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Bulls Eye!

By: Ian Townsend
Date: 13/09/2009

NORMALLY there can be few things finer than a sunny September afternoon spent watching The Mariners at "The Theatre of Fish". However this season, as with last, the grey skies of relegation appear to be hovering just beyond the horizon.

The feelings of unease were not helped by the absence through injury or suspension of so many of Mike Newell’s little sunbeams. The reading of the players on duty could have been seen as some sort of cruel test for any part time supporters who'd ventured out into the brightness.

Town started with:

  • Lillis (The on-loan keeper getting a warm reception for the man who replaced the unfortunate Forecast)
  • A back four of Stockdale, Linwood, Atkinson and Widdowson
  • In midfield Newell persisted with Bennett in a holding position in front of the back four with Forbes on the right and Sweeney and Jones making up the four.
  • Up top North was partnered by Fuller.
  • The bench which consisted of Overton, Heywood, Clarke, Bi rd, Normington, Leary and Wood showed the extent to which the squad had been decimated by recent events.

The game began with Town looking bright. Forbes and Fuller added an energy which had seemed to be missing so far this season in home matches. The latter had Town’s first good run which was stopped at the expense of a corner. Unfortunately, and in a scenario that was to be oft repeated Sweeney’s flag kick failed to beat the first defender being easily cleared. Forbes was his usual busy self and the first contentious moment of the game came on 6 minutes when under pressure from three opponents Forbes appeared to be kicked whilst on the floor. With the Pontoon baying for a red card the referee opted for an early yellow. The conspiracy theorists amongst the faithful were in loud voice as once again a string of decisions appeared to go against Town with Forbes generally felt to be harshly treated.

The first half was fairly unremarkable. Town were the only team trying to play football but as so often they lacked any form of penetration with North in particular getting little service as the last pass failed to create any positive outcome.

At the other end the back four looked far steadier than of late with Linwood in particular producing several good headers and timely interventions. When yet another free kick was awarded to the Bulls on the edge of the box, Lillis despite seeing the ball late scooped it around the post for a corner to good applause.

Half Time: Grimsby Town 0 Hereford United 0

The second half began with many home fans wondering whether the new found defensive resilience could prevent the concession of another early goal. Town however took the game to their opponents, and, for the first ten minutes whilst still failing to create a worthwhile opening looked no likelier to concede. As the half wore on Town, seeming to sense the growing impatience of the fans, began to concede possession in midfield. Ryan Bennett in particular came in for some heavy flak for some poor distribution and seemingly lax anticipation. Mike Newell appeared to have seen enough and the first substitution on 62 minutes saw the unsurprisingly tiring Forbes replaced by Clark as Newell sought to get Town some time on the ball. Forbes left the arena to a standing ovation by fans who appreciated a typical all action effort. As is so often the case the idea behind the substitution was nearly undone by some slack defensive play as the ball pinged about Town’s box with the final shot being very well saved by Lillis.

Almost straightaway Town nearly took the lead. North who was still basically feeding off crumbs of service was put through in a one on one with the Bulls' keeper. His weak shot was parried by Bartlett but North chose to stand with his hands on his hips instead of going for the rebound in a totally opposite situation to Aldershot’s second goal last time out and the chance was lost.

The game moved into the final ten minutes with both teams struggling to find that elusive breakthrough. Just when a nil nil draw looked a nailed on certainty it was Town who managed to break the deadlock on 84 minutes. The ball found it’s way to North whose first effort was again parried. This time however almost in a gesture of acceptance that he should have done better minutes earlier he persisted and the ball was lifted over the keeper and into the goal . The sense of relief was obvious and instant. The crowd found their voice willing Town to hold on. At times it was a little desperate with Stockdale in particular failing to keep the ball in the attacking corners but in truth Hereford had nobody capable of breaking Town down. A final comfortable catch, at the end of three minutes of added time, by Lillis and the referee blew up on Town’s first home win of the season.

Full Time: Grimsby Town 1 Hereford United 0

Summary: Well it wasn’t pretty but definitely a case of the result being more important than the performance. Given the number of first teamers out it was a well earned three points.

Man Of The Match: Quite difficult as no-one really shone. Lillis dealt comfortably with everything a poor Hereford side could throw at him. Atkinson seemed to be back to something like the form he was in at the end of last season. After much thought I’m giving it to LINWOOD who was a tower of strength particularly in the first half. In my opinion Town could do far worse than build the defence around him.. His obvious experience could well prove invaluable as Town try to kick start their campaign.

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