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Starter for 1-0
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY got off to the perfect start with a 1-0 win at highly fancied Crawley. But it was far from a comfortable victory, as the Mariners were under the cosh for most of the game, despite having a player advantage. Captain Lee Peacock netted the winner, scoring from the free kick given when 'keeper Kuipers saw red.
Over 700 Mariners supporters turned up for the historic occasion of the first non-league game for 100 years. Town supporters seemed to be taking up almost half of Crawley's ground, although the home crowd outnumbered the away supporters by a ratio of 2:1 according to the official figures,
For all their supposed numerical inferiority, the Town crowd were superb throughout the game, and those who were not there can rest assured that the vast majority of their supporters have not turned their back on the Mariners because of their relegation.
The Crawley supporters in contrast were like the subbuteo crowd, painted onto the concrete stands and terraces around the ground. Only an impressive array of banners conveyed any sort of local enthusiasm for a side playing at the highest level it has ever reached.
Town started with a largely new look side (for me anyway). The programme for once can in handy to identify players from both teams.
The team was as follows (4-4-2):
Arthur; Wood, Kempton, Watt, Ridley; Bore, Leary, Hudson, Coulson; Connell, Peacock.
Leary was the first player to force a save from either 'keeper, but it was Crawley who had the first meaningful attempt on target when Tubbs headed over for a good position on 14 minutes.
The referee showed he was not shy of using his authority, showing two yellow cards (one for each side) for a minor altercation, when Town won a free kick.
Town's first attempt on goal came from a free kick when Watt headed over, but it was Crawley who continued to carve out the better openings and their Argentinean playmaker Torres was a real handful with the ball at his feet.
But Town took the lead against the run of play with a large slice of luck. A routine long ball into the box deceived the 'keeper with a high bounce and he was forced to handle the ball outside the area to prevent it from going over his head.
There are just five substitutes in this league, but Crawley had a reserve 'keeper on the bench (we did not). Jordan came on as a substitute 'keeper, but Peacock took the free kick and scored low past Jordan's left. It didn't seem an especially good free kick to me, so I'm sure they'll have questions about how it managed to creep in.
Crawley could have scored an equaliser just before the break. The ball was crossed to Quinn, who hung well in the air to get his head to the ball, but could not quite direct it under the cross bar.
Half time came and Grimsby were fortunate to be the position they were in. They had not played badly, but their hosts had failed to take their chances and made a largely unforced error which led to both a goal and a player down.
In the second half it was all Crawley, even though they were down to ten men. Even the subbuteo crowd briefly came to live early in the second half after a spell of Crawley pressure and managed a few half-hearted chants before returning to their timeless torpor.
Town could simply not put two passes together for long periods, and were unable to get out of their own half. When they did get the ball they didn't break as a unit, which is how to take advantage of the extra player. Instead they tried to pick out the one or two players who advanced up the pitch with a "killer" pass. It just wasn't playing the percentage game and the ball just kept coming back.
To Town's credit they did restrict the number of clear cut chances Crawley had to just a few, probably the pick of which was when Torres hit the side netting when he broke through and faced Arthur from a narrow angle.
The pattern continued for all of the second half. Grimsby brought on a few substitutes but they didn't seem to make any substantial difference. Coulson had a couple of attempts on goal, but that's all they were.
In the end Town hung on for what could be a valuable three away points. But they will have to improve if they are to beat sides of Crawley's caliber on a regular basis. Where the two sides stand in the grand scheme of things is impossible for me to say having just seen one game in this division, but Town did not create enough chances to win many games on this evidence, although they were fairly solid at the back under a lot of pressure.
Man of the Match to me has to go to a defender, and the one who caught my eye the most was Kempton. In reality it should go to the Town crowd who were suberb and made me proud to be a Mariner.
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