Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
Grimsby 1 Macclesfield 1
By: Paul Matthew
I haven't been to Blundell Park for a while. Back during Buckley's first and second terms in charge I'd been a regular, even a season ticket holder.
But as university beckoned, relegation loomed and years of mediocrity descended after the double Wembley season, I found myself less inclined to watch the Mariners lose to yet another average team. My Bank Holiday Saturday trip to BP was my first for 18 months and the first since I actually moved away from Grimsby and to the footballing mecca sadly known as Scunthorpe. The first thing I noticed at 2.50pm was just how quiet BP has become. Over the years I remember having to park miles from the ground and then mingled with thousands of rival supporters walking into the ground, yet there's no struggle parking on Elliston Street and there's hardly anyone either walking into or around the ground. And the noise inside the ground? Well there wasn't any, aside from some of Nunsthorpe's 10-year-old finest with a drum at the top of the Pontoon. Macclesfield provided about a bus full of fans who scattered themselves around the Osmond Stand, in fact it was difficult to remember they were actually there for most of the 90 minutes either.
Town lined up with a pretty standard Buckley of old 4-4-2. Barnes continued in goal, Bennett and Newey flanked Whittle and Fenton, Boshell and Bolland played in the centre of the park with Toner and Till wide. North started the game up front in place of Hunt, accompanied by Rankin. Taylor, Gary Jones, Clarke, Hunt and sub keeper Montgomery got splinters in their behinds and warmed the bench. Macclesfield lined up with a similar looking 4-4-2, with Jens Lehmann lookalike Tommy Lee in goal, former Boston and Lincoln striker Francis Green up front and ex-Town frontman Martin Gritton leading the line. Gritton ain't half changed a lot since last season when I saw him on TV at Mansfield looking like someone who'd been living in a shop doorway and forgotten to shave for a year. Gone are the flowing locks and the filthy beard - although it looks as though his waistline has expanded since he left Town.
The game kicked off with Town attacking the away end. It started in scrappy fashion as both sides lumped the ball from end to end. certainly not the Buckley-esque football I remember from years gone by. Till and Rankin are no Dave Gilbert and Tony Rees, are they? The first action of the match saw Newey flattened by what appeared to be an elbow by Macc midfielder Levi Reid, which went unpunished by the ref. Danny North was then tripped by Carl Regan and again the ref let play continue and it appeared we were in for one of those days. It wasn't until around the 15th minute that the game began to settle down and Town began to dominate. Most of the play went through Peter Till, who while not really beating his man, seemed to be involved in most of the neat passing. A couple of corners saw blocked shots - Boshell's pass saw North burst through for Lee to push wide, while Whittle missed with a header from the resulting corner. A Fenton header was blocked by Rankin in the six yard box, while a Till cross after a foul by the mouthy McIntyre was sent over by Fenton's header.
The Mariners were getting closer, but not working the keeper - a trait which has dogged many of Buckley's sides over the years. Town's best chance came in the 24th minute when Ciaran Toner broke free down the left and delivered a pinpoint cross for Danny North who managed to wriggle between the two centre-halves but steer his free header over when he really should have scored. It started a mad five minutes of action when Town could - and probably should - have seen themselves 3-0 up and sealed the game. Rankin burst through and shot straight at the keeper and the striker, visibly lacking confidence, did the same on the left minutes later, squaring the ball towards North who, instead of spanking the ball into an empty net, couldn't get a shot off and eventually Till's shot was blocked. Town were dominating but their lack of killer instinct really showed. For all of the possession and the shots, only one forced a save from keeper Lee.
Macclesfield rallied forcing two corners, one of which flew across the face of goal and out for a goal kick. As long as Town continued to squander chances Macclesfield were always in the game and the blue and whites almost scored on 43 minutes when Justin Whittle - who had an otherwise decent game - missed his kick and Francis Green stabbed wide from inside the box. With a surprising three minutes of injury time on the board, Town should have gone in the lead when Rankin again burst through the defence's high-line and hit the outside of the post. Without playing all that well Town had carved out enough chances to be 3 or 4 goals up.
Surprisingly Peter Till failed to return for the second half and Gary Jones came on. The substitution actually foiled Town as Rankin moved out wide and Grimsby became disjointed in their play. With Macc playing such a high defensive line the speed and movement of Andy Taylor would probably have been a better move at that point in the game. The second half started as the first ended as North was played clean through and as he drew the keeper in his shot cannoned back off the inside of the post when he really should have buried it. Macclesfield, probably rallied by a half-time rollicking, began to play themselves into the game as Town gave the ball away. Tom Newey in particular gave the ball away all too often and the tricky Green and the excellent Danny Thomas combined to see the striker shoot straight at Barnes. On 58 minutes Rankin was replaced by Taylor and North went wide right, which seemed to confuse the players even more as Town began to run out of ideas. Whereas in the first half they seemed to enjoy success out wide, Toner and North drifted infield and Macclesfield stifled the life out of the game. Alarm bells should have rung when on 59 minutes a Macclesfield cross saw Gritton hit the bar from just two yards when it was far easier to score, but Town were punished just a minute later. As the ball was played across goal, Barnes, Whittle and Fenton played a game of 'after you' and GRITTON prodded the ball home in front of the 100-odd away fans as the static back four watched on in disbelief. It was, to be fair, the only way the away side were going to score all game - and yet again a defensive error was the cause.
Buckley responded by sending Hunt on for North and Town switched to a narrow diamond midfield, with Boshell on the right and the ex-Bristol Rovers man sitting in front of the back four. It didn't seem to do the trick as the game became increasingly narrow. Macc made several substitutions and went to five at the back in a bid to protect their lead, but it was Town who equalised on 70 minutes during their worst passage of the game. Taylor's hard work won a corner on the right and as Boshell's cross flew across the box, Bennett's header, which was possibly heading wide, was turned in at close range by TAYLOR. On balance of play it was all Town deserved and they pushed forward in search of the winner. A series of corners came to nothing - Whittle flashed a header wide, Gary Jones had a header blocked from close range - but keeper Lee was rarely tested. In fact the best chance in the last 10 minutes fell to Francis Green who forced Barnes into a smart save.
Town played well enough to win convincingly against a limited Macclesfield team, but look more like a side that lack confidence and conviction than one challenging for promotion. I'd be more concerned if chances weren't being created, but Town's wasteful attitude in front of goal saw 18 shots missed. A fox in the box is badly needed if mid-table obscurity is to be avoided - and with Martin Paterson again netting for Scunny the need for a 20-goal a season striker is ever more a priority before the end of the transfer window this week.
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