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Square Trek Episode 2: Darlo
By: Ian Townsend
SQUARE Trek: Episode 2. The Land of the Great White Elephant.
Anyone who thinks that we should ever simply throw our lot in with someone promising large sums of money should visit this soulless monstrosity for a sharp lesson in reality. A sizeable contingent from Town tried to digest the team news which heralded:
Bore, Kempson, Watt and Ridley
The midfield of Gobern, Hudson, Cummins and Eagle had an unfamiliar ring to it.
Illness meant that Leary couldn't be considered in midfield and his place was taken by Cummins. Coulson’s well publicised injury meant a first taste of first team football for the Mariners for Lewis Gobern as Neil Woods tried to find a formula to counter the accusations that it was still Town’s weakest area.
Up front the choice of Corner to partner Connell caused murmurings of surprise amongst the travelling faithful with Ademeno, fresh from a fine debut in the second half on Saturday confined to the bench with:
Garner, Peacock, Wood and Samuels.
The early stages were tentative although Darlington had the better of what crumbs of attacking play there was as Town struggled to shake off Saturday’s hangover. At the back Town were however comfortable against a side shorn by injury of the prolific Tommy Wright.
Town had a clear game plan with the ball being played out wide for Gobern and Eagle to get behind their markers. A combination of poor passing and poor delivery however saw little early result.
Corner was putting himself about with some effect however as Town in general sought to close down their opponents.
In midfield Hudson looked far more comfortable than on Saturday and featured strongly winning several good tackles and playing short, effective passes out to Gobern in particular.
As Town began to get to grips with the game, there were at last visible signs that the realisation had dawned that defenders at this level do not like being run at with the ball. From one particular run to the edge of the box Gobern created for himself the opportunity for a shot but instead chose to pass to the overlapping Bore and the chance went begging.
The first key moment of the game arrived in the 25th. Minute when, after being caught late, Ridley was unable to continue and was replaced by Wood the captain’s armband passing to Watt. This possibly fortuitous occurrence enabled Town to create a better balance with Wood’s ability to get forward more to support Eagle being the obvious benefit.
Town were beginning to exert some authority and Connell in particular came more into the game with some smart interplay with firstly Eagle and then Hudson as Town upped it a gear. Eagle was able to put in several dangerous looking crosses which came to naught mainly due to some fairly desperate defending. Bore joined in the attacks and after being found in space by Gobern hammered in a wicked cross shot which just cleared the bar.
A moment of light relief was found when Darlington’s Liam Hatch was spotted pulling Bradley Wood’s hair as they went for the same ball in an incident reminiscent of the school playground, the punishment of a yellow card being the modern day replacement for detention.
Defensively Town were more assured although Kempson in particular was still prone to the occasional aimless "hoof" forward.
The half drew to a close with Town clearly on top but without either side really testing the goalkeepers.
HALF TIME: Darlington 0 Grimsby Town 0
The second period began as the first had ended...with Town trying to create. Within four minutes the team got the reward their ambition deserved. Firstly a good run by Bore resulted in a cross which was scrambled away by the Darlington defence at the expense of a corner. The corner from Eagle was met powerfully by Watt’s head and into the net.
The goal stung Darlington into action and for a few minutes it looked like Town may defend too deeply, inviting the home side to attack them. Firstly only a last minute tackle from Kempson denied McGready and the latter caught Watt in a poor position and Arthur was forced into a save at his post.
The arrival of Ademeno on the hour to replace the tiring Corner helped Town get back on course. His ability to hold the ball up and play in his colleagues helped Town to press Darlington further up the pitch.
The remainder of the game was a story of two men. For Town Connell and for Darlington keeper Russell (who normally plays out of his skin against Town). The Town striker firstly tried his luck with a 25 yard shot which Russell put for a corner and then two headers both forcing good saves.
With 15 minutes to go Woods played his final card, bringing on Lee Peacock to try to bolster the midfield as Darlington stepped up a gear, replacing Eagle.
There were groans of incredulity as the 4th. Official signalled four minutes of added time but Town easily held out and the final whistle was greeted with delight by the 300+ who'd made the journey.
FINAL SCORE: Darlington 0 Grimsby Town 1
Plenty of positives from a very good win. Gobern looks as though he will give us width and creativity. Connell was magnificent and only a great goalkeeping performance prevented him from adding to his tally.
At the back Kempson and Watt were again solid and the team looked to be better geared for attack with Bore and Wood at full back. Wood could be extremely valuable with his ability to perform anywhere he is chosen to play.
Midfield still had a look of uncertainty in the middle and a better team than a very poor Darlington may well have punished Town severely.
Just a word about the fans Gilly, Newton and the rest of the "orchestra" provided the underlying noise levels which, in such an empty stadium MUST benefit the players. For the whole of the 4 minutes plus injury time the whole away support were on their feet for "Neil Woods Black and White Army". Great support.
Man of the Match: Alan Connell. Superb all round game.
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