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A Tale of Two Penalties
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY failed at the final hurdle to reclaim the trophy they had won in 1998, holding out against a rampant MK Dons side at Wembley until fairly late in the game, before finally succumbing to lose the Johnstone Paint final 2-0.
Had Town made the most of a first half penalty awarded for a trip on Paul Bolland at the edge of the area, it might have been a different story. But Dons keeper Gueret saved Danny Boshell's spot kick low to his left and Town were left to rue what might have been. The win completes a perfect treble this season against Town by MK Dons, who have won the fixtures between the clubs 2-0, 1-0 and 2-0.
Grimsby in truth were second best nearly all the game and, other than the penalty. could only muster a few half chances on MK Dons' goal over the 90 minutes. Town on the other hand had to withstand a huge amount of pressure from the promotion favourites, especially in the second half, and but for the form of Phil Barnes between the posts, the scoreline could have been a lot less kinder.
Alan Buckley started with what he regards as his best line-up, minus of course striker Martin Butler who is cup tied. That meant Gary Jones was left on the bench and Danny North started up front with Peter Till playing behind him. Rob Atkinson returned to the back three, meaning young England U-18 defender Ryan Bennett had to wait a while longer to grace the Wembley turf.
Town started strongly and Peter Till looked dangerous in early play, running at the MK Dons defence and linking up well with Danny North. In the 8th minute Till set up North but the Town striker could only scuff his shot for an easy save.
Town tried to stop their opponents playing, by not allowing them time to settle on the ball, but gradually MK Dons came into the game. Phil Barnes was needed to make routine saves from Dyer and Andrews.
Then suddenly Town won themselves a penalty on 18 minutes. Paul Bolland was chasing a ball at the edge of the penalty area when Gueret brought him down. It was a soft penalty to concede as Bolland was heading away from goal and MK Dons were under no immediate danger. Danny Boshell stepped up to take the spot kick, but his shot was struck low to the keeper's left and he dived the right way and parried away the ball.
Phil Barnes then kept Town in the came with an excellent fingertip save on 25 to deny Gallen from front point blank range. Johnson then beat three Town players and stuck a fierce shot which Barnes also saved.
Half Time: Grimsby 0 MK Dons 0
MK Dons had had the better chances, but Town would be cursing themselves for missing a golden opportunity to take the lead. Their formation meant Grimsby did not present much of a threat up front. Only Peter Till's runs looked like opening up the MK Dons backline, but what Town really looked like they needed was Gary Jones to give someone to hold the ball up to and give the Mariners more of a presence going forward.
Alan Buckley replaced the ineffectual Danny North with Peter Bore at the start of the second half. The move didn't really pay dividends and MK Dons quickly started to lay siege to Town's goal. Phil Barnes was needed to make two excellent saves to deny skipper Keith Andrews an opener.
At the other end Town were creating very little and it was no surprise when Buckley brought on Gary Jones, unfortunately in place of their most creative player Peter Till.
From an MK Dons corner Town appeared to have survived by the slenderest of threads. Andrews hit the post and then somehow Barnes managed to keep the ball out before it was cleared off the line and away. Just when everyone thought Town had escaped, the referee awarded a penalty to MK Dons out of the blue. TV replays showed that it was for a "push" by Nick Hegarty on a player, but the contact was minimal and it was never a penalty.
The ref brushed aside the Town protests and Andrews finally managed to beat Phil Barnes from the spot. There was no doubt that the Dons deserved the lead, but the manner in which they took it was very harsh on Town.
Town had 15 minutes to save the game but they were soon two goals down when O'Hanlan fired home a corner.
MK Dons had the game under total control and the introduction of Toner which allowed Town to play three up front made little difference. In fact MK Dons had chances to score three, but failed to get their shots on target.
Full Time: Grimsby 0 MK Dons 0
The best side won, everyone had a great day out but without getting a trophy to show for the achievements this season - we'll have to settle for half a million quid in the bank. With the league season almost over, Grimsby now have to start thinking of next season and which players will be offered new deals for next year, and who we should be signing next season (Rob Akinson should be the first name on the list).
Man of the Match was Phil Barnes, who probably more than anyone was responsible for Grimsby being in the final in the first place, for his form in the matches to get there.
The stadium was excellent but the atmosphere never really got going from either set of fans, possibly because there were so many occasional supporters in the ground in both sections.
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