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Cod Batter Haddock at Their Plaice
By: Ian Townsend
MY only memories of Fleetwood are based on the primary school lessons that preceded the obligatory trip "Down Dock" which showed it as the port on the other side of the country from which "serious" deep sea trawling took place. I also knew from day trips to Blackpool from my "nannas" in Manchester that if you forgot to get off the Blackpool tram at the Central Pier you eventually ended up there.
My fears were increased when, stopping off for pre-match drinks in a village about 10 miles from the town, we asked the very nice barmaid the directions to Fleetwood. Her reply of "Why?" and her facial expression of incredulity and pity suggested we were not about to visit the "Pearl" of the West Coast.
The town itself reminded me somewhat of Immingham. A few streets of houses huddled around a docks with some more attractive estates on the outskirts. The ground proved difficult to find but eventually our mate dropped us off outside the "Away End" whilst he went back into the town to chalk up his 179th. different Wetherspoons pub.
Unlike most grounds there didn't appear to be a pub. within walking distance. There was however a club-unrelated to the football club which nevertheless had one side of it looking out over the pitch! Now before the more "careful" readers of this report rub their hands with glee at the possibility of paying £1.00 and then enjoying completely unspoilt access to the whole match, we were quickly informed that before kick off the curtains would be closed. Opening of said curtains would result in a life time ban. Apparently it is illegal to consume alcohol with 20 yards of the side of a football pitch. This despite the fact that there was a brick wall AND double glazed windows between us. They did us on the yards though...it could have been no more than five yards from the touchline!
Fleetwood are apparently the latest team to benefit from the generosity of a rich fan. Their currently compact ground is being redeveloped with the addition of a big stand down one side. Possibly John Fenty may be looking at what can be achieved by redeveloping existing facilities given the similarities between the settings of the two grounds.
Much of the talk pre-match was about the status of the game. Was it a must win affair for Town or, is the League so unpredictable that a defeat against the team currently on the fringes of the play offs and within Town’s grasp would do no lasting harm to play off aspirations.
As it was Neil Woods decided on several changes to the team involved in the lacklustre display against Cambridge previous time out.
As usual the game began cautiously. The pitch, heavy after torrential over-night rain, made clever passing football difficult on a narrow pitch. The opening exchanges were fairly even with Town largely nullifying the threat of Fleetwood top scorer Vieria thanks in the main to a good performance from Ridley and particularly Kempson. From an attacking perspective the Town faithful were reliant, as so often, on a couple of moments of Connell magic. Firstly a delightful chip beat the Fleetwood keeper but drifted agonisingly wide of the far post and then a goal bound shot from the edge of the box was deflected wide.
Just as it looked as though Town had "done the business" defensively the Mariners fell behind. Mullen seemed to have an age on the ball coming in from the right before threading the ball through to Vieria whose "cheeky" back flick seemed to hit his trailing leg before wrong footing Arthur and creeping over the line.
This stroke of fortune seemed to galvanise the home side and "woke up" their fans who, given the noise they made in October at Blundell Park had been very quiet.
HALF TIME: Fleetwood Town 1 Grimsby Town 0.
No changes were made at half time as the Mariners set about trying to get back on level terms. Once again, (as so often this season), going behind seemed to spur on the team, as, despite an early chance for Fleetwood well saved by Arthur, Town took the game to their opponents.
Makofo’s speed was beginning to frighten the home side as Town, prompted by some decent link up play from Hudson pinned Fleetwood well into their own half.
Michael Coulson should have done much better with a free header from six yards from a good cross from Peter Bore, joining the attack for the first time.
It was all Town and Coulson fired a cross into the Fleetwood danger area with no Town player on hand to apply the finish. Connell, acting quickest to an excellent Duffy knockdown fired a shot well wide to the obvious disgust of his strike partner. Connell’s head down reaction to this apparent criticism left many Town fans wondering whether the constant pressure on Town’s top scorer was becoming a burden for the player.
Duffy then fired a shot from a very tight angle which seemed to graze the far post with many in the crowd wondering how the ball had stayed out.
In a brief excursion up the field Fleetwood nearly caught Town out as Vieria fired a fierce shot against the bar with Arthur a spectator.
Just as Town appeared to be in virtually unstoppable mode they once again contrived to hasten their own downfall. This time the culprit was Cummins whose put kindly, rash two footed challenge in a non-dangerous area, saw the referee have no hesitation in wielding a straight red card. Cummins tramped off and with it went any chance of Town getting something from the game.
Town were forced to sacrifice Makofo’s pace as the winger was replaced by Peacock as Town looked to beef up their attacking options..
Town’s next substitution saw Watt enter the fray replacing Hudson as Town went to three at the back with Bore pushing up wide right. Peacock dropping in for Hudson as the holding midfielder.
A crazy two minutes then saw the game put beyond Town. Firstly they were lucky not to concede when Seddon fired a vicious shot come cross across the area. Then, after an attempt by Milligan was blocked Seddon followed up completely free of any challenge from the Town defence and blasted a second (and deciding) goal past the helpless Arthur.
A third goal in the dying seconds of injury time was academic as the old heads marshalling the home side had Town chasing shadows with some excellent retention of the ball.
FINAL SCORE: Fleetwood Town 3 Grimsby Town 0
Man of the Match: Only one real candidate for me (How many times has that been said this season?) Step forward Darren Kempson. A wholehearted display with some crucial tackles and interceptions.
Hopefully Neil Woods view that it wasn't a "must win" game will prove to be the case. There were however an increasing number of the faithful who left the ground with the chant of "You're not famous anymore" ringing in their ears who remain to be convinced that Town’s chances of an immediate return hasn't all but disappeared. Town didn't have much luck but "lucky" teams seem to avoid hitting the suicide button as frequently as Town do.
All that was left was to brave the long journey home. This time broken only by a search for "witty" fish related puns.
The entry for the Eurovision Pun Contest?
Cod Batter Haddock at their Plaice! we'll get our scales.....
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