League Two Form Guide
Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
By: Rob Sedgwick
NEARLY 2,000 Grimsby fans saw the Mariners record an invaluable three points at Meadow Lane to keep Town just above the relegation zone. At half time though it looked very unlikely that Town would get anything, as only several fine saves from Wayne Henderson had kept Grimsby in the game.
With Chester kicking off at 1pm and taking the lead just before half time, there were many long faces in the away end (or more accurately side of the ground) come 2pm. With the ground rapidly filling up, someone remarked that Chester were 2-0 up, and the rumour spread like wildfire around the Town fans. I blamed myself for the second after tempting fate by checking the score too often and I was surprised to find when I looked at the score on my mobile all of 15 minutes later that it was still 1-0. The moral of the story is that at a football ground no matter who tells you a score, never believe it unless a) it has been read over the PA system, b) you have seen it for yourself. I'll never forget the day we got relegated at Tranmere when various "scores" were bandied around....
Anyway, Chester won 1-0, so for Town to finish out of the bottom two they would need to win - a tall order considering our away record. But Notts County had nothing to play for - just like Accrington Stanley on Saturday!
Mike Newell it would seem set his stall out to score the first goal as he named three strikers in his starting line-up. Adam Proudlock came in for Chris Llewellyn, and James Hunt was also rested for Danny Boshell. Whether Town started playing 4-3-3 is open to debate, but for the vast majority of the first half, if not all of it, Proudlock was playing on the right wing - a controversial decision with Peter Bore on the bench.
Town started poorly. Their opponents with "nothing to play for" (other than three points, their win bonuses and a new contract in the summer for many of them) were quicker to the ball and had Town on the back foot from the off. Scunny striker Forte, as early as 3 minutes, robbed Hegarty, nutmegged Stockdale, and went bearing down on goal. Only a perfectly timed last gasp challenge by Town captain Ryan Bennett rescued the Mariners.
Forte on 18 minutes once more sprung Town's offside trap, and Town had Henderson to thank once again for making a smart save with his feet.
With Town restricted to just half chances it was all one way traffic and Henderson once again make a point blank save to deny Butcher after Town's defence was caught napping.
Notts County must have wondered what they had to do when Henderson made a splendid double save on the half hour mark to keep Forte out.
Five minutes later Forte once again latched on to a loose ball in the box, but fortunately scuffed the shot slightly meaning Henderson could save with relative ease.
Just before half time Town fans at last had something to shout about. Pilkington appeared to have carried the ball out of his area, and the referee's assistant in front of the Town fans clearly flagged for a foul. With the Town fans baying for a red card, and Notts County defenders surrounding the ref, he suddenly to our horror appeared to have been talked out of it, and overruled the linesman, instead awarding a free kick for a foul on the 'keeper. Pilkington had seemed under no great pressure, it had looked a simple mistake, but the referee caused so much anger by not conveying his decision until a full minute after the incident.
Funnily enough, aggrieved as everyone was, it was the turning point in the game, as Town and their fans suddenly felt "hard done by".
The reality is that in a nearby parallel universe the Mariners were 3-0 down and half way to the Conference.
Half Time: Notts Co Grimsby 0
Town had played poorly. They had given the ball away frequently and Notts County had been allowed so much space to knock the ball around in. Forte was a massive handful and could have had a hat trick on another day.
Nobody was allowed to go to the toilet at half time by the local police force. My bladder has only been trained to last 45 minutes so it was literally unchartered waters until the full time whistle.
The second half started much the same when Danny Boshell had to clear over his own bar. From the ensuing corner Henderson was once again called upon to make a save.
At the other end Town got a corner and Atkinson scored with a near post flick to give Town the lead very much against the run of play.
The goal breathed life into Town. From a long clearance by Atkinson, Akpro was brought down, arguably by the last defender. Ironically the referee did not give the decision, it was given by the opposite linesman, in a reversal of the incident a few minutes before. The ref was obliged to show a card and it was just a yellow shown to Johnson.
The free kick led to a corner and Proudlock flicked the ball on at the near post straight at the 'keeper.
Conlon, who made some great passes all afternoon, put Boshell through, and he slotted the ball past the 'keeper much to the delight of the Town fans. However the linesman's flag had gone up for offside. After consultation between the officials the ref pointed towards the centre spot, as it had not been Boshell who had been offside. It was poetic justice given the other decisions the officials had made between them.
Town now just needed to get through the remaining 15 minutes, but how long each one of them seemed to go. It needed some last gasp defending and Grimsby also had a slice of luck when the referee missed a blatant handball by Conlon back defending which should have resulted in a penalty.
After four minutes of injury time it was over and what looked so terrible and 3pm and 3.45pm we would probably have taken at 1pm as Bournemouth had lost and Luton were now officially relegated have reaching the snookers needed stage.
In a match with several key refereeing decisions it was one which had gone against them which seemed to spur Town on to the win - plus of course Mike Newell's half time team talk!
In the second half Atkinson was a colossus at the back and went on to score Town's critical first. Conlon's passing and link up play was excellent, as was his presence at defensive set pieces. Hegarty, who was awful in the first half, made some crunching tackles and crucial challenges as well as a being constant danger in attack with the ball at his feet. But Man of the Match has to go to Henderson who put in a phenomenal display in the first half to give Town the platform to go on and win the game in the second.
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