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Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?



Grimsby In February Part 3

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 15/02/2005

WELL, what can I say about the game. It was diabolical. The first period of the game was like a Buster Keaton comedy, with everyone falling over, slipping or standing on the ball. When Town tried to press forward, nothing came to anything.

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Reddy continued to work towards the corner flag as if this was the object of the game, but did get clear after about 15 minutes. He had no support and finished up trying to cannon a shot off a defender’s legs. Not long afterwards, a Shrewsbury player missed an easy header on goal. This was the pattern. Fruitless attempts by Town to get forward and create chances, followed by Shrewsbury counter-attacks. On 23 minutes, Hockless had a free kick, which just went over the bar. A ray of hope? No, this is Grimsby we're talking about. Two minutes later, Shrewsbury had an identical free kick from 25 yards out. Their player curled the ball round the defence and into the net.

Grimsby 0, Shrewsbury 1. The players were now ‘performing’ in torrential freezing rain. The passing was atrocious. Any moves Town made were clumsy and smacked of ineptitude. There was no understanding between the players, epitomised towards the end of the half when our French ‘flair’ player Pinault passed into space to no-one, resulting in a throw-in for Shrewsbury. I believe they call this vision. I call it rubbish. When this happened, half the crowd had already gone off to the tea bar. I overheard Revis say to Merlin ‘I won't look at the clock because it seems to take longer’. Very wise.

The half time analysis was conducted in the Gents underneath the stand. The consensus was that Town’s manager Russell Slade talks a good game, but when it comes to the pitch, there are no discernible tactics. The bloke using the urinals next to me astutely observed ‘We might as well be in here as watching that’. I laughed. The trouble was that he was right. The one advantage about being in the stand though was that you could watch the tide coming in.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Town started the second half with a sense of urgency. It was at least encouraging that the manager didn't ‘do a Sven’ and praise the team for an inept performance. That much was clear. A couple of chances were created but went the same way as the first half. Yet more miscommunications and breakdowns.

In the 57th minute, Ronnie Bull went in with an over enthusiastic tackle, resulting in the Shrewsbury player being carried off on a stretcher. Bull was lucky not to be sent off. I had concerns when I saw his name on the sheet. This was his first game back after suspension, following a sending-off against Leyton Orient for fighting, and I'm beginning to wonder if he is a liability. Yes, he can tackle, but his passing is woeful and it’s no use if he’s not on the pitch. Anyway, he survived this one somewhat fortuitously. What he should do is go and look at old tapes of Bob Cumming, and find out what it’s like to be a good defender as well as a hard man.

The moment of the match for me came in the 59th minute. Without any warning, the tannoy announcer declared apocalyptically ‘All stewards to post’. What on earth had happened? No-one in the ground seemed interested, having been ground down by this demonstration of skill deficiency. ‘Are they expecting trouble?’ commented the man next to me. As the stewards all trooped out in their high visibility wear, he added ‘there’s more stewards than fans’. The response came from someone from another part of the John Smiths Upper, who shouted: ‘All Players to Play’. There hadn't been much sign of this so far.

The game dragged on. Gritton had a chance, which scraped the post, but the angle was just too tight. As at the start of the half, things started to look a bit better and the pressure built up on the Shrewsbury goal, but it was all getting more and more desperate. You had the idea though that Shrewsbury, who had improved and weren't a bad side, were going to score on the break. Williams in Town’s goal struggled to get the ball clear against the wind and the 0-1 defeat was looking inevitable until the 90th minute when Pinault had a shot ... which hit the Shrewsbury post and that was it. We'd lost and, to be honest, with a display like that, we got what we deserved. Desolation and despair.

Were there any positives? No, there weren't. The most depressing thing for me was that Shrewsbury coped with the weather conditions far better than we did. We should be used to them. There was no understanding, as if the players had all been flung together for the first time before the game. The passing and general skill level was poor. From a personal point of view, it would also be nice if I could take Merlin and Revis to a game where Town score - that’s 5 games between them, and not a single goal from Town in any of them. We must survive, and we probably will this year, but I can't see any signs of progress, other than perhaps the introduction of one or two young players. As for this game, I thought Hockless looked reasonable and inventive in the first half, but tailed off in the second. Pinault improved a lot in the second. For me though, Macca was our best player for a good, honest effort. The official man of the match was announced as Ronnie Bull - for me, that says it all.

The following wind blew us back to Cleethorpes, but not without a brief pit stop on the way at the County Fisheries, where we were welcomed like members of the family. After exchanging news and picking up our tea - £2.35 for succulent haddock and chips - we made our way to the station and got on the train to Doncaster. The return journey was uneventful. We had a nice tea, which improved morale considerably, and picked up a Green Un in Doncaster to catch up on the rest of the day’s football. To remind us of the grey sadness that we were returning to, there was the inevitable sloanie on her mobile on the way back to London, and some bloke who tried to walk through me at Waterloo without any recognition of my clearly inferior presence. At least the trains worked impeccably and we arrived back in Basingstoke at 2230, 17 hours after we had started. We all noted that the temperature made it feel like a summer’s day, compared to Grimsby and Cleethorpes. But that’s part of the magic of February in Grimsby!

I'd like to dedicate this article to my mate and ally Andy Humberstone, who after living like me in Basingstoke for a few years, has just moved back to Grimsby. All the best of luck to you, Andy, and keep in touch!

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