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Connell and Croudson Get Town Out Of Jail
By: Ian Townsend
Date: 24/10/2010 (Last updated: 25/10/2010)
A SECOND VISIT to the town of Tamworth in six weeks for Town’s (possibly first ever) F.A. Cup fourth qualifying round game didn’t exactly set the juices flowing. A quick look at the weather forecast which showed hardly a cloud in the sky except for a big dark patch to the north west of Birmingham did nothing to improve the mood.
So it was a considerably reduced Town following that were able to congregate under the shed roof that purports for a stand in the away end.
All week references had been made to the best system for Town to play as they seek to find their feet convincingly in the company they are currently forced to keep and there were more than a few murmurs of consent amongst the Town faithful as Town shaped up in a 4-3-3 formation.
Although Neil Woods had no serious injury problems the reluctance of the parent clubs of loanees Wright and O’Donnell to cup tie their players and the return to Bury of Carlton forced the manager’s hand into three personnel changes. Most notable was the appearance of stalwart keeper Steve Croudson who took his place to warm applause from the fans.
Town lined up with:
Much criticism has been levelled at the Mariners for the slow way in which they start games, allowing the opposition to come at them. So it was a welcome change to see Town pushing their opponents back in the early stages. Within 20 seconds a long throw from Ridley found Connell in the box but he was deceived by the uneven bounce and could only direct his header over the bar.
On three minutes a good quick throw by Wood was expertly laid into the path of Corner by Connell but his snatched first time shot went high and wide.
It was all Town and the next to show was Peacock, who, coming from deep let fly from 20 yards with the ball again sailing over the home sides bar.
Tamworth were finding it difficult to cope with Town’s pressing style and on 9 minutes Hudson should maybe have done better with a shot from a ball that came off a defender into his path but the midfielder didn't really get enough on it.
Town were then reminded of the potential danger posed by a team which had already beaten the Mariners this term as MacKenzie picked up the ball deep, ran past Hudson with ease before firing a shot which narrowly missed with Croudson scrambling across his goal.
It was a temporary blip though as Bore surged through at the other end. Unfortunately a moment’s hesitation as he shaped to shoot allowed a defender to get in a block at the expense of a corner. The corner saw Garner rise and place a header on top of the net as Town tried to hammer home their advantage.
Up to this point Town’s midfield were holding their own comfortably with Peacock using his undoubted football brain to good effect. Some around me were however concerned about the amount of running he was having to do whilst Hudson in particular was "hiding". The fears were hardened when Peacock was the victim of a heavy challenge on the half hour mark and although able to continue saw his mobility restricted. Once Peacock’s influence had gone the midfield simply caved in. Tamworth began to win ball and moved forward virtually unchallenged. The hosts more direct style looked to pay dividends as Town found themselves the victims of an all too familiar onslaught. Town conceded two scrambled corners before a third corner fell to Lake-Gaskin on the edge of the box. His well struck effort was brilliantly turned over by Croudson with the home fans already up in celebration of the "goal".
When the corner came in an almighty mix up saw Perry’s header hit Wood defending well on the line before rebounding off the Tamworth forward and out for a goal kick.
The last "notable" action of the first half saw a yellow card for Corner for allegedly using an elbow.
HALF TIME: Tamworth 0 Grimsby Town 0.
The second half began in similar fashion to the first. Corner made room for himself but his eventual shot was pushed around the post for an early corner for Town. Unfortunately it proved to be a false dawn as a combination of lack of tackling and more poor passing allowed Tamworth to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Firstly Cummins gave the ball away dangerously on the edge of the box forcing Croudson to save instinctively with his feet and then Wood had to head off his own goal line as Perry attempted to chip Croudson after a mistake by Garner. The ball fell to Perry but Croudson had recovered sufficiently to block the ball for a corner.
Up until this point Peter Bore had had another quiet game but his contribution burst into life as for the first time he took on his man, got to the byeline and fired in a cross on the run. Corner headed goalwards where the keeper blocked, the rebound falling to Hudson who somehow contrived to put his effort into the side netting.
Neil Woods had plainly seen enough and with an hour or so gone made a double substitution with Coulson and Eagle replacing Hudson and Corner. Bore went wide right, Eagle wide left and Coulson joined Connell up front as Town reverted to 4-4-2.
Unfortunately though there was no instant improvement and Atkinson made a great tackle to deny Rodman as real danger threatened in the box.
The deadline was broken in favour of the home side on 71 minutes as Town’s midfield Achilles heel caught them out yet again. The ball fell to MacKenzie 15 yards from goal unmarked and he had no hesitation in blasting the ball into the Town net with Croudson only able to watch.
It was last throw of the dice time and the clearly struggling Peacock was replaced by Leary as Woods looked for Town to push for an equaliser.
Sadly it was Tamworth who initially reacted best to force another excellent save from Croudson.
As the game meandered towards a close the thoughts of the Town fans were turning to the ignominy of not actually qualifying for the First Round (Proper) of this year’s F.A. Cup competition. The fourth official signalled a (rather generous) 4 minutes of added time.
Before he'd put the board down Town were level. Due in the main to a lack of any recognisable service Alan Connell had endured his quietest game in a Town shirt. However the mark of a great striker is the ability to seize on any chance presented and Town’s top scorer duly obliged. A throw from Ridley found Bore whose cross was met by Connell with his back to goal. He swivelled and fired in at the near post to the great relief of the 268 Town fans who'd made the journey.
There was no more real action but the attitude of the Tamworth players at the end told it’s own tale as they stood almost to a man heads in hands. It is now up to Town to make them rue their failure on Tuesday night.
FINAL SCORE: Tamworth 1 Grimsby Town 1
Man of the Match: For the umpteenth match this season there is only one candidate. Step forward Stevie Croudson. Connell may have rescued Town with a great finish but without the big man's commitment, battling, and ability Tamworth would have been out of sight. At least four top class saves kept the Mariners’ chances alive.
Personally I wouldn't want to have the problems Neil Woods has this morning. Fans requested 4-3-3. Today it didn't work. Whether that is down to individual performances on the day is something Woods will need to address. Perhaps, just supposing, the manager is right and it isn't formations that win games it’s players........
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