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Unlucky Town Lose on Penalties
By: Gareth Edwards
GRIMSBY Town were desperately unlucky to miss out on progression to the next round of the Carling Cup last night after outplaying visiting Championship side Burnley for most of the match.
The Mariners lined up with an unchanged side to the one that earned a hard fought draw at Notts County last Saturday, to face a Burnley side including the well-travelled striker Ade Akinbiyi with experienced new signing David Unsworth also coming into the side.
Town began kicking-off towards the Osmand End and both sides were evenly matched in the early stages. Isaiah Rankin worked his socks off from the start and was almost able to latch onto a Whittle flick on from Newey's corner early on.
Town also showed promise going forward on the flanks with both Bennett and Toner seeing dangerous crosses cleared. Burnley themselves could only muster a few set-pieces, the target of most of which was the imposing figure of Unsworth coming up from the back.
Rankin continued to work hard to create opportunities but did not quite seem to get a bit of luck and remained reasonably isolated up-front on his own. This was perhaps best encapsulated by his failure to capitalise on Town's best chance so far on the half hour-mark, slicing well wide after the ball broke to him in the box. Till forced Jensen to make his first real save of the match in the Burnley goal after with a near post effort and it was certainly Town who were creating the better opportunities on goal.
However, towards the end of the half the Clarets then enjoyed their first spell of sustained pressure and Barnes was called into action to stop a long range effort from Stephen Foster, hit from a similar range to the Mackenzie shot which eluded him at the weekend. This brought the end to a hard fought but even half in which neither side could have any complaints.
Both sides remained unchanged after the break and their followed a similar pattern to the first half, with Town struggling to hold the ball up, but stringing together brief spells of nice passing football and Burnley looking dangerous mainly on the counter and from set-pieces. Town went the closest so-far with nearly an hour gone, but saw his long range effort whistle past the top-right hand corner from 25-yards.
It was at this point that both managers decided to start switching it around, with Danny North replacing a tiring Rankin for Town, closely followed by a Cotterill double substitution for Burnley, changing his strike pairing of Akinbiyi and Kyle Lafferty for the veteran Robbie Blake and Andy Grey.
David Unsworth then picked up the first booking of the night for a tough challenge from behind on Danny North, but Phil Barnes soon followed him after rushing out of his goal to bring down the onrushing Andy Grey outside the box and was fortunate that he had defenders covering him, or he would perhaps have seen red. He made up for his misjudgement however by smartly tipping the resulting free kick over the bar.
Town then spurned a golden chance to take the lead when Ciaran Toner's pinpoint through ball found Boshell who failed to beat the keeper one on one when he should have hit the net.
Buckley then made his first tactical switch of the night after 73 mins, as Gary Jones entered the fray to partner North up-front, with James Hunt making way having worked hard for the cause. Burnley's main goal threat now seemed to come from the pacey Grey and Barnes had to be alert to collect a through ball before the front man could capitalise.
Ciaran Toner then missed a good opportunity to win the game with only five minutes remaining, firing over inside the box after Bennett's long throw fell for him. So it was that the crowd had to endure another nail-biting half an hour of extra-time.
In the first half of extra-time Town came into their own and played some of the nicest football seen in the game. Clarets' keeper Jensen had to make a smart block in front of the pontoon to deny Bolland after the midfielder was played through on the left, but minutes later DANNY NORTH showed him how it was done after running onto Toner's lofted through ball, lofting it over the on-rushing keeper and tapping home for his first of hopefully many this season. He almost made it a dream five minutes for Town a moment later, when he made a strong powerful run across the box and smashed a strong effort which Jensen did remarkably well to tip onto the bar and over.
However, Town's tiredness seemed to show in the second half of extra-time and Burnley capitalised despite Town being much the better side for most of the match. Newey needlessly gave the ball away in the midfield and Burnley capitalised, with ANDY GREY being played through one-on-one with Barnes and calmly slotting home, despite suspicions of offside against him.
Burnley almost made it a double sucker punch a minute later and Steve Jones should've scored when he blazed over from just yards out. Despite Burnley finishing the stronger of the two, Town deserved to end up winners after 120 minutes having played the better football but it was not to be, and the lottery of penalties was to seal the Mariners fate.
Robbie Blake struck his into the Pontoon goal with ease, whereas in reply Toner scooped his over the bar. However Barnes brought Grimsby back into the tie with a good save from Harley along with Newey's well struck reply.
However, Grey found the net once again next-up whereas Nick Fenton's spot kick was saved by Jensen. Mahon held his nerve for Burnley and despite North neatly tucking his penalty away, it was left to James O'Conner to win the game, rather fortuitously for the visiting team. Mariners fans should take a lot of heart from this promising performance and hope the Mariners are on the receiving end of the luck they perhaps didn't get but did deserve in this match.
MOTM - A difficult one as the whole team fought well, but Paul Bolland proved the driving force in Town's midfield all-night.
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