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It Only Lasts 90 Minutes - Part 2

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 20/01/2008

AGAIN we had choices. Sitting down or standing. I was outnumbered by the youthful element, so sit we did in the Carling Stand. Like the Berlin Wall, families were divided between those sitting and standing. Town fans phoned and waved to people on the other side.

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But it was a friendly occasion and a friendly ground, neat and compact, decidedly non-league. The pitch looked in good shape. Revis observed that Dagenham and Redbridge were sponsored by a Funeral Director. The teams warmed up in a Sunday league atmosphere, our Mariner heroes receiving rapturous applause. Yet they hadn’t done anything. But were they going to do anything other than inflict pain and misery? Revis carried on reading her book, "Demon Apocalypse - Hell is Revealed". Was the story going to be revealed once more on the football field?

First Half. Town lined up as follows: Barnes: Atkinson - Fenton - Newey: Hird - Bolland - Hunt - Clarke - Hegarty: North - Jones.

After a scrappy start, Dagenham’s Rainford turned and won a corner on 5 minutes. Captain Newey headed clear. Huke then duffed a shot for Dagenham before Town won a corner on 9 after a defensive mix-up. Hegarty’s corner met Fenton’s head and the Dagenham keeper made a good low save. Deft skills though were completely absent. This was a game of big kicks and headers. On 13, Dagenham’s Saunders made a dangerous run and put in a good cross, which was cleared. Bolland made an excellent tackle and set up a Town move from which Jones won a corner. Clarke’s cross was headed out. Dagenham fumbled their way up field on 19. Ball control was proving to be a luxury item today.

Town looked like they might do something but were careless and couldn’t keep the ball, Newey and Atkinson both transgressing. Concentration seemed to be lacking and Town were just falling into the tactic of playing Dagenham’s own version of hoofball. Clarke had a mishit shot to the goalkeeper and followed up with a free-kick straight to the keeper after Hunt was fouled 35 yards out. On 25, Newey slipped and was beaten by Saunders but Nurse’s shot was cleared. Town then had a short spell of domination, winning a corner on 26 after a long through ball from Hird. North then made a great pass to Hird who put in a poor ball, leading to a Dagenham breakaway. The Dagenham player’s cross was poor. On 29 Dagenham won a corner but Strevens’s powerful header went over the bar.

There was no discernible pattern to this game. Neither side had any grip. The only sign of domination was from the hard tacklers in midfield. The referee to his credit was allowing the game to flow but the players were not producing the quality. Attacks were breaking down and leading to breakaways. A neat clip from Jones to Hunt on 31 led to a Dagenham break and Sloma had a clear chance from 15 yards out. Barnes stood up and pulled off an excellent save. Town gained a free-kick on 35 after Graham handled. Newey’s shot went straight into the wall. Clarke regained possession and sent in a through ball which Bolland did well to keep in play. His cross met Atkinson who flicked wide. Huke was then fouled at the Town end and the resultant assault on goal led to the ball being headed over. Bolland almost got in on 39 after a Dagenham defensive mix up but headed wide.

On 40, Bennett came on for Fenton. Dagenham won a corner almost immediately but the cross beat everyone. Dagenham finished the half strongly with a corner which Barnes punched clear after deciding to take charge. Bennett then cut out a dangerous low cross from Dagenham’s Sloma. The half ended. Dagenham & Redbridge 0, Grimsby Town 0.

Half-time verdict. Nothing happened. Although Dagenham ended with a number of attacks, no-one deserved to be winning. There was no pattern to the play and it was like an aimless kickabout. Dagenham had more attacks and may have been encouraged by that but there was no coherence or control. Town were just sucked into the trap and apart from Hegarty did not show the patience and passing they were going to need to be able to create something. The only real positive for Town was that the midfield of Bolland and Hunt, with the support of Jones, were getting in where it hurt and winning some balls. At the same time, the defence did not seem to be in trouble. Town needed to take control of the game, which they weren’t doing. It was rubbish, really. "Boring" was Revis’s verdict. "I’ve seen worse", commented Merlin, trying to inject positivism. Half time gave a few moments for reflection and a chance to read the programme, which informed us that Françoise Giroud had died on this day in 2003. Right. It did not say, but maybe she was a folk hero in Dagenham. Still, it was an interlude from the agonising grimness which had gone before and was no doubt to follow.

