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A Different League
By: Luke Fraser
GRIMSBY Town's puzzling form continued last night as they dumped League One leaders Carlisle out of the FA Cup at Blundell Park last night.
For a team that has picked up only 1 league point from a possible 24 and finds it impossible to keep a clean sheet against League Two opposition, Carlisle were dispatched reasonably comfortably. The Mariners' can now look forward to higher division opposition yet again, when they take on Huddersfield in round two!
Injuries and suspensions limited Alan Buckley's' options regarding team selection. Surprisingly, Gary Montgomery started in goal with Newey, Bennett, Fenton and Clarke making up the back four. The midfield four consisted of Toner, Hunt, Bolland and Till with Gary Jones and Danny North up front. It was back to 4-4-2 and there was a definite balance about the team. Leigh Oberton, a young 'keeper made the bench with plenty of attacking options alongside him in Bore, Taylor, Jarman and Hegarty.
Carlisle, who were lucky to get a replay after Tom Newey's aberration of a handball, also started 4-4-2 and had the likes of Zigor Aranalde, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson, Kevin Gall and the dangerous Danny Graham in their line-up.
It was a lively start from the Mariners and they almost took the lead after only three minutes. Peter Till beat Aranalde on the Carlisle left, whipped a dangerous ball into the box and Danny North's super volley came back off the post.
Carlisle gradually started to control the game after Town's early chance and they themselves were putting plenty of balls in the Town box. A couple of early corners were dealt with comfortably by Montgomery and Clarke cleared another well placed cross that was heading into the danger area.
Grimsby's biggest threat looked to be on the counter attack and they almost made it pay when North fired over, when perhaps he should have done better, and saw another strike saved by Westwood. Aranalde fired over at the other end as Carlisle reminded the Mariners of the threat they posed.
Town should have taken the lead after 22 minutes. Toner crossed the ball in, Gary Jones was free in the box but his rather weak header was saved by Westwood. It was a regulation chance for Jones, who has made a career of putting away chance like that! Almost immediately, the ball came back to Jones from the other wing and this time from a more difficult angle he forced Westwood to push the ball away to safety.
Hegarty replaced a struggling Bolly after 37 minutes, he took up position on the left and Toner moved into central midfield. It would be a good opportunity to see Toner perform in what is apparently his natural position.
Grimsby were playing some good stuff and really should have been leading at this point, hopefully they wouldn't be ruing missed chances yet again! The visitors created a couple of half chances for Gall and Graham and Town wasted a free kick from a good position as the half drew to a close. It had been a promising performance from Grimsby who looked unrecognizable from Saturday's shambles! Could they turn the screw in the second half and add the league two leaders to their list of scalps?
The second half saw both teams unchanged and began in quite a mellow fashion. Graham had another half chance for Carlisle but drilled his shot wide and Grimsby's main threat looked to be Ryan Bennett's long throws in towards the penalty spot.
Then, after an hour, Town took the lead with a stunning strike. Gary Jones dummied a through ball to allow it through to North. Danny North back heeled it straight back into the path of Jones who, from a difficult angle, flicked the ball into the back of the net with the outside of his right boot. The fans celebrated wildly and it was about what Town deserved. Although the balance of play was reasonably even, it was Grimsby who had created the more clear-cut chances.
Grimsby built on the momentum the goal gave them and appeared to be getting a bit of confidence back in their football. They nearly double their lead minutes later, Ciaran Toner finishing off a good move with a rasping drive that just cleared the bar.
Carlisle responded by making some changes, bringing on Carlton and Hackney, and suddenly began creating some chances. Montgomery made a super save from Danny Graham's cross shot which the Town defence then cleared and he calmly claimed a dangerous cross from just underneath his bar with the Carlisle strikers ready to pounce. Possibly, the visitors' best chance of the match then followed but Graham steered his diving header just wide of the post when he should have really hit the target.
With ten minutes to go Taylor replaced Till as Town looked to counter attack at pace in the wake of Carlisle's pressure on the Town goal. Danny North moved to the right. Ironically as the match drew to a close it was Grimsby who looked more like scoring. North had a great shot tipped over and good work by Taylor led to a Jones shot being blocked in the line.
Montgomery made a final telling contribution as he saved from Hackney in the dying minutes, but Town held out quite comfortably in the end. The referee brought proceedings to a close and the Mariners were in round two for the first time in 27 years (actually 4 I think?)
Just when Town seem to hit a new low they show they have got fighting spirit after all. This was a fairly accomplished performance against unquestionable strong opposition. Fair enough Carlisle were not at their best but you can only beat what's put in front of you.
We just need to transfer our cup performances into league performances. Personally, I would rather have gone out the cup and beat Morecambe given our perilous league position but that is history now.
Let's get behind the lads. I just hope the football, energy and quality apparent last night, alongside the confidence the elusive clean sheet has to give us can push Town up the league, past Huddersfield in round two and all the way to Wembley in the JPT! We can dream eh?
Man of the Match: Some good efforts all round really. I was pleased to see a good performance form James Hunt, who broke up play well and kept possession well. Monty had a super game in goal and picked up man of the match at BP but I'm going to go for Gary Jones. Some neat touches in and around the box, a threat in the air and a smashing strike that deserved to win any match.
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