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Darlington 2 Grimsby Town 2
By: The BP Vicar
UNDER pressure Town manager Graham Rodger made one change from the side that capitulated so shamefully to Hartlepool United on Tuesday night.
Peter Bore came in for on the right of midfield for Peter Beagrie. Town went into this game lying 21st in League Two with just three wins from the first twelve competitive games. The poor run of results included four 3 goal hammerings.
As kick off approached the mood amongst the 235 Mariner's faithful was anything but optimistic. Many fans including this match reporter attending out of habit rather than expectation. The BP Vicar's spirits were raised by a lunchtime finish at work followed by an afternoon's drinking in Newcastle's Bigg market. Darlington's ridiculously huge stadium looked as empty as a politician's promise with vast spaces along the terraces adding to the surreal atmosphere. Town lined up with the usual 4-4-2 formation.
Darlington started the brighter, an early game of head tennis resulted in an early opportunity for Darlington's striker who ran through the middle of the park unchallenged before he was finally tackled by Ravenhill. In the 6th minute a dipping Darlo effort was turned over the bar by Phil Barnes as Darlo stepped up the early pressure. Poor marking from a hopeful Darlington long ball was flicked on to the unmarked Darlo striker whose left foot volley nestled beyond the reach of Phil Barnes. Town a goal down after 11 minutes and looking in trouble. Shortly after the opener Gary Jones had half a chance for Town but his hesitation meant the opportunity was lost.
Town seemed to lack shape as Croft strangely drifted into central midfield leaving gaps for Darlo to exploit. In the 16th minute Macca was exposed for pace as the Darlo winger just failed to reach the touchline. Darlo were pressing for a second as Town looked unorganised and sluggish. It looked a matter of time before Town conceded again. Against the run of play Peter Bore squared the ball across the 18 yard box to an unmarked Ricky Ravenhill whose rising effort was pushed away by the Darlo keeper. Just before the half hour mark Darlo extended their lead. The Town defence failed to deal with a routine ball into the box. Paul Bolland missed out as the Darlo striker nipped in give Barnes no chance. Town's lack of any notable work rate made Darlo look like world beaters as they struggled to get a kick. The Grimsby back four aimlessly hammered the ball towards the snail like Gary Jones who was unable to compete with the Darlington defence. So much for pass and move!
Phil Barnes needlessly kicked the ball into touch as the Mariner's faithful became increasingly frustrated at their team's lack of basic ball control. Darlington almost made the score line 3-0 but their player's header looped just over the crossbar. Gary Jones almost pulled a goal back, his header from Crofty's left wing cross just clearing the bar. Darlo should have scored a third on the stroke of half time, a relatively simple one-two perplexed the Town back four. The ball bounced around before Barnes made a hash of collecting the ball. Town somehow survived. The first half performance was every bit as bad as Bury away.
Town started the second half positively. Jones flicked a long punt on for Thorpe who almost beat the keeper. Shortly after Thorpe had the ball in the net after Gary Jones put him through but the strike was rightly ruled out for offside.
In the 51st minute a Toner corner was met by a looping Gary Jones header which was almost turned in by Thorpe. Town had made a better start to the second half although Darlington looked dangerous at times; Jones laid the ball off to Croft whose weak effort drifted wide. Tony Thorpe had a growing influence on the game. Thorpe dropped deeper to collect the ball and provide a link between the midfield and the paceless and ineffectual Gary Jones.
Thorpe drifted out to the right wing; he picked up a ball from Macca before theoretically diving to win a free kick.
Darlo sat back seemingly looking to protect their lead. Nick Fenton's back pass looked short but was just about cleared by Phil Barnes. Darlington made a double substitution. Tony Thorpe was put clear through and appeared to dive over the defenders legs to con the referee. The ref pointed to the penalty spot and dismissed the unfortunate defender. Toner knocked the spot kick into the bottom right corner to make the score 2-1. Game on!
Ten men Darlo had another spell of pressure. Macca's distribution let him down on a number of occasions but Town were in the ascendancy. Toner hit a great volley from around 20 yards which struck the underside of the bar; Thorpe latched on to the rebound but was beaten by the angle as the keeper gratefully collected the ball. Darlington's 10 men were struggling to contain Grimsby who had previously looked like a side from the lower reaches of the Grimsby Sunday league.
Cieron Toner dallied twice before his 20 yard shot was blocked by the Darlington defence. Town should have levelled, Tony Thorpe picked the ball up and whipped a great cross in to the unmarked Ricky Ravenhill whose downward header should have found the back of the net but instead found the advertising board behind the goal. Ten man Darlington were under pressure now.
Town's direct style causing Darlington problems although Town's inability to clear their lines almost led to another Darlington goal. This time Ravenhill got a challenge in as the Darlo player was about to hammer the ball goalwards. Shortly afterwards Town were level. Thorpe's shot was saved by the keeper but Ravenhill prodded the ball past the keeper to send the tiny band of Town fans wild. Shortly after kick off Bolland looked to be fouled inside the area as Town went for the win but his appeal was waived away.
In summary, still a very poor performance from Town. It was an improvement on Hartlepool but in all fairness could hardly have been worse. The defence lacks mobility and the stubbornness of last term, the midfield is combative yet naive and lacks any real creativity. The forwards lack guile and intelligence although Thorpe is a good player, at 32 is he any more than a short term answer? There is a clear and chronic lack of pace throughout the side. It will take no more than a reasonable team to beat this awful Grimsby Town side. A manager is judged by his results, judgement day cannot be too far away from Graham Rodger.
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