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Happy New Year!
By: Trevor Hewson
ON New Year's Eve I posted a thread titled "No Excuses" about getting down to Blundell Park and reinvigorating one's passion for all things GTFC. Little did I know that the players all read this thread and actually paid attention to it.
For the 3600-odd present at the Park yesterday were served up one of the most passionate and exciting displays seen there for many years. Mansfield played their part, but it was only really a supporting role to the efforts of those in black and white stripes.
For once, Town kicked off towards the Osmond end and the pretty much full-strength team made their intentions clear within the first minute. Three rasping shots were repelled by Mansfield defenders in rapid succession. Sinclair was then deservedly booked for a silly looking lunge near the centre circle. This all set the crowd buzzing, but shortly afterwards they were on their feet: a quick throw in, a smart pass, a perfect cross and a tidy finish by Bore meant Town were 1-0 up two minutes into the New Year of football. The key players in this move were Ridley, Coulson, Connell and finally Bore. This was a very tasty aperitif of what these and others would dish out in the following 88 minutes. Neat, sharp and incisive are words not heard too much about Town's play over the past few seasons, but this summed up how we had set out to play and it stunned both the crowd and the visitors. Inside another 3 minutes, things took another sharp turn upwards for Mariners everywhere. The right hand side of the Mansfield defence was getting destroyed by the pace and the interplay down the Grimsby left wing. Coulson was a key part of this and when he cut inside and caught the ball as he can, the writing was on the wall. The shot took a deflection on its way into the bottom corner, but after 5 minutes is was 2-0 to Town. No, it really was!
The rest of the first half sort of seemed a blur after this, but there was still plenty to write about. Town's attacking play continued to rip the Mansfield defence containing ex-Mariner Grand to shreds. Ademeno hit the bar, Coulson and Connell went close, but all the while, there was a feeling that it was not a case of job done yet. Mansfield's response to this was one of stark brutality; Connell was left prone after apparently being elbowed, but neither the Referee, his Assistants or I saw this happen, but it was clearly a silly thing to rile a striker with such a record as Alan. There were particularly nasty challenges on Coulson, who was scythed down with a waist-high "tackle" and then on Ridley who fortunately was off the floor when his assailant came flying in from distance to send him up in the air from behind, surely a red card this time? No, just a yellow and a "don't do it again" from a Ref. who clearly didn't want to upset these thugs from Notts. All through the first half there had been the nagging worry that Mansfield were to easily getting crosses into the box for the lumbering Duffy to exploit, right up to half time, these were effectively dealt with by a solid looking Town defence. However, just before the break, one of the more innocuous balls in was called for by Arthur, he got nowhere near it allowing Duffy to apply a simple finish. The nerves were jangled, legs were lucky to be intact and the Referee got the full force his interesting and extremely lenient interpretation of Law 12.
If the first half was a crackling start to 2011, the second was to be a bit special for the worldwide brotherhood of Mariners.
After 51 minutes, the excellent Sinclair squared the ball across the Pontoon box for Bore to get his second of the game from a similar distance to his first, ‘fox in the box?' Five minutes later, the ref finally blew for a free-kick for another poor challenge on Connell after he perhaps should have played advantage. No matter, for we have an Alan. Up Connell stepped and curled a beauty into the top right corner, with Pilkington just waving the ball in. God he's good! Just though as Town had the best goal of the game in the seven goal thumping by Wednesday, Briscoe popped-up with his own John Oster moment, hitting a thunderous effort into the opposite top corner from a right wing position, good goal and all part of the entertainment being delivered, but meaningless in the grand scheme of things. This was due to Town continuing to punish the Mansfield defence for any lack of application. Kempson was first-up to do this, fulfilling my Dad's prediction that he'd score from the corner. ‘Only if it's a better corner than Ridley's last one' said I. The corner was better, and the thumping header was unstoppable, as were Town. Woods took the opportunity to make some sensible and resting substitutions, with Sinclair, Ademeno and Coulson making way for Hudson, Peacock and Eagle, how good is it to have a bench with such strength on it? The goals continued, with Connell pinging another free-kick into the opposite top corner to his first, with a similar response from Pilkington and then following a period of time when both Bore and Connell battled to see who could get his hat-trick first, Peacock delivered the prefect pass right into the path of the resurgent Peter Bore to get the matchball with a low shot into the bottom corner. AC tried so hard and went so close to sharing that honour, with perhaps the most notable effort being and overhead kick that was pulled just wide leaving the beaming striker and the Pontoon as one in wishing it had gone the right side of the post. A 3 goal return for our hero would have been just too much to ask for in a game that had delivered so much.
I've been watching Town for 35 or so years now and I've only seen seven goals scored against us, missing the two occasions in that time we'd managed that feat. It was a privilege to be inside Blundell Park yesterday, it was typical of our football club for them to produce a performance of this nature in a season of such frustration, but this is why I love the game and MY team. Long may it be so!
Finally it's up to me to pick a man of the match for this game. How the hell do you do that after such a game? Every single player had an impact, Atkinson and Kempson won everything, Sinclair controlled the midfield, this in turn allowed Cummins to show us what he can do, Coulson terrorised the right back, Ademeno was a real menace and unlucky not to score. Ridley got very close with his best Town performance so far and Super, Super Alan Connell was worryingly good given the transfer window. All of the subs played a part when they came on, especially the previously criticised Peacock who showed just why it would be folly to write him off anytime soon with his quality showing through in all he did. However, even though he didn't do a great deal for twenty odd minutes after his first goal, my MoM was Peter Bore. He did everything we all know he is capable of, and that is something that would place him a few divisions above this. Well done Pete, we know how good you are, now go and deliver Grimsby Town back to the Football League.
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