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Over the Hills and Far Away
By: Ian Townsend
A VISIT to Wales to follow the Mariners on their travels has never been my ideal Saturday entertainment. Judging by the fact that the numbers wishing to travel under the loving care of "the Battlebus" barely made double figures others maybe had the same reservations. Then again it could be the lingering feeling that they might witness a performance akin to the muddle seen last time out in the Darlington game.
Arriving in Newport at a little after 12:30 some of my worst fears were realised. Another soulless, atmosphere-deprived stadium clearly built for another sport in the heart of an industrial estate awaited. Avoiding like the proverbial plague the kind instruction of the local constabulary to make my way to the nearby cricket club bar, I decided to venture into the city, buoyed by the helpful comments from a fellow Mariner that the city centre was "15 minutes away".
Forty-five minutes later I arrived, barely able to speak at the largest Wetherspoons I've ever seen.
It has always been a mystery why the powers that be in South Wales see fit to print all of their signage in Welsh and English. I'm all for the protection of a language but surely a prerequisite is that the locals actually speak it? There must have been 200 people watching the lunch time game and none of them seemed to be speaking their mother tongue. In fact not that many of them appeared to have Welsh accents. A £7.00 taxi ride back to the "stadium" courtesy of surely the only Sri Lankan not watching the World Cup final gave me time to find out that Scott and Hurst had decided to stick largely by the XI who began against the Quakers in the absence of any of those on the lengthening injury list.
Town began with:
The effect the injuries have had was only too clearly demonstrated by the inexperience on the bench where only Lee Peacock offered any experience amongst Corner, Thanoj, Gray and Makofo.
The game began in a strongish wind blowing towards the 158 travelling Mariners perched somewhat precariously on the sort of temporary seating we used to see at Blundell Park in "The Good Old Days" where the numbers wishing to see the game outstripped the available permanent seating.
Town had the wind and it became quickly obvious that they needed to make use of the advantage nature had given them. However nature had also given the opposition a group of players described by the fan next to me as "Orange Lamp Posts" and the scene was set for the all too familiar story of the season so far. Town struggling against more physical, tougher opponents who realised that they couldn't outplay Town so they needed to stop them playing.
From the fifth minute and their first throw in in a forward position Newport set out their stall. The thrower with a run up which Jonathan Edwards would have been proud of hurled the ball 30 yards into the danger area.
Town were already on the back foot and on 8 minutes Kenny Arthur made a great save.
Town responded-a great cross field ball found Eagle in loads of space but in the manner of a player low on confidence he chose to pass rather than shoot and the possibilities evaporated.
The first moment of contention came in the twelfth minute. A flying tackle from Hughes which appeared to have studs showing caught the Newport winger. The referee reached for his cards and an audible sigh of relief escaped the faithful when the colour was yellow. The tackle was no better than those that saw both Peacock and Cummins take early leave in previous games.
Newport continued to press and Town were lucky not to go behind when an unmarked Newport player sidefooted the ball over the bar from a decent opportunity.
As the half wore on Town were indebted to some good interceptions, blocks and tackles from Garner. Going forward Town looked brightest down the right where the excellent Samuels was providing worthwhile support for Coulson. Town's best move to date came when Coulson again found Eagle with the ball eventually coming back to Connell who's long range trademark curler flew agonisingly wide of the post with the keeper beaten all ends up.
Not to be outdone in the long throw stakes Bradley Wood found Duffy eventually but the out of luck striker saw his shot hit the keeper who was actually going the other way.
The last word of a rather tepid half from a Town point of view came from Dwayne Samuels who made a superb block as Newport looked to get their noses in front.
The half ended with more than a few Mariners wondering whether their favourites had let the home side off the hook by not using the wind more. The feeling that the hosts wouldn't be so generous nagged away.
Half Time: Newport County 0 Grimsby Town 0
The second period began with both sides trying to get used to the conditions but the game exploded into life just after the 50 minute mark. Coulson robbed the Newport full back as he tried to bring the ball away, ran fully thirty yards and drilled an unstoppable shot across the keeper and into the net for the lead.
The goal rocked Newport and Town were somewhat unfortunate not to double their lead only minutes later as good interplay between Connell and Hughes (who was increasing in effectiveness as the game progressed)eventually found Duffy. The hapless forward missed the target but was saved by a timely off-side flag.
When Newport played at Blundell Park in October they looked to be one of the better footballing sides in the division. Times (and managers) change in this league and they now play a far more "up and at em" game. Town's failure to extend their lead whilst on top appeared to give the home side some encouragement and using the wind to greater advantage they began an aerial bombardment that was straight out of the Wimbledon circa 1988 book of football. Town's jittery defence somewhat crumbled and, from a ball lofted high into the danger area they restored parity. Arthur jumped rather half heartedly for a ball that he couldn't decide whether to leave or not. Despite a hint of being already out the ball was headed back across goal where it was eventually struck hard into the net with the defence at sixes and sevens.
Town tried to fight back. Hughes played a lovely cross field pass to Coulson but this time the wingers cross cum shot was cut out.Peacock replaced Duffy as Town tried to regain the advantage.
Back came Newport and from a dodgy looking free kick decision the home side gained the lead. The ball was launched towards goal where again Arthur fumbled under pressure with the loose ball being gleefully hammered home. The Newport players as one tried to involve Arthur in their celebrations as the final insult in recognition of the part he played in the goal.
The last minutes were played out with very little thrusting play from Town. Their only chance came from a good cross but Garner's header was hopelessly off target.
Arthur partially made amends with a great reaction save to prevent a further goal.
Four minutes of added time came and went with Newport giving a master-class in how to see out a game when in front-an irony not lost on the travelling support and hopefully not the managers.
Full Time: Newport County 2 Grimsby Town 1
Man of the Match
Only one candidate for me. Dwayne Samuels defended with real effort and not a little skill but still found the time to support the impressive Coulson down the right flank. He has clearly come to terms with what is required and will be a player to be reckoned with next season if he is still a GTFC player.
The one really bright spot on yet another frustrating day for the fans. There were signs that there is intention from the management to use some of the more skillful players to their best effect. The ball went wide (particularly right) far more often than on Tuesday. What is needed now is more conviction "up front" and in the middle of the park (How long have we been saying that?)
One has to have a deal of sympathy for the new managers. Most new managers get a honeymoon period. Such is the state of Grimsby Town FC that failure to win any of their fist three games is nonsensically being talked of as a crisis in some quarters.
What is needed to retain the hope of the die-hards is a win and soon!
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