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Match Report: vs Shrewsbury
By: Bradley King
Date: 26/01/2008 (Last updated: 03/03/2008)
A late, late Danny North equaliser saw an off-colour Town get out of jail this afternoon against ten-man Shrewsbury in a match that ended 1-1.
Town went into the game looking to continue their good form since the turn of the year. Four wins and a draw in all competitions had given Mariners supporters renewed optimism of an unexpected play-off push in the latter half of the season.
Alan Buckley stuck to the now familiar 3-5-2 formation, with Tom Newey, Nick Fenton and Rob Atkinson at the back flanked by Nick Hegarty and Sam Hird. James Hunt and Paul Bolland lined up alongside Clarke, who Town would look to as a source of creativity from the midfield. The rejuvenated Danny North partnered Gary Jones up front.
In a rare occurrence, Town attacked the Osmond end for the first half and, bar a half chance for Paul Bolland from a tight angle, the proceedings were very cagey early on.
News soon filtered through from Anfield as Havant and Waterlooville took the lead against Liverpool. It was a rare glimmer of excitement for the Town faithful in an atmosphere which could easily be mistaken for a funeral.
Shrewsbury were dominating the game, trying to find their new signing Guy Madjo at every possible opportunity, and he was proving a handful for Town’s back three. Atkinson was impressing for Town yet again on the right hand side of the defence, frequently having to cover for Hird’s defensive shortcomings.
Paul Bolland picked up a knock on the half hour mark and was replaced by Danny Boshell. Even by this time, neither side had attempted a meaningful shot on target, with Shrewsbury seeming more hell-bent on screaming with anger at every Town challenge- special mentions for Marc Tierney and Ben Herd here.
As the half drew to a close, The Mariners became more confident in their possession of the football and were keeping it for longer as well.
After an attacking move for Town broke down, Nick Fenton went in marginally late on Shrewsbury defender Kelvin Langmead near the corner flag. Langmead’s fellow players took exception to the challenge, prompting a furious melee of Shrews to surround Fenton and referee Foster. After calm was restored, Fenton was cautioned and the whistle was blown for half time soon after.
The first half performance of Sam Hird was unsatisfactory to say the least, and Buckley withdrew him for the second half, replacing him with Peter Till.
Seven minutes into the second period, a brutal 20 yard drive from Jamie Clarke skimmed the bar and nestled in the Pontoon end. Peter Till had begun the half in a promising manner, and attempted to take on the whole of the Shrewsbury defence, thwarted at the last hurdle by Ben Herd.
Then came the incident that Town fans felt would change the game. After Gary Jones played a brilliant ball through for him, Danny North was brought down by veteran defender Colin Murdock. Despite the fact that there were defenders coming round to cover for Murdock, referee Mr Foster was quick to flaunt the red card to the surprise of most people in the ground.
However, the ten men excelled from this point and seemed to raise their game as ten men often do. They were enjoying a period of attacking play that had not been experienced by either side in the whole match, with Till tackling Madjo just as he was about to pull the trigger. From the resulting corner, Till was called into action again as he headed off the line from a Marc Pugh header.
Town fans vented their frustration at their sides inadequacy to attack a ten man opposition and Buckley acted, throwing on young Andy Taylor for Jamie Clarke, shifting to a 4-3-3 formation with the aim of reversing this dramatic onslaught.
As the game continued, it looked like it would either be a mistake or a moment of magic that would bring the opening goal for either side.
Since this is League Two, it was the former that gave The Shrews the lead with 15 minutes left. The below-par Boshell stumbled on the ball giving substitute Dave Hibbert a chance to test Barnes. He fired across Barnes, who stumbled to his right, managing to get fingertips on the ball. With the Town defence clambering, MADJO was left with the task of striking into the roof of the net.
Grimsby flooded forward in a desperate manner, looking to avoid being embarrassed by the Shropshire side. A Till cross was controlled by Hegarty who, with the ball behind him, tried the overhead spectacular but Glyn Garner tipped over.
Hegarty had another chance five minutes later when Gary Jones nodded the ball across goal, but Hegarty- under pressure- opted, and failed, to try control it rather than hit it first time.
Into injury time, Town had one last chance of redemption. As Guy Madjo took longer than a Lynyrd Skynyrd guitar solo to depart the arena, The Mariners prepared for a corner at the Pontoon end. Nick Hegarty finally took it, and it was headed away by Kempson but only as far as Boshell. JP Kalala-like, he picked the ball out of the night sky and volleyed goal wards. NORTH swivelled and threw a foot at it, causing it to soar past Garner into the top right hand corner.
It was probably a game Town deserved nothing from. But then again, Shrewsbury didn’’t do enough to deserve the win. If the sending off didn’t happen, the game would probably have petered out into a stalemate so, in the end, a draw was a fair result.
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