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Town Take The Points at Oxford
By: Rob Sedgwick
FOR the second week running Grimsby were involved in a high-drama football match with a large number of chances, questionable defences, top class saves, lots of goals, and this week a straight red card to add a bit of spice. Today, however, the Mariners grabbed the all important three points.
Russell Slade was forced to make just one change when the experienced Gary Croft came in in a straight swap at left back for the suspended Tom Newey. Congo international JPK Kalala once again had to settle for a place on the bench. The presence of Rob Jones on the bench, ahead of schedule after a groin operation, was a cheering site for the assembled Town supporters.
After a minute's silence in memory of the late George Best, Town got off to a perfect start with their first attack of the game. Reddy broke free on the right hand side and crossed to Parkinson, who controlled and shot past the Wycombe 'keeper.
It was to mark the start of a first half containing an unbelievable number of chances.
Within a minute of the goal Oxford hit the bar. Gary Croft misdirected a header across the box, the ball eventually ended up with Griffin, whose shot went over the stretching Mildenhall and dipped down to strike the woodwork.
Three minutes later Macca had to make a last gasp clearance over his own bar. Shortly afterwards Oxford contrived to miss from about two yards out when what looked like a combination of Mildenhall and the woodwork somehow stopped the ball from going in. This was followed almost immediately by another fantastic close-range saved from Town's 'keeper.
Grimsby's defence was all at sea without master Mariner Rob Jones at its heart. Could Slade sort it?
Town also had chances to further their lead. Jones went close with an attempted lob and Reddy had a shot which went narrowly wide.
The first half ended with Grimsby very fortunate not to have conceded at least one goal, owing mainly to Steve Mildenhall, in addition to some poor finishing by Oxford.
Half Time: Oxford 0 Town 1
The second half started as the first had finished. Town almost conceded straight away when the otherwise immaculate Mildenhall dropped what looked like a straightforward ball. Macca got back to make a last gasp clearance off the line.
The inevitable goal came just 6 minutes into the second period. A Sabin run created the chance ending in a cross for debutant Fitzgerald to hit the target.
Town almost immediately had a great chance to restore their lead. The ever-dangerous Michael Reddy was put through and, in a repeat of the opening goal, crossed to the unmarked Parkinson in a perfect position a few yards from goal. Parky hit the ball first time and spooned it hopelessly over the bar. Heads in hands time.
The turning point came when Oxford's Hackett was shown a straight red card for an appalling two-footed challenge on Parkinson made inexplicably in his own penalty area!
Town restored their lead within five minutes of the dismissal. The ball was parried out to Bolland on the edge of the box following another Reddy run and shot, and the midfielder brilliantly blasted a first time volley into the top corner. A truly wonderful strike which prompted prolonged celebrations amongst the 300 or so Town fans.
Parky, still suffering from the sending-off challenge, was soon substituted for Kalala with Toner moving to the left wing, and JPK assuming his usual place in central midfield.
Town then began to sit back and were content to defend their lead, despite being a man up. Mildenhall was forced to make another good save, although Reddy too had a couple of chances on the break which he failed to make the most of.
With watches being consulted on a regular basis at the away end a lovely piece of play ended up with Cohen sliding the ball home from short range to make the game out of reach (or so we thought) at 3-1 to Town.
So thought the Oxford fans, too, who made their way en masse to the exits. As the 90th minute struck they were halted in their tracks when Whittle brought down an Oxford attacker in the box and the referee awarded a penalty. Substitute Basham stepped up to score and set up a tense three minutes of stoppage time.
It was a splendid win for Town who have not been at their best in the absence of Rob Jones, but have still managed 6 points out of 9 in his absence. Don't they say good teams win without playing well?
On the plus side Town are creating chances aplenty and scoring goals. On the minus side the defence was shocking today, even worse than they were at Wycombe. Hopefully that will be just a temporary aberattion with Rob Jones and possibly Tom Newey likely to return against Rochdale on Dec 6th.
Full Time: Oxford 2 Town 3
MOTM: Steve Mildenhall. Kept Town in the game with a brilliant first half performance.
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