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|We Are Town!|
The Hand of Cod
By: Ian Townsend
THERE are times when you know your football team have captured the imagination of the local population. Walking into "The Imp" at 2 o'clock yesterday was one of those occasions with fans six deep at the bar.
Outside, the programme sellers for the first time in living memory (well Tottenham) had empty bags. The place was buzzing. The chant of "Maaa-rin-errrs!! could be heard above the traffic. The stage was set for Grimsby Town’s latest attempt to move away from the dreaded "drop" into non-league.
Unsurprisingly Mike Newell chose to stick with the XI who had battered high flying Gillingham into submission a week ago.
Stockdale, Bennett, Atkinson, Widdowson
Sweeney, Hunt, Llewellyn, Hegarty
Subs: Lund, Heywood, Bore, Proudlock, Forbes
As the teams came out to a huge roar from all four stands I was treated to an 80’s flashback as the sizeable, vocal, Aldershot contingent launched several ticket rolls towards the goal in front of them. Any alien transported to Blundell Park at that point would have assumed they were watching a top match rather than one between the team in 22nd. place in the bottom tier and a team who had already safeguarded their participation for next season in league football. Unfortunately Mother Nature hadn't read the script when she decided to visit upon us weather which could only be described as "difficult". Just what part the wind would play in proceedings would quickly become apparent.
Aldershot were quickest out of the blocks and in truth dominated play for the large part of the first 20 minutes. Henderson was called upon a couple of times to "earn his corn" as Aldershot threatened. Town for their part struggled to get to grips with the conditions. However intelligence wise this is a much better organised Town side and prompted by the outstanding Stockdale, Town stepped up a gear and began trying to play along the ground.
The main talking point of a relatively tame first half revolved around yet another referee who saw fit not only to allow some fairly "robust" late tackles (Stockdale and Llewellyn the victims) but entirely failed to see the Shots defender who'd decided he couldn't wait for the end of the game before getting Atkinson’s shirt.
Llewellyn was unable to continue after his rough treatment and he was replaced by Peter Bore to a decent round of applause. Surely his transformation from early season "boo victim" to recognised contributor is nearly complete?
Mr Bore was greeted too with some relish. The bloke in front of me reckoning that it was down solely to the fact that 30% of the people in the ground hadn't seen his recent displays and a further 30% thought they were watching Darren Mansaram.
Final thought on the first half must be about Nick Hegarty. I'm not sure I understood the meaning of the phrase "confidence player" until I witnessed first hand the transformation in Nick especially since he has played alongside his minder "Big Baz".
Most of Town’s attacking play came down their left with Hegarty influential. On another day he'd have scored one, maybe two as first he saw a shot fizz wide and then the 'keeper made a decent save to a shot from about 20 yards out.
HALF TIME: Grimsby Town 0 Aldershot Town 0
After a narrow escape early in the second half when Henderson had to rely on the ever alert Atkinson to head off the line after the keeper failed to get a meaningful touch on the ball, Town finally began to exert some pressure on the Shots' defence. Heralded by the arrival of a heavy hailstone shower, Town - orchestrated by the impressive Sweeney - went all out for the first goal which many thought would be enough to win the game. Bore, who had looked a little off the pace, moved forward and "mullered" a shot against the bar from all of 30 yards. Sweeney had a half hearted appeal for a penalty turned down and Akpro had a shot blocked with Hegarty whacking the rebound high and wide.
Mike Newell sent on Proudlock for the tiring Akpro with about 15 to go. An air of tension was appearing in the crowd but unlike in many, many previous games this season that tension translated itself into a wall of noise from the home stands as 6,500 Mariners urged their team on.
The breakthrough when it came had a real sense of poetic justice about it for those of us that had made the long trip to Aldershot in December only to see Town concede two highly debatable penalties. A deep cross found Conlon, who jumped with a defender. A hand went up and the lino signalled a penalty. Many people opined that it could quite easily have been the Hand of Cod but hey who cares!
Conlon cheekily chipped over the keeper as he dived and Town were looking at seven minutes of survival. As expected Aldershot threw everything at the Mariners obviously having read the script about us conceding late goals. However we now have a different "cast" and the experience of Stockdale, Sweeney and "bull in a china shop" Conlon ensured that the lead was preserved.
The roar at the end (only surpassed by news that Bournemouth had lost and Chester only drawn) was one of relief and an expanding belief that what had looked like a miracle escape only 14 days ago is now looking a real possibility. It ain't over until the fat lady sings. Let’s hope she has a further dose of laryngitis over the next six weeks.
FINAL SCORE: Grimsby Town 1 Aldershot Town 0
Man of the Match: Not easy with loads of candidates. I'm going for Henderson who made a couple of vital saves at 0-0 but who has also shown a commendable ability to motivate the players in front of him. His confidence is rubbing off on his team mates and his interaction with the crowd is making him lots of friends.
This site is by the fans, for the fans, and we will consider articles on any subject relating to the Mariners whether it be related to current news, a nostalgic look back in the past, a story about a player, a game or games in the past, something about Blundell Park or football in general. Click here to submit your article!
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