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The Curse of Darlo
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY'S long winless run continued with another defeat at home to their ultimate bogey team Darlington, a side they have failed to beat now for 15 games stretching back over three decades. An improved second half display is all the Mariners had to show from a frustrating game.
Mike Newey made three changes for the visit of the in-form Quakers. Tuesday night's substitute Danny North started the game up front alongside Peter Till, meaning Peter Bore had to settle for a place on the bench. The other change came at right back where forgotten man Stockdale made a rare appearance in place of Clarke, who had been dire at Dagenham. Clarke though kept his place, on the right wing, as Till was playing up front. The third change saw Hunt dropped in favour of on loan former crowd favourite JP Kalala. Strangely new loan signing Rob Atkinson was left on the bench, with captain Heywood lucky to keep his place in the back four.
The game started in windy conditions and for some reason the entire Lower Carlsberg stand was unoccupied, supporters instead having been housed in the upper tier? Maybe the players had complained about all the abuse they had been receiving from the more vocal supporters close to the pitch ;>)
Grimsby's terrible delivery of set pieces at Dagenham continued as early as the first minute when Newey sent a free kick direct for a throw-in.
Town had had most of the possession when Darlington took the lead with their first chance of the game. The ball was played into the box by Darlington who made a couple of quick passes and it ended up at Billy Clarke who flicked the ball past Barnes. Town's defence had stood like statues whilst the ball was zipping around their box.
Hegarty's delivery of a corner in the 8th minute was every worse in front of the away end. On his first attempt to deliver the ball he slipped to the derision of the 200 or so Darlington fans behind the goal. His second attempt went out of play long before going near the players poised in front of the goal.
Former Mariner Ricky Ravenhill made it 2-0 in another bit of slack Town defending. A corner was cleared by Town but only to Ravenhill who was stood on the edge of the box. The midfielder was given all the time in the world to turn and volley the ball into the top corner. It was a top class strike, but Mike Newell will no doubt point to the fact that Ravenhill was given so much time.
The 0-2 scoreline undoubtedly flattered Darlo a bit, but Town were simply being punished for their mistakes, which seems to happen when you are near the bottom of the league.
Town's heads went down and the players began arguing amongst themselves about who should be marking whom for corners. Also Clarke in particular seemed to not have any idea what to do when he got the ball and ended up giving it away on several occasions.
On 33 minutes Mike Newell brought on Atkinson for Heywood to the relief of the crowd. The departing Heywood, in a symbolic gesture, handed the skipper's arm band to his young defensive partner Ryan Bennett.
Grimsby limped their way to half time two goals down for the third game running.
Town emerged unchanged in the second half but with a determined look about them to get back in the game and they immediately set about Darlington with gusto. North went close, before Newey wasted a good free kick delicately chipping it over the bar into the Pontoon.
Town's strikers never seemed to be in the box when a cross was played to where they should be and on 61 Till failed to cross when there were players in the box, instead trying to score from a narrow angle with an ambitious strike.
Kalala began to come in to the game more. He played some good balls from midfield, on occasion being too elaborate and giving the ball away trying to thread it through a narrow gap when a simpler pass would have done. He also was dangerous at set pieces, lurking on the edge of the box waiting for knock downs. It was such a ball that broke to him in a Town attack on 71, which he drilled low into the Pontoon net to make the score 2-1.
Darlington had hardly been an attacking threat all second half and now Grimsby looked much more comfortable at the back with Atkinson and Bennett looking more solid. The Mariners pressed ahead for an equaliser. Bore came on for Clarke and Grimsby won a lot of corners, but time eventually ran out and Darlington ended up 2-1 winners.
Town's biggest two problems had been the defence and the lack of an attacking threat. The first was addressed in this game by Atkinson replacing Heywood; the second it's hard to see a solution to with the strike force available to Mike Newell, all of whom are too similar. Town desperately need a target man in the style of Gary Jones who can keep hold of the ball and take some of the pressure off the back line. Had Grimsby started with the team that finished the game then perhaps they might have got more out of it. Town also need to improve both their defending at corners and their execution of set pieces.
Peter Till finished the game well, he is a better player on the wing than he is up front. Kalala played well, but was looking too often for over-intricate passes rather than playing simpler balls. My Man of the Match therefore was not the Congolese international. Instead my nomination goes to Ryan Bennett, who looked the part following the departure of Heywood.
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