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Touching The Void: Macclesfield Report
By: Mike Worden
THE wind blowing down from the Cheshire hills and across the Moss Rose had a definite autumn chill to it. For the 400 or so Grimsby fans watching, the warmth of early season optimism has now cooled.
Performances such as this one and that against Rochdale last week indicate that a difficult winter is ahead. The season of misses and mellow fruitlessness has arrived.
Town found the Moss Rose a much tidier ground than on their only other visit in the early 1990s when they beat Chester here. A new all seater stand has been built along one side and the pitch was in fine condition, the second best pitch in the Football League apparently, Ideal for the visitors 'keep it on the ground' passing style. Dream on.
Chairman John Fenty briefly joined the Town fans standing on the open town end terrace before kick off. Other Mariners fans were in the seats in the new stand. Behind the opposite goal loomed a large sheltered housing block, providing excellent views of the pitch for the old folk. 'Keep that window shut my dear, Greg Young is in the starting line up'.
The Town team ran out and waited around whilst the toss took place. They only had one ball between them to practice with, so most just stood there. The teams swapped ends and Town were to kick towards their fans, the Silkmen towards the old folk in the sheltered housing.
Injuries had forced Slade to make changes to the line up. Greg Young replaced Simon Ramsden at centre back, and Sestanovich and Reddy dropped down to the bench to make way for loanees Chris Williams and Paul Robinson. A measure of how far we have come is that our forward line was made up of two reserve players from Coca Cola League One. The silky men included three ex Mariners, Tommy Widdrington, and on the bench, Alan Fettis and former trainee Paul Harsley. More about him later. After the usual huddle from the Mariners, the game began. For the first ten minutes, Macclesfield had the edge with a couple of good opportunities to take the lead. Then a ball from the Town left somehow weaved its way through the Silkmens defence, helped by a laughable mix up between Wilson and his defenders and rolled towards goal. Out of thin air, Jason Crowe appeared and with the easiest of touches ensured the ball crossed the line. 12 minutes gone and Town were 1-0 up.
For the remaining part of the first half, Grimsby were on top. However once again this season they couldn't capitalise on that advantage and numerous opportunities were missed. Dean Gordon was instrumental in driving Town forward and many of the Mariners chances in this period came from his balls into the box. There were a series of corners too, but they were not converted. Paul Robinson, making his debut, looked a little lost. This was not a great performance from Town. It wasn't pretty, but they were on top. If Crowe had connected better with another Gordon cross, he could have added a second goal. Chris Williams was given the ball by Fleming just in of, but with his back to, goal and couldn't turn around. Pinault had a long range shot and a good effort from Crowe was saved by Wilson for a corner. Just before half time, Robinson headed wide from a Crowe cross.
The half time break changed things completely. Macclesfield came out the stronger side and Grimsby never got back to having the upper hand they had for most of the first half. Somehow they just couldn't settle. Town's passing was disjointed and time after time the midfield and defence looked vulnerable against the Silkmen's attacks. One strategy that Macclesfield employed was to try to get the ball to big Jon Parkin's head and around 10 minutes into the second period the striker headed two separate chances wide. It was this tactic that ultimately got Macclesfield back into the game. Parkin also had a penalty appeal turned down after a tussle with Whittle.
Reddy replaced Chris Williams on 18 minutes. Whittle was booked for a foul and from the free kick, ex Notts County defender Tony Barras headed over. Macclesfield won another free kick on the left. Whether the delay taking it to make a double substitution was a tactic or not, it certainly unsettled the Town defence. The free kick was met by Parkin's head and then by substitute Paul Harsley who knocked the ball into the net with his first touch of the game.
Five minutes later it was 2-1 to Macclesfield. The other substitute, John Miles received the ball on the left hand edge of the Town box. He skipped past Town defenders and lifted the ball over Williams into the net. It was a good goal but the Town defence should not have let him get the shot in. Miles went on a run around Moss Rose in celebration eventually kicking hell out of the corner flag. He was promptly booked.
Town then found themselves with an uphill struggle to get anything out of the game. However the defence and midfield were being opened up too easily by the Silkmen's attacks. Parkin put the ball into the net following a Williams parry but was ruled offside.
There were chants of 'There's only one Graham Hockless', which, together with the management's decision not to introduce him, was reminiscent of last season.
On 37 minutes Brian Horton's men went further ahead. Harsley's corner from the left eluded the Town defenders and found Graham Potter on the far side of the box who hit a shot past Williams.
In the final few minutes Town could have pulled one back, but Reddy couldn't turn a low cross into the goal.
And so it ended, to chants of 'What a load of rubbish' from the travelling fans. Macca applauded those left in the ground as the other players sort of followed.
This was not how it was meant to be, but performances like this one and last week's will not see Town rise from the ashes. For the last 30 minutes of the first half they looked the better side, but in the second half they struggled. Exactly three years ago Grimsby were top of the Football League. Now they are just above the drop out of it, their lowest league position for 16 years. The harsh realities of life in this joyless division were clearly brought home in the first ever encounter with Macclesfield.
|Chris Williams (Reddy)|
|Bull (Not Used)|
|Hockless (Not Used)|
|Sestanovich (Not Used)|
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