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Tigers' Strike Fails to Spoil Macca's Party
By: Gareth Edwards
A late strike by Craig Fagan meant Hull did dampen John McDermott's testimonial celebrations slightly, with Town losing 1-0, but the result did not particularly matter to the 5000+ fans who had turned up to celebrate the Mariners legend's career.
The fantastic servant to Grimsby received a rousing reception from the Blundell Park faithful, who wanted to help repay some of the loyalty McDermott has shown to the club, which has culminated in the right-back becoming the longest serving player at a single club in the Football League and the Mariners' record appearance holder.
Town lined up in the first half with several new faces mingling with some more familiar ones, most notably Martin Gritton and Steve Mildenhall. Graham Rodger's side set out in a 3-5-2 formation previously preferred by Slade, with Hull's Peter Taylor opting for a more orthodox formation. He also, as promised, selected a reasonably strong Hull side, with front man Ben Burgess being the most notable inclusion.
It was a whole seven minutes before McDermott himself got a touch of the ball, a regulation touch by all accounts, which was duly greeted by a large cheer regardless. He then made a more important one moments later however, using his experience to deny former Town trialist Kevin Ellison a corner. Steve Mildenhall saved from point blank range to deny Chris Brown and Hull defiantly were looking to spoil McDermott's party. Macca replied however, and went close to setting Gritton through but the Scot's shot was saved at the near post by keeper Sergio Leite and it was becoming clear that McDermott was pushing forward at every opportunity to try and get a goal to fit the occasion.
This did not provide winger Ellison with a free meal ticket however, as Macca showed his trademark drive and enthusiasm to get back and have the scouser well and truly "in his pocket". This was illustrated by another telling clearance by the main attraction. It was a new face who almost struck next, Alistair Benson hitting a decent effort straight at Myhill. Macca again provided a creative spark, this time almost feeding Barwick but the midfielder couldn't capitalise.
John Lukic then replaced Mildenhall for a brief outing in goal and perhaps more surprisingly Justin Whittle came on, against his old club, replacing Gritton as Town's target man. The auxiliary striker then delighted the fans with a powerful surge along the wing and this was to be the final play of the half
Town fans were then treated to a team of Mariners legends of yesteryear, after the break. Wembley heroes Aidan Davison, David Smith, Mark Lever, Peter Handyside, Kevin Donovan and Kingsley Black lined up alongside fellow old-boys Jim Dobbin, Alan Pouton, Graham Hockless and Neil Woods, as well as the ultimate legend himself, McDermott.
Black was the first to trigger the nostalgia with a blistering long range effort from 25-yards and Pouton soon followed suit with a meaty challenge in midfield setting up a Mariners attack, which he was unable to finish himself. Peter Handyside showed the crowd he hadn't lost his uncanny ability to read the game, with a number of vital blocks and Donovan produced a vintage jinky run from the wing, but again Myhill made the stop.
McDermott's testimonial game then came to an end for him, after he was replaced and the crowd unsurprisingly gave him a standing ovation as he left the field.
Aidan Davison made a fantastic save at the other end, blocking Craig Fagan in a one-on-one and Handyside again did well to block the follow up. Neil Woods almost got clear of the Hull defence to create a similar opportunity but the younger legs of the defender allowed him to recover.
Dobbin broke free in the box to continue this spell of pressure by the Mariners, but he couldn't get a shot off and Donovan's fizzing attempt at converting the rebound was deflected wide. Lukic then came back on for Davison, and two Mariners legends from the first Buckley era, Gary Childs and Paul Futcher replaced Woods and Handyside. However, the classy Hull side halted the procession somewhat when Burgess' header across goal was converted by Craig Fagan, with a simple header past Lukic.
For the final ten minutes Town fans were treated to a glimpse of the future, with several youngsters, including Paul Ashton and Nick Heggarty featuring, if not somewhat briefly. Graham Hockless tried an ambitious long range effort in an attempt to salvage a draw for Town but it was not to be. McDermott didn't seem too bothered at the final whistle as he once again acknowledged the fans graciously.
With this almost certainly being Macca's final season, it would be fitting to end his career on a high note, such as promotion and this story resumes on Friday night against fellow high-fliers Wycombe. Macca will have to be on top of his game to stop the strike force of Tyson and Mooney and the veteran will surely relish the challenge.
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