League Two Form Guide
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Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
Dreams Can Come True
By: Rob Sedgwick
LAST night I dreamt that Grimsby drew 1-1 with Stockport, although the goals came in the opposite order in my dream. In today's game the Mariners came within seven minutes of recording a third consecutive win but were denied by a late free kick. The final score? 1-1.
Christmas was apparent throughout the crowd despite the wet and cold weather, with a number of fans sporting Santa outfits or hats.
Alan Buckley made two changes from the team that beat Mansfield last Saturday. In came Fenton for Atkinson in the back three and Danny North's illness meant a return for Martin Butler who is due to sign permanently for the Mariners next month.
Town once again played with their new look 3-5-2 formation which has seen a marked improvements in results of late. Both sides failed to create much in the opening stages of a scrappy game, which saw both Stockport and Grimsby give the ball away a lot on a wet surface. Bolland had a half chance when he made a run into the box, but the pass to him was slightly too strong and he failed to make proper contact with the ball.
Town took the lead with the first serious chance of the game. Hegarty found himself in space on the left wing and put in a cross which reached Butler on the far post. The big striker took his time and placed the ball past the 'keeper to score his first ever Town goal.
The goal gave Town increased confidence and they were unfortunate not to extend their lead in a purple spell. First Gary Jones placed the ball in the net, but was denied by the linesman, despite the ball seeming to come off a Stockport player. Then great play by Hegarty saw him get to a ball which looked like it was going out and pull back a cross to Butler. Butler from a point blank range forced a great save from the 'keeper. Within seconds Hird had a goal denied by the same linesman for offside.
Stockport had a lot of possession playing many balls into the box at pace to feet especially from crosses and Town's defence had their work cut out just dealing with all the pressure. Despite the possession though Stockport did not really give Phil Barnes a lot to do in the first half.
A late Town free kick saw the ball sail over everyone and reach the last man Nick Fenton who headed it narrowly over.
Half Time: Stockport 0 Grimsby 1
Town were well worth their lead. They had defended well in numbers, and created the better chances at the other end. Barnes had hardly been called into action despite all the balls into the box. Nick Hegarty had been excellent both going forward where Town got the benefit of playing a left-footed player in this position, and also defending at the other end where he worked very hard to contain the Stockport No. 7. His counterpart on the other side of the pitch Hird seemed reluctant to go forward as much and seemed betwixt and between defence and midfield, playing at times more like an orthodox right back.
Stockport made a change at half time, bringing on an extra striker and playing three up front. It didn't play immediate dividends though as Town had an early chance falling to Fenton which was cleared off the line from a corner on 50 minutes.
Alan Buckley though felt that Town had to respond to Stockport's new formation and brought Hunt on for Jones. It seemed a negative move, and could we really defend a 1-0 lead for 35 minutes against an all-out attack?
Stockport continued to pile forward but some heroic defending by Town denied them much in the way of free scoring opportunities. They were almost undone by a short Tom Newey backpass but Phil Barnes was alert to it and just intercepted the ball in time, injuring a Stockport player in the process.
Alan Buckley then reverted to two up front when he brought on Rankin for Toner. Stockport though kept pressing, using their hands at times to help control the ball with seeming impunity from the referee.
The game then entered a "handbags" phase. Firstly Butler was booked for use of his handbag, and then a mass brawl erupted after a bad challenge by Herd just outside the box when all three officials ended up on the pitch separating players. Hird was eventually booked for the challenge and Fenton and a Stockport player for the part in the "afters". The incident took up a good two minutes just to sort out but when play resumed and Stockport eventually took the free kick Rose curled the ball around the wall and past the dive of Barnes to level the game.
Another foul conceded in a similar position (when Bennett was booked for dissent) gave Stockport a great chance to win the game. Barnes left acres of space on his left hand side and Rose inevitably directed his shot at the far right of the goal. Fortunately Barnes managed to get across and claw the ball away to safety.
Town survived more pressure in the dying moments and hung on for a good point which was probably a fair result. Grimsby were the better side in the first half, but after Gary Jones went off they were not the attacking force they were had been before the break. Credit must go to all the defence for some heroic actions but Man of the Match goes to Nick Hegarty, much neglected by a string of Grimsby managers, but who today showed his worth to the team both going forward and defending.
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