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The Taming of the Shrews
By: Andrew Doherty
WILLIAM, or was it Craig, Shakespeare wrote The Taming of the Shrew around 1590. It seems like 1590 since Town last won a game. In fact it’s 6th October 2009, and 25 gut-wrenching league games since we tasted the experience of victory at Torquay on 19th September. Discussion has turned to identifying the reasons why we still go. My wife Celine has an interesting view on this. She tells me that she loves going to games because it reminds of her native Malaysia where the whole village (kampong) turns out to the Chinese Opera.
Watching Grimsby is as unfathomable as Chinese Opera so I can see her point. She insists on going in the Pontoon because of its "carnival" atmosphere. My mate Andy Humberstone is more prosaic. The last time we went together, he wasn’t going to go but changed his mind, stating he would go "for social reasons". He’s coming today, disappointed there’s no offer but still coming because he’s "got note else to do". That’s commitment. My children have given up, preferring to listen to emo music and pick their teenage spots in preference to engaging in the carnival. Others come out of fear. Three years ago I recall standing behind a supporter in the newsagent’s on the Grimsby Road recounting how he decided not to go to Boston after our seven match losing run (won 6 - 0, for the benefit of neutral onlookers and as a warming reminder to ourselves, I can hear James Alexander Gordon saying it now). Remorse has probably turned that man into an alcoholic. Or does going to watch Town bring on alcoholism? Discuss.
Actually, Humbo was more upbeat after the Lincoln game, and I could see that. I’ve known far worse team performances in the past, we’re not being ritually taken apart, we’ve got an intelligent manager and the players can play if they put their mind to it. "So", I was asked by Celine, "what will the score be today?" "2 - 0 to Shrewsbury".
Arrival at Cleethorpes is a wondrous experience. We’d left Doncaster behind, where in line with its twinning partnership with Hades it was grey and raining. The sky was blue in Cleethorpes and the sun shone. Then we got out of the train. Freezing cold. The optimism we need at Blundell Park reigned as the ice-cream sellers were out. I even saw someone buying one. The cabin had a sign indicating "no slush". Does anyone remember slush? Can anyone explain why slush hasn’t made it in culinary circles? Slush roulade with raspberry coulis could surely feature at the Ivy as an alternative to Arctic Roll? Sadly it’s not available in Cleethorpes today.
Exiting the slush-free zone, we arrived at BP. My old mate Swanny was there, about to be interviewed. "I’ve got to think of something positive to say", he pronounced. The mood outside the ground was truculent. People turned up but here there was no sense of carnival. We met Humbo and took our place in the Pontoon between the burger van and the drum. The drum was silent. That’s good. According to Celine, the constancy of the drum is bad feng shui.
The minute’s silence for Keith Alexander was impeccably observed. A good player, a fine man and a sad loss.
And so onto Act 1. Town’s first half performance was jittery. Players passed the ball as if it was a hand grenade. Sweeney and Sinclair were winning balls in the middle and getting the ball out wide but high crosses into the wind were never going to be effective or draw the defence out. The highly-rated Devitt in particular was guilty. At the other end, Shrewsbury were breaking out well and Bore and Lancashire didn’t help by putting us under unnecessary pressure with short passes. Fortunately Shrewsbury’s composure was lacking and both Cureton and Hibbert should have done better with chances.
Town’s performance was edgy and nervous. In a worrying development we lost both central defenders with injuries, but both came back, symbolically telling us that we weren’t going to give up. Bore did what was needed and ran into the box and Atkinson headed over from a Sweeney cross but Town really didn’t look like scoring. Then in added time, a clumsy challenge on Akpro brought Town a penalty. Who was going to take it? Were we going to score? Sinclair’s penalty wasn’t convincing but it wrong-footed Button in the Shrewsbury goal and we went in as half-time leaders: Grimsby 1, Shrewsbury 0. The further good news would be that we were going to have the wind behind us in the second half as we attacked the Pontoon end.
Act 2. After all the disappointments, this was always going to be a nervous second half. Within a minute of the restart, McIntyre was put clean through for Shrewsbury but the returning hero Colgan stood up well and blocked the shot. Town pressed on and on 57 minutes, Akpro had a shot blocked. The ball bobbled around and Devitt did well to get in a shot in but it was blocked by Button. The ball stood tantalisingly on the six yard line for seemingly ages before Sinclair pounced and blasted it in. Grimsby 2, Shrewsbury 0.
At this point Town started to believe in themselves. The progression up both sides of the field and passing were impressive. Akpro in particular caused problems up the left side and through the middle, Peacock was holding the ball up well and Devitt, Coulson and Sweeney suddenly started to interlink and find space. Coulson had a shot from the right from outside the box which blazed over the bar, when he might have done better to switch to his left foot. At least he uses both feet - Peter Sweeney take note. Shrewsbury continued to look dangerous and were getting shots in, but the moment of the half came on 63 minutes after a long clearance from Colgan , Akpro was put away on the left side of the box. Cutting inside, he was just too quick for the defence and a fierce, low shot into the right corner gave Button no chance. Grimsby 3, Shrewsbury 0.
Akpro threatened again with a dangerous low header next to the post which Button pushed away for a corner. It was good to see Hegarty come on for Devitt, taking up his familiar position on the left while Coulson, my man of the match for his all round endeavour, moved out right. Linwood replaced Atkinson and Proudlock came on for Akpro with 7 minutes left to have the statutory argument. Town moved back down a gear or two, and Shrewsbury continued to press and create chances but a combination of poor finishing, resolute defence and good goalkeeping from Colgan, we kept a clean sheet and it remained Grimsby 3, Shrewsbury 0.
"I’m dumbstruck. It’s like being in another reality" exclaimed Humbo as we walked out. There was no euphoria. People trooped out as they had trooped in. None of us could believe it. Our lack of confidence and self-belief matched the performance of the team in the first half. Yet the signs have been there that we might do this. Taken as a whole, it wasn’t a performance of Shakespearian proportions but there’s no mistaking that there is quality in this team and in the second half we played with some style and tamed the Shrews. They had an off day and their open style suited us. We’re not watertight and we will lose some games, but there’s enough determination and firepower here to get results. The kampong was quiet but we had reason to be happy today.
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