Second Half. Almost immediately, North set Bolland off on a run and Town won a corner. The keeper missed Hegarty’s cross but in spite of desperate lunges from North and Atkinson, the ball was lobbed over the bar. Jones then laid off neatly to Hird but the pass was misplaced. Atkinson cut out the danger.

On 50, Hird and North linked up well and Hird’s quick cross was cleared only to Hegarty whose accurate shot was tipped away. Word had clearly gone out from Mr. Buckley to pass the ball as Hegarty, North, Newey and Clarke all contributed to a neat move. Moments later, North and Hegarty linked up. Hegarty’s excellent cross met Hird who brought the ball under control but the shot couldn’t get through. The ball came out to Newey who shot over the bar. Bolland then fought to win the ball on the 6 yard line but the keeper arrived first.

Dagenham broke the pattern on 56 by winning a corner. The ball came back but a clearance at the Dagenham end set up an attack which was only ended by a brave tackle from Hird who injured himself in the process After a promising start to the half the game was descending into scrappiness like the first half. Hegarty was showing enterprise and Jones was laying off well, while the midfielders were battling but without purpose or end result. North in particular was being stifled out of the game by a tight defence. Dagenham meanwhile were relying on breakaways and speedy wingers.

On 70, Hunt had a great chance from 10 yards out after North knocked on, but receipt of the ball seemed to catch him by surprise and together with the bounce, it caused him to mishit the shot. On 73, Hird gained three throw-ins and moved Town up the field, but it only resulted in another Dagenham break. Dagenham piled forward at this stage and Town were fortunate when the game stopped on 77 due to an injury to Newey. Town’s game alternated between hoofing and passing, and were once again having the terms of the game dictated to them.

On 80, Town had a scare when a Dagenham player slipped between Newey and Bennett but the shot went just over. Barnes then made a super save. Dagenham were up for victory, without a doubt. North almost created a chance for Bolland but Dagenham were in the ascendancy, putting a good passing move together on 82. Barnes once again came to the rescue, narrowing the angle with the defence beaten. The shot went wide. On 83, Taylor came on for North. Boshell then replaced Clarke on 86. Jones laid off well for Hird on 87 but it was Dagenham who were the more dangerous of the sides, winning a free-kick 20 yards out on 89. The impressive Barnes spilt a shot on 90 but the Dagenham player made a hash of the return strike. In added time, Town had a short spell of frenzied attacks after Taylor won a tackle in midfield. Hegarty and then Newey put in crosses but they were dealt with efficiently and soon after, the referee blew the whistle for full time.

Final score: Dagenham & Redbridge 0, Grimsby Town 0.

Verdict. Although Town won a point, it was a disappointing performance in a game which lacked fluidity. Town, and North in particular, were unable to break through the resolute Dagenham defence, never threatened and allowed themselves for the most part to be dictated to by a direct and hustling Dagenham side. Town looked better when passing and getting the ball out to Hegarty and Hird on the flanks but they didn’t do this often enough and there were long periods where it was like a game of head tennis. There was an improvement in the second half but not much. Dagenham had plenty of attacks to have scored and fortunately their shooting was wayward. When it wasn’t, some great goalkeeping by Barnes and some good defending kept them out. If the overall team effort lacked cohesion, there were some noteworthy individual efforts. Hegarty and Clarke provided the skill, Jones provided the touches while Hunt and Bolland in midfield battled to win balls. Bolland seemed to be everywhere and fought valiantly for the cause, and was my Man of the Match.

Nothing happened at the ballet. Not much happened here either. The performance may not have been up to much and it was cold. Footballing people will know it was not pointless in any sense. The crowd ground out the result as well as the players. There was no danger of catching MRSA either. We should be thankful for small mercies. I shall not be buying the highlights video but given the choice between this, the hospital and the ballet, the football wins hands down. And it only last ninety minutes ...

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