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Manifestos, Pigs and Reliant Robins
By: Ian Townsend
TAMWORTH, in Staffordshire, whilst being the spiritual home of pigs and the much maligned Reliant Robin plastic cars, has not normally featured on the radar of Grimsby Town fans. Perhaps John Fenty would feel at home in the town which had as it’s former M.P. Sir Robert Peel, widely credited with espousing the beliefs which laid down the principles of the modern Conservative party in his "Tamworth Manifesto".
The reality is however that the team and the ever faithful fans were not on a mission to spot pigs or robins but intended on leaving with three points from the Blue Square Premier League confrontation between the two sides.
Unsurprisingly Neil Woods stuck with the side which performed so well (particularly in the second half), last time out against Luton. Injuries to key players still causing concerns the manager went with a starting line up of:
Bore, Kempson, Watt and Ridley
Gobern, Hudson, Cummins and Wood
With Connell and Peacock leading the line.
The only change came on the bench where the fit again Michael Leary took his place instead of Samuels, alongside Garner, Corner, Eagle and Croudson.
Town began the game in the manner to which we have become accustomed.....slowly! Tamworth, full of confidence after their recent wins over "big" opposition in the form of Luton and Mansfield pushed forward and Town struggled to find any sort of rhythm. As a spectacle the game wasn't helped by a referee who was unable to let the game flow in any way, shape or form. Fourteen free kicks in the first ten minutes for trivial matters meant both teams struggled to create meaningful movement.
Town’s first chance came when Ridley got the chance to get the ball into the danger area from a free kick but the defenders delivery was woeful and easily cleared.
Most of the danger came however at the other end, due in the main to poor passing from Town when they had all too brief possession of the ball and it was no surprise when Tamworth went in front in the 14th minute. Connell defending very deep, lost the ball in the corner, Peter Bore showed hesitation allowing a cross to come in to the far post which eluded Town’s central defenders. The ball was headed down and back where it was picked up by the unmarked Rodman who struck the ball home for a 1-0 lead.
The referee persisted in his "fussy" management of the game as Kempson became the first player to receive a yellow card for a nothing tackle on a big centre forward who despite his size struggled all game to stay on his feet.
Town at last began to play with some composure and Town were indebted to the energy and commitment of Bradley Wood as the youngster made a couple of storming runs before slightly over running the ball.
The interlude was all too brief as Tamworth again pressured the away side. An air of frustration was creeping into Town’s play and Gobern looking once again a shadow of the player who performed so well against Darlington was lucky that his punishment for a petulant trip on the Tamworth left winger only resorted in a yellow card.
Any thoughts of Town getting back into the game were given a severe reality check as, in the 38th. minute they fell further behind, again due to some truly shocking defending. The ball was somehow crossed from the left (despite the attention of three Town players) where it eluded another four stationary defenders before falling at the feet of Perry who couldn't quite believe his luck but had enough composure to rifle home from about 10 yards.
A minute later and it was nearly three as Bore’s weak defensive header allowed Tamworth to test O’Donnell with another effort which the keeper saved comfortably.
Town regrouped and from a corner came the first of many moments of controversy. Up until this point the referee had given four separate free kicks for handball. Any thoughts of consistency were banished though as a shot from Connell was clearly blocked by a Tamworth’s defenders hand only for the referee to shake his head and wave play on, to the righteous anger of the travelling fans.
HALF TIME: Tamworth 2 Grimsby Town 0.
In continuation of the pattern emerging for the season thus far Town started with far more purpose in the second half. Bore and Gobern at last began to combine down the right forcing Tamworth to do a bit of defending. There was however no real "end result".
The Town fans then held their collective breath as Kempson clattered into Sheridan but the referee chose only a free kick as punishment.
Town were able to get into more attacking positions and from some good work down the left the ball eventually found it’s way to Connell on the diagonal just inside the box. His fierce shot came back off the underside of the bar with no Town player able to make contact and the danger was averted.
Town continued to be the architects of their own downfall though as yet another free kick in a dangerous area was wasted by poor delivery.
Neil Woods had clearly seen enough and on the hour made the first of his substitutions. Off came the criminally ineffective Gobern and Bradley Wood (whose temper showed signs of getting the better of him against some provocation) and on came Corner and Eagle with Corner going up front and Eagle taking up his customary position on the left as Town went 4-3-3.
The move nearly paid dividends as Hudson found Connell in the box but the defender managed to get in a late block.
In the 68th. minute Town pulled a goal back. Kempson played the ball down the line to Hudson and, with the Tamworth defenders appealing that the ball had gone out, the midfielder was able to find Connell in acres of space in the box with the young striker finishing with aplomb.
Any thoughts of a late challenge were weakened though within minutes as Town were reduced to 10 men. Watt misjudged the ball in the centre circle allowing Perry to get wrong side of Kempson. The two clashed and the referee had no real option other than to send the big Town defender off.
Town gave it their best shot and Peacock, Corner (who might have done better) and Connell all had shots saved or cleared.
In a last throw of the dice Woods brought on Garner for the clearly tiring Peacock with Bore pushing up as Town went 3-3-3.
Only the offside flag denied Connell as Town found much more space and as the match moved into time added on a shot from Cummins was only gathered at the second attempt with Corner sliding in. The challenge provoked a severe bout of "handbags" as Tamworth attempted to see out the time and both Bore and Tait were booked for their parts.
FINAL SCORE: Tamworth 2 Grimsby Town 1.
If they are to succeed in this league Town are going to have to learn and learn quickly that they cannot afford to begin to play at half time. By now they should realise that the "smaller" teams in this league will make up for their lack of skill with effort. There are too many mistakes down to individuals and the defending for both goals was of a standard that would have disgraced Division 8 of the Sunday League.
Man of the Match:
Once again not too many contenders: O’ Donnell was confident but let down by his back four, Bradley wood gave a display full of energy and running although I cannot help but feel that he isn't in the most effective position out wide left.
For me the clear winner however was Alan Connell who surely needs wrapping in cotton wool to protect him because without his effort we are severely lacking in front of goal. There is an air of expectation whenever he gets a sight of goal and with a bit more luck he could already nearly be in double figures for the season so far.
Final word once again about the fans: 616 got behind the team including eventually those who decided to leave just before Town’s goal only to make an undignified re-entry to the ground when Connell scored. A bright spot on another wise deeply disappointing day.
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