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Fortune Favours the Brave
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY won their second game in succession with a resilient display against Torquay United at Plainmoor. After a goalless first half, a double substitution by Mike Newell at half time led to the opening goal, albeit with a large slice of fortune.
Grimsby doubled their lead with a Peter Sweeney free kick and held on to consign Torquay to their sixth successive defeat.
Torquay had long spells of possession but Town's defence was resolute, and on-loan 'keeper Josh Lillis was equal to anything which managed to get through to him. The difference between the two sides ultimately was the Grimsby took their chances and Torquay didn't.
Mike Newell started with the almost same side that won at home to Hereford last week. The only change was Jamie Clarke started in midfield in place of Josh Fuller. French striker Jean Louis Akpa Akpro however returned from injury and started on the bench.
The Mariners employed a 4-1-4-1 formation with Ryan Bennett and Danny North being the two 1's.
Torquay had the best of the early stages of the game, and needed an impeccably timed clearance from Linwood and a reflex save from Lillis to intercept Robertson's header.
Town went close after 12 minutes when Jamie Clarke sweetly set up Sweeney with a backheel, and Town's playmaker fiercely struck shot needed a good save from Bevan to tip it round the post.
Torquay midfielder Marvin Williams had a terrible five minute spell when firstly he completely failed to make contract with a cross in the six yard box, and then shortly after slipped in the penalty area when played through with time and space to damage Town.
Linwood was booked by the referee, who had an excellent game, retrospectively after the ref allowed play to continue with Torquay in possession.
A few minutes later Linwood was involved in a pushing tit-for-tat with Torquay's Benyon, which was started by the Gulls' player. The ref though decided to just let both players off with a talking to.
The half ended with Grimsby under a lot of pressure, but with Torquay failing to trouble Lillis.
Half Time: Torquay 0 Grimsby 0
Grimsby had defended well but, other than Sweeney's shot, had not come very close to scoring. Town's formation is predominantly set out to limit the opposition's chances of scoring, rather than the other way round. Forbes had shown some good touches, and made a few runs into the box with the ball at his feet, but seemed to be playing neither as a striker nor as a right-sided midfielder. He fell midway between the two and consequently Grimsby often had nobody on the right if Stockdale had not pushed forward.
Mike Newell made a bold change at half time, bringing on Bore and Akpro in place of Forbes and Chris Jones. This allowed Town to switch to a more attacking 4-4-2 formation and in Bore they had a genuine wide player on the right.
They say that fortune favours the brave and it did so in spades for Mike Newell. His two substitutes combined when Akpro set up Bore, Bore ran into the box and was tackled by Nicholson. The ball squirted out of the challenge and looped towards Poke who had come off his line a little. There was only a narrow margin in which the trajectory needed to fall to get over Poke and clear the crossbar, but like a perfectly executed tennis lob, the ball looped over the 'keeper's despairing reach and dipped to land in the foot of the net. In my opinion it was an own goal, but Bore may claim it.
All this happened in front of the vast majority of Grimsby's 250 fans, who whooped in delight and laughed at their good fortune. Heaven knows it was due after a few disallowed goals already this season.
A few minutes later Danny North was played through miles ahead of the defence, and had just the 'keeper to beat. He tried to go round him, but Poke brought him down with a clear foul, basically grabbing his leg. Unfortunately as North had headed away from goal the ref was probably right to show only a yellow card. Bennett and Sweeney stood over the ensuing free kick, and Bennett surprisingly took it, dispatching a tame kick straight into Poke's hands.
I was reflecting on how unfair the law was in this case as players at this level do not often score from free kicks, and Poke had effectively got away with a professional foul, which was what the ruling was designed to prevent.
But the God of Football obviously felt that injustice had been done, because Grimsby were soon awarded a free kick in more or less the same spot. The same two players stood over it, except this time Sweeneytook it (Bennett feigned to, but rather obviously jumped over the ball). The shot was struck low to the 'keeper's right and beat him on the near post. Whether his positioning was at fault or the power of the shot beat him I'll have to wait and see the replays.
Mike Newell's substitutions had worked perfectly because now he was able to bring striker Danny North on and replace him with midfielder Nick Hegarty, thus reverting once again to 1 up front.
That one was Akpro, and it was to be said that he did a tremendous job in the last 20 minutes or so of leading the line. There was one occasion when Town broke and everyone else was so slow at getting forward that Akpro was virtually the only player in the attacking half, but he still managed to win a corner.
In the last few minutes there were several mass scrambles in the Town box, one of which at least Torquay looked certain to score, but the way they were playing they couldn't find the net in a house of ill repute.
Some old songs were dusted off like "We can see you sneaking out" and "Cherrio". There's not been much occasion to use them of late! The Town drummer also deserves a mention for helping to set up a cracking atmosphere in the away end which sounded like it had a lot more people in that it actually did.
It was amusing to hear the Gulls' fans grumbling as everyone walked away from the ground. Whatever division we're in losing to Grimsby is always the pits, an unthinkable happening, it would seem which is why so many managers have lost their jobs as a result of a Town drubbing.
Full Time: Torquay 0 Grimsby 2<\b>
All in all Grimsby's game plan had worked well. They had set out their stall to stop the opposition scoring, then at half time Newell decided to chance his arm with a more positive formation. In the final part of the game they went back to a similar formation to that at the start, but Akpro looked a more effective lone front player than North had done.
Nobody who played the whole game was outstanding. Jamie Clarke caught my eye in midfield with several challenges to deny Torquay time on the ball as well as one or two good passes. North was hard working up front, and Linwood was excellent at the back despite being on a final warning for the whole of the second half. But man of the match goes to Scunny 'keeper Josh Lillis. He didn't make a huge number of saves, but what he did was flawless and played a large part in ensuring that Grimsby kept a clean sheet.
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