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It’s Not Like Watching Portsmouth Part 2
By: Andrew Doherty
"HERE they cooomme ..." screamed the overdramatic announcer. Everyone laughed or ignored him. The rain was still heaving down. Bolland had a snap shot on 47 which went over, and then Town won a free kick on 51 when Jones was trodden on. It led to nothing.
Brentford had an attack on 53, forcing Barnes to race out and clear it. The clearance was poor, landing at the feet of a Brentford player on the half way line with Barnes out of position. The player saw an opportunity but his speculative shot was closer to the corner flag than the goal. "It’s just like watching Grimsby", chanted the Town end in response.
Town set up an attack straightway and Hunt’s effort following a cross was pushed wide for a corner. Then Atkinson’s header was cleared off the Brentford line. Bennett came to Town’s rescue with a good block after a poor clearance on 56. The ball was fluidly passed up the right and slipped into Jones’s path by North. Jones took aim from 12 yards out and slipped the ball under the goalkeeper into the left corner. Brentford 0, Grimsby Town 1.
Town attacked up the right side again on 58 and won a corner, before Brentford came back in numbers. Toner stopped a rampant attack, but Brentford were soon back. Starosta had a shot which Barnes fumbled. Then on 62, O’Connor had a chance before Dickson was left open. Starosta put in another cross but it eluded everyone. On 65, Hegarty cleared but only to a Brentford player. Town were doing this too much but were not being punished for the loss of possession by a Brentford side who were incapable of finding the finishing touch.
Town had a brief attack involving Hegarty and a corner was won, but a mistake by Hird on 68 saw Brentford on the attack again. Bennett cleared the cross safely, conceding a corner, and then cleared again. Another cross followed. Town were not playing sensibly. The pace was too quick and the quality of clearances was poor, resulting in Brentford having the majority of possession and being allowed to continue with wave after wave of attacks. On 71, North weighed up his options and won Town a corner after a scramble.
Barnes cleared well on 73, which enabled Hunt to lay the ball off to Hird, but the move lost momentum with North in possession. After an excellent headed clearance by Fenton in Town’s defence, Hird took up the ball on the right and switched the ball across to Hegarty whose cross was poor. Town were starting to play better again. Toner saved the day with a great tackle on 77, then Brentford’s O’Connor had a good chance, but took too long with his first touch and fell over. I didn't see that in the Portsmouth game.
On 79, Rankin came on for the industrious North. Fenton committed a foul 35 yards out but Bennett headed clear, and stopped Connell when the ball came in. Town broke and Rankin showed his worth by keeping control and slowing the game down in a move with Jones. Toner then appeared to be held, but no free-kick was given. Shakes’s effort was cleared. Jones then conceded a foul but Bolland this time booted the ball clear to safety.
Rankin worked a move with Hird and played into the corner, winning the ball back after losing it. Rankin was adding a dimension and helping Town to keep the lead. On 87, Starosta put in another dangerous cross but Barnes gathered Thorpe’s header. Atkinson cleared to Rankin on 89 but the rest of the team let Rankin down, expecting him to keep the ball when outnumbered by Brentford players instead of giving him support.
Brentford won a free-kick on the half way line on 90 minutes, but a push on Bennett and a free-kick to Town relieved the pressure. A minute later Brentford won a free-kick next to the touchline after a push. Barnes punched the cross clear, but the ball came back in. Barnes, 2 yards off his line, fumbled it. The ball stopped dead. Everybody piled in and a Brentford goal looked a certainty, but after a massive scramble Toner got his foot at it and cleared it before Thorpe could touch it into the net. Whittle came on for Hunt. A few seconds later, the full-time whistle blew. Brentford 0, Grimsby Town 1.
Verdict. It wasn't like watching Portsmouth. Fluidity was in short supply. This was a fighting performance. Neither side was great, which could be in part put down to slippery conditions, but it was also in large part due to a lack of self-belief and in Brentford’s case a lack of imagination. Brentford were predictable, relying on clearing out to the wings and getting crosses in. Bennett and Fenton proved that they could deal easily with crosses. When the ball came loose in Town’s defence, all the defenders blocked well and there was no shortage of determination to muscle Brentford out of possession. Town’s own play was good in parts but mostly patchy. Clearances from the defence weren't convincing and often resulted in the return of the ball. Town only started to control play more when Buckley brought on Rankin, and even then the rest of the team did not seem to understand the tactic. There were positives in the performance, not least in the link-ups involving North, Jones, Hird, Toner, Hunt and Bolland. Although a lot of moves broke down, Town looked particularly dangerous where Hird was operating up the right. As always, Jones held up and laid off the ball up front in addition to scoring a good goal. North put himself about a lot. In midfield, Toner, Bolland and Hunt all worked tirelessly to win 50/50 balls. As far as Man of the Match is concerned, for me Ciaran Toner just edged out the impressive Ryan Bennett thanks to his positional play. His involvement in defence as well as midfield was immense.
There is clearly work to be done, but a 1 - 0 victory is just what we needed. It’s a million miles from the silkiness of Portsmouth, but it will more than do. Next up is a 6 pointer against Mansfield. We must once again engage in the struggle and win.
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