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Happy Days Are Here Again!
By: Ian Townsend
IT was a more pleasant afternoon than expected as the faithful assembled at Blundell Park for their first look at the early contributors to the "Newell Revolution" in the first home game of 2009 and the visit of Rotherham United.
Town lined up as expected with Mike Newell sticking to the XI that saw off league leaders Wycombe in their last outing.
Clarke, Bennett, Atkinson, Widdowson
Jarman, Kalala, Sinclair, Elliott
Subs: Llewellyn, Bore, Heywood, Hegarty, Montgomery.
The Millers included Nick Fenton who got a decent welcome when his name was announced.
As so often Town started hesitantly with Rotherham doing the early pressing. Barnes got lucky as a mis-hit clearance wasn't capitalised on by the Millers.
However the difference these days is that Town have counter-attacking flair in abundance and it didn't take long for them to threaten the Millers goal. Good work by Proudlock to Jarman and back to Proudlock saw the Town forward with his back to goal. He swivelled but unlike against Shrewsbury he didn't quite have his bearings and the ball went narrowly wide.
Rotherham had set their stall out and after a poor challenge on Proudlock which went unpunished, defender Nicholas found his way into the referee's notebook for a similar transgression against Jarman after just seven minutes. From the resulting free kick the ball found it’s way to Jarman, who unleashed a belter from fully 25 yards which the Rotherham keeper managed to turn over for a corner. It was all Town and from the corner Atkinson rose unchallenged only to see his powerful header stopped before the line.
Back came Rotherham and Clarke was initially rooted to the spot as the ball found it’s way to Broughton in acres of space in the box. Fortunately he awoke just in time and managed to block the shot out for a corner.
A worrying period for Town fans came when firstly Elliott was injured in an accidental clash of heads which saw him leave the field and then Kalala seemed to jar his ankle in a challenge requiring lengthy treatment.
By half way through the first period Town were really getting into their stride with Elliott and Sinclair bossing the middle of the park and Widdowson and Clarke (who appears to have had a new lease of life) providing support. Some of the passing took the sages sitting around me back to the days of Alan Buckley’s first spell with great passing and movement into the channels. Unfortunately a couple of times the ball came in without a Town attacker present but this will surely be remedied and quickly.
A very important feature of the first half was the whole unit's desire to defend well up the field. Jarman and Sinclair in particular chased and harried the Rotherham defence who must have wondered what was going on after the ease with which they brushed Town aside in October. On 34 minutes the referee became the focal point for howls of derision as, following yet another bad tackle, (this time late and from behind on Jarman) by Nicholas he somehow contrived not to send the defender off. A thoroughly unfathomable decision.
Proudlock became the fourth player to require treatment as the game turned niggly but the recently signed striker almost had the last laugh as, in the dying minutes of the half, he again received the ball with his back to goal, swivelled and shot well only to be denied by a combination of the keeper and post.
HALF TIME: Grimsby Town 0 Rotherham United 0
Perhaps unsurprisingly Harrison didn't return for the second half with Rotherham making, in the circumstances a sensible change.
The game carried on in it’s physical manner though as Elliott was brought down fairly cynically after "nutmegging" his opponent although again the offence went unpunished other than the award of a free kick.
Indeed Rotherham were the first to show as a speculative long range shot saw Barnes reach up to tip over, making amends for his slight uncertainty earlier.
Back came Town and Clarke had a half chance but the keeper was equal to his slightly mistimed effort.
Then Jarman went on a driving run releasing the ball to Proudlock who saw his shot well saved by the amazingly agile Millers' keeper. From the throw out Rotherham went straight down the other end and Barnes was forced into a similar save near his post.
However, a buzz was starting to go around the ground as Town, for the first time this season took the game to their opponents with real intent. Firstly Proudlock found Elliott whose cross in turn found Akpro who’s first time shot didn't quite have enough to test the keeper substantially. The crowd felt the turning point was near and it was well worth waiting for. On 56 minutes Widdowson picked the ball up wide on the left from Elliott. He beat two defenders cut inside and hammered an unstoppable shot across the keeper for his first goal for the Mariners.
Within seconds it could have been two when Proudlock having picked up a poor clearance opted to shoot instead of passing to Akpro or Sinclair who were perhaps better positioned.
Rotherham tried to get back in, winning a short succession of corners. Barnes was nearly caught out as he tried to make his way through a crowd of players with no real chance of getting the ball.
The nerves which were starting to become just a little frayed were then given a real soothing as the referee intervened, this time to Town's advantage. From yet another free kick on the left the ball found it’s way to Proudlock, who looked to be having his shirt tugged. Initially the ref. gave a free kick but the linesman indicated a penalty and Mr Hill duly pointed to the spot, much to the obvious anger of the Millers' defenders.
Proudlock stepped up and crashed a very good shot inside Warrington’s right hand post to a collective sigh of relief from three sides of the ground.
Rotherham didn't give up and soon Barnes was being called into action with a snap shot producing one of his trademark reflex saves.
With seven minutes left Town put the result beyond doubt as Peter Bore (on after the second goal for Jarman) found Sinclair after a surging run down the right. Sinclair played a quick one two with Proudlock and buried his shot beyond the keeper's despairing dive. The away fans had seen enough and streamed away from the ground.
There was still time for Town to seek a fourth as a great through ball found Akpro in a one on one with, not for the first time the 'keeper coming out on top.
The fourth official signalled three extra minutes. How long has it been since those extra minutes were not a cause for further worry?
They passed uneventfully and Town left the field to a standing ovation. It’s a bit early to count one’s chickens but if they can maintain this form then a rise up the table will be unstoppable
Final Score: Grimsby Town 3 Rotherham United 0
Man of the Match: Very difficult with all the loan players showing their value. However I'm giving it to
Widdowsonfor an immense performance. It would do some of Town’s younger players good to just sit and watch this lad's ability, application and enthusiasm. His goal capped a faultless display and on this sort of performance he surely has a future at a much higher level.
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