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Match Report: vs Lincoln
By: Bradley King
ON the back of the disturbing defeat to Accrington on Boxing Day, Town now found themselves plunged further into a relegation scrap. Now their local adversaries and fellow strugglers Lincoln- led by former Huddersfield manager Peter Jackson- visited Blundell Park for a festive six pointer. The match-up was referred to by Alan Buckley as a ‘must win game’ for Town.
This article was provided to The Fishy by BAWC, the leading Grimsby Town fanzine.
The Mariners lined up in a 5-3-2 formation, with Phil Barnes defending the net. Teenage prodigy Ryan Bennett and captain for the day Tom Newey were in the heart of the defence along with Barnsley loanee Rob Atkinson who replaced the suspended Nick Fenton. Sam Hird slotted in at right wing back while Nick Hegarty occupied the opposite flank. With Ciaran Toner still out injured, Buckley went with his three ‘battlers’ in the middle- Paul Bolland, James Hunt and Danny Boshell. Danny North was the preferred partner for Martin Butler up top with Gary Jones dropping to the bench.
After going 15 games without a win earlier in the season, Lincoln had enjoyed a mini-revival under their new leadership as of late. However, fans would have recognised much of the Imps line-up. On loan Ben Smith, who had appeared at Blundell Park already this term in Doncaster colours, took his place in goal backed up by a back four which included former Crewe captain Adie Moses. Scott Kerr, once a target of Russell Slade, sat alongside hot prospect Lee Frecklington in midfield. Ex-Town striker Jamie Forrester started in a wide left position, looking to drift infield at every opportunity.
The amount of travelling Lincoln fans was, as usual, fairly disappointing with the whole of the left section of the Osmond Stand empty. Moreover, the lack of pre-match mantra from the Imps supporters accurately reflected the precarious state that the club finds itself in. Where in previous seasons, playoffs were the minimum aspiration for the club, it now finds itself deep in the doldrums of the basement league. It seemed the fans had been left demoralised by the awful first half to the season.
Premiership referee Lee Mason got the game underway with Town once again attacking the Pontoon for the first forty five. The first ten to fifteen minutes passed without notable incident, with opponents in midfield battling to get the upper hand. Lincoln’s defence looked to have plenty of brawn but lacked mobility, which could explain Buckley’s decision to start with the pace of North.
On the fifteen minute mark, Boshell provided good service for Martin Butler but his powerful header was met well by the palm of Smith who managed to parry to safety. This was followed up by a series of brilliant crosses from Nick Hegarty on the left hand side, all of which were nervously dealt with by the opposition defence.
Hegarty was in the action once again soon after. A Lincoln corner was cleared by Paul Bolland who found Danny North on the halfway line, one on one with a Lincoln defender. Nick Hegarty sprinted forward in support on North’s left but there was too much on the young striker’s pass and the covering Beevers could clear to touch. It looked like it was going to be one of those days…
Town continued their relentless pressure as another Hegarty cross fell to Sam Hird, lovingly nicknamed ‘Turd’ by the Lower Carlsberg faithful after his inconsistent performances so far in a black and white shirt, who struck the ball on the half volley. Lincoln though had numbers back and cleared off the line for a corner kick.
The Imps- playing in a Brazil-like yellow shirts, blue shorts strip- were finding it difficult to have an impact on the game, and Nat Brown’s frustration was clear as his 35 yard effort ballooned into the Lincoln mob.
Just before half time, Lincoln won a corner as they looked to take the lead against the run of play. Town cold only clear to the edge of the box where central defender and beefy carthorse Hamza Bencherif managed to launch his hefty frame off the turf for an outrageous attempt at an overhead kick. As it soared out of the atmosphere, the stench of desperation was palpable.
Half time came with the Mariners firmly in control. However for all their domination, the scoreboard still read 0-0 and sticking the ball in the back of the net was still a problem. North wasn’t on song and Butler was invisible for the majority of the half. The brightest point of the forty five was undoubtedly Nick Hegarty’s all round performance, and particularly the quality of his crosses from the left where Nat Brown had no answer to his trickery.
Lincoln had the better of the opening second half exchanges with Louis Dodds having his shot blocked by Bennett.
However Town created the best opportunity of the first fifteen of the period when a Danny Boshell free kick found Rob Atkinson whose header shaved the top of the crossbar.
The fiery tackles that traditionally come hand in hand with local derbies wasn’t evident in the game. That was until the hour mark when Scott Kerr went in late on Bolland and was cautioned for the misdemeanour.
Gary Jones was introduced soon after, with the disappointing Danny North being replaced. North had struggled to make an impact on a game in which was tailor-made for him, with the defenders clear lack of athleticism. Buckley now looked to fight fire with fire through the addition of Jones to proceedings.
Bennett then slid in on a Lincoln attacker on the edge of the penalty area, the striker making the most of limited contact with the judges awarding 6.0 for his Olympic style leap. The resulting free-kick was fired against the Grimsby wall, and then cleared to safety.
Town continued to look for what wold surely be a winning goal, and another sublime Hegarty cross found Hird completely unmarked at the back stick. Seemingly caught in two minds, Hird neither pulled the ball back to the nearby Hunt nor shot as he ball rolled out for a goal kick.
Just as it looked to be another frustrating day for the Mariners, the deadlock was finally broken. With five minutes left, Boshell floated a free kick from the left into the 6 yard area. Smith should have collected easily, but the ball popped out from his grasp and found the head of JONES who nodded in at the near post, sending the Town fans into raptures.
With little time left, Town tried to run the clock down in the corner. With Jones shielding the ball, red mist descended upon Scott Kerr whose kung-fu style kick earned him a second yellow card. The sending off halted all hope of an equaliser for Lincoln, with the full time whistle sounding minutes later. The Imps now find themselves further into difficulty and the possibility of dropping out of the league has been amplified. On the other hand, the three points was a huge bonus for Town who move up in the table, almost towards the serene refuge of mid-table stability.
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