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Late Sickener for Town
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY came within a few seconds of claiming an automatic promotion place to League One. Leading 1-0 against Northampton, and with Orient drawing 2-2 at Oxford, Town looked to be going up. But a late goal in both games was a double whammy for Town who must now negotiate their way through the play-offs.
Town had started the afternoon with most of their injured players fit enough to make the starting line-up. An exception was Michael Reddy, who could only make the bench. John McDermott returned at right back, which allowed Gary Cohen to move into midfield. Andy Parkinson had to settle for a place amongst the five subs .
Town started brightly and had a superb chance to go ahead when Mendes was put through with the goal at his mercy. Harper somehow managed to get down and make a save, and almost simultaneously the news that Oxford had gone ahead rippled around the stadium. Belief began to surge through our veins. It was not to last for long, though as Leyton Orient were shortly to score an equaliser at the Kassam Stadium.
As happened at Macclesfield once again Grimsby lost a defender early in the game. This time it was Gary Croft's turn to go off injured. With no direct replacement on the bench, Woodhouse had to revert to left back and JPK Kalala came on in midfield.
Town continued to carve out the best chances of the first period without coming especially close to scoring. Mendes and Gary Jones both had chances for the Mariners, but Northampton's defence looked well organised and it was proving difficult to break the Cobblers down.
Town had a penalty appeal turned down when Gary Jones was brought down in the box in a goal scoring position, but the referee decided he had fallen too quickly.
In the second half Northampton had a couple of good early chances to take the lead. Kirk finished off a good move, but could only hit the side netting and a Low shot went wide when he was in a good position.
John McDermott looked like he was about to score the opener when he raced into the box and struck a powerful shot goalwards, but Harper deflected the ball out for a corner.
About twenty minutes into the second half the news came that Orient were 2-1 up and a few heads dropped. Almost immediately Oxford scored an equaliser and once again the hope around the stadium was palpable.
Town needed to score a goal and Russell Slade brought on Parkinson and Reddy to try and do just that.
The referee finally gave Grimsby a lifeline with 15 minutes to go when he awarded Town a penalty for a push on Gary Jones. It looked a bit of a soft decision, but nobody minded. Up stepped JPK Kalala to smash the spot kick in and bring Blundell Park to its knees. We had 15 minutes to get through and hope that Leyton Orient did not score.
The next few minutes were a blur. Parkinson had a chance to put Town 2-0 up but his shot was saved. Suddenly Northampton, who had looked content with a 0-0 draw, began to step up a gear. With the minutes ticking away Town survived a few anxious moments and looked to have done it until a late corner saw a shot cleared off the line straight to Gilligan who slotted it in from close range. It was as though a switch had been turned off in the Pontoon. Suddenly what had been an orgy of celebrations had changed to total gutted silence.
Almost immediately the news came through that Orient had scored an injury time winner. It was another late sickener not dissimilar to Town's late relegation at Tranmere two seasons ago. This time, however, they have to pick themselves up and get the promotion their season deserves via the play-offs, starting with our neighbours and rivals Lincoln City on Saturday.
John McDermott was man of the match. A welcome return at right back, good defensively and always a threat going forward like the quality full back that he still is.
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