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Wembley - Here we Come?
By: Luke Fraser
THE Mariners continued their run in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and now stand only two wins away from a trip to Wembley after knocking out League One opposition for the second time in three rounds.
It was pretty much guess the line up, as injuries, suspensions and Alan Buckleyâ€™s frequent tinkering make it nigh on impossible to predict which 11 will don the shirts and even more so to preempt the formation. Barnes started in goal, Clarke, Bennett, Fenton and Hegarty made up a back four of sorts. Hunt sat just in front of them in a holding role with Till, Bolly and Bosh making up the rest of the midfield. Danny North started up front with Gary Jones. I couldn't quite decide whether it was 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 but I for one was pleased to see Danny North get a run out after a brief spell in the GTFC wilderness.
Doncaster had hit some form in League One and were the holders of this illustrious trophy. They were also backed by an impressive (if very quiet following). They made a few changes to their usual line-up but as competition rules dictate you must field a near full strength side, they were going to be a hard nut for Town to crack. As the rain pelted down at BP play got underway and Town started positively hoping to build on the impressive performance at Carlisle last Saturday against arguably stronger opposition.
Town were passing the ball around brightly and with Doncaster also playing the ball around a bit the opening exchanges were fluent and lively despite the conditions. Town had the first half chance when Danny North nearly latched onto a dangerous back pass, but the Doncaster â€˜keeper just got to the ball in time and a goal kick ensued. Doncaster were looking dangerous on the break and had their first opportunity shortly after when referee Bates awarded them a free kick on the edge of the Town box. Martin Woods took it and it just scraped past the post into the side netting, although Phil Barnes looked to have it covered all the way!
After 13 minutes Town took the lead. Good work on the right by Peter Till saw him drive a dangerous cross right past the face of the Doncaster goal leaving Danny Boshell the simple task of diverting the ball into the net. Town were buoyed by taking the lead and seemed to increase in confidence. Good work on the left flank between Hegarty and Bolland gave the lively Danny North a run in on goal but as he turned to shoot Stephen Roberts got in a last ditch tackle and the ball rolled easily towards the â€˜keeper.
With Town in apparent control Doncaster were gifted an equalizer after 25 minutes and it was a howler from young Ryan Bennett. He failed to control a simple ball and let it squirm under his foot. Lewis Guy stole in behind him and slotted the ball away clinically with Bennett desperately appealing for offside. It was a clear blunder from the promising young defender and hopefully he'll learn from the mistake. After all he has made an excellent start to his Town career. It was also a warning to Town that Doncaster were very capable of taking any chances offered to them.
The game continued in a nip and tuck manner. Boshell was having a good game in the midfield and worked the Doncaster â€˜keeper with a powerful shot from distance and Phil Barnes continued his promising run of form with a cracking near post save from Heffernanâ€™s headed opportunity. After 40 minutes Gary Jones was replaced by Nathan Jarman. Jones had made some tidy contributions and had presumably picked up a knock.
As half time approached it looked like the teams would go in all square before a bizarre own goal gave the Mariners the edge. Smith cleared the ball and skied it into the air, the wind got hold of the ball and Mills attempt to head it back to the â€˜keeper saw the ball loop up and over him and into the net. A rare bit of fortune for the Mariners and a 2-1 half-time lead. Would they be able to hold on? If this season's experience was anything to go by the answer would have to be no!
Town came out for the second half with energy and vigour. The passing and movement was good and it appeared they were enjoying playing against a team who allowed them time and space to play. Within 10 minutes of the second half Town had two guilt-edged chances to kill the game. Firstly, Danny North somehow headed over after a cross from the left (it seemed easier to score) and when Nathan Jarman was put clean through he made the cardinal sin of not even hitting the target. Any avid follower of The Mariners this season would tell you that Town were likely to regret missing these chances. However, given some recent matches at least we were creating them!
After the early second half pressure from the Mariners, Doncaster started to get back into the game. Some neat play down the left saw Heffernan beat Phil Barnes with a rasping shot only for it to bounce back off the post. Alan Buckley replaced Peter Till with Justin Whittle in an attempt to shore up the defence. However, 30 minutes seemed a long time for Town to hang on to a one goal lead!
As the game entered the final quarter and the Mariners' faithful were turning their thoughts to Wembley they were dealt what appeared a cruel blow by the referee. To the surprise of most people in the ground Doncaster were awarded a penalty when Fenton was penalised for a push on McCammon. It seemed harsh, especially considering the lack of an appeal from either the Doncaster players or supporters. HEFFERNAN made no mistake from the spot and lashed the ball into the roof of the net. It was the fourth penalty Town had conceded in 5 games. Alan Buckley responded by giving Peter Bore a run out and although he got his foot on the ball a couple of times it was the away team who had the momentum.
Doncaster pushed forward in the last 10 minutes and on a couple of occasions could have stole the match but a combination of last ditch defending and wayward shooting meant that the match finished in a draw and it was straight to penalty kicks!
Grimsby had performed well against a good team and had they taken their chances maybe should have deserved to win outright.
The shoot out was taken at the Osmond End and Phil Barnes capped a good night for himself by saving the first penalty from Green. The next eight were all dispatched confidently with Boshell, North, Hunt and Jarman scoring for the Mariners leaving Paul Bolland with the chance to put Grimsby into the Northern semi-final. His kick was well saved by Smith but the Town fans agony turned to ecstasy when the referee ordered the kick to be retaken. Second time around Bolly made no mistake and the Mariners were through. The 2000 or so Town fans celebrated noisily and the 2000 or so Rovers fans left as quietly as they had been for most of the match.
Ten years on and with only teams form League Two left in the Northern Section of this competition could the Mariners be on their way to Wembley?
Man of the Match: There were some good performances all round. Jamie Clarke played like the right back we need, it was good to see Paul Bolland back in the midfield, and Danny North had a good first hour before running out of steam. Phil Barnes also continued his good form of late. However, for me Danny Boshell showed his all round midfield prowess with a super all round performance and capped off a fine display with his goal.
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