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How long before new manager arrives?
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In Search of Romance
By: Andrew Doherty
"The romance of the cup". This is what you hear Motson, Lineker and their fellow footballing lifestyle consultants referring to. I canâ€™t imagine that apoplectic fits of unbridled anticipation were the order of the day when Grimsby Town were drawn against Bristol Rovers, but you never know.
Whereâ€™s the romance? The prospect of a home draw in the second round against Barnsley, I suppose, but are we going to get that far? Memories stir of an ignominious loss at home to Gateshead (1-3, 1975) but apart from that we have not disgraced ourselves in the cup over the years.
My travelling companions today were my French friend GaÃ«lle and my daughter Revis (10). GaÃ«lle had heard and read me going on about the wonders of North East Lincolnshire and courageously decided to come to raise her cultural awareness. Her husband Julian couldnâ€™t come on the pretext that he had to work. It is said that this was an excuse. There is a rumour, which I canâ€™t confirm, that he spent the day sticking pins in his eyes in a cold store for greater entertainment and warmth.
We arrived in Grimsby where we were welcomed by the customary breeze, supported by the equally familiar aroma of frying fish. A bus ride to Blundell Palace to pick up the tickets and buy some trinkets in the club shop and some prime Lincolnshire butchery at Maltbyâ€™s preceded a nostalgic walk up the Grimsby Road and Isaacs Hill. Our destination was Cleethorpes Market Place and a rendez vous with â€˜Swanny from the Ponnyâ€™ at Steelâ€™s Corner House. Although we had spoken, Swanny and I hadnâ€™t seen each other for over 20 years. Realising it was nigh impossible to catch up on all this lost time, we concentrated on the previous years of joint insanity and misbehaviour in the Harvest Moon and other establishments, not to mention the suffering and occasional pleasure at the hands of our heroes. More time was needed for such analysis, but there was a football match to attend. Swanny headed off back down the Grimsby Road, while GaÃ«lle, Revis and I walked up Cleethorpes front via the arcades. The addiction of the penny falls amongst the female fraternity was overcome and we arrived at BP just before kick-off. The weather was mild and a little breezy.
The first half was reminiscent of a sleep-in. I asked GaÃ«lle after 11 minutes if anything had happened yet. â€˜Nonâ€™. The experience was at least educational, as I learnt that a free kick is called a â€˜coup francâ€™ in French. This knowledge could come in handy one day. A Rob Jones flick could have been dangerous but Reddy was unable to run through and capitalise. Bristol Rovers looked smart in their blue and white quarters, if in some cases a little on the podgy side. The only excitement seemed to be coming from my right, where passion for the non existent action exuded from the Gallic representation. â€˜Allezâ€™, exhorted Townâ€™s new found supporter frequently and enthusiastically. The ball was hoofed clear from Townâ€™s defence - â€˜Ooh la laâ€™. Attempts to get the ball to penetrate the Roversâ€™ defence either found Michael Reddy crowded out or went to no-one in particular. â€˜Pff, il nâ€™y a personneâ€™ observed GaÃ«lle la Marinerette in a gesticulatory fashion. Then on 28 minutes, Rob Jones collapsed in a heap after a challenge. Rovers took advantage when Disley passed to Agogo who was played onside by the injured Jones. After a bit of a scramble, Agogo followed the ball into the net. Grimsby Town 0, Bristol Rovers 1. Ooh la la. Technically, the goal was legitimate but to say this was unsporting would be an understatement. A few minutes later Kalala took a shot from 25 yards out, but a touch of joint Anglo-French analysis in the John Smiths Upper led to the conclusion that to have had success, his shot needed to have been 10 metres lower and 20 metres to the left. The highlight of the half came when a nice blue Finnlines ship successfully negotiated its way through the buoys out on the river. Town did not have a meaningful shot on goal all half.
Nevertheless, optimism reigned amongst the French contingent. It started to rain and a rainbow appeared. â€˜It is very prettyâ€™. This clearly wasnâ€™t a reference to the football. La Marinerette took a picture of it, explaining that it symbolised a ray of hope. I explained that rays of hope donâ€™t feature very much when youâ€™ve been watching this lot (perhaps more appropriately in these meteorological circumstances, this shower?) for 38 years. From where I sat there had been no passion. There was certainly no cause for hope.
The teams re-appeared and the second half began. On 49 minutes, something happened. Gary Jones latched onto a poor clearance by the Rovers keeper and sent the ball goalbound. It bounced too high for the defender, the goalkeeper couldnâ€™t reach it and the ball went into the net. Grimsby Town 1, Bristol Rovers 1. â€˜I told you it would get betterâ€™. You could say the French are always right. There was a more realistic appraisal on my left: â€˜Finally, after 3 million yearsâ€™, uttered Revis. In fact it was over 400 minutes since she had seen Grimsby score at home, the last occasion being against Rushden & Diamonds in the 2003/4 season. Since then she has witnessed consecutive 0-1 home defeats against Darlington (twice), Rochdale and Shrewsbury. Could this game break the sequence of home defeats?
On 53 minutes, Cohen surged through on the left and was booked for diving in the penalty area. A lovely sailing boat on the Humber provided aesthetic pleasure. Town were applying pressure during this period and were starting to look dangerous. â€˜Whoâ€™s that player with the long hair?â€™ enquired la Marinerette. â€˜It would be better if they could give him the ballâ€™. It was Michael Reddy of course, but the defence was doing its job and not giving him any room. Parky was popping up everywhere and threatening to break through. Town were playing with a lot more determination. It was only a matter of time, surely, before they scored. Gritton came on for Gary Jones and provided impetus. Contrary to some of the grumbles around me, I thought the referee was managing the game well and at one point played advantage when Cohen almost got through the defence after a foul, before bringing the game back and awarding a free kick on the edge of the penalty area. Kalalaâ€™s curling effort sailed over the top. Newey wasted a couple of corners by sending them directly to the goalkeeper. I heard dark mutterings behind me about Townâ€™s incompetence at set pieces and silently agreed with this view. Against the run of play, on 78 minutes the Rovers defence got the ball out and Agogo raced clear. Good positional work and timing by Mildy ensured that the danger was averted. Town soon went back on the offensive. On 86 minutes a Macca pass went astray as Town were setting up an attack on the right side and Rovers quickly broke away. The ball came across and Mildy punched it clear, but it came straight back in and Agogo slammed it into the top of the net. Grimsby Town 1, Bristol Rovers 2. Townâ€™s defence had been exposed. Everyone was out of position when Rovers went on the counter attack. It was a good breakaway goal. The remaining minutes were just frustrating as Rovers had the possession and attacked for the most part. Town had no more chances. 1-2 was the final score. Although Town had looked bright in patches, notably thanks to the influence of my man of the match Parky, there was no substance to this performance and no threat on the opposition goal. Shearer in the Rovers goal did not have one serious save to make.
As we left the ground and headed towards Cleethorpes station, GaÃ«lle as ever tried to see the bright side and reflect the game in a positive light. Sure weâ€™d had a nice day overall but my daughter Revis, who had now witnessed her fifth consecutive home defeat, summed up the Mariner-watching experience succinctly: â€˜You sit in the cold and watch rubbishâ€™. I couldnâ€™t have put it better myself. Weâ€™re now out of the FA Cup. Whatever happened to the romance?
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