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The Optical Illusion
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY'S unbeaten run under Mike Newell continued with a hard-fought goalless draw at in-form Exeter City. Town withstood long periods of pressure from the Devon club, and had the chances to nick what on paper would have been an unlikely win.
A intimate gathering of away supporters convened on the open terraces of St James's Park to cheer on the Mariners. Grimsby lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with everyone where you would expect. Clarke played at right back and erstwhile fifth and sixth choice strikers Bore and Jarman continued their partnership up front.
Phil Barnes was called into action as early as the tenth minute. City broke after the normally fussy referee played advantage and the ball was crossed straight to Tully, whose bullet header was pawed away by Phil Barnes from close range.
Town had periods of possession in the first period but failed to convert them into clear-cut chances. Jarman was played through but hit a half-hearted cross-shot wide. Then a frenetic goal mouth scramble ended when Hegarty's low shot was saved.
At the other end a brilliant last gasp tackle from skipper Heywood, possibly his best passage of play since joining the club, denied an Exeter player who was advancing rapidly towards Phil Barnes.
Many of the away fans thought that Grimsby had scored through Peter Bore on 33 minutes, but it was either an optical illusion or a conspiracy amongst the players and officials and most of the crowd. The ball appeared to go into the goal off the underside the crossbar, but the referee gave a goal kick.
Grimsby had a habit of losing possession just outside their penalty area and it twice nearly cost them dear just before half time. First Newey slipped and Stansfield shot wide to spare the Town left back's blushes.
Then Newey made amends when his fellow defender Bennett was dispossessed and rescued Grimsby with a diving header.
Newey angered the home crowd when he went down in the box just before half time, and was booked by the referee, for a combination of diving and reacting to the comments of the Exeter players.
The first half ended 0-0. Town had given themselves a few problems with giving the ball away in dangerous positions, but had managed to overcome these, and 'keeper Phil Barnes had only needed to make once save of note.
In the second half Exeter upped a gear and had the lion's share of possession, with most of the play being in Town's half. Grimsby though were dangerous on the break, with both Bore and Jarman looking capable of unlocking Exeter's defence given the chance.
Jarman ran unimpeded through the heart of defence five minutes into the second half, but could only manage a feeble shot at the 'keeper.
Grimsby completely wasted a dangerous free kick on the edge of the area in a pathetic display of indecision. Tom Newey appears to have been relieved of taking free kicks and this spot kick was taken by Clarke. Clarke had either not decided what to do when he touched the ball, or failed to communicate it to his team mates, for he ended up being forced to play it backwards to Hunt, and the ball was eventually cleared without going anywhere in the direction of the goal.
Grimsby had to defend deep and several balls were cleared practically off the line, with Hegarty and Hunt helping the back four in defensive duties, in what at many times was an all hands to the pumps back line.
Grimsby won another dangerous free kick after Bore was brought down right on the edge of the box. Till took the spot kick on this occasion but it was wasted, although not quite as poorly as Clarke's earlier attempt.
The referee was exceptionally fussy and constantly interrupted the game throughout the second half, a good percentage of which was spent waiting for free kicks to be taken.
The match ended 0-0. Exeter had had a lot of possession but failed to carve out enough clear cut chances to win the game. Grimsby likewise did not really test the Exeter 'keeper and 0-0 was probably a fair scoreline,
Although Grimsby are yet to win they have two good chances to get off the mark in their next two games, but of which are at Blundell Park.
Man of the Match. Nobody was brilliant, nobody was awful. We played consistently well as a team, which has been a big improvement in recent weeks. Jarman and Bore both worked hard, and showed some great touches, without really working the 'keeper. Hunt covered a lot of ground and did a lot of defensive work for Town. Overall though Tom Newey gets the nod. He defended well, and was involved in a lot of Town's attacks.
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