League Two Form Guide
Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
Hope Springs Eternal
By: Ian Townsend
AT the end of a week where football fans across the lower divisions were painfully reminded that sometimes football is significantly less important than "life and death", the Town faithful made their way down Imperial Avenue accompanied by the sound of the proverbial "Fat Lady" clearing her throat.
The word "Heroes" is used so much these days that it has become almost meaningless. What a time then for us to be reminded of what constitutes real heroes with a parade around the ground by members of The Royal Anglian regiment as part of the "Help for Heroes" campaign
As the referee blew the whistle for the start of the minutes silence for "The Big Man" all that could be heard was the wind gently disturbing the floral tributes laid fittingly behind the Pontoon goal. Minds were cast back to those days when "Alexander the Great" and his army ruled the roost and put virtually all-comers to the sword. The silence itself was impeccable.....a fitting tribute to a man who accomplished so much and who will always have a place in the hearts of Mariners everywhere.
Attention then turned to the little matter in hand. Could a Grimsby Town side with the albatross around its neck of a 25 game non-winning streak achieve the highly improbable and succeed against the play off chasing Salopians of Shrewsbury?
The chosen starting XI yielded little information on that score with the only surprise being the virtually instant recall of Nick Colgan who took his place in front of the Pontoon to warm applause as though the faithful (clearly minus the negative "offers only" part time fans) realised the need to demonstrate their support at this most crucial of times.
The "Back Four" had a familiar ring to it with:
Bore, Lancashire, Atkinson and Widdowson (surely only a complete pessimist wouldn’t make the link between a stable back four and Town’s vast improvement in the goals conceded column)
Midfield: Coulson, Sinclair, Sweeney, Devitt.
Up top Akpro was chosen to partner Peacock.
The bench saw Oxley, Proudlock, Hegarty, Linwood, Leary, Wood and Hudson ready to play their part if called upon.
The game started in the style of a team struggling at the wrong end of the table. Defensive hesitancy, coupled with several misplaced passes summed up what had been the all too familiar story of the season thus far.
However there was some respite as Town attempted to use the width of the pitch with both Coulson and Devitt finding plenty of space. Only the final ball into the box was lacking.
It has to be said that Town were aided and abetted by some truly woeful forward play from their opponents particularly one amazing example where with the mute support of the linesman a Shrews forward found himself bearing down on goal only to screw his shot well wide.
As Town pressed for that important first goal we were treated once again to an amazing interpretation of the rules as Atkinson suffered a kick to the head in the box during a scramble without the offender making anything approaching a touch on the ball. The resulting goal kick decision causing gasps of incredulity.
As in so many games in this fraught season Town were doing best when they tried to play the ball on the floor. A fact not lost on the faithful who reminded them that joining in Shrewsbury’s airborne assault was not the most sensible option on several occasions.
As the half meandered to a close Town were gifted the opportunity of a half way lead. Akpro went down in the box and the referee after a quick look at his linesman decided that it was a case of third time lucky and pointed to the spot.
Up stepped Sinclair to bury the chance and seconds later Town were able to go to their dressing room a goal up.
There are those within "The Fishy" community who have been shall we say critical of Neil Woods’ tactical ability. What was clear was that Town’s rookie manager would have 15 minutes to warn his players what to expect by way of backlash from their opponents.
HALF TIME: Town 1 Shrews 0
Initially that warning appeared to have gone unheeded as Colgan was called into action to make an excellent one on one save within seconds of the restart. At this point just a word or two about our much maligned keeper. For the whole of the first half he engaged in banter with the Pontoon, drawing particular amusement when, having dispatched a kick straight down the middle he punched the air. I was left to wonder whether he had spent his week in exile visiting a P.R. guru. The Pontoon loved it and his recently achieved place in the hearts of the fans was cemented by his early second half save. Indeed one couldn’t discount the distinct possibility that a football loving alien had assumed his body such was the change in his whole demeanour.
Town appeared to take heart from their let off. A Town corner wasn’t cleared properly as Town poured forward in numbers. Shrewsbury escaped a second penalty decision for handball by some fluke before Akpro, at speed, burst into the box. For once his endeavours had a finished article and a fine shot was blocked. Devitt picked up the rebound which he hit goalwards. The ball seemed to strike Peacock but eventually fell invitingly for Sinclair to double the lead and his own tally for the game. This was new territory for this Town team. A 2-0 lead at home for the first time since the Port Vale match way back in April.
The confidence was visibly flowing. First Akpro again, and then Coulson (who was having a splendid game wide right) tried in vain to increase the lead but any thoughts the Shrews had of a salvage operation were eventually snuffed out as Akpro, clearly working on the percentages rule, ghosted into the box before unleashing a superbly placed effort into the far corner for a 3-0 lead.
The cushion gave Woods the chance to rescue the clearly injured Atkinson from the fray replacing him with Linwood, and afforded him the luxury of giving Hegarty the chance to get some important first team minutes in by having him replace Devitt.
Even a late flurry by Shrewsbury couldn’t jolt Town out of their stride and Proudlock replaced Akpro to help Town wind down the clock through four minutes of added time.
The relief of fans and players alike told its story.
FINAL SCORE: Town 3 Shrews 0
With other results going in our favour and the subsequent reduction of the gap to a mere 4 points the charge is definitely on. The fat lady may indeed be on the stage but it looks at the moment as though the first violinist has broken a string so there will be a delay. It’s up to Town to ensure the whole orchestra get dysentery.
Man of the Match: Well, how does one choose. Colgan, excellent. Back four, settled after a dodgy start. Lancashire dealt well with the obvious threat of Hibbert. In midfield both wide players created the room and delivery that causes havoc in League 2 defences particularly in the second half. Sweeney bossed the middle of the park in the second half. Sinclair took his goals with aplomb.
Up front Akpro, despite an often poor first touch caused Shrews real problems. However my Man of the Match, as much for what he does when he hasn’t got the ball was Peacock. The lad has real presence...a commodity sadly lacking in GTFC this season. He constantly talks, cajoles, balls out his colleagues in equal measure. It’s fair to say he mentored Akpro through 90+ minutes yesterday AND what’s more he clearly enjoys what he does. IF, and it’s still a huge IF we stay in this league then in Peacock Town could have a new cult figure to rival the big man who’s memory we all turned out to honour yesterday.
As we left the ground I heard someone say that "Big Keef" would have been looking down all afternoon and would have been happy. Personally I think he watched the game in the company of Wally Walster and there will have been a few pints of real ale supped in the "Pearly Gates" Tavern on Saturday night.
Up the Mariners!
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