

There were many little moments which were infuriating to the massed Mariners rising behind the goal. Tackles pulled by Mr Campbell and Mr Jevons, the continuing story of bungalow Ford, the rotten positions taken by Crane, allowing Heffernan goalside far too frequently. And weren't we lucky when Crane flattened Antoine-Curier with a forearm into the back of the head. What an idiot.

Hey, still Town, still Hockless. Piling down the centre, a shot deflected off a defender and looping out for a corner. Another shot over the bar, so much space, so many chances. Jevons weaving, Hockless side-footing over the left angle of bar and post. Was that six or was that seven? To tell you the truth, in all that excitement, I kinda lost count myself.

But none even looked like going in. Jevons, on the corner of the penalty area, curled a shot around and a-wide. Mansaram curled a cross into the near post, where Thorpe kneed wide. Corners, three in a row, no chances created, just pressure, pressure, Town getting closer, closer to goal. County sinking back, forced back, creaking, wilting, hanging on, hanging on.

Hang on! Not again! Yes, again. County lumped the ball behind Barnard. The ball bounded along the touchline with Barnard intent on letting it run out. It wouldn't. What now, Mr International - kick it out for a throw-in? No, that's what your average humdrum jobbing pro does. This was the perfect opportunity to show his true class, his true might. He decided to turn and clout the ball up the line. The ball hit the County player and off he scampered, with the newly arrived substitute Scoffham hurtling alone into the box. The County player - I have no idea and don't care who it was, but I shall call him Heffernan - rolled the ball to Scoffham, about a dozen yards out, who seemed to stumble-steer a shot across Pettinger into the bottom right corner. Yes, people of Nottingham, we knew we were one-nil up no longer, meaning that things hadn't gone to plan. It was nice of you to tell us anyway.

Shortly later, with about five minutes left, Parker replaced Ford. In these final stages Mansaram really topped off his performance with some further masterful misses. A long free kick into the centre of the box was nodded to the left by Crane. Mansaram was free, the ball bouncing across his body. Around the corner of the six-yard box Mansaram leant back and volleyed the ball across goal and way over the bar.

A minute or so later a Town corner on the right was headed on to the far post. Mansaram, unmarked, steered a volley way over the bar from just a few yards out. It doesn't end there. A Town break down the left saw the ball crossed into Mansaram, four or five yards out at the near post. He missed the ball.

Apart from another couple of County attacks that was it. You still want to know about those two then? Well, there was a header at the far post and some more embarrassingly inept doodling along the touchline which saw Parker clear from inside the six-yard box then divert the follow-up shot away with his bottom. There you are, now you know. Happy now?

No, of course you are not. Town should have been stuffed out of sight by half time, but should have got a draw, for all their pressure and relative dominance for most of the second. Defence: with Town it's a concept, possibly an aspiration, not a reality. Barnard was mostly adequate, Armstrong almost completely adequate. The other two were horrid. There was little protection from the midfield which, defensively, consisted of Daws only. Where's our Stacy? We need our little Stacy. Up front Thorpe was a noble figure, going way beyond the call of duty. We admired him for his purity of spirit and perseverance after Rankin got injured. And that was the turning point of the game. The moment Rankin fell you could almost see it in the eyes of the Town players.

This game was the epitome of Town's season. All the faults, all the false hope, in 90 minutes of Feydeau farcery.

Nicko's man of the match

Daws and Armstrong were fine, though top man today was Lee Thorpe. His performance was wasted in that shambles. Strong, direct, dainty, a threat to County all night. Yes, you did hear people sing "Sign him up".

Markie's un-man of the match

Take your pick from a pot pourri of pusillanimous pratfalling from Messrs Crane, Ford and Mansaram. But Ford did improve in the second half and Crane did, once, manage to get his big backside in the right place. The biscuit is taken, though later dropped down a drain, by Darren Mansaram, poor lad, who tried so very hard, but was pitiful, absolutely pitiful. Verging on the worst performance ever by a Town striker. Though for the first time in months he regularly passed to players in black and white stripes.

Official warning

No problems with Mr M Cowburn in the first half, though he went a bit funny in the second. He ignored the more blatant fouls and booked County players for persistent small things, while not even talking to Crane when he did a forearm smash into the back of a striker's head. So he was heading for a fine upper seven, but loses marks for bias against Town: he didn't send off Crane. In the end a finger-the-air, stick-a-deckchair-up-his-nose 6.341.

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