League Two Form Guide
Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY hung on for a point at Aldershot's Recreation Ground this afternoon, although having led 2-0 at half time they will be disappointed not to have got all three. Two penalties awarded against left back Richard Hope, the first one very soft, allowed Aldershot to claw their way back into the game.
It's a bit of a trek to get to the away part of Aldershot's ground as you have to walk up a hill and through a park to get to the back of the stadium, not dissimilar to Watford a few years ago. The Recreation Ground itself has a dated non-league feel to it, comprising largely of terraces and with only three sides to the stadium. The away end is about a third of the stand behind the goal, an open terrace and then part of the seated stand down the side of the ground. If you go back to the days before seating imagine a third of the Pontoon, the open corner (Constitutional Corner?) and a bit of the Main Stand and that's what the visitors get. In total Town had a total of around 400 fans strung out over this extended area.
Grimsby, fielding an unchanged side from that which beat Shrewsbury, got off to a sensational start. In the opening seconds of the game Proudlock was put through but took the ball too wide and had to settle for a corner. From that corner the ball was played back to Jean Paul Kalala, lurking as ever on the edge of the box, and he placed a low shot into the corner of the net. The 'keeper must have sighted it late as it wasn't struck with that much power.
Grimsby now had about 95 minutes to defend a lead, including injury time in both halves. As if sensing the role they would play, the Aldershot fans to our right came to life and they were hardly to be quieted for the whole game.
Bizarrely having the two sets of fans juxtaposed in one stand meant that on occasions they shared the same songs, with either slightly different words or the two versions a few notes apart. One exception was Aldershot's rendition of the Southern anthem "no one likes us", a sentiment which has no doubt helped them in their journey up the leagues, but denies the reality of a football world profoundly indifferent to their very existence.
After the shock start the game settled into a pattern of Aldershot having most of the possession, Town defended heroically, looking to sneak a goal on the break. Aldershot had many attacks but came especially close on 20 minutes when Town gave the ball away and dangerman Ricky Newman smashed the ball well wide.
Shortly after that Adam Proudlock received his traditional first half booking for dissent, meaning as ever that he spent the rest of the game walking a disciplinary tightrope given his tendency to question the decisions of the officials using "industrial" language.
Town's new French striker Jean Louis Akpro has pace in abundance and can look very dangerous when he has the ball. He doesn't always make best use of it, but given time with his teammates, you would imagine he can only improve. On 25 minutes he managed to stick out a leg and make contact with the ball, which looped over the 'keeper on to the roof of the net.
With everyone wondering whether Town could hold on to half time they actually doubled their lead just before it. A mistake by the goalkeeper led to a chance for Clarke whose shot was blocked, but quickest to react was Nick Hegarty who managed to poke out a foot in time to send the ball into an unprotected net.
Town hung on to a half time which flew by in a haze of ecstasy, spoiled only by the fact that Bournemouth were winning.
Aldershot did exactly what Town did in the first half, getting off to a quick start, with the significant exception that they were given a huge helping hand by the referee. There was minimal contact between Hope and an Aldershot player, and virtually no appeal from the players or fans behind the goal. However much to the bemusement of most people in the ground the referee pointed to the spot and Hope was booked for his "foul". Davies stepped up and hit an unstoppable shot past Barnes.
The referee then infuriated Town fans further when Akpro was hauled down by what looked the last Aldershot defender but he only gave the player a yellow card and Town a free kick which came to nothing.
Aldershot at this stage were dominating proceedings and Town had their backs to the walls to defend a one goal lead. Good defending by the Mariners meant however that the Shots were largely restricted to long range efforts, although Danny Hylton should have done better but missed the target on around the hour mark.
On 65 minutes Akpro was pulled up by the referee for a foul. The ref decided not to book the Frenchman and looked like he wanted to give him a talking to, but quickly realised he didn't understand any English so it wouldn't achieve much.
Grimsby defended increasingly deeply, with all 11 players in the box at corners, as well as Aldershot's long throws which often served as well as a corner to launch the ball into the box. There was a sense of inevitability when it was from one of these corners that Aldershot scored, although once again it was a decision against Hope. The referee missed a blatant handball by the Town defender, but the linesman alerted the official to it and gave Aldershot a second penalty. The outcome was much the same with Barnes helpless to stop the ball going in. Hegarty was booked for a protest as pointless as Canute's tirade at the sea.
With 15 minutes to go there looked only one winner, but in fact in the last few minutes it was Grimsby who had the better chances. Clarke had a bullet header saved by the 'keeper from a Hegarty cross, and Trotter also had a late chance for Town.
In the end Grimsby hung on for a deserved point having restricted Aldershot from scoring in open play, no mean achievement. The first penalty was harsh on Grimsby and had the referee not given it Town might well have gone on to win the game. We will never know, but I doubt there were many Grimsby supporters who would not have settled for a point before the game or during most of the second half.
It was a very entertaining game in which I experienced a wide spectrum of emotions. All of the Grimsby players played their part and nobody had a bad game. Special mention must go to the back four, all of who got through a tremendous amount of work to deny Aldershot close range, clear scoring chances. Stockdale, Atkinson and Bennett were all immense, and Hope played well too despite conceding two penalties. It's hard to nominate one for Man of the Match, but if I had to pick anyone it would be Robbie Stockdale who is finally developing into the right back Town desperately needed when he was first brought to the club.
Full marks too must go to both sets of fans for playing their part in creating an excellent atmosphere. So many home crowds are quiet these days, and it's easy to see why the Hampshire club have done so well at the Recreation Ground this season given the vocal backing they got on this showing.
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