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Suicide is Painful
By: Ian Townsend
ALL the talk in the Imp before the game was about whether Town could build on their fine away win at Bury last time out. However the interest in the local football club obviously wasn't repeated across the area and it was a fairly sparse looking crowd that received the team news approaching kick off.
Town’s starting XI was:
Stockdale, Bennett, Atkinson, Widdowson
Clarke, Leary, Sweeney, Jones
Substitutes: Proudlock, Boshell, Normington, Fuller, Overton, Linwood, Heywood.
Aldershot had obviously done their homework as they identified North and Sweeney as the danger men with both coming in for some fairly hefty treatment within the first five minutes. Their concerns appeared to be justified as North probed with some success down the right hand channel and Sweeney seemed to be at his creative best with some incisive passing. In the best move to date Sweeney found Widdowson on the overlap and the defenders dangerous looking cross was put behind for a corner. Sweeney and North combined again and the former was again clattered this time on the edge of the box. A quickly taken free kick found North who slotted home only to be pulled up for offside.
Town were exerting sustained pressure as first Jones tried his luck with a shot which the keeper couldn't hold and then after another free kick North’s snap shot went just over the bar. Then North, put through by Sweeney in a one on one with the keeper brought a good save from the Shots stopper. The passage of play ended with Jamie Clarke’s top corner effort being very well saved at the expense of another corner. It seemed only a matter of time before Town’s pressure paid off but, as so often, a loss of concentration at the back proved their undoing as after 29 minutes a harmless looking cross was met by Donnelly unchallenged of course and the ball looped into Forecast’s net at the left post.
The goal stunned Town with two main effects. Firstly the confidence of the back four disintegrated before the crowd’s eyes and secondly Town reverted to hopeful punts up the park in the general direction of Conlon, who seemed to often be marked by three defenders. This "tactic" played into the hands of Aldershot and, to be truthful Town were lucky to only go in one down as the home goal suffered a run of near misses and desperate clearances and tackles. The midfield, who in the first 20 minutes had looked up for the game suddenly lost any ability to tackle. The gap between them and the back four got ever larger and Aldershot, unable to believe their luck mounted attack after attack. Only the post spared Atkinson’s blushes as he directed a weak header inside the box to no-one in particular.
Half Time: Town 0 Shots 1
Mike Newell must wonder what to put into his half time pep talks. The players clearly have their minds elsewhere because they seem incapable of taking the game to the opposition. Today was no exception as within two minutes of the restart (and for the second home game in three) Town conceded a second goal in frustratingly slack circumstances. What looked like a fairly weak shot was spilled by the frustratingly inconsistent Forecast. The alert Donnelly, thankful for the reprieve made no such mistake the second time as he danced around the prostrate Town keeper and fired home from a tight angle for his and his team’s second goal of the game. Another fumble from a corner this time that went thankfully (but luckily) unpunished and several poor clearances showed that the stuffing had been well and truly knocked out of the team.
When Town did get the ball in the right areas too often a poor basic pass was their undoing with the fans were becoming increasingly frustrated at the fare on show. As if to sum up their game Conlon had a rare downward header saved by the feet of the Shots keeper. The fact that the referee had already blown for an infringement only served to reinforce the view that Town were well and truly off their luck.
Newell decided to make changes and when he did Clarke (who had had a reasonable game when in possession of the ball but a shocker when not) and Leary gave way to Proudlock and Linwood. In an interesting move which caused some mutterings at least in the Pontoon Linwood dropped into the back four and Bennett was pushed up the park into a midfield position.
An ironic cheer broke out as Forecast held a 20 yard Shots effort as Town looked to get back in.
Town however were still intent on giving the ball away as they struggled to find another black and white shirt whenever in all too brief possession of the ball.
Gradually however they seemed to get back into proceedings and first good work by Jones found Proudlock who’s snap shot was diverted from danger for a corner and then a good run by North was only stopped by a foul. From the resulting free kick the keeper parried the ball but no-one in Black and White was quick enough to snap up the offering and the danger was averted.
Then, on 80 minutes Town got themselves a life line. A speculative cross from Jones after good work to chase down the ball was met, unmarked, by Conlon who powered home his third goal of the season.
Town had 10 minutes to try and salvage a point which only minutes before had seemed totally unrealistic. Aldershot were on the back foot as Town found a new lease of life.
There was a fresh surge of hope as the fourth official signalled an unfathomable four minutes added time.
Unfortunately this hope was all too quickly dashed by a shocking lack of discipline which shamed the participants and may well have contributed to what looks increasingly like another season of struggle.
Firstly Proudlock who had already picked up his customary booking for petulant dissent decided to clash with an Aldershot defender, who it is fair to say, milked the situation for all it’s worth. The linesman a mere five yards away flagged....What happened next can only be described as high farce. Whilst the ref and linesman were trying to sort out what had happened Big Baz decided to assist the defender in his own inimitable fashion. Conlon appeared to strike the defender whilst he was on his knees and absolute mayhem ensued. When things had calmed down, firstly Proudlock was shown a straight red with the ref. indicating use of the elbow and Conlon quickly followed him for his part. Any chance Town had of restoring the balance had evaporated and after one last attack the game petered out.
Final Score: Town 1 Shots 2
The Pontoon around me decided that the referee was to blame. Only an idiot could realistically gloss over the part Town played in their own troubles. An inability to do the simple things anything like well enough, a suicidal tendency to misbehaviour and poor tactical moves proved their undoing. It could be a long hard winter! The talking point for this next week will surely be who can we play up front with North for the next three games at least.
What did we learn? Well I'd hazard a guess that Bennett will not play again in midfield. The End!
Man of the Match: Only really one candidate (again!) No-one performed well enough in the second half but North gets the vote for his all action first half effort. A bright spark in ever gathering gloom.
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