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|JP: First Signing|
Season Review: Part Five
By: Sam Kinnaird
NOVEMBER saw the beginning of Mike Newell’s slow building of a new squad at Blundell Park. He started with the signing of Oldham and former Mariners' midfielder Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala.
The 26 year-old signed until the end of the season and would boost a depleted Town midfield that had struggled to compete in recent matches.
Manager Mike Newell said of the situation: "The league table doesn't lie. We need competition for places and we need to strengthen all over the place but not because of what the lads are doing but for competition for places."
Kalala’s first game was at home to Darlington, a side who had started the season well and were in the top 7 when they arrived at Blundell Park. Early goals from Billy Clarke and former Town midfielder Ricky Ravenhill put Darlo 2-0 up after 15 minutes. Funny that, didn't see Ravenhill do that too often in the black and white of the Mariners. JP Kalala scored a thunderbolt from the edge of the box on 71 minutes but it was mere consolation for a Town side that looked out of their depth and at rock bottom in terms of confidence.
Next up was the FA Cup first round, a chance for Town to play without the pressure of the league and surely earn a win against a side they had the better of in the recent clash. The week before the game saw the signings of Darlington striker Adam Proudlock and Barnsley centre-half Rob Atkinson, who had impressed in a loan spell the previous season. Both started the game at Morecambe but neither could prevent the early cup exit that was to come. Morecambe took a 2-0 lead with an Aaron Taylor brace on 45 and 77 minutes. Town defender Robbie Stockdale then volleyed home to set up a nervous finish on 88 minutes, but Morecambe held on to send Town out of the cup at the first attempt.
It was now 22 league games without a win for the Mariners, and they faced a tough battle at Bury who had started the season well. Two early goals from Liam Trotter and Nathan Jarman sent the 400 or so travelling fans into delirium, they couldn't believe what they ere seeing as Town went into the break 2 goals to the good. As is the way with Town, we didn't do things the easy way, as JP Kalala was sent off in the first half. But Town held on through a nervy second half to secure a deserved and much needed victory, the monkey on our backs had finally been lifted!
The first win had been achieved and the relief could be sensed throughout the area in the week that followed. It was vital that Town didn't rest on what they had achieved and looked for another three points with the visit of Bournemouth on Friday night. Striker Mickael Buscher was signed up on a free transfer from Scottish side Gretna, who had gone bust in the summer. He didn't make the squad for the Bournemouth game, as Town took a 3-1 lead with ten minutes to go against ten men. But two late goals broke Town’s hearts, as Darren Anderton and Lee Bradbury goals took a point back to the South coast.
The fans were rightly gutted at the late goals, but encouraged by what they had seen. Five goals in two games for the Mariners meant confidence was soaring; a tightened defence and Town would surely start to pick up those precious wins.
The final November match would see Town travel to Macclesfield on the Tuesday night of the 25th. A late Jamie Clarke volley had seen us gain the three points in last year’s encounter. The Mariners thoroughly dominated the first half, but somehow fell behind through former Lincoln midfielder Nat Brown on 68 minutes. Try as the might, Town could not find the equaliser they deserved, and left Cheshire empty handed.
November had been a vast improvement on the months that had gone before it, with four points picked up. The new signings were beginning to bed in well, the defence looked more settled and there seemed to be more energy throughout the squad on a match day. But would December bring a second league win for the Mariners?
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