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|Highs and Lows|
Grimsby Town FC 2009 Review - Part 2
By: Sam Kinnaird
THE Story so far is that Grimsby has survived the 2008-2009 season by the skin of their teeth thanks largely so a points deduction for Luton. But with a host of new players fans were itching for the new season to start, so here goes...
Town began the season with an away trip to Cheltenham, who had been relegated in the previous season and were Town’s victors in the 2006 Play-Off Final. A brilliant first half performance brought Town a 1-0 lead at half time thanks to Barry Conlon, and the mass travelling support could smell an opening day win. But a woeful second half and the introduction of Robins' striker Barry Hayles changed the game, and Cheltenham somehow ran out 2-1 winners. Next up was a League Cup First Round tie at Tranmere Rovers, the side Town had dumped out in the same stage last season. A good first half hour was destroyed by 15 minutes of madness before the break in which Tranmere found themselves 3-0 up, a fourth goal in the second half meant it was a miserable night in Birkenhead. Just days later, Town were again beaten 4-0 but this time by Crewe at Blundell Park. A poor performance from on-loan goalkeeper Tommy Forecast led to Crewe being 2-0 up at half time, and two more goals in the second half meant Town had begun the season the way they had begun the last. Rotherham were the next visitors to Blundell Park, but a much improved performance from Town could not stop the Millers from winning the game 2-1, although Peter Sweeney had scored his first of the season to make it 1-1 mid-way through the second half. Mariners' fans didn’t have to wait much longer for a first win though, as an early Barry Conlon goal gave them a battling 1-0 win at Bury. Things were finally starting to look up, but as is the way with Grimsby, they took a backward step with a 2-1 loss at home to Aldershot. Both Conlon and Adam Proudlock were dismissed in a 22-man fracas in injury time.
September began as August had ended, a 4-0 reverse at Port Vale led to Danny Boshell being sent off for a needless challenge in the second half. Strangely, on-loan 'keeper Josh Lillis had a very good game in the Mariners' goal, keeping out a penalty and making a number of top draw saves. Town found themselves in 23rd place in League Two, with only Darlington propping them up. Next up for the Mariners was a home game against Hereford, a side that had gone 14 games without a win, a dire game looked to be heading for 0-0 until Danny North bundled in a late winner to earn all three points for the home side. Town earned back-to-back wins with a comfortable 2-0 victory at Torquay, a freak own goal and a Peter Sweeney free kick brought the points back to Blundell Park. The run went on further, and it was three unbeaten as Darlington earned a 1-1 draw at Blundell Park, although with ten men Town should have earned all three. A trip to Saltergate to face Chesterfield was next; around 1,000 Town fans saw their team go 3-0 down before a goal from Adam Proudlock and a wonder strike from Sweeney made the score look more respectable. Despite the loss, Town had earned seven points from September, and things were beginning to look more positive for Mike Newell.
October began with a heavy 3-0 loss at Barnet, with Barry Conlon coming off the bench on his return from suspension only to be again dismissed for a violent incident with a Bees defender. This time Conlon would be suspended for four games and fans were rapidly losing patience with the temperamental Irish forward. A fine 2-0 win at Hartlepool in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy followed, with goals from Proudlock and Sweeney, it meant a Second Round trip to Leeds United would ensue. Again Town took a backward step and lost 2-1 at home to Burton Albion, in their first ever game against the Brewers. After the game, John Fenty issued a statement backing his manager and suggesting that players were not pulling their weight. It was a bizarre statement, given that after an awful 2-0 loss at home to Rochdale in the next League game, Newell was sacked. Town captain Ryan Bennett was sold to Peterborough in the week that followed in an initial loan move, which would lead to a £500,000 move. A number of names were linked with the job including Peter Taylor, Gary Brabin, Russell Slade and Lee Richardson. Youth Coach Neil Woods took charge of first team affairs for the time being. His first game in charge would be a trip to League leaders Bournemouth, a lively Town performance resulted in a 3-1 defeat, but it was a much improved effort from the players. His next game was at home to Accrington, and a last gasp goal from Barry Conlon earned a valuable 2-2 draw.
November began with an FA Cup First Round tie at home to bath City, a team Town were expected to beat comfortably despite being woefully out of form. It didn’t turn out like that, and a spirited Bath City comfortably beat a pathetic Town side 2-0, surely Woods could not get the full time job after that? A second cup game in four days meant a trip to Elland Road to face Leeds United, Town found themselves 3-0 down before a wonderful volley from Peter Sweeney brought some cheer to the 1,200 Town fans behind the goal. Successive goalless draws at Northampton and local rivals Lincoln showed Town had begun to stop leaking goals, and it was enough for Fenty to hand Woods the full time job at Blundell Park. It divided the fans, many of whom had expected Russell Slade to be given a second chance with the club he had led to a play-off final in 2006. Fenty declared Woods as the right man for the job, and was willing to back him with funds in January. His first game in charge was a 3-0 loss to home to Bradford City. A number of loan signings were brought in, including Hull and Barnsley strikers Nick Featherstone and Michael Coulson, Peterborough striker Ben Wright, Gainsborough midfielder Mark Hudson and Plymouth and Southampton defenders Damien McRory and Ollie Lancashire. The final game of November saw a third successive goalless away game at Macclesfield, although Adam Proudlock hit the post late on in his return from injury.
Town began the month with a 1-1 draw at home to Dagenham, with on-loan striker Michael Coulson scoring the club’s first goal in five games. Another 0-0 away draw at Shrewsbury followed, with chances few and far between. An impressive Mariners performance looked to have been wasted when Paul Mullin put Morecambe 1-0 up at Blundell Park against the run of play in Town’s next game. But Peter Sweeney had other ideas, as his 25 yard dipping volley smacked into the top corner in front of the Pontoon to earn a share of the points. The Boxing Day game at Notts County was postponed after an 11am pitch inspection, and Town’s final game of 2009 would be at home to fellow draw specialists Port Vale. A glaring early error from Nick Colgan and a scrambled second put Vale 2-0 up at half time, a late Barry Conlon penalty made the scoreline more respectable but Town were never really in the game. The Mariners ended 2009 15 games without a win in the league and second from bottom in League Two, five points adrift of safety. With a massive squad and few players with any quality, Woods needs to cut his team down to a workable size and bring in some fresh blood. A quality frontman who will run for the cause is needed, as well as a right back and a skilful winger. We hope and pray that a new decade will bring a change of fortune for the long suffering Mariners fans, who deserve far better than the 2000’s have given them.
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