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Wycombe 1 Grimsby 1
By: Kevin Dolan
ALAN Buckleyâ€™s Grimsby Town continued their renewed belief with a deserved point in a hard fought match at The Causeway Stadium.
The returning Gary Jones gave Town the lead 20 minutes from time and only a brilliant long range shot denied them the three points, although due to Tom Neweyâ€™s late sending off, The Mariners ended the game pleased with the point.
Gary Jonesâ€™ return from suspension saw Town revert to an orthodox 4-4-2, partnering Danny North up front. Ciaran Toner missed out through injury as Danny Boshell and Nick Hegarty occupied the wing positions.
A quiet opening was disrupted by a clash of heads that saw Tommy Mooney and Justin Whittle go off for lengthy treatment, before both coming back with bandaged heads. Wycombe struggled to get going for the first twenty minutes and the two first chances both fell to North who volleyed just wide from a Harkins cross and then after breaking the offside trap wide right, chose to shoot early and the keeper easily saved.
The home side eventually started having larger possession and began to get some rhythm going. They nearly scored on the half hour mark with their best chance of the first half. A deep right wing cross from Stockley, found Mooney at the back of the penalty area and he nodded back across the 6-yard box only for Jermaine Easter to head inches wide.
For the rest of the first half Town set their stall not to concede and played out on the break, but they did have one great chance to open the scoring. Jones beat a man on the left and crossed to Boshell on the right side of the area. Boshell waited for the ball and skilfully chested the ball past his marker, but with only keeper to beat he fired wide, albeit from a tight angle.
Wycombe had a good long range shot within the first few seconds of the 2nd half but the opening exchanges found both teams unable to get into gear. With Town struggling to create anything, Buckley swapped North with Peter Bore just before the hour mark.
With a bit more spark in attack, Town improved and took the lead with twenty minutes to go. Bore made a run out to the right; Wycombe had obviously done their homework as three men went to close him down. Bore dragged them to the touchline and laid the ball back to Croft. Croft looked up and hit a deep cross to Hegarty, unmarked beyond the far post. Rather than just firing than ball across, Hegarty composed himself and passed the ball through the 6-yard box, between the defenders and goalkeeper, to the waiting Jones who tapped home the simplest finish imaginable. The home defence had been exposed for losing concentration. 0-1
A confident looking Town now looked for a second and only a solid last man tackle denied Bore latching on to a through ball. With the away fans starting to sense a massive away victory, Wycombe equalised with 13 minutes left. Scott Golbourne nipped in ahead of Boshell on the half way line and made inroads towards the Mariners defence. He slipped past Whittle and from just outside the area hit an unstoppable, swerving shot in to the top left corner, giving Barnes no chance. 1-1
The home side were now in the ascendancy and they looked to have the chance to take the lead when Betsy was played through moments later. Newey was on the wrong side of his man and, with Barnes slightly out of position, he pulled back the winger allowing Barnes to get to the ball first. The referee had no alternative, but to show Newey a red card. He was clearly the last man and Betsy would've almost certainly got the ball first and scored. From the resulting free kick, Barnes saved and held the low shot.
Town reorganised as 4-4-1 with Jones as the lone striker and a few minutes later Buckley replaced Boshell with McDermott, giving Town a more balanced look. Wycombe were now firing in shots from anywhere trying to seize the initiative, although Town did break away to have a big shout for a penalty. Bore received ball on the wing but was faced with two men, but he beat both and headed to the by line. As he surged past, the second defender had his arms all over Bore, virtually in a piggyback. An honest Bore tried to rescue the ball from going out of play before eventually going down and then appealing for a penalty. The referee nonchalantly dismissed what had originally been a blatant foul and Bore would've probably won a penalty if he had gone down straight away. The Town players appealed frantically with Bore fuming.
Despite Boston winning and closing the gap on The Mariners, most fans would have been happy with yesterdayâ€™s outcome. Buckleyâ€™s appointment has made a noticeable impact and itâ€™s hard to imagine the team of the first two months of the season coming away from this match with anything but a heavy defeat. Townâ€™s defence was enormously more organised and conceding one brilliant goal in two very tough away games speaks volumes.
Wycombe, as expected, looked a strong team. They weren't firing on all cylinders, especially Mooney who a poor game, but they looked more than capable of challenging for the automatic spots again this season and seemed very frustrated at things not going their way.
Injuries to Townâ€™s attackers were noticeable and North and Hegarty both looked slightly lightweight against a team of the quality of Wycombe. Boshell, although obviously a stopgap, did not have much success on the wing either. On the plus side the whole team defended superbly for the entire match especially the back four and Barnes who was almost faultless; but considering his stop-start season Townâ€™s man of the match was probably Gary Harkins who was everywhere throughout, breaking up play and instigating attacks on countless occasions.
Despite all the recent problems, Town have only lost one of their last five away league games (and only two of the last 8 league and cup). The home form now needs addressing.
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