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Match Report: vs Wrexham
By: Jake Olley
Date: 12/01/2008 (Last updated: 03/03/2008)
THE Mariners today capped off a fantastic week - in which they secured their place in the Northern Section of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy - as they slayed the Red Dragons of Wrexham at Blundell Park. In a game in which the Dragons threatened to come away with something with a few testing efforts for Barnes, Danny North sealed a 1-0 win. Jake Olley was at Blundell Park…
Following Town’s 1-0 win at Edgeley Park on Tuesday Mariners manager Alan Buckley made one change with suspended teenage defender Ryan Bennett being replaced by the on-loan Sam Hird at right wing back. The Mariners kept that 3-5-2 formation which had seen them win the previous four games, however there was no place on the bench for the highly criticised Martin Butler - who, having only scored one goal since joining Town in November, looks as if he needs to start chipping in or ship out.
Wrexham came to Blundell Park having lost their previous seven games and gave debuts to new signings Gavin Ward, Phil Bolland, Danny Sonner and Paul Hall. Former Mariners goalkeeper Anthony Williams, who was applauded by the Pontoon (??!!), had to settle for a place on the bench.
With Town kicking towards the Pontoon in the first half they started the better and dominated both in terms of possession and territorial pressure - Wrexham looked to hoof the ball up to former Tranmere striker Paul Hall at every opportunity.
Town only had to wait until the sixth minute for their first clear cut chance when a cleared Jamie Clarke corner was put back in, and flicked on by Rob Atkinson, only for the in form Gary Jones to misdirect his header wide from six yards.
Despite not really having a look it in for the first twelve minutes it was Wrexham who came closest in the early exchanges when a Paul Hall curler from the edge of the box forced a fingertip save from Phil Barnes.
Surprisingly the in form Nick Hegarty missed a sitter on twenty minutes after keeper Gavin Ward had flapped at a Mariners' cross in the six yard box. Instead of smashing the ball in from eight yards ‘The Ginger Ninja’ instead failed to make decent contact allowing the recovered Ward to gratefully collect the ball.
Just as Town looked to put their foot down on the game Wrexham maintained their ‘ten men behind the ball’ system looking to put the experienced Hall through on the break. That mentality prevailed on half an hour when Hall went through and looked certain to test Barnes. However, the young - but very reliable - Rob Atkinson managed to get back and make a must win tackle to stop the front man.
However, it was the last chance of the half that came closest to breaking the deadlock. Paul Bolland capitalised on a mistake in the Wrexham backline only for the midfield man to smash the upright with a strike from the edge of the box.
Half Time: Town 0-0 Wrexham
Town started the second half with a substitution. Peter Till, who had been out of the side for a number of weeks, replaced Sam Hird as the Mariners sought an extra attacking threat in the right wing back position.
The second half started slowly with Wrexham surely the happier as the Mariners failed to create any clear cut chances or pressure for the first twenty minutes of the second half. The only real notable events were two substitutions - Ciaran Toner for Jamie Clarke and injured referee Graham Salisbury was replaced by fourth official Mr M Brown.
However, a drab match was just up Wrexham’s street and as the game went on you couldn't help but feel that maybe they could break away and snatch something.
However, on sixty eight minutes Danny North broke the deadlock and put Town 1-0 up after racing through on goal and lobbing the oncoming Ward for his sixth goal of the season. Hearts were in mouths though as Dragons' skipper Evans nearly cleared off the line.
Unsurprisingly, this gave Blundell Park a lift and the Mariners began to take the game to Wrexham. A rasping shot by Nick Hegarty, who was put through by Peter Till, was parried by Gavin Ward before a flag stopped Danny North from making it two.
Unfortunately, on seventy two minutes highly rated Wrexham midfielder, and Welsh international, Mark Jones, was stretchered off after injuring himself in the process of fouling Peter Till. Rumours (and I do reiterate the word ‘rumour’), from the Pontoon, that a missile was thrown at Jones as he lay at the side of the Lower Smiths, remain unconfirmed, however a flurry of stewards did seem to rush towards the surrounding area to add to speculation that possibly a coin (?) was directed at Jones.
Nine minutes later the stretcher was yet again in use as a rather groggy looking Nick Fenton was taken off after a boot to the head from Hope resulted in a nasty gash. Sergeant Whittle returned. Grimsby expected. And it was ‘Whitts’, fresh from an uncharacteristic volley which saw him on the scoresheet in a midweek reserve outing, who nearly sealed the win at the death. Following a short corner Whittle headed the ball off the upright only for ex-Hull man to see it cleared and leave Wrexham in the game.
Despite some unfounded pressure in the six minutes added on at the end of the game Town managed to hold on and seal another important win. It certainly wasn't pretty and - considering the team’s previous form - maybe the Mariners' fans may have expected more prior to the game, however it was a win and this time a month ago I'm sure we would've snapped this up very gratefully.
On the whole Wrexham created problems but they just didn't look interested in trying to come to Blundell Park to win today. And - let’s face it - if the Dragons want to survive in this league Blundell Park is a place where they really need to be taking something from, or at least challenging, (regardless of previous form).
However, the Mariners stay fourteenth and only ten points off the play offs. With Dagenham away and Shrewsbury and Bury at home in the next three weeks who knows where this side can go? Not a bad week all in all!
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