League Two Table
Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
By: Ian Townsend
DECEMBER is renowned for being the month of bonhomie, good cheer and old friends renewing acquaintances....unless of course you are a Grimsby Town fan. As the season lurched into the final month of 2009 the spirits of the Town faithful were dealt a hammer blow-far worse than anything seen on the pitch this term...
The "Imp" is Shut.
Hardened drinkers in search of that elusive forgetful juice before their entry into "The Theatre of Fish" rushed McDonalds when the rumour circulated that Happy Meal toys had been replaced with lager. Unfortunately it was a myth and it was a far more sober than usual crowd who made their way into Blundell Park to digest the news of Neil Woods's latest team to try to break the long winless run.
The starting XI was:
Bore, Atkinson, Lancashire, McCrory
Featherstone, Leary, Sweeney, Coulson
On the bench: Overton, North, Conlon, Clarke, Linwood, Hudson, Wright.
The teams ran out to a sparse crowd as the lure of Christmas S****ing seemed to have won against the doubtful pleasure of 90+ minutes inside B.P.
Town appeared not to notice as they took the game to their high flying opponents in one of the brightest starts seen to a game this season. A lot of the talk over the last couple of weeks has been about a perceived lack of fitness. If Woods can be measured this early into his tenure then he has clearly had some success in this area. For the first time in a long while Town set about closing down their opponents, winning second balls, and even launching attacking moves of their own. As early as the sixth minute Akpro, showing excellent control fed Proudlock who in turn found Coulson. The latter hesitated and opted to pull the ball back but as so often lately the ball was pulled back behind his team mates.
Dagenham tried to get their own game going seeking to make amends for the heavy defeat at home on Tuesday to Aldershot and Lancashire had to have his wits about him to clear a dangerous looking cross from the right at the expense of a corner. However this was only a slight hiccup as Town continued to attack. A feature of their play was the speed of break out and McCrory carried the ball fifty yards only to see his first effort blocked. The ball came back to him and, off balance he fired in a shot which Roberts saved well low down.
Peter Sweeney was enjoying his best possession for a long time. Make no bones about it, the lad has an excellent football brain and his probing pass, brilliantly controlled by Akpro set up Town’s next chance. Unfortunately, as so often this season the final ball was awry and the winger's cross was high and harmlessly whacked across goal.
Just before the half hour Town had a major let off. The defence, looking more organised with several clean sheets to show for their efforts were almost undone by a fine Daggers cross. A state of panic ensued in the back four and the ball was touched back towards his own goal by Bore with Colgan gratefully falling on the ball before real damage could ensue.
Town continued to push on, let down only by some wayward passing but on 34 minutes the deadlock was broken. Fine play down the right saw the ball find it’s way across to Coulson who controlled the ball well, stepped inside and fired an unstoppable shot past Roberts in the Dagenham goal. It was Town’s first goal for over 400 minutes (a factoid that Radio Hull must have mentioned a dozen times in their build up to the game) and the relief was almost palpable.
Dagenham upped the pace as they tried to get back in but decent defending and some good handling from Colgan from a header from a corner ensured Town held their advantage.
The fans, sensing that the effort was there, got behind the team and on 40 minutes were very nearly rewarded with a second goal. Town won a free kick in a dangerous spot five yards outside the box. Sweeney stepped up and his effort rattled the bar with the ball hitting a Daggers defender before being whacked to safety.
Time allowed at the end of the first half saw another huge let off for the Mariners. Nobody was capable of clearing the ball and when the shot finally came in it whistled just over Colgan’s bar with the Town stopper an interested spectator.
As Dagenham ended with a flourish Lancashire found his way into the ever lengthening list of yellow cards for a deliberate trip.
As the ref. blew for the end of the half Town were warmly applauded from the field in recognition of a much improved performance.
Half Time: Grimsby Town 1 Dagenham and Redbridge 0.
Dagenham’s manager had clearly given his players the benefit of a few words at the break as his team took to the field a good five minutes before Town. Indeed it was the away side who started with more purpose and a combination of good defensive work and somewhat desperate clearances were the feature of the opening second half exchanges. However Town replied and a good move saw Coulson scythed down on the edge of the box. Sweeney stepped up, seeking to lower his sites a fraction from his first half effort but this time his shot curled over the bar.
The Daggers were certainly more of a force this half and Town had another let off when yet another stray pass in the middle of the park set their winger away. The ball came in and a shot cannoned off Town’s bar before being hurriedly cleared.
Back came Town and yet more good running for balls into space down the flanks (How long is it since we’ve been able to say that?!) saw Akpro hold the ball up superbly with Dagenham defending at the expense of another corner. From the corner Atkinson’s free header went agonisingly wide.
However, unfortunately, Dagenham possessed the players capable of punishing Town’s fairly frequent errors and on 58 minutes the Londoners pulled themselves level. More good work down their right saw a cross come in which was met well by a looping Nurse header over Colgan for the equaliser.
This was the signal for Woods to freshen up the team and North replaced the tiring Proudlock. The local lad was soon into the thick of things as some strong running enabled him to feed Bore who’s cross was deflected just wide of his own post by a defender.
Despite this Town were enduring a pretty torrid time as some of the old panic set in. I have a theory about this: The crowd become very nervous and these nerves transmit themselves to the pitch resulting in hashed, rushed clearances.
Sensing the need to bolster the midfield area Woods's next substitution saw Featherstone replaced by Clarke. Incredibly, in a game that Town were still in with a very good shout of pulling off a win some "Fans" in the Pontoon saw fit to boo the lad as he came onto the pitch. I sometimes wonder whether we would be better off without them...For me the Hull loanee is the least effectual of the loan players and the move seemed eminently sensible.
As it happens there was an upturn as Town tried again to capitalise on the good running of both North and Akpro. Coulson too was revelling in the new freedom of playing wide and he nearly doubled his tally as the defence opened for him to take a couple of steps before hitting a fierce angled drive which flew past the far post.
The last 12 minutes saw the Daggers goal lead a charmed life as the only likely outcome appeared to be a Town win. North fired a shot just wide and then found himself in the way of a goalbound effort from Sweeney.
In a final throw of the dice Akpro was replaced by Conlon as the Town fans hoped for the same contribution as he gave against Accrington. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and the game petered out until in time allowed Town won a final chance with a free kick on the edge of the box. This time Sweeney left it to Clarke but the midfielder couldn’t clear the wall.
As the ref. blew for time Town were left to rue some missed chances and poor distribution.
There were however loads of positives. Effort was there in abundance. The loan players are gelling into a formidable defensive partnership and Atkinson revelled today in the support he received from McCrory and Lancashire. All great sides are built from the back and it should be high in Woods's agenda to try to secure the aforementioned for further loan terms. In Coulson Town have an attacking midfielder capable of pressurising opponents into mistakes.
Final Score: Grimsby Town 1 Dagenham and Redbridge 1
Only Town’s perilous position at the wrong end of the table meant that the result was considered two points lost instead of one gained. I suspect most fans would have taken that result before the game.
Man of the Match: Unlike the Bradford game several candidates. Atkinson was immense at the back. Sweeney pulled a lot of strings in midfield and was desperately unlucky not to add to his goal tally. However I’ve given it to Coulson...not only for scoring the first goal for ages but for the way he continually harassed the Dagenham defenders forcing them onto the back foot. With a bit more composure he could easily have had a hat trick.
It’s still a long way off but I believe Town may have taken the first steps to league safety today.
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