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Last Person Out of Grimsby Turn off the Lights?
By: Ian Townsend
THE majority of Grimsby Town fans will not want to be reminded that on the corresponding weekend a mere eight seasons ago, the Mariners were busy making their Championship futures secure with a 3-1 win over a Burnley side which included Paul Gascoigne.
At the time the possibility of relegation to the third tier of English professional football seemed like a disaster of almost biblical proportions. Fast forward to 2009/10 and on the Richter scale of catastrophes 2002 ranks at around the same intensity as the fact that Manchester United may only win the Coca Cola League Cup this season.
The Town faithful have known for some time that the likelihood of Football League survival has been receding faster than Gordon Brown’s chances of winning the election. Nevertheless on a beautiful spring day, they came to Blundell Park in their thousands to witness the latest attempt by the boys in black and white to stave off the seemingly inevitable as Town took on Torquay United. Such is the fickle finger of fate football wise that only three weeks ago this match was being billed as "Winner Takes It All" with the losers relegated. After two wins, seven goals and none conceded against opposition far superior on paper, Torquay arrived on the East Coast needing only a point to be mathematically sure of playing league football next season.
The question on the lips of everyone soaking up the sunshine in the Imp. car park before the game was whether the team would rally to the cry of Captain Peacock in the Telegraph, or whether the surrender of a two goal lead in midweek would have deflated Town.
Neil Woods chose the same XI that started against Chesterfield for "The Most Important Match in Town’s History"
Bore, Lancashire, Atkinson, Widdowson
Coulson, Sinclair, Hudson, Devitt
Bench: Sweeney, Peacock, Linwood, Stirling, Proudlock, Forbes and Leary.
Town began brightly, willed on by a large crowd who tried to lift their favourites in the must win game. However Torquay, safe in the knowledge, that Town had it all to do showed no sign of sitting back and letting their opponents make all the running. The nervousness in defence, so tangible for a large part of this season, came to the fore again, aided and abetted by the fans who suggested that Row Z should be the destination of every clearance. Within 10 minutes first Lancashire and then Atkinson had to hack away dangerous balls into the area as a level of hesitancy affected the back four.
Town weathered that particular storm and, Torquay "earned" the first of several bookings as Wright, looking to get on the end of a Coulson pass was brought to grass. Frustrating though it was, if one was looking for a reason for Town’s demise this season, it is my belief that you need look no further than the lack of the presence of a big, ugly combative midfielder who can get stuck in. Town’s approach has been breathtakingly naive and the lack of guile to their play has belied the experience of several of the squad. The resulting free kick was headed away by a defender...job done danger averted!
Minutes later and Wright was in the wars again. This time the victim of a scything tackle by Guy Branston. Fortunately for the Gulls defender it was behind the referees back and the linesman also failed to see the offence.
Town sought to get back into the game and a flurry of corners caused some panic in the Torquay box.
Branston had clearly learnt nothing from his lucky escape and found himself carded for a crude challenge on Devitt.
Unfortunately for Town the free kick was delayed as Sinclair, who looked to be carrying an injury was replaced by Sweeney. The midfielder took the free kick but once again it was dealt with by Torquay.
The pre match enthusiasm had by now been replaced by the reality that Town were in a scrap. The game wasn't pretty and it became obvious that the winners would be the team that scrapped the hardest. Surely Town would be up for the battle?
As the half wore on, the sense of nervousness increased. The situation wasn't helped by more defensive hesitation which saw a cross bounce twice inside Colgan’s area before harmlessly going out for a goal kick.
As the half time whistle blew it became obvious that Town would need to find something far cleverer than what had been on show in the first 45 minutes if they were to take a big step towards league safety. Very little had been created and defensively they'd looked anything but secure.
HALF TIME: Grimsby Town 0 Torquay United 0
The second half began as the first had ended. Torquay had to be thwarted by Widdowson at the expense of a corner as Torquay attacked the goal behind which their 300 or so travelling fans were sited.
Town tried to get things moving but on 53 minutes the game effectively turned fatally against Town. Lancashire tangled with Torquay’s Benyon in the box and the referee who had a very good view of the incident had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. The penalty was dispatched down the centre of the goal to give Torquay the lead they required. The last 35 minutes would be about how Town responded. Neil Woods had seen enough and Wright was replaced by Peacock to a cheer from the home fans as they hoped the arrival of the captain could turn the game. Sadly it wasn't to be and on 61 minutes Torquay doubled their lead. A ball into the box wasn't dealt with and it eventually found its way to the feet of Benyon who hammered in his 15th goal of the season.
This was the signal for the frustration amongst the home fans to vent itself in chants of "Fenty, Fenty what’s the score?" and "We want Fenty Out" from a section of the Pontoon stand. Whilst it was difficult to see how that was going to help, the frustrations at the performance of the team who knew how important the game was did give it slight credence.
Town received what should have been a massive boost with 25 minutes left as Branston received his second yellow card for a foul on Akpro. This seemed to present an opportunity for Town to get some more fire power up front as they aimed for at least parity. The bench however remained just that, much to the utter frustration of a lot of the home support.
The decision became academic when Carayol picked up the ball at half way and scythed through the Town defence unchallenged before picking his spot for Torquay’s third goal.
The reaction from the fans was dynamic as huge numbers made their way for an early exit the game irretrievably lost. True Town did have their chances to get back into it. On another day Hudson might have had a hat trick. The final ignominy was reserved for Akpro who managed to scoop his effort over the bar from about a foot off the goal line.
The game ended after what seemed like an hour of time added on with almost every Town fan wishing for the final whistle to end the agony.
The final whistle was the signal for a pitch invasion of 100 or so younger "fans" who not having the gumption to at least make their feelings known to the Directors Box, made their way towards the Torquay fans. One questions the sanity of such people.
FINAL SCORE: Grimsby Town 0 Torquay United 3
Man of the Match: Only one possible candidate. Step forward Jean Louis Akpa Akpro. The only outfield player who seemed to understand the importance of the occasion.
Quite how a team in the position Town are in can expect to get away with a performance of non-action that was witnessed today defies understanding. The stage was set for them to cover themselves in glory. The fact that they went down with a whimper and not a fight speaks volumes.
On the way down Grimsby Road after the game I heard someone utter the immortal lines. "Well it’s as we were...Lincoln and Barnet both lost" If it wasn't so sad it would be hilarious......
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