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Rodger's Local
Rodger's Local

A Critical State of Affairs - Part 2

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 05/11/2006

WE got off at Grimsby Town where the sun shone glacially. Retail therapy was necessary as we needed to buy the gloves and jumpers which had gone missing or had been outgrown in the mid-season break.

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Freshney Place lived up to its name with a host of fragrance and perfume shops, the traditional parfums of fish and fresh air clearly being insufficient these days. The sights and smells of Grimsby. Freeman Street was its normal cutting edge combination of life and decay. A range of cuisines were on offer. Hard men drank tea al fresco outside the market next to the Pie Shop. At the docks end, roast dinners were advertised at £2-75. The iron bars on the outside of the establishment and dark interior provided a dubious welcome. Or if you prefer, you could have a bun at Skeltons.

We stopped off at Blundell Park. While I went to buy the match tickets, my children had a look round the club shop. Revis drew my attention to the Grimsby Town Air Freshner (sic), adding sombrely "The smell of defeat". Marginally better than the smell of death, I guess.

We had plenty of time, so we took a walk along the Grimsby Road, "Under the Clock" and to the seafront. The tide was in, the red flag was out telling people not to bathe or was it a warning that those doing so would die of hypothermia? Most of the arcades were shut, yet the sickly and sweet smell prevailed of rock and candy floss, intermingled with the fresh air, and the intermittent and sinister sound of the laughing policeman. This told you where you were. A John Lennon song could be heard. His plaintive voice summed up the sadness of a typical seaside resort in November. The brown water smashed against the sea wall as we made our final approach to Blundell Park. Hopefully the game would be played with similar force and vigour. We were about to find out.

It was pleasing that the visitors from Milton Keynes were welcomed, contrary to the prevailing view in football. Revis was more concerned with the view we had "it’s too low to see the ships". I reassured her that she would be able to see them through the gap between the Main and Pontoon stands. After having a "team-bonding" huddle, Town kicked off towards the Osmond stand with the wind behind them.

First Half. After an MK corner on 2 minutes, which led to nothing, Newey had a long throw which resulted in the ball being kicked back upfield. Toner controlled it and new boy James got an accurate shot in which the MK keeper gathered comfortably. Revis had a moment of excitement "there’s a big ship!", as a large red KESS ship slid by behind the Main Stand. MK’s McLeod won a free kick on the edge of the box on 9 minutes after appearing to fall over after being tackled. A trick free kick led to Lewington firing in a shot from the left but Barnes in the Grimsby goal had kept his eye on the ball and pulled off an excellent save. After a mix-up in the MK defence, on 11 minutes Toner did well to keep the ball in play, and the ball came to James who used his trickery to work his way through the penalty area before falling over - no penalty was given to the dismay of the player and the crowd. On 16 minutes Ravenhill showed some fight but for all his efforts, the end result was a goal kick. Town weren’t impressive, insisting on a game of headball with a tall MK defence instead of capitalising on the pace of Bore, Rankin and James. So far the best effort had been MK’s free kick.

On 18, MK’s McLeod got a low shot in but Barnes gathered safely. Three minutes later Dyer found McLeod whose control was poor, otherwise Town would have been in trouble. Town’s style had changed but was still ineffective. Balls were being played too quickly and there was no sign of control. A Toner free kick on 22 drifted out of play to emphasise the point. On 23, Dyer once again chipped the ball over the defence for McLeod to latch on to, but Barnes was alert and Whittle acrobatically and bravely cut out a dangerous cross, giving MK a corner. Ravenhill was winded by a powerful shot and the game was stopped. Perhaps Town could take a break and gather their forces? On 26, a big hoof upfield from Barnes led to a throw-in for Town by the corner flag.

With not much of note happening, I had a moment of insanity and imagined that Gary Croft looks like a younger version of Roman Abramovitch. Back to the action and on 30, a challenge led to James going down in considerable pain and being stretchered off to sympathetic applause. Hegarty came on in his place, and his first touch was a wild cross after a ball from Bolland. Toner wasted a free kick on 37, while a Ravenhill vertical hoof summed up proceedings so far. Revis yawned. This was dire.

A big Barnes clearance, seemingly the only weapon we had, led to the ball being headed out for a corner. On 41 minutes, good work from MK’s excellent Lewington put the ball through to McLeod who turned Newey as if he wasn’t there. Having done all the hard work, to everyone’s amazement McLeod shot wide. A big let off for Grimsby. On 45, Town decided to show some patience and put together a passing move. Ravenhill’s header went wide but it was better. Another good piece of midfield work led to a useful cross from which Bore headed over. The half time whistle went. Grimsby Town 0, MK Dons 0.

Half time verdict. The half had a promising end, but Town were very poor. In the first 20 minutes, the ball was being launched constantly into the air with no accuracy and to no avail. When Town started to play it along the ground, it was too quick and the passes were inaccurate. We were lucky not to be 0-1 down after a bad miss and other good work by MK, who had more composure than Town. Our most dangerous weapon was Barnes’s clearances. A couple of efforts in the last minute demonstrated the value of patient build-up but would this be a lesson learnt for the second half? To be honest, the best moment was the half-time hot drink in the warmth of the GT bar in the Carlsberg stand (credit also to the staff for their incredibly quick, efficient and as always courteous service).

The report continues in Part 3

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