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The Back of Beyond
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY are now just three points off the play-offs after an emphatic 3-0 scoreline at Hayes, their biggest away win for three seasons. But the match was nowhere near as comfortable as the scoreline suggests. The 2-0 half time score did not reflect the balance of play, although Town did improve in the second half.
The Mariners took the lead on 13 minutes when Connell created a goal for Hudson. After weathering several fairly large storms in the first half, with Steve Croudson and the woodwork both saving Grimsby more than once, Eagle doubled Grimsby's lead just before the break with a long range shot.
Grimsby defended a two goal cushion with much more ease in the second half than they had done so with a one goal lead in the first period. The icing on the cake came when Town got a penalty in injury time, and a Hayes defender was sent off for handball. Connell duly dispatched his spot kick to send approximately 300 Grimsby fans home happy.
Hayes is not the easiest place to get to, falling outside the area covered by the undergound in West London. With three entire lines closed on the London Underground, and several partial closures, it didn't help those transferring from mainline stations across London either.
Virtually every Town fan I saw entering the arena reacted with a mixture of horror and amusement. Church Road is probably the worst ever ground Grimsby have contested as equals in a league game in their entire history (or maybe there were a few worse around in the 1880s!). If ever the reality of life in the Conference was to hit home then this was it. We had finally arrived at the fabled Back of Beyond.
When Hayes came to Blundell Park they brought around 20 fans. That probably was around 10% of their regular home support, so actually was quite a respectable turnout from the Londoners in retrospect!
The only change made by Neil Woods from Cambridge was a straight swap at right back, with specialist full back Bradley Woods coming in for Scott Garner. Town started the game playing 4-4-2, with Ademeno and Connell up front.
The first incident of note came in the 10th minute. Bradley Wood needlessly obstructed a player's run and gave away a free kick right on the corner of the box. Croudson made a good save from the set piece to save Wood a half time roasting (or at least lessen it) from the manager.
But Town then took the lead with a great piece of skill by Alan Connell on 12 minutes. Town's leading scorer received the ball with his back to goal, turned, beat his man, and laid the ball into the path of Hudson. The midfielder just had the 'keeper to beat and he slotted in past him to give Town the lead.
One could be forgiven at this stage for thinking it would now be easy for Town, as the home side had not managed much at this stage. However gradually they came into the game and were to dominate for the remainder of the first half.
Bradley Wood had to make a last gasp challenge on 20 to clear the ball for a corner from the feet of Malcolm, who was just about to shoot. 15 minutes later a Hayes shot was deflected off Woods and nearly deceived Croudson who reacted late and somehow fumbled the ball round the post. From the corner Hand went desperately close with a volley.
After Rob Atkinson had made a telling clearance for a corner, Hayes came desperately close again. The home side had two shots in quick succession, and somehow it ended up in Croudson's hands to the relief of the travelling contingent who were beginning to get restless.
On 38 minutes Yiadom struck the post with what began life as a cross but effectively ended it as a shot for it thundered off the post with Croudson beaten.
But it was Town who were to score the second goal of the game after a period of 20 minutes of good chances to Hayes. Town strung a few well placed passes together and it fell to Eagle who looped a shot over the 'keeper to give Grimsby some much needed breathing space.
The half ended in a moment which epitomised the 45 minutes. A Hayes's shot was parried by Croudson, who attempted to catch the ball but dropped it and it bounced into his hands off a defender's foot. Fortune had favoured Town but they had at least got revenge over Hayes, who had been lucky to take a 2 goal lead at Blundell Park back in August.
Half Time: Hayes 0 Grimsby 2
Town changed formation for the second half with Coulson moving up front to join Ademeno and Connell. Town had the first chance of the second period when Ademeno fired into the side netting.
Nine minutes into the second half Kempson was needed to make a goalline clearance, and then Croudson made a good save from Green.
A minute later Rob Atkinson had a free header from a corner, but sent it flying wide. A good run from Ademeno culminated in a pass to Connell, who turned and shot but it took a deflection for a corner.
By this stage it was quite dark, and the six feeble floodlights were inadequate to illuminate the whole pitch especially the corners. It was very difficult to make out what was happening at the far end from where I was and which Hayes were attacking.
But by and large Town seemed to be defending well and there weren't that many clear cut chances for the home side. Grimsby as the game progressed were content to defend, and try to hit Hayes on the break, which they even managed to do passably well on a couple of occasions.
With the 90 minutes fully played out and the game drifting to a conclusion suddenly it came to life in the first minute of injury time. Substitute Tom Corner looked like he was about to score his first goal for Town, but it was "saved" on the line by defender Nathan Webb, rather pointlessly as the game was all but lost. Webb received the inevitable red card and Connell stepped up to make sure he didn't go home without notching up another strike. He was harshly booked for celebrating with the Town fans who tried to pull him into the crowd rather than the other way round.
Full Time: Hayes 0 Grimsby 3
The scoreline undoubtedly flattered Town. They survived a 20 minute purple patch for Hayes in the middle of the first half when they easily could have conceded two or more goals, but other than that it was relatively comfortable and they did defend better in the second half. Ademeno was quiet by his standards, but got another 80 minutes or so under his belt, which can only be positive. The switch to 4-3-3 seemed to improve the situation for Town, but then we did have a two goal cushion whilst playing that way. Man of the Match was once again Steve Croudson. He kept Town in the game during that crucial period of the game in the first half, which proved to be the critical factor.
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