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In the Bleak Midwinter
By: Rob Sedgwick
A woeful display at Dagenham saw Grimsby's miserable winless run continue and make the prospects of remaining in this division bleaker. Indeed the size, attendance and feel of Dagenham's Victoria Road Ground felt like a dress rehearsal for life in the Blue Square leagues.
Mike Newell made two changes for the long trip to the dreary eastern outskirts of Greater London at the far end of the District Line. Danny North made his first start to the season up front alongside Peter Bore, and Danny Boshell came back into midfield after missing the last four games with a hamstring injury. Bosh started on the right wing, with Hunt and Trotter in the centre.
Dagenham, who had lost their last three games, started strongly in what for them would have been a home banker. They had most of the possession and forced a number of corners in early play.
Town had their first chance on 13 minutes when Trotter found Bore with the space in the box to run and shoot just over the goal.
Bennett rescued Town with a last ditch interception at the feet of Benson, who was about to shoot. The ball pinged out for a corner, from which Dagenham scored. Mark Arber was left unmarked just beyond the far post and he had the time to pick his spot, firing into the roof of the net. Grimsby once again looked vulnerable all night at corners, and depressingly almost equally inept at taking them.
Dagenham almost made it two straight away but once again had Bennett to thank for a timely clearance inside the box.
The game entered an end to end phase with both sides pressing forward for a goal. But it was Dagenham who looked the more dangerous and they wasted chances to increase their lead. Town's best chance during this phase came when Trotter played North through with a great ball, but North slipped at the crucial moment and the opportunity was lost.
Dagenham extended their lead on 35. Barnes failed to hold on to a cross and the quickest man to the ball was Strevens who side-footed it home.
Just before half time Phil Barnes kept Grimsby with a slight chance of getting something with a smart save. A fantastic turn and shot by Newey in the dying embers of the first half was the closest Town came to scoring, Roberts having to claw it away from the top corner of the goal.
At half time the greatest prospect of reprieve came with the news that the games at Luton and Wycombe had been abandoned. Mental calculations of distances and glances at the sky were the best the Town faithful could muster.
Normal service was resumed after the break when Newey gave the ball away horrendously, but thankfully Southam blasted it wide. The unmarked Benson was then equally profligate a minute later with a header wide from a corner.
North, who had looked short of pace, departed for Jarman and Till made way for Hegarty. This at least allowed Danny Boshell, who had looked out of place of the wing, to play in the centre and for a brief few moments Town rallied.
The rain finally came midway through the second half but, like Town's substitutions it was too little to late, and merely added to the miserable experience of the away fans huddled on the open terraces, whose only escape was gallows humour.
But it was at the other end where the next meaningful action occurred. Strevens and Benson linked up well, running rings around Town's defence to set up the third goal, which Benson powered home.
Newell responded by taking off Boshell, only giving him a few minutes in the centre, and perennial substitute Chris Llewellyn entered the fray in his place.
Hunt actually forced Roberts into a regulation save on 71 to ironic cheers and jeers from various factions of the 1600 crowd. Clarke almost scored an own goal when his clearance when over the bar on 72.
With 10 minutes to go I left to sample the wares of the local chippie. Upon leaving the said establishment a distant echo of a cheer filled the night sky. It sounded too loud for a consolation, and so it was to prove with my mobile revealing that Strevens had added a fourth in the 90th minute.
The win was as emphatic as the scoreline suggests, and Dagenham could have reached double figures had they put all their chances away. Town got and deserved nothing from the game. As a man they had played poorly. The defence simply could not cope with Dagenham's forwards, who looked fitter and stronger than Town, and at least a division apart in class, which on this display might soon be the case. The pick up a motley set of players was Trotter, who created a couple of chances and occasionally looked dangerous when he had the ball.
Grimsby looked woefully demoralised as soon as they fell behind, as did most of the 200+ away support, comprising mainly of exiles. The arrival of Mike Newell heralded a brief flicker of recovery, but without a drastic change of fortune or personnel it's hard to see where the improvement is going to come from.
Town face Darlington at home on Saturday, a side they have a terrible record against even in good times, and at the moment Darlo are enjoying a purple patch. But in football you never know and if you miss the game there's always the chance that you won't see the first win of the season, which will now hopefully be in November.
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