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Town Shave First Leg
By: Rob Sedgwick
A superb performance at Sincil Bank secured a priceless 1-0 lead for the Mariners and leaves Lincoln needing to win at Blundell Park on Tuesday if they are to stand a chance of progressing to the play-off final.
The police presence at Lincoln train station was impressive, with dozens of officers, horses and dogs ready to greet the Mariners, in addition to an enormous fleet of vehicles to transport them all. Was it a VIP visitor they were expecting or 1500 Grimbarians? However the officers were to prove useful to escort us all back to the station in any case.
Grimsby started minus two of their key players. Rob Jones was absent due to the imminent birth of his first child and Michael Reddy's lack of fitness meant Russell Slade elected to put Town's danger man on the bench. Would an unborn foetus prove to be significant? Former Imp Ben Futcher came in to replace Player of the Season Rob Jones, and Tom Newey also returned at left back after missing the last few games with an injury.
Town took the game to their hosts and had the early pressure, with Andy Parkinson prominent in the early exchanges. Grimsby for once were passing the ball about well and using their wide midfielders effectively.
Grimsby continued to have the bulk of the play with Parkinson looking dangerous whenever he had the ball, but Lincoln came close to taking a shock lead with two disallowed goals. The first, from a corner, was ruled out for a foul on Justin Whittle. The second, shortly afterwards, was disallowed for offside.
For the third consecutive game the Mariners lost a full back in the first half through injury when Macca went off on 17 minutes. Fortunately on this occasion there was a ready made replacement on the bench in the form of Gary Croft.
But it was Town who got their noses in front with another Gary Jones goal. An Andy Parkinson run in to the box saw the ball go to G Jones via Woodhouse for a simple tap-in. It was no more than Town's play deserved.
Town had to be alert though as Steve Mildenhall made two saves to keep Grimsby's lead intact. The first was a great parry from a free kick, and the second was a reflex fingertip save from a blistering Lee Beevers' volley.
Town survived several late City set pieces to go in 1-0 at the break. Grimsby had played the better football and deserved to be in front.
Shortly after the break Town were just inches away from doubling their lead when an opportunist Bolland chip hit the bar. The ball eventually rebounded to Parkinson whose shot went narrowly wide.
Lincoln put Town under a lot of pressure in the second half, but Futcher in particular was solid against his former side.
Star strikers Yeo and then Reddy were brought on by both sides in an attempt to boost each sides's prospects.
Tom Newey, who a few minutes earlier had come close to scoring an own goal with a wayward clearance, almost finished off a mazy run into the box beating several players, but his eventual shot was mis-hit and went out for a corner.
In the final minutes Parky curled the ball narrowly wide. But the closest Lincoln came to scoring came right at the death in a Northampton-like moment. City had two corners in succession and from the second the ball was cleared off the line and then hit the post. It was a lucky escape.
The victory was a good result and an excellent performance by Town. Every Town player was up for it and played their part. Nobody had a bad game. The much-maligned Andy Parkinson was Town's most creative player, and another target of the boo boys' Ben Futcher was a rock at the back. Bolland and Woodhouse as ever had a good game, but the Man of the Match award goes to Parky!
The result leaves Town as favourites to go though but there is a long way to go in the tie yet and nobody can take anything for granted.
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