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In Search of the Goalless Draw Part 2
By: Andrew Doherty
GT started brightly and on 5 minutes a hesitant defence gave North the chance to go clear, but it was too wide and the goalkeeper blocked off the angle, conceding a corner.
Three minutes later, Toner had space and passed across to Newey who kept his head down and fired in a fierce and accurate shot, forcing a good save and another corner. North then headed over. Town started as thought they meant business and it was refreshing to see them passing the ball to each other intelligently.
Northampton had a couple of half-hearted chances on 15, and two corners around the 20th minute, but werenâ€™t threatening much. On 21, Northamptonâ€™s goalkeeper Bunn (would he be called Cobb in Derbyshire, or Roll down south, Revis and I speculated) had to race out and concede a throw-in in the face of the oncoming North. He then barged North on his way back, thus guaranteeing his unpopularity for the rest of the afternoon with the Grimsby contingent. All I could see from GT was composure in their play. Hegarty went wide on 22 after a useful cross field pass. On 24, a Croft cross was met with a North volley and a good save by Bunn/Cobb/Roll. A Newey high cross threatened, and Hegarty was putting in good work on the left. Hegartyâ€™s determination, mirroring that of the rest of the team, kept the ball in play and won a free kick on 29. The ball came out to Newey who fired wide from outside the area.
The general AB-inspired pattern was clear. Control the ball - look - pass. Even Fenton and Whittle were doing it. The support play was also good. On 32, Bunn was put under pressure again as North raced in like a hare. There was another impressive attack on 35. North surged through and worked the ball out to Toner. Possession was lost but Northampton were under pressure in their own corner. Northamptonâ€™s Taylor fell over and the referee gave a free-kick to end the move. Every attack GT embarked upon looked dangerous and inventive. A minute late Newey fought hard but couldnâ€™t control his cross. On 44, a mistake by a GT ex player Crowe led to a North cross but Hegarty was unable to capitalise. Right at the end of the half, Northampton had a chance after a very dangerous cross, but Newey got in where it hurt and bundled the ball out for a corner.
Half-time verdict. Well, what a difference from last weekâ€™s dismal kick and rush nonsense. This was progression through passing, short, simple passing at that. The support play was good and the players seemed to be aware of others around them. The play was sharp. Northampton did not have very much to offer but Grimsbyâ€™s defence looked tight today and equal to anything. Newey was looking good, and Whittle in particular showed particular authority, I thought. There was pride in the performance. The man is back.
Second Half. An ominous bit of a hoof from Croft on 47 led to the ball coming back down the pitch, but McGleish shot wide for Northampton. A similar build-up led to interpassing between Newey, Hegarty and North whose final shot was weak. McGleish blazed over again on 51, while a minute later a nice through pass from Croft saw North clear but offside. GTâ€™s support was still very vocal. Although GT were working the ball forward quickly and accurate, there were momentary signs of â€˜Old Townâ€™ creeping in, with balls being punted forward aimlessly. Northampton were coming into the game more and GT survived a scramble on 53 following a corner.
On 57, a long throw from Northamptonâ€™s Hunt found Kirk and his turn and pass to McGleish resulted in a decent shot but wide. On 58, Croftâ€™s skill found Toner who put North through, but offside was given. On 62 Croft found Newey who got a shot in despite poor initial control. The passing and the support play were still there, but I still couldnâ€™t help thinking that it was all too quick, and the build-up was not as crisp or decisive as earlier in the match. To prove me wrong, on 65 a Newey through ball set up a sustained and patient passing move which eventually broke down. McGleish and Watt for Northampton had a couple of good chances but the GT defence was on the whole successfully keeping the attacks back and hurrying them.
On 70 minutes, Andy Taylor came on to replace Danny North, who deservedly came off to rapturous applause, having battled and shown great skill. A Whittle foul on 71 led to another assault on the GT area but Harkins and Boshell mopped up efficiently. Then, on 73 minutes, the GT defence lost touch with each other and Northamptonâ€™s Holt was allowed to break through and have a clear shot from about 10 yards. Fortunately Barnes kept his eye on the ball and came up with a brilliant save to his left before scrambling the ball out for a corner. From the corner, a header came in which beat Barnes and bounced up but Hegarty was on the line to head the ball clear. "The youth teamâ€™s doing well" declared the man in front of me. After this scare, Town started to put on pressure themselves and a Newey mazy dribble led to a composed passing move as the ball progressed towards the Northampton goal. The missing link was the final pass, although unlike previous performances, todayâ€™s was far more promising and on a number of occasions we were close to that incisive final ball. Having one inexperienced striker to receive the ball was cause for doubt, although North was excellent and Taylor was looking good too.
On 82, Croft pumped up a long ball to try and pick out the lone striker. The signs were that we were getting tired. In fact on 84, Croft, who had been hobbling in the first half, was replaced by Macca. In spite of a couple of "old style" long balls, Croft had played very well. A Hegarty surge created more pressure on the Northampton defence and won a throw. Harkins, who seemed to fit into the pattern very well and looked composed, had a long range shot but it had no power. On 88, Macca cut out a Northampton attack and found Taylor who ran on and found Hegarty. Bunn was equal to the attempted chip. A Harkins interception on 91 could have led to the elusive goal, but in spite of all GTâ€™s efforts, the game ended in deadlock. Northampton Town 0, Grimsby Town 0 was the final score.
Verdict. Although the second half was not as good from Grimsbyâ€™s point of view and at times we fell into our old ways, the performance was encouraging. The team undoubtedly tired off and clearly some work is going to be needed on the fitness levels if we are to keep up sustained pressure through passing and support play, which was so impressive (and previously unseen this season) for such a large portion of the game.
Having a lone inexperienced striker up front wasnâ€™t ideal, but saying that, Danny North worked very hard, showed a lot of skill and caused a lot of trouble in Northamptonâ€™s defence. The timing of his replacement was just right as I canâ€™t believe that he would have had much energy left after all the running. Iâ€™m sure AB will have noticed that we werenâ€™t as sharp in the second half and lost our discipline a little. Even then the pattern of building measured attacks wasnâ€™t far away, which is extremely encouraging. As far as the defence was concerned, apart from the Northampton chance in the 73rd minute when they were static, they did not allow Northampton the time or space and all four defenders were quick to cut out threats and force the Northampton attack into hurried shots from distance. This was very promising indeed.
As far as the Man of the Match is concerned, I agree with Swannyâ€™s verdict: "the team". It was a team performance and with more work in training, the performances will become even more solid and consistent. As we walked out the ground, someone said to Swanny "youâ€™re smiling". Smiling and watching Grimsby Town are not normally synonymous. Today there was plenty to smile about in the performance.
And so the object was achieved. A goalless draw. No seat-related bloodshed in the crowd, no use for the bang sticks and altogether we had a jolly nice time being entertained by a good performance against a team from a higher division, to whom we were mostly superior in skill and effort. Weâ€™re still in the cup. See you at the replay...
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