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The Nearly Men
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY fell 3-1 to league leaders Bournemouth at Deane Court, but had the chances to take something from the game. Two sloppy first half goals conceded gave them a mountain to climb but they ascended the foothills with a early second half goal, and Akpro went desperately close to equalising.
Bournemouth though put the game beyond doubt with a few minutes to go and ensure that caretaker boss Neil Woods did not get the dream start the fans were hoping for.
There was some promising signs though. The team at least did try to pass the ball more out of defence, and there was clear evidence of a better attempt to engender some team spirit and togetherness.
The defensive sloppiness was still there however, and yet again we played with two strikers who hardly ever score and, yes, they missed good chances.
Bournemouth's ground was windy and had far less Town fans than last time we played there, in the final meaningful game of last season when we lost the match but won the ultimate prize.
No Town games it seems is complete without some obscure youngster making his debut, and today someone called Ollie Lancashire was the latest newbie, signed on loan from Southampton I was told. His job today was to fill Ryan Bennett's boots, partnering Linwood at the heart of Town's defence.
Neil Woods lined up in a 4-4-2 line-up. Conlon; Widdowson, Linwood, Lancashire, Wood; Shahin, Sweeney, Boshell, Bore; Akpro, Forbes. In other words not a lot different than Newell's last sides, except notably the loanees who had played against Rochdale were on the bench. The key though was not who lined up but how they played.
One thing which was different was the players' pre-match routine. Sweeney, who I think was captain but couldn't see an arm band, went round and spoke to every Town player. The team then had a group huddle. It certainly gave the impression of togetherness, which is what we've been so lacking.
As the teams kicked off the Town drummer and his entourage began a never-ending chorus of Neil Woods's Black and White Army which must have lasted 20 minutes, and then continued for most of the game.
Nothing of any significance happened in the first ten minutes, although Town were clearly trying to pass the ball around more to feet, with Peter Bore willing and able to run at players and play generally like a proper winger.
Suddenly though Akpro was presented with a golden chance on 10 minutes. He was played through and just had the 'keeper to beat. He took the ball wide and tried to dink the ball over the 'keeper. He looked to be certain to score and I jumped up and cheered as he hit the ball. I didn't actually see where the ball went as I presumed it was in the net but it must have narrowly missed the target. Unless that is there was a giant conspiracy by everyone in the ground to deny that a goal ever happened (or perhaps I've listening to Nick Griffin too much).
Bradley Wood was getting torn to pieces by Feeney, who seemed to be able to beat him for fun, and was a lot quicker to boot. Feeney tore past Wood and crossed to Pitman, who forced a good point blank save from Colgan.
Bournemouth had most of the play and took the lead on the half hour mark. Bournemouth had a free kick and the ball came to Connell on the penalty spot. Linwood allowed him to turn and shoot past Colgan, not dissimilar to the first goal last week against Rochdale.
Shortly afterwards Wood was beaten again by Feeney, but this time the Town right back managed to get in a perfectly timed last gasp tackle.
Town didn't deal with the next Bournemouth cross though which Linwood could only divert into his own net, with Colgan seemingly rather indecisive.
On 37 Forbes found Bore in space just in front of goal but the Town winger miscontrolled the ball at the crucial moment.
Town had had two good chances, and should have taken at least once of them but the half ended 2-0 to the Cherries.
Half time: Bournemouth 2 Grimsby 0
At half time I was musing that other teams when they concede are like a wounded animal. Town when they concede too often like down and prepare to die. It's perfectly possible in football to come back from one or even two goals down. But we never do. The opposition do though. Hopefully this new "bonding" thing might help I mused, clutching at metaphorical straws.
We needed a goal early in the second half and we got one. Bournemouth had looked a bit vulnerable on corners at the end of the first half and Linwood got his head to one of Sweeney's spot kicks. It seemed to take a big deflection though before dropping into the bottom corner, so may go down as a own goal.
From this point the game was quite open with both teams going forward and looking to get the goal they needed. Colgan had to make a good save from Pitman, Widdowson almost scored another own goal when he cleared across the face of the goal and Town went close with a couple of long range shots from Sweeney.
The best chance though fell once again to Akpro. Town had a free kick and it came to Akpro with the 'keeper off his line. Akpro got his toe to the ball and tried to chip it over the 'keeper. It was desperately close but the 'keeper managed to get his fingertips to it and clear it for a corner.
But just as the Town fans were starting to believe they could get something their hopes were dashed when Pitman scored with an overhead kick to make it 3-1, which is how it ended.
Full time: Bournemouth 3 Grimsby 1
Town had deservedly lost but they almost did enough to get a point. Akpro really should have scored to make it 1-0. The football played by the Mariners was better than it has been recently. Nobody was brilliant. Wood struggled against the pace of Feeney, and that was probably the difference between the sides as we didn't really have anyone who could do that to them. Man of the Match goes to Peter Bore, who once again put in a gutsy performance this time in his natural position.
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