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Bloodied But Not Disgraced.
By: Ian Townsend
TOWN headed to Lancashire hoping to exorcise the ghosts of Saturday’s very poor home performance by giving the fans something to cheer about as they took on Premier League Blackburn Rovers in their Carling Cup second round game.
Despite publicly stating the team had "nothing to lose" Alan Buckley was characteristically reserved with his team selection.
Town lined up with:
Bennett, Heywood, Newey
Clarke, Hunt, Boshell, Heslop, Hegarty
Subs: North, Montgomery, Bore, Llewellyn, Taylor and Butler
Although no-one was surprised by the majority of the positionings, the inclusion of Jarman caused a bit of a stir amongst the 800 or so fans in the visitors' end.
The game began with Blackburn stating their intent early on when first Heslop gave the ball away after 20 seconds with the ball ending up on the roof of Town’s net and then Derbyshire fired just over.
Town began to see a bit of the ball though and some of the reasonable crisp passing evident in the Tranmere game came into focus.
On six minutes Clarke fed Till who was unceremoniously decked. From the free kick Heywood rose above the defence but was unable to keep the ball down, it taking a deflection for a corner. From the corner the ball found its way out to midway inside the Blackburn half where inexplicably Clarke was brought down in a central position probably 25 or so yards from goal. The Town faithful had an air of resignation as up stepped Newey. From that second on the Newey free kick script went out of the window as he curled the ball over the wall with power and into goal off the underside of the bar with the keeper well beaten.
Newey was clearly delighted and ran 50 yards towards the delirious Town fans.
However back came Blackburn and Newey, having his best game in living memory, got a touch to a Blackburn cross which took the ball beyond Pedersen and then was alert to the run of the Chilean Villaneuva with a fine tackle.
Unfortunately the lead lasted just a fraction over 10 minutes as the aforementioned Chilean home debutant picked up the ball in the middle of Town’s half with Heywood holding off and placed a superb shot just beyond Barnes’s despairing finger tips into the corner for an equaliser.
The goal seemed to galvanise Town and on 21 minutes Clarke, looking comfortable on the ball, released Till who’s excellent cross was just missed by both Hegarty and Jarman who seemed to misjudge the pace of Till’s delivery.
Unfortunately from then on it was Blackburn’s match as firstly a large slice of luck in the form of a speculative shot easily covered by Barnes, was deflected by Newey forcing the Town stopper to change direction. He couldn’t hold on to the ball giving Derbyshire a simple tap in for 2-1 on 31 minutes.
Town tried to respond but Blackburn turned on the power with first Clarke caught in a moment of indecision allowing Derbyshire to fizz one just wide and then Emerton given the customary time and space deceived Barnes at his near post for the third.
Within a minute it was nearly four as Barnes making amends for any blame for the third brilliantly tipped a shot from Emerton over the bar.
Half Time couldn’t come soon enough for Town who looked shell shocked.
Half Time: Blackburn Rovers 3 Grimsby Town 1
The second half began in more determined fashion as within 30 seconds of the restart great interplay between Till and Hegarty saw the latter free in the box. Unfortunately it was on his weaker right foot and the keeper smothered his well hit shot. As the ball bobbled Hegarty had another bite at it but wasn’t able to keep the ball down and test the keeper.
Blackburn appeared to have taken their foot off the gas but a reminder for Town came as the ball was crossed in at speed just evading the diving Emerton.
Within seconds though Blackburn struck a fourth. Clarke was guilty of a half tackle on Pedersen whose eventual cross was met by Derbyshire who’d got in front of Newey giving Barnes no chance.
Town were visibly tiring particularly Jarman who had run his legs off chasing alone up front and on 66 minutes Buckley made a double substitution with Till (who had looked out of sorts) and Jarman being replaced by Taylor and Butler.
For a change Town decided top play to Butler’s strengths and a clever pass from the experienced number nine found Taylor who’d just strayed into an offside position.
In truth though anything Town managed was just a brief interlude in the action in their own box as the last fifteen minutes became the Phil Barnes show. Firstly Town’s keeper made a point blank save to deny Blackburn a fifth and then an incredible double save to prevent a Derbyshire hat trick. In between the linesman had come to Town’s aid disallowing a powerful header for offside.
The game ended with Bennett getting a late booking for a foul and the Chilean, in an attempt to emulate Newey striking the top of the bar from the resultant free kick.
Final Score: Blackburn Rovers 4 Grimsby Town 1.
The gulf in class was evident throughout and it was a reflection on the state of the professional game that nine years ago these two teams were fighting it out in the same division. Since then Blackburn have established themselves in the Premier League and Town have sunk to the bottom of the pile.
There was plenty of effort and players like Jarman and Clarke have done their chances of a start at Lincoln on Saturday no harm at all.
Town’s Man of the Match: Newey got close but it has to be Phil Barnes who single-handedly prevented the seven or eight goals that Blackburn’s domination hinted at.
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