Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
One Step Forward But Two Steps Back?
By: Ian Townsend
THERE was a distinctly icy feel to the evening as Grimsby Town and AFC Bournemouth took the field at a windy Blundell Park for their Friday night encounter which a lot of people were calling "a six pointer".
A win for Town would make Bournemouth’s task of overhauling the Mariners that much harder whereas Town would be in the sights of the south coast club should they pull off a win. Considering the conditions there was a decent crowd looking to see if Town could pull off that elusive first home win after the Bury heroics of last Saturday.
Mike Newell was forced into a change as J.P. Kalala’s one match ban took effect and Danny Boshell was given the nod to replace him.
Town lined up as follows:
Stockdale, Bennett, Atkinson, Newey
Clarke, Trotter, Boshell, Hegarty
Subs: Montgomery, North, Bore, Hope, Llewellyn.
The game began in timid fashion as both teams struggled to come to terms with a swirling wind. Unfortunately it was Town who cracked first as Atkinson’s attempted clearance went straight up in the air. It found Lee BRADBURY and the much travelled striker took it on a few paces before firing an unstoppable shot across Barnes into the corner for the opening goal.
Once over the initial shock of the early set back Town came a bit more back into it although in truth some of their play, whilst full of effort, lacked finesse. However they found some assistance in the unlikely figure of Bournemouth’s goalkeeper who looked like he'd never travelled this far north before. Firstly he allowed Jarman to charge down a clearance with Clarke unable to profit and then he proceeded to kick six clearances on the trot straight into touch, much to the obvious chagrin of his team mates but delight of the Town faithful.
Unfortunately Town’s defence, never one for seeing opponents struggle alone decided to get in on the act and we were treated to a few minutes of mayhem as firstly Newey overhit a backpass to Barnes which the keeper did well to repel, and then no Town player seemed capable of getting anything on the ball as it pinged around our penalty area with Bournemouth fortunately unable to capitalise.
At the other end a fine through ball sent Proudlock away only for the Bournemouth keeper to come way out of his area and with a suspicion of handball get the clearance in.
At this point the referee should get a mention. In a game where the conditions were causing havoc, he managed to add to it by penalising every attempted tackle made by the Black and Whites much to the obvious frustration of players, bench and fans alike.
It was still Bournemouth making the better chances and Newey again made a hash of a back pass with only a splendid tackle by Atkinson atoning for his earlier mistake prevented real danger. Then, from a free kick by Anderton, Bradbury’s header flew just wide with Barnes rooted to the centre of his goal.
As the half wore on Town at last began to string some passes together and managed to obtain a string of corners, initially without them causing too much panic in the Bournemouth area. However this was to change on 40 minutes when a Hegarty corner eventually found its way to CLARKE who brought the ball down and arrowed an unstoppable shot past Jamal into the top corner.
As expected the goal galvanised Town and the Mariners gained the lead within a minute as a free kick eventually found its way to Ryan BENNETT who, unmarked, nodded into the net.
HALF TIME: Town 2 AFC Bournemouth 1.
Mike Newell had clearly used his half time talk to urge his players to take the game to Bournemouth as Town began the second half full of purposeful play. Clarke, revelling in his wide position fired in a succession of crosses which saw first a wild slice over his own bar from a Bournemouth defender and then a ball which evaded the inrushing Town attack. Bournemouth only threatened briefly as firstly a corner evaded everyone and then a speculative lob saw Barnes back tracking only for the crowd to breathe a collective sigh of relief as the ball bounced off the top of the net.
Town were controlling the game and it was no surprise when from yet another corner ATKINSON, unmarked completed his redemption with a header for 3-1 to Town.
Town looked visibly relaxed. Surely that first win was now a formality? Bournemouth decided otherwise. Prompted by some clever substitutions to freshen things up, (a tactic not employed by Mike Newell to the chagrin of some fans around us when it looked clearly as though Trotter was struggling) Bournemouth began to make inroads into the Town defence. However it was a goal out of nothing which brought them back into it. A little run into the box left the Town defence in its customary disarray and though Barnes made a good save, he could do nothing about ANDERTON following in to bring the score back to 3-2.
Even at this point it looked as though Town would hold out, a view strengthened when Bournemouth defender Guyett was sent off for his second bookable offence.
Unfortunately this move served only to redouble Bournemouth’s efforts. With just two minutes left on the clock Anderton was allowed to run fully forty yards before feeding BRADBURY who placed his shot beyond Barnes for an unlikely equaliser.
Four minutes of injury time only served to heighten the feeling that Town could actually lose as the anxiety in the crowd transmitted itself to the players.
In the event Town held out, a position that should simply have never had to happen from a team who held a 3-1 lead against a team who could be doomed to relegation.
Mike Newell will reflect tomorrow morning that for the third time this season a team has been reduced to ten men at Blundell Park and have gone on to rescue the game.
Although Town got a point the feeling of the fans as they left BP was one of huge disappointment at two points dropped.
On a positive note at least the team are scoring goals (although the cynics will point out that the strikers are still not doing so!) but defensively it is as bad as ever.
Man of the Match: Very difficult to call given the result. The match sponsors gave it to Jarman for another all action performance. However my vote goes to CLARKE if only for his superb finish and his intelligent use of the ball down the right particularly in the second half.
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