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The Iceman Cometh
By: Andrew Doherty
"Ice Alert" was the message which flashed on the display of my car as I passed the Great Grimsby sign. We’re back home this week after visiting the dismal surroundings of Huddersfield and Brentford. Today was no different. It was grey and depressing.
And the football hadn’t even started. Driving past Weelsby Woods, King George V playing field and through Lovelane Corner en route to Cleethorpes, I looked around to see what had changed. Not much, really. Laportes club is still there but called something else now, and looking dilapidated. I drove past the austere and oppressive buildings that were once Clee Grammar, no doubt presiding over an ever unfriendly environment. The rasping Norwegian Black Metal I was listening to matched the contempt I felt for that vile place. "Grammar Schools = Authorised Bullying. Discuss". By contrast the houses further down Clee Road looked bright and cheerful, before another blot in the form of the Girl’s Grammar, now the Lindsey School. Beyond Sussex Rec was the sight of the art deco building housing Twinkles, catering for all your fancy dress and pantomime needs. Do they stock black and white shirts, I wonder? Oh yes, they do.
Having parked the car, I took a walk past Bursar Street primary school - more memories. The playground had been brightened up and there was a nice play area, and, curiously, a gazebo in the middle. Displaying a commercial edge, the notice board advertised the attractions. The "Great Mariners Christmas Cracker", Grimsby versus Mansfield, competed with yoga and tap dancing classes. I took a walk to the sea front. It was cold and grey, and the tide was out. It was brilliant just the same. Such ambience is missing in inland parts. I carried on to the ground and was there in time to see the players warming up. Pessimism prevailed around me. "No wonder they can’t win. They’ll be knackered before they start". I guess this was one supporter’s critical analysis of modern training technology. "We have the worst home record". "Quick Mick’ll score as he always does". The few Mansfield supporters would have appreciated this sentiment, but the view from the even fewer Grimsby supporters suggested apathy. The atmosphere wasn’t missing. It had never arrived.
Yet there was cause for temporary optimism. We were on a one game winning run and we should fancy our chances against lowly Mansfield, shouldn’t we? Oh, we’re lowly too. Almost forgot. This was a relegation six pointer. The tide was coming in beyond the Main Stand. A blue DFDS Tor Line ship added a bit of colour as it slipped by. Otherwise it was bleak in the "Smiths Upper" as the ticket office still has it. Here we go though. Time for some frozen fun and frolics.
Once again, the line-up suggested 5-3-2:
Barnes : Hird - Atkinson - Bennett - Newey - Hegarty : Bolland - Boshell - Toner : North - Jones.
Grimsby looked determined from the off with Boshell putting in a fierce tackle and Newey shielding well, but generally no-one seemed to have much direction. Grimsby had the first shot on 8 minutes when Toner won the ball and ran clear, only to hit North in the back. A minute later, Town had a great chance when Buxton made a hash of a routine clearance. Bolland ran on and with only the goalkeeper to beat, decided to blast it. The ball shaved the top of the crossbar. Rubbish. I think in fact I must have said something slightly stronger because the lady in front turned round as I passed comment, and her unappreciative expression didn’t suggest she was wishing me a Happy Christmas. A Yellow Card for Andrew Doherty.
North did a bit better a few moments later, and again soon after when the goalkeeper made an excellent stop following good work by Toner who created the opportunity for North. Town won a corner on 12, and 3 minutes later Jones laid off well to North but the chance was wasted. Jones retrieved the ball, and once again got involved a couple of minutes later when there was an appeal for a penalty as he fell over. It was not given. D’Lanyea worryingly ran through unchallenged on 21 for Mansfield, and Atkinson slipped but recovered just in time to deny Quick Mick Boulding.
The overall quality was poor enough without a loss of concentration as well. Mansfield built some attacks and won a corner on 23 following a tussle between Newey and Rory Boulding, the same player just heading over the bar. Neither side seemed to have any discernible grip. Mansfield’s pressure continued and after Rory Boulding won a corner on 25, Quick Mick had a shot blocked on 28 following a mistake by Atkinson. Hegarty cleared following the corner. Grimsby were struggling to control things in midfield, a familiar theme.
Grimsby gained a couple of corners on 30, when North attempted to control a high cross, and again on 32 thanks to determined battling by Jones. Mansfield had a momentary scare on 37 but Muggleton in goal beat North to it after a header back. Mansfield built up a dangerous attack a minute later and won a corner. Grimsby lumbered back up the field and gained a corner themselves, but Boshell’s cross dribbled out for a goal kick.
On 40, Bolland was fouled, resulting in a free-kick which Newey crossed straight to the Mansfield defender. Grimsby got it back and wasted it. This was a summary of the half. And so it went on. Bennett stopped Quick Mick, Brown missed for Mansfield and on 45 Rory Boulding fired a shot out of the ground. Half-time. Relief. Grimsby Town 0, Mansfield Town 0.
Half-time verdict. Dire. The build-up, if that’s what it was, was aimless. Grimsby’s midfield was achieving no end result, in spite of Toner, Boshell and Bolland putting in plenty of effort. To make any progress, we were just going to have to start controlling our passing game, and there was no sign of it so far. Grimsby had a couple of chances thanks to Jones and North, who looked lively, and Mansfield had a let-off following a defensive mistake but overall Grimsby were making no impression. Mansfield weren’t great either but looked more dangerous with the Bouldings’ pace causing problems. My feet were like blocks of ice. I wasn’t alone, evidently. "What’s it like to feel your feet" chanted a section of the crowd. Survival was going to be the key to this one.
The report continues in the Second Half
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