Question of the Week
Do you support Cleethorpes Town?
|Can we do it?|
Aspiring to Finish Twelth
By: Andrew Doherty
IT'S the time of year when football supporters start doing their sums. Blue Square aristocrats Crawley Town are three points from glory and future trips to Macclesfield and Port Vale. Today's opponents are nicely placed. Achieving the play-offs is in their own hands. As for Town, we aspire to finish 12th.
Of course if we were to win all our games we would finish on 72 points and would be in a play-off berth, assuming that teams above us lose their matches. I'm only joking about a play-off berth. Like Messrs Arthur, Wood, Bore, Duffy, Leary, Sinclair and co. They're only joking too.
But let's look at this positively. Good weather is forecast and we're playing Kidderminster Harriers. Martin, who ran the sweet shop on the station, invited me to go and watch them when I lived in Wolverhampton and I took up the invitation, visiting Aggborough several times. The only reason to dislike Kidderminster is that there's no reason to dislike them. My recollection of going there is of an elderly couple - do they still go, I wonder - standing at the front with their flask and sandwiches as the Severn Valley Railway steam engine fired up behind the stand. I remember watching them against Sutton United in an FA Cup 4th round qualifier. After 80 minutes it was 2 - 2. In amongst the cut and thrust and excitement, a Sutton player got sent off for no apparent reason. The crowd was shocked. "Hard luck, son" sympathised the elderly gentleman as the player trooped off disconsolately. If it had been anywhere else, the crowd would have abused him. Here it was if the player had just missed out on his maiden county half century. The man didn't give the player a sweet but it would have been appropriate if he had.
I wish I could express similar affection for Grimsby Town FC. I support them because I have to. I was born here exactly 52 years ago and have been going to matches for 44 of them. I have been lumbered. As others will testify, it affects my mental health and well-being. The love and affection were there but in recent times it's been like finding out that your favourite uncle is Fred West. Food is abundant and rich in North East Lincolnshire but the only dish which is served up nowadays at Blundell Park and anywhere else I go to follow this team is abject disappointment. The current players disgust me. They go round arrogantly as though they own the place, but they own nothing. I've seen them act unprofessionally, play well for a while, then lose it collectively like they've turned off a switch. Some players are better than others or at least give their all - step forward Messrs Connell, Ridley, Peacock and Watt - but this is a team game, and we're not a team. There's no leadership on the pitch and not much off it. It just has to be hoped that our new Dynamic Duo management team can re-assert some missing values. So far, not so good, as we've thrown away games against Gateshead, Tamworth and Newport, not to mention losing at home in time-honoured tradition to Darlington. But they need time to root out the multitude of offenders and re-organise this bunch of underachievers.
Still, it was a good day to be out, except in Doncaster of course where even the blue sky and sun were uninviting. I met my son Merlin off the train before catching the train to Cleethorpes. He informed me that if you fail to put the space between "in" and "Doncaster" on a phone, predictive text comes up with "Indonesia". We struggled with that one. Merlin thought of vegetation. The only vegetation here in Doncaster was the bit of weed next to the derelict railway works. A man stood in the newspaper kiosk, complaining that coffee cost £2-40. You could probably buy a street for that in Indonesia.
Bright sunshine and cold, breezy conditions greeted us on our arrival. Large numbers were out in force from Indonesia and other parts of South Yorkshire, having decided to decamp to Cleethorpes for the day. Ignