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Not With A Bang...But A Whimper…
By: Ian Townsend
IN the beginning was the word and the word was "Passion". A relatively short word that has been bandied about over the past few days by such august publications as "The Telegraph" and the award winning GTFC match day programme in Mike Newell’s Programme Notes.
The debate about whether it was the right decision to make locals Peter Bore and Danny North available for loan was certainly aired passionately on the various Town related websites and elsewhere on line. So it was that the prospect of yet another "New Beginning" enthused the faithful as Town’s first ever encounter with Burton Albion edged nearer. Passion was also displayed by the 400 plus "Brewers" fans who were arriving clearly enjoying their "Get As Many League Grounds In As You Can" season.
The early team news was seen by the wise as a "mixed blessing". Rob Atkinson was unfit but this surely meant a safe back four place for Ryan Bennett. Linwood was able to resume hostilities after his concussion at Barnet so the back five of:
Wood, Bennett, Linwood, Widdowson
had a familiar look.
Midfield saw Clarke in the holding position with Jarman, Sweeney, Forbes and the recalled Chris Jones
Up front Newell plumped for Proudlock.
The team selection appeared to underline Newell’s view that certain players had been hiding so it was a slight surprise to find both Bore and North on the bench along with Overton, Leary, Akpro, Normington and Fuller.
For probably the first time this season Town were sharpest out of the blocks. Before the game was three minutes old Forbes had a couple of good runs down the right, Jones used his pace down the left and Sweeney had a fierce cross shot which had the Burton keeper scrambling.
Almost incredibly it got even better when on four minutes Jones charged down a 'keeper clearance. The ball caught him full in the body and rebounded into the empty net with the Burton keeper a forlorn spectator.
Were Town’s fortunes changing? For the next few minutes it seemed that whatever had been said in training this week had struck home with Town not allowing Burton to settle, players running at defenders with the ball and some excellent positions being found. A Sweeney free kick was hit low to the near post and nearly found it’s mark. However had we only known it normal service was about to be resumed. On 10 minutes in their first real attack Burton equalised. Once again there was an element of fortune as Guy Branston appeared to control the ball with his arm. Town’s defence was static as the ball was passed around the box before being placed beyond the reach of Colgan by Corbett.
For someone as passionate as Mike Newell it must worry him considerably that the slightest reverse can so upset his players that they shrink back into their shells. Burton began to make progress down both flanks where Forbes on the right continually left Wood exposed as he failed to track back and support the youngster. As so often this season the ball was booted away to no-one in particular as Town contrived to surrender midfield without much of a fight.
It was therefore no surprise when Burton took the lead. Clarke made his customary poor excuse for a tackle in the middle. This time with the added ignominy of being "nutmegged". The defence were slow to react and when the ball eventually found its way to Phillips who finished in some style.
The goal was the signal for the long suffering fans to become restless as Town struggled to get the ball out of their half for the remainder of the first period. Proudlock was receiving no service at all and some frustration kicked in as Wood was booked for what looked like quite a bad tackle.
Not for the first time this season the team were booed off as fans struggled to understand how a match that had started in such a positive manner could have turned out in such a fashion.
HALF TIME: Grimsby Town 1 Burton Albion 2
Mike Newell made his first change at half time with Akpro coming on for Jones who’d been largely ineffective after his goal.
As with the first period the second half started positively. Sweeney found Akpro who in turn fed the ball into Jarman’s path where only a desperate challenge prevented some reward at the expense of a corner. Town were playing more ball along the deck as Sweeney in particular attempted to get the team moving forward in search of the equaliser.
It was by no means "one way traffic" though and more disarray at the back was only prevented from increasing the deficit by some last ditch tackles and blocks. The gulf between the back four and the midfield was huge and Burton took advantage, repeatedly running into acres of space.
Just when it looked like Town might be in with a shout the injury curse struck again. Proudlock chased a ball and clattered out of play in front of the dug out. It was clear he was badly hurt and a stretcher was called for.
He was replaced by North who may have been a little surprised at such a swift return to favour but it showed the weakness of Town’s squad given the enforced absence of Conlon that there was little option.
North appeared keen to make a point and within seconds had won a corner with a good run down the right.
By now Jarman had been replaced by Bore so Town had on the field of play the two players who had been singled out for loan movement.
As with his fellow townsman Bore seemed to be keen to impress. There are few sights finer than Peter Bore running at speed at defenders. The fact that we haven’t seen enough of it over the past few seasons shows one of the basic problems within the club. A couple of fine runs didn’t get the rewards they deserved but Town were certainly having more of the play.
Forbes was the next to go on a strong run winning a corner and then came the event which for me summed up why Town are in the mess they are. Akpro took the ball to the by-line in a great run. He looked up and pulled it back to.....no-one because no-one had the ability or nous to anticipate where the ball would go. I have to tell you that for professional footballers it shouldn’t have been rocket science.
There was still time for another strong run by Bore culminating in a fierce shot which the keeper only held at the second attempt. When he tried to repeat the effort minutes later the ball went for a throw to the jeers of the frustrated Pontoonites.
The referee tried to help by awarding a ludicrously long 6 minutes of time added on. However this is not Manchester United. Town huffed and puffed and threw everyone into the attack. In fact only a tremendous recovery tackle by Wood prevented further damage.
As so often the case it was all in vain and the referee blew for time bringing down the curtain on another fairly abject day at the office.
FINAL SCORE: Grimsby Town 1 Burton Albion 2
Positives? Not many really. Forbes looked decent going forward but needs to work VERY hard on the defensive part of his game. His MOM award from the sponsors raised more than a titter of laughter around our part of the stand.
For me the only player to come out with much credit was once again Bradley Wood. As far as I can see the only viable candidate for Man of the Match.
Passion may well have been the buzz word of the day. At the moment I and I suspect a lot more would settle for some football, clear tactics and some basic skills.
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