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Season Review: Part Ten
By: Sam Kinnaird
THE month of April began, make or break time for the Mariners. John Fenty knew this, and he also knew that support was vital. He announced that there would be ten free coaches to take fans to the crunch game at Notts County on the Bank Holiday Monday. The final home games of the season would also be a reduced £10 entry for all.
April began with a tough trip to play-off chasing Shrewsbury, a side who had already racked up 14 home wins in an impressive season. A full-strength Town side defended the opening half well, and took the lead on 55 minutes when Nick Hegarty drove a low cross which was met by Barry Conlon at the far post. The game had come to life, and just three minutes later Shrewsbury equalised through Captain Ben Davies. Chances were scarce afterwards, and both sides looked nervous of throwing too many men forward, and it finished 1-1.
The good result had been overshadowed by Chester’s 2-1 win at Notts County, their first win since Boxing Day. But it was a point gained nonetheless, and Town looked to build on the point with a home game against Accrington.
The first half saw little of note by either side. With the match heading for a 0-0 draw, Accrington striker Michael Symes headed the winner in the 71st minute to take all three points back to Lancashire. It was a frustrating result for the Mariners against a side who looked very beatable. Chester had lost 2-0 at home to Macclesfield, and remained a point behind Town.
The game at Notts County was massive, especially after news filtered through of Chester’s early 1-0 win at Accrington. Over 2,000 noisy Mariners fans had made the journey, the atmosphere was incredible and one could sense it was make or break. Town 'keeper Wayne Henderson was the hero of the first half, with no less than five wonder saves to keep County at bay. Half time came and went, the beer was flowing but the tension was huge. A corner swung into the box by Danny Boshell was met by the head of Rob Atkinson on 52 minutes, it found the bottom corner and the away section of Meadow Lane had lost its roof. The place simply went berserk.
With 11 minutes remaining, Conlon slipped in Boshell, who expertly placed the ball under the advancing Pilkington and into the net. Again the away end erupted, there was confusion amongst the officials but eventually the goal was given and the result was safe. The heroes in black and white applauded the magnificent support, it felt like that was the moment that Town had stayed up.
Of course, it was far from over, more excitement and tension would come.
A home game against Port Vale followed, a packed Blundell Park saw Town take the lead after just four minutes when Conlon smashed home after the 'keeper had parried a corner into his path. Just 16 minutes later, a deft volley from 20 yards by Nathan Jarman made it 2-0. Port Vale had given up, and a third goal came on 49 minutes when Conlon poked home and took a bow in front of the Pontoon end. Bournemouth had beaten Chester 2-0, and Town were now four points clear with only two games remaining; safety was now in sight.
A following of 1,200 Mariners fans made the long journey south to Bournemouth in a game where both teams could find themselves safe if Chester failed to win. A Nathan Jarman header on 41 minutes gave Town the lead against the run of play, but minutes later we were down to ten men as Danny Boshell was sent off for a needless kick. Just two minutes after the break, it was 1-1 as Warren Feeney equalised. And with ten minutes to go Mr. Bournemouth himself Steve Fletcher smashed home to send Dean Court into raptures. Chester had drawn 2-2 at Aldershot, and both teams were safe (barring a 20 goal and three point reverse over Town). The relief was evident, both sets of fans were on the pitch celebrating.
The final game of the season saw a dire 0-0 draw at home to Macclesfield. It was a typical end of the season game, with most players already on the beach. But we had done it, we had avoided relegation when it looked like we were doomed. The last minute goal at Luton had been, personally, my lowest point. It seemed then that there would be no escape, confidence would be dashed and the wins would never come. But I was happily proved wrong, the whole town got behind the team when it was needed. Town had stayed in the Football League!!!
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