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Match Report: vs Dagenham
By: Bradley King
Date: 17/02/2008 (Last updated: 03/03/2008)
GRIMSBY Town’s somewhat fortuitous unbeaten run came to an abrupt conclusion at Blundell Park after a 4-1 hammering by a relegation fighting Dagenham and Redbridge side. It could be argued that throughout the game, Town’s defensive frailties in the midfield threesome were exposed, with the trio of Jamie Clarke, James Hunt and Paul Bolland in particular having games to forget.
Sam Hird was making the last appearance of his loan spell from Doncaster- one in which he has improved as time progressed. Danny Boshell was not fit to make the squad so the fit-again Bolland came back into the team. Apart from the that, the starting eleven remained the same as it was for the midweek win against Macclesfield. Now, against a similar side to The Silkmen in terms of league position, Town were looking for more of the same to edge closer to the top seven.
The Dagenham side had several familiar faces with plenty of experience. Recent signing Mark Arber, who may be remembered for wearing a tight-fitting lycra style suit under his kit, partnered the highly rated Anwar Uddin in central defence. Former Imps playmaker Peter Gain was also involved while the in-form Ben Strevens partnered the pacy Jon Nurse up front.
Town attacked the Osmond End for the first period of forty-five but it was Dagenham who made all the early inroads., winning a free kick which Peter Gain missed to the right of Barnes’ goal. Another half chance saw Jon Nurse shoot wide with Town looking aberrantly edgy and unsure of themselves.
And those nerves were exposed on the fifteen minute mark by what looked like a fired-up Daggers line-up. The Mariners’ penalty area could have been nicknamed Basra as crossed balls dropped into the box like shells, the final of which exploded in the back of the net after a simple header from Ross SMITH.
Further hurried and uncharacteristic play from The Mariners saw manager Alan Buckley make a very early change after twenty minutes. Gary Jones came on to partner Danny North, with Peter Till dropping back to the right wing back slot. The replaced man and unlucky party was Sam Hird who looked unhappy at being withdrawn so early in his final game for The Mariners and departed straight down the tunnel.
Just five minutes later, Buckley was forced into his second sub. Tom Newey had injured himself tackling Nurse and was unable to run the injury off. Ryan Bennett took his place and positioned himself on the right of the back three, Atkinson shifting to the left.
Grimsby’s first real chance of the game followed when Gary Jones laid the ball off for Jamie Clarke whose shot was weak and off-target to the left.
Referee Trevor Kettle then set the tone for his performance. Ben Strevens held the ball up on the edge of the Town penalty box, surrounded by three Town players. With what looked like a chunk of his opponent’s shirt, Strevens went down under minimal yet needless contact from Jamie Clarke. The referee, perhaps fooled by Strevens shriek, pointed to the spot in a decision which looked petty and very debatable. RAINFORD stepped forward and placed the ball in the bottom left of the net.
Town were completely out of sorts and didn’t even look like threatening the goal bar a near moment of magic from young Ryan Bennett. With the ball thirty five yards out and to the right of Dagenham’s goal, he spotted ‘keeper Tony Roberts marginally off his line and volleyed the ball goal wards. It looked like it was dipping in, but nestled onto the roof of the net.
Mr Kettle continued his Stevie Wonder impression on forty minutes when Nick Hegarty’s cross struck the outstretched arm of a Dagenham defender. The unimpressed Kettle pointed for a corner. Maybe we didn’t shout loud enough?
The resulting corner was whipped in and a goalmouth scramble in which Town could have scored three times was eventually cleared.
The last action of the first half saw Nick Hegarty’s poor ball easily collected by the untroubled Tony Roberts.
For all of Town’s incompetence and Dagenham’s domination, the difference was only two goals at half time and an early goal for The Mariners in the second half, attacking the Pontoon, had the potential to change things. However, after the first period that was just witnessed by the 4060 at Blundell Park, few believed it was possible.
One man who knows all about comebacks from 2-0 down is Peter Bore, who was introduced by Buckley for the second half. Worshipped by some, despised by more, Bore was the inspiration when Town hit three in the second half to beat Boston eighteen months ago in Graham Rodger’s first game in charge. A similar performance would be quite welcome here- he was certainly due one.
He and his team-mates were on the attack early in the second half, a Nick Hegarty pull back evading everyone.
Despite this early attacking optimism, Dagenham soon regained full control, winning a series of free kicks before Glenn Southam drove the ball off target from inside the area.
With an hour now gone, Town still had not found a goal and started to throw caution to the wind. Bore made inroads down the right flank and beat his man to tee up North, who headed towards goal. With the ball destined for the back of the net, Roberts made his first save- and a spectacular one it was too.
Dagenham goalkeeper Roberts was beginning to enjoy himself and obviously saw no way back for Town as he exchanged pleasantries with the rowdy youth of the Pontoon.
Roberts was then called into action again as Nick Hegarty’s goal bound effort was pushed wide to the increasing frustration of the Town support. All of Town’s success was coming from down the flanks, with Bolland, Hunt and Clarke having absolute nightmares in the middle.
The result was then put beyond doubt with ten minutes left. Fenton misjudged the flight of the ball leaving Ben STREVENS to beat Barnes and make the game safe.
But Dagenham wanted more, and continued to attack. A corner from the left found RAINFORD unmarked, who headed in with ease to score Dagenham‘s tenth goal in two games. Town fans departed in their multitudes, with probably only around half of them remaining by the time JONES finished well to pull one back for Town. It was little consolation, and the rest of Grimsby‘s players looked too embarrassed to show any emotional response.
The run was bound to come to an end at some point, and it did so here by a team who showed professionalism and desire to win the game. The early substitutions may have unsettled matters, but the invisibility of the midfield trio needs to be sorted before Tuesday’s big match at Morecambe.
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