Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
The Return of the Noughties
By: Ian Townsend
IT was another depressingly grey, dull day as the faithful made their pilgrimage to a rain sodden Blundell Park. The mood hardly lightened for many by the news that Barry Conlon had been shipped out to Chesterfield.
As kick off approached a quick look around the terraces suggested that perhaps unsurprisingly the population had hardly been moved by John Fenty’s latest call to arms and it was a fairly sparse attendance that greeted the announcement that the chosen starting XI was the same as started the last game. Could Town go one step further and pick up maximum points thereby closing the gap on their opponents?
Town lined up as follows:
Bore, Linwood, Atkinson, McCrory
Featherstone, Leary, Sweeney and Coulson
With, Akpro and Proudlock given the task of improving the “Goals For” column.
On the bench: Overton, Heywood, Widdowson, Jarman, Hudson, North and new loan signing Wes Fletcher.
Town started brightly and won three corners in the first five minutes. Instrumental in the early promise was Akpro who picking up the ball ran at the Cheltenham defence before feeding McCrory on the overlap. Unfortunately the return pass was played too close to the Cheltenham keeper and the danger was averted.
Cheltenham tried to get themselves going and a moment of real danger was created on 10 minutes when Cheltenham’s top scorer found on the edge of the box despite the close attention of Atkinson. The shot seemed to go through Atkinson’s legs and with Colgan rooted to the spot somehow swerved wide of the post much to the relief of the Pontoon faithful.
Surely the award for the most improved player under Wood’s stewardship must go to Peter Bore and it was a typical run at the heart of the opposing defence that created the next bit of excitement. His shot was blocked but the ball fell kindly to Leary who smashed in a first time effort which, unfortunately was always rising and flew over the bar.
Akpro too seemed to have started again where he left off against Bury and a combination of speed and directness left the Cheltenham defenders with little option but to bring him down close to the edge of the box. From the free kick Coulson was fed by Sweeney but danger was averted by a fairly desperate block.
Unfortunately, and not for the first time this season, the rest of the first half was dominated by the performance of one man, step forward Mr Tierney the referee. Firstly he somewhat harshly penalised Leary on the edge of the Town box when the combative midfielder appeared to have won the ball cleanly. True there was a hint of foot up and Leary had let himself down with his first touch but the scene was set. The resulting free kick sailed harmlessly wide of Colgan’s left hand post. Any thoughts that the referee had done with Leary and Town’s defence as a whole were dashed minutes later in dramatic fashion as Leary was once again judged to have committed an offence after he had clearly won the ball in the box, the Cheltenham forward only going down after the ball had been cleared. After the customary protests up stepped a casual Richards who saw his shot come off the bar and to the safety of a goal kick. The injustice galvanised Town after what had been a fairly torrid 15 minutes and backed by the fans went seeking to capitalise on their let off. However no further chances presented themselves and the teams went in level at the interval
Half Time: Grimsby Town 0 Cheltenham Town 0
Town started the second half in a positive frame of mind and early runs from Bore and Akpro brought some reward in the form of a corner and free kick respectively. Sweeney played a one-two with Coulson and his shot was deflected for a further corner. It was all Town and the game took a turn for the better as on 55 minutes Eastham grounded Akpro to earn a second yellow card reducing his side to 10 men. Surely now Town could take advantage? Akpro with the bit well and truly between his teeth took the game to Cheltenham. His speed and ability to hold the ball proving a real handful. Bore began to move forward with greater intent and it was from his initial good run that the next controversy of the game came about. The Town right back was fouled on the edge of the box and from Sweeney’s free kick the ball eventually found it’s way to Proudlock who bundled it into the net. It was difficult to see properly but the effort was ruled out for offside by the linesman apparently for offside much to the utter dismay of Town, fans and players alike. Within seconds though, Proudlock had another chance to break the deadlock. This time his point blank effort from an angle was miraculously blocked by the Cheltenham keeper with Proudlock holding his head in disbelief and many fans wondering why opposition goalkeepers seem to save their seasons best performances for their visit to B.P.
With a little under 20 minutes remaining Woods entered into the controversy stakes with his first substitution replacing the lively Akpro with loanee Fletcher. It seems that the jury is out on Woods tactical ability as I looked around the sea of incredulous faces around me in the Pontoon at the move. Town still pressed though and Featherstone stung the fingers of Brown with a 20 yarder that the keeper tipped for a corner. Next Proudlock had yet another chance as a cross from McCrory found it’s way right across the box. The Town striker however could only hit high and wide from a very tight angle.
Woods next substitution saw Featherstone replaced by Jarman as the manager hoped that the popular Town players “up and at ‘em” style would pay dividends. However it was nearly Cheltenham who opened the scoring as gifted the ball by Linwood Low fortunately dragged his shot well wide of Colgan’s goal.
The final substitution saw North replace Proudlock. One has to feel sorry for Adam as he seems to be unable to buy a goal at the moment. In his favour he is making the chances but a goalscorers armoury includes a little luck…a commodity sadly lacking in his case.
As the game ticked into 4 minutes of added time the result started to look inevitable. When Akpro left the field it severely dented Town’s momentum and attacking cohesion and many Town fans were questioning the sense of replacing a player clearly up for the challenge with a raw 18 year old with no experience of a League Two relegation struggle. The game petered out with only one further chance which was again accompanied by controversy. The ball appeared to cannon off a defender for a corner but the referee signalled a goal kick and the game was up. A word about dissent. Jarman and Sweeney (not for the first time) were both booked for backchat. In Jarman’s case it only seemed to eat into the time remaining.
Full Time: Grimsby Town 0 Cheltenham Town 0
So, there we have it. For the 17th. game Town failed to secure three points. It’s not yet a fatal flaw but time is running out! The team will do well to get anything out of the next two matches by which time the position could be considerably worse. The fans who said this was a must win game were probably right. Town must pick up the pieces and look ahead. Looking back never works. Woods is here to stay and it’s up to the fans to back him in this most difficult of times.
Man of the Match: Several candidates. McCrory for his apparently limitless energy and often thankless overlaps. Linwood and Atkinson for giving Colgan his quietest afternoon for some time. Peter Bore for carrying on his rehabilitation amongst the faithful. However for me it has to go to Akpro. Almost everything positive about the attacking of Town involved him. Perhaps now we are starting to see what we were promised was within.
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