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Out Franchised

By: Bradley King
Date: 08/03/2008

GRIMSBY crashed to a disappointing defeat at home to MK Dons on Friday night as a result of a severe Johnstone’s Paint Trophy hangover.

Home > 2007-2008 Season > Reports > MK Dons (h)

Town struggled to keep up with the slick passing from Milton Keynes as four games in eleven days took their toll, and now the distant fantasy of the play-offs seems too far away for even the most optimistic fan to dare dream about.

Alan Buckley made one alteration to the side that started the midweek game against Morecambe. Danny North had failed a late fitness test, meaning Jekyll and Hyde character Peter Bore was given an opportunity to shine at the pinnacle of The Mariners’ attack. The bench included Martin Butler, who was available again after being cup-tied against The Shrimpers, and Ryan Bennett, who would be looking to cap a fine week after winning the League Two Apprentice of the Year award in the week.

The MK Dons, marshalled by Paul Ince, looked to have class seeping through their side. Former Swansea keeper Willy Gueret and centre half Sean O’Hanlon are both capable of playing at least one division above, while youngsters Lloyd Dyer and Jemal Johnson have both played first team Championship football at their previous clubs. The experienced Colin Cameron was sure to pull the strings in midfield.

Town started the game in a shaky manner, with unforced errors aplenty. Franchise FC looked a yard sharper all over the pitch, forcing direct balls to be played to Bore - who was caught offside several times.

Soon enough, MK Dons found a deserved but controversial breakthrough. Referee Darren Deadman awarded Milton Keynes a corner from the left hand side, despite the apparent foul by Jemal Johnson on Rob Atkinson. The ball was swung in and O’HANLON beat Nick Fenton in the air at the near post, Newey hacking off the line but not quickly enough as the referee’s assistant signalled a goal. How he managed to see the ball however is a different matter.

General play from The Mariners failed to improve after the setback, as Tom Newey delivered a free kick from the right towards the melee of players - Willy Gueret collecting easily and gratefully.

The MK Dons were fizzing the ball around, exploiting the shattered midfield trio and enjoying the comfort they found as a result of a lack of pressing from the home side. Peter Till had been moved from his striker position to the right flank to halt the advances of Lewington at left back- leaving Peter Bore the responsibility of covering twice as much ground as he is used to.

Irritation began to be heard around Blundell Park as the lack of presence from The Mariners in the final third frustrated supporters. Nick Fenton decided to take matters into his own hands, beating two men on a forty yard dynamic dart into opposition territory. He lost the ball, but it got backsides off seats for the first time among the Town faithful.

Town had improved slightly towards half time, but the Dons were comfortably placed at the interval, with Town having not tested Willy Gueret for three quarters of an hour.

Buckley decided to make the changes that most supporters anticipated, with the underperforming Bore and Till being replaced by their senior counterparts, messrs Jones and Butler.

An early second half corner was won but Rob Atkinson, peeling away at the back stick, missed the target in what was an excellent chance for an equalising goal.

Jones and Butler were giving the opposition defence a different problem, and were the duo were drawing fouls from the back four, some of which were even awarded by the ever-impressive Deadman.

At the same time however, MK Dons looked to take advantage of the space behind that was left by the more attack-minded Mariners, Jemal Johnson striking the side netting after a fluent counter attacking move.

After an hour, Sean O’Hanlon brought down Gary Jones 25 yards out to the centre of the goal. Jamie Clarke bent it around the wall but, with Gueret flapping to his right, the ball fell narrowly wide.

Paul Bolland then made a fierce burst from midfield but was brought to ground by a nasty-looking kick to the face from Alan Navarro who stayed motionless, head down on the Blundell Park turf in fear of a severe punishment. When he finally got to his feet, Deadman cautioned him. Newey took the free kick, but blasted over the bar.

It was increasingly looking like Town would not find the back of the net, with MK Dons still looking calm in possession- an O’Hanlon header and Hatfield drive coming close to doubling their lead.

Ryan Bennett came on for James Hunt with fifteen minutes to go, lining up at right back in a move that saw Jamie Clarke shifted into the middle as Town searched for a creative spark.

Dons substitute Aaron Wilbraham then forced Phil Barnes to make a save low to his left after another quick break from the away team.

Then came Town’s big chance to equalise. Tenacity from Paul Bolland won the ball for The Mariners, and he gave the ball to Gary Jones on the right of the penalty box. Jones crossed the ball towards the back post to find Nick Fenton five yards out. Under extreme pressure, Fenton nodded the ball down towards goal, but Gueret made a fine save to down his right to deny Town.

The fourth official showed three minutes of added time as Town flooded forward. A majestic Tom Newey outswinging cross found Martin Butler unmarked at the far post who had the chance to claim a point for Town. His header flew wide to the right of the goal, riling the home support and letting Franchise FC off the hook.

Milton Keynes looked very good going forward, with a mixture of raw pace and doggedness but, when under the cosh, panic began to show and silly professional fouls were given away. Fortunately for them, it seems the Paul Ince factor influenced referee Darren Deadman whose performance left a lot to be desired. There was enough seen to encourage the Mariners that they will be able to make a game of it in three weeks time at Wembley - though they will have to exert themselves on the game earlier if MK aren't to emerge victorious.

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