Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY will spend a third consecutive season in League Two after falling at the final hurdle in a lacklustre display against a mediocre Cheltenham side in the Play-Off final. Town had their chances, and decisions went against them but a Stephen Guinan goal saw the Robins go deservedly through.
Grimsby lined up as expected, with the only surprise being Junior Mendes starting on the right wing in place of Gary Cohen. Michael Reddy, as expected, started the game after two substitute appearances in the semi-final matches against Lincoln.
Town started nervously and two mistakes in the opening ten minutes almost gifted Cheltenham the lead Firstly Town gave the ball away and it broke to Gillespie whose shot was only just parried wide of the post by Steve Mildenhall.
Even worse a few minutes later was an attempted Rob Jones back header, but it looped up and into the path of Guinan, who had the time to control the ball. Instead he decided to volley it, fortunately straight at Town's 'keeper.
Town once again lost a player in the first half through injury for the fifth consecutive game. This time it was Michael Reddy's turn, who had to go off after a clash of heads with former Mariner Craig Armstrong. Both players needed to be substituted, with Gary Cohen coming on in place of Town's talisman.
Strangely the unanticipated swap seemed to inspire Town and they had their best spell of the game for the remainder of the half.
A big turning point of the game then occurred when Town's best outfield player Andy Parkinson went down in the box. It looked a cast iron penalty, but the referee waved play on to the consternation of Grimsby's players.
Town created several chances in the remainder of the first period, the best of which was a Gary Cohen shot which produced a finger tip save, to finish the half in the ascendancy.
The start of the second half was a major disappointment, with Town failing to recapture their form of the first part of the game. Nothing of note happened for the first 15 minutes and neither side really looked like scoring. Then a poor Town clearance eventually fell to Guinan on the edge of the box, whose cross evaded everyone and crept into the net. The replay in the stadium seemed to show three players standing in an offside position. Were they interfering with play?
Cheltenham looked to have the game sewn up when they were awarded a penalty with 20 minutes to go after a rash Woodhouse challenge. Mildenhall kept the Mariners in the match however with a spectacular save low to his right.
Shortly after the penalty a McCann shot hit the crossbar and Mildenhall again kept Town in the game with a smart save to deny Wilson's header from the rebound.
Town brought on Futcher for Croft in the final 15 minutes, playing 3 up front, and piled on the pressure. Gary Jones came closest to scoring when his point-blank header was somehow saved by Higgs.
But that was it. Cheltenham go up and Grimsby remain in League Two. Town's players did not perform to their utmost and seemed subdued by the occasion. Only Andy Parkinson and Steve Mildenhall played near the top of their game. Cheltenham were not brilliant, but were the least poor of the two sides!
The biggest disappointment for me of the closing few games was the fact that Town spent the last 10 minutes or so at Leyton Orient time wasting when the score was 0-0. Games you lose you can't do much about, but games you don't do your utmost to win when you have the ball you can! The other big minus was Russell Slade's decision not to sign a new contract leading up to this match, which must have sent the wrong message to his squad. Will that contract offer still be on the table? The only plus to come out of the play-offs is the money we'll get from them and the fact that Lincoln are still in the division.
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