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Singing in the Raynes
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY now find themselves in the Northern Area Final after winning their fourth consecutive game at a windy and rainy Stockport. All three goals in the second half came from mistakes, with Stockport's Raynes scoring the own goal which took Town through, a step closer to a Wembley final.
It is 18 years since Grimsby won at Edgeley Park and nine games since Town beat one of their greatest bogey sides of recent years. The victory makes up for the game before Christmas when Town came so close to grabbing three points from the Cheshire club, eventually drawing 1-1 after a late County equaliser.
Town now stand a two-legged final away from reaching the new Wembley stadium exactly ten years on from their famous 1998 double at the Twin Towers (sadly now gone) at the start of Alan Buckley's second spell at Blundell Park.
Jamie Clarke came in at right wing back in place of the cup-tied Hird while Danny Boshell had to settle for a place on the bench. Town continued playing with their 3-5-2 formation. Conditions were appalling with a strong, cold biting wind making it very hard to play in.
In the first minute Danny North got in behind the Stockport defence but the 'keeper came off his line to intercept North's shot.
On ten minutes a ball was played over the top into the box which Jones anticipated well but Logan again was there to block Jones's shot from a narrow angle.
For the remainder of the first half Stockport had the lion's share of possession but Grimsby defended well, with Rob Atkinson outstanding in Town's back three. County were at their most dangerous from the set pieces which Grimsby kept conceding.
In the 14th minute Elding broke into the box but failed to control the ball, then in the 27th minute Poole skipped past Bolland and his shot was saved by Barnes
Grimsby's best chance during this period came on the half hour mark when a poor backpass by Tunnicliffe was pounced on by North but was cleared for a corner.
Stockport's dangerman Elding then had a trio of chances which he failed to capitalise on. On 32 minutes Smith - in loads of space on the right - crossed to Elding who, under pressure from Atkinson, headed wide
On 35 Elding got behind the Town defence but blasted his shot wide, again hampered by the impressive Atkinson. Three minutes later County's leading scorer fired over Town's goal from a corner.
Stockport's best attempt came last however. Just before half time Atkinson and Elding both went for a ball from a Poole cross, and it crashed against the post with Barnes beaten
Half Time: Stockport 0 Grimsby 0
At half time there were hailstones, thunder and lightning and the Town fans were moved to the covered area.
Early in the second half the game was a stalemate. Elding missed another good chance for Stockport, then Danny North volleyed wide from an acute angle, but neither side looked like scoring in difficult conditions.
Then on 59 minutes North laid the ball into the path of Clarke who unleashed a 25 yard drive which moved in the air and was parried upwards by the 'keeper Logan. The ball came back down and under pressure from his own defender it spun out of the 'keeper's grasp and into the net.
Town's joy was short-lived as almost straight away Pilkington had a low shot from edge of penalty area. Barnes seemed to have got behind the ball but in the slippery conditions it squirmed out of his grasp into the net.
Town though were beginning to look the better side and did not let the mistake by Barnes get to them. A Newey free kick was tipped over by Logan and then Jones headed just wide from an excellent cross by Hegarty.
Stockport were not out of it though and Atkinson was needed to make a great covering challenge on Elding after Newey gave the ball away
Then came the decider. Another great cross by Hegarty looped into the box and Raynes lashed a foot at it, the ball slicing off him into the corner of the net. It was literally a slice of luck, but no more than Town's play deserved.
Hegarty and North both had gilt edged chances to put the game beyond doubt in the closing stages, and Phil Barnes had to be at his best to tip the ball round the post for a corner from a dangerous free kick, in a similar position to where Stockport scored their equaliser in the league game.
Grimsby hung on and recorded their fourth successive win to continue their 100% run in 2008.
The games with Morecambe, who tonight beat Bury, take place on 19th and 26th February. If Grimsby do get to Wembley it could go a long way toward paying off their outstanding debts to the Inland Revenue.
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