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'Tis The Season To Be Jolly!
By: Ian Blakemore
THE festive period was, as ever, always going to be an important part of the season for Alan Buckley and his troops. With Town struggling at the foot of the table points were needed in order to pull away from the relegation battle – that, admittedly, their poor start had dragged themselves into.
Town picked up a fantastic point at Stockport, a place where we haven’t had much luck in recent seasons. Butler got his first goal for the Mariners, Town defended bravely against a second half of Stockport pressure, keeping the hosts at bay and forcing them to shoot from distance, until a rash tackle by Hird with 7 minutes to go on the edge of the 18 yard box gave Stockport the chance to equalize from the set piece. Despite the disappointment of 2 dropped points, the result was seen as a point gained from a tricky fixture.
Boxing Day saw the visit of Accrington Stanley with their very small band of supporters who had made the journey east. Town took an early lead from Nick Heggarty who scored a very well taken goal in front of the Pontoon Stand. The rest of the game was one to forget, Accrington scored two easy second half goals as the Town team seemed to go to sleep. Town looked second best for most of the game despite taking the lead. Mullins gave the Mariners backline a torrid time and scored a goal his performance deserved for the visitors.
Everyone knew how important the Lincoln game would be for both teams, defeat was not an option! Town dominated the first half with Eggy putting four brilliant balls across the ground between the six yard box and the keeper and on two occasions the Imps defence clearing over their own bar. A goal would have made the game spring into life! Town dominated and should have been at least four nil up at half time with the imps offering no attacking motion. In the second half Lincoln looked to have a bit more urgency about their play, but was still poor. Town had more chances and plenty of pressure, Jones and Taylor came on half way through the half. Taylor chased everything; Jones got involved and looked to bully the massive back line of the Imps. The game looked to be heading for stalemate until the 85th minute when for some strange reason the Lincoln keeper made a hard work of Boshell’s poor free kick and dropped it onto Jones’s head for him to score. A vital win, not a pretty game but a victory was well deserved as Town kept up the pressure all game.
Town travelled to the Welsh border for the New Years day fixture against Chester City, with over 230 Town fans making the journey west. During the first half Chester had a couple of fantastic opportunities which thankfully they wasted as Town lacked fluency. Buckley described the first half as the worst performance he had ever seen from a Mariners side. During the second period Town took the game to Chester. The turning point was again the use of a substitution, on came Danny North for Martin Butler. On the 64th minute North got the ball inside the penalty box and drew the keeper into making a foul giving Town a penalty. Boshell stepped up to dispatch the spot kick to give the Mariners a precious lead. The win was sealed on the 84th minute when Atkinson celebrated his loan extension by glancing in a Tom Newey cross into the net. A vital win took Town further away from the relegation scrap with Mansfield, Wrexham and Dagenham losing their fixtures and Lincoln only managing a draw.
Suddenly half way through the season, Town have everything to play for with 13 points separating us from a play off position. A good run of form has seen the Mariners pick up 7 points from a possible 12, with two consecutive wins and keeping clean sheets during those wins. It is important not to get to carried away as a dip in form could see us once again fighting in a relegation scrap. The performances may not have been vintage football, but the players at last in three of the games showed they were prepared to battle for the points, which was something we seemed to lack earlier on in the season, lets hope we have turned the corner.
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