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A Game of Good Halves
By: Rob Sedgwick
A nightmare last five minutes against fellow strugglers Bradford cost Grimsby a valuable win at Blundell Park today. A disallowed goal, a sending off and a last gasp penalty ensured a thrilling climax to the game but sent Bradford's fans home happy.
Paul Bolland's ankle injury meant he was unavailable for the first of two matches against our Yorkshire rivals. So Buckley started with Hunt and Boshell in central midfield, Rankin and Butler up front and Logan at right back.
Grimsby had the lion's share of possession in a fairly dull first half, although City came closest to scoring as early as their first attack of the game in the fifth minute. A quick breakaway culminated in a cross to dangerman Ndumbu-Nsungu who volleyed the ball straight at Phil Barnes.
After 12 minutes a Logan run and cross presented a chance to Rankin. The Bradford 'keeper ran out to challenge Rankin and the ball was cleared, but Evans was injured in the process. With City having no 'keeper on the bench he tried to play on, but after struggling to save a Till volley a few minutes later it was clear he couldn't continue. Evans went off injured and in his place went central defender Mark Bower.
Town's strategy now needed to be to pepper Bower's goal with shots and force him to make a mistake. Unfortunately with their record this season of shooting in the direction of the three pieces of wood and a net it clearly wasn't going to be easy.
The first half continued with Town failing to really test the stand-in 'keeper, while Bradford and especially Ndumbu-Nsungu continued to look dangerous on the counter attack.
Half Time: Grimsby 0 Bradford 0
It has probably been a "good half" in Fenty-speak. A clean sheet for starters, and most of the possession but no end product as usual, despite Butler's presence on the field. Grimsby were creating nothing from the right with Logan and Till, only on the left did they pose any threat and even there the Newey-Toner partnership did not look as threatening as it has done earlier on in the season. Paul Bolland was also desperately missed in the centre of the park.
Town broke the deadlock almost immediately at the start of the second half. For once Town put the 'keeper under pressure and confusion at the back led to Evans making a hurried clearance which went straight to Logan. The right back still had a lot to do but brilliantly chipped the ball over both the out of position Evans and a defender on the line.
Bradford fought back and Phil Barnes was called into action straight away, needing to make a series of saves in a 10 minute purple patch for the Bantams.
Logan had a great chance to add a second when the Bradford defence parted like the Red Sea in front of him, but his shot was deflected. Then a trademark Fenton header shook the crossbar from a corner. The Pontoon despaired.
Evans made a fine save from a Tom Newey free kick, before Bradford thought they had equalised. With celebrations underway from the otherwise strangely quiet away end, the referee pulled play back for a foul on Tom Newey.
Then with seemingly just a few minutes to see out, the Mariners pressed the self destruct button. First Phil Barnes intercepted the ball and inadvertently carried it outside his area. The ref had no choice but to send him off and after much delay and some handbags involving Fenton and Wetherall, Montgomery came off the bench to save the free kick. With Conlon heading the rebound over, it seemed it wasn't going to be Bradford's day.
Town though with just seconds to play out stupidly gave the ball away and a Bradford attack ended with Ndumbu-Nsungu going down in the box from a Whittle challenge. He made the most of what contact there was but Bradford should never have been allowed to get into that position in the first place. Ndumbu-Nsungu stepped up to equalise from the spot in what was the game's last action.
Full Time: Grimsby 1 Bradford 1
Town can bemoan their bad luck and blame the referee but once again their failure to create enough chances to win the game cost them dearly. Even their goal had a large amount of fortune: a) Bradford having no substitute keeper, and b) a mistake by the emergency goalkeeper. Butler doesn't seem to have made a substantial difference, we are just not getting the sort of balls into the box often enough from which any striker can create a chance.
It was probably though another two good halves chalked in John Fenty's notebook (and even entertaining for the non-existent neutral), but with two trips to Rotherham and MK Dons coming up the Mariners will have to be at their very best to avoid entering the bottom two in ten days' time.
Man of the Match would have been Phil Barnes with 89 minutes on the clock. Instead though Isaiah Rankin gets the nod, terrible at Wycombe, but he led the line well today and looked threatening on occasion.
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