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Too Little Too Late

By: Rob Sedgwick
Date: 28/12/2009

GRIMSBY Town ended 2009 on a whimper. It has been a terrible year and a dreadful decade and today's inept performance, the final of the "noughties", just about summed up the whole torrid time. Town gifted Vale a 1-0 lead with a goalkeeping mistake, conceded a sloppy second before half time and only managed to rouse the crowd in the final 5 minutes.

With others results going against them Neil Woods's team are now six points adrift of safety, and with Town not having managed a win for three months, the club need a massive turnaround in fortunes if they are to avoid disappearing down the Football League plug hole come May.

On the plus side the crowd are still backing the Mariners, and ultimately the Blundell Park faithful will be needed at every game between now and May if they are to help their representatives on the pitch achieve another Great Escape. Many fans, myself included, did not agree with the appointment of Neil Woods, but he's the manager now and the supporters have to back him as long as there is still hope.

With the January transfer window about to open and the Ryan Bennett money due to arrive from Peterborough that cash ,if spent wisely by Woods and chairman John Fenty, may be a get out of jail card.

Conlon and Lancashire started for Town in place of Proudlock and Featherstone, which meant Peter Bore could move up the pitch and Linwood start at right back in Bore's place.

Grimsby started relatively brightly and looked to have scored after just two minutes. A free kick was headed down by Conlon and volleyed into the net by Proudlock, but after the referee's whistle had been blown, presumed to be for pushing in the box.

Port Vale took a freak lead almost straight away though. Rigg fired a shot in Colgan's direction. It should have been a bread and butter save for any 'keeper in any league at a comfortable height, but somehow Colgan let the ball slip through him and under his body to once again give the opposition the lead against the run of play, as had happened in the previous game against Morecambe.

The goal boosted the midlanders and a veil came over Town which they never really shook off. Lancashire was caught napping not long after and his indecision lead to a shot for Griffith on the edge of the box which went just wide.

Town were giving seemingly endless free kicks away in the final third much to the fury of the home crowd who blamed the referee for many of them, but in truth most of them were deserved with Colgan well beaten.

Conlon set up Proudlock on 23 minutes and his shot forced a flying save out of the Port Vale 'keeper who tipped it round the post for a corner.

Port Vale went 2-0 up just before half time. Grimsby could not clear a ball from the own box and kept presenting another chance to the away side. Eventually Taylor smashed home one of these, the ball taking a big deflection off Lancashire on the goal line.

Marc Richards should have scored in first half injury time. He was left completely unmarked on the far post from a cross and his header flew across the face of goal and just inches wide.

Half Time: Grimsby 0 Port Vale 2

Grimsby has been wretched and did not look up to the game at all. Second to everything Town had given away two soft goals, and with Town goals about as rare as a Hull City clean sheet, it would take a miracle to get even one point never mind three.

Neil Woods re-shuffled his pack at half time. Widdowson came on for Atkinson at the start of the second half so McCrory moved up the pitch to play on the left hand side of midfield. Linwood reverted to centre back and Peter Bore played at right back. Coulson, who had been playing on the left wing, went to play on the right.

Town won a free kick at the start of the second half. Sweeney just failed to get the ball to Conlon who stood completely unmarked on the far post. Vale broke quickly and looked to have scored a third, but it was disallowed for offside.

Town created a lot of pressure but could not really create many clear-cut chances. Conlon was invariably the target man whenever Town went forward and he forced a goalline clearance from Dodds on 58 minutes.

After a flurry of bookings for players from both sides, a McCrory shot struck our own player in the box and bounced out to safety. Peter Bore then went close with a long range shot which was tipped over.

In the final five minutes Town were given a lifeline when Rob Taylor was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Almost straight away Griffith stuck up his hand in the box and won Town a penalty. After some delay for arguing Conlon pulled a goal back. The board was then held up for 90 minutes and cued a grandstand finish.

Substitute Nathan Jarman came closest to winning the goal for Town when his volley was plucked by the 'keeper from under the crossbar.

Full Time: Grimsby 1 Port Vale 2

Town had left it far too late to mount a challenge. Many blamed the referee but he sent a Port Vale player off and gave us a penalty! None of the earlier shouts for penalties were clear cut in my view. After Colgan's early mistake Grimsby were too predictable. The patient build-up play from the Morecambe game was gone. Instead the ball was struck to Conlon's head at every opportunity. Vale soon learnt who to put their best defenders on, but the extra space available for other Grimsby players was never taken advantage of because we were too fixated by the head of Barry Conlon.

Nobody really deserves to win Man of the Match.

Grimsby simply have to win games very soon and make some very significant signings in January. Hopefully just the belief that a new year and a new decade might bring a change in our fortunes could also put bac k a spring in our step come the next game against Bury on Saturday.

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