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Half Way To Paradise
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY recorded a classic smash and grab 1-0 win at Morecambe to put their noses in front of the League Two newcomers after the first leg of the Johnstone Paint Northern Area final. Town had 'keeper Phil Barnes to thank for keeping a clean sheet, while Paul Bolland at the other end managed to convert one of Town's few chances.
Town set their stall out not to concede, bringing Tom Newey in to bolster the defence. Town absorbed a lot of pressure before almost taking the lead when Peter Till hit the post from 20 yards. Morecambe struck the woodwork within a minute and then went on to dominate the remainder of the first half, with Town occasionally threatening on the break with Till's pace their main weapon.
In the second half Morecambe continued to dictate the play, but could not get past Phil Barnes who made a string of outstanding saves to keep Town in the game.
Morecambe looked to have gone ahead through David Artell, but the "goal" was disallowed by the linesman for handball.
Town broke down the other end and the ball broke fortuitously to Paul Bolland, who stroked the ball into the net to give Town the lead.
The rest of the game continued in the same vein, with Morecambe pressing forward and Town being equal to everything they threw at them.
Town had a couple of chances to kill the game off in injury time, but in the end had to settle for a 1-0 away victory, and now just need a draw in the second leg at Blundell Park to get to Wembley 10 years on from their famous 97/98 double season.
It was about the best possible outcome Grimsby could have expected given the performances of the two teams on the night. Town have gone 10 games now on their travels without a defeat.
Although Grimsby will now be favourites to progress the tie is far from over. Town next face Morecambe, this time in the league, on Saturday, before the two teams lock horns again on Tuesday night. Bizarrely the fixture after that is a possible rehearsal for the JPT Final when Grimsby take on leaders MK Dons a week on Saturday.
A delighted Town boss Alan Buckley said: "It was a fantastic result for us. Morecambe are a very good side but we defended magnificently and Phil Barnes pulled off some world-class saves".
"I thought we were a bit fortunate to be level at half-time because Morecambe could have had a couple of goals but we kept going and we got a very well worked goal through Bolland.
"I'm looking forward to next Tuesday night and we will do all we can to get through".
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