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The Death of Football
By: Rob Sedgwick
TWO goals, at the start and end of the first half, were enough to see leaders MK Dons cruise to a comfortable 2-0 victory over the Mariners and put another nail in manager Alan Buckley's coffin.
Milton Keynes could even afford the luxury of a missed penalty in first half injury time. Town only created a serious chance of a goal late in the game and MK Dons were able to coast untroubled through most of the second period.
Stadium MK is a magnificent arena, still incomplete, with facilities to grace higher divisions. Even the seats were padded, although there were so many of them the 150 Grimsby fans present practically had an aisle to themselves and we could all relieve ourselves simultaneously in the spacious toilets.
The home supporters, a body of people that, like their colleagues at nearby Rushden and Diamonds, have spontaneously arisen in Middle England, and appeared to comprise predominantly of children, a generation of fans groomed for a glittering future. We Grimbarians felt like we stood at the other end of the spectrum, a team and a town with a proud history but a terrible present and losing fans not gaining them.
Town, who began the game in a 4-5-1 formation with Butler as our nominal striker, got off to the worse possible start. Toner allowed Knight time and space to get in a cross and pick out his man, none other than Grimsby's nemesis Wilbraham, who expertly placed the ball past Barnes with his head. The Town fans, with less than 30 seconds on the clock, didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Town improved on their dreadful start, and MK Dons did not go on to seriously trouble the Mariners until the end of a dull first half. Grimsby, inevitably, created nothing and Buckley responded midway through the half by sacrificing a midfielder (Clarke) for a striker (Jarman). Town continued to create nothing.
Then a slip by Town allowed MK Dons to put together an incisive series of passes which opened up Town's defence and Mark Wright finished the move off by curling the ball past Barnes.
Town's Logan ended the half by clearly (despite the protestations of some Town fans) handling the ball in the box, and the linesman gave a penalty. Our one and only cheer of the evening came when Cameron struck the post from the spot.
Half Time: MK Dons 2 Grimsby 0
MK Dons had taken their chances, Grimsby hadn't because they didn't create any.
Alan Buckley replaced Toner with Hegarty at half time, which at least gave Town's longest serving player a chance to show what he can do in his natural wide left position.
Town had a mini spell at the beginning of the second half when they vaguely troubled MK Dons. Jarman, who looked worth giving a second viewing, had an (admittedly weak) shot from long range and Hegarty even put the ball in the net, but fouled a defender along the way.
Taylor came on in place of Till on the right wing and had two good chances to score. Firstly he was played through in the box and decided to take two touches, which proved one to many. Then in the final minute Taylor had a one on one with the 'keeper but ran into him and failed to even get in a shot.
In between Logan (who was booked) brought down an MK Dons defender on the edge of the box, and was lucky not to be Town's third player to be sent off in consecutive games.
And that was it. MK Dons rarely broke sweat and Town failed to muster enough chances to have deserved to have got anything from the game.
Full Time: MK Dons 2 Grimsby 0
Man of the Match was Ryan Bennett who looked the part at centre back, and hopefully will be a mainstay of Town teams of the near future.
Alan Buckley's future is looking increasingly precarious and his number of supporters (of those who continue to go) is decreasingly with every game. He seems powerless to address Town's problems (impotent strikers, no creative midfielders, no proper left winger or right back) and has continued to pick the same team all season, with only injuries forcing any deviation from Buckley's Best Side. The only players who did not look demoralised tonight were those on the fringes of the team like Jarman and Taylor.
With the stadium project finally looking like it offers hope of a better future, survival in the Football League is imperative and we cannot allow ourselves to become embedded in the bottom two before we act.
Increasingly the question tonight was when, not if, Buckley should go. With the next league game 10 days away and a seemingly hopeless trip to Carlisle in between, there would seem to be no better time than the present to give Stuart Watkiss a few games to see if he can do better with our squad than our fallen idol Alan Buckley.
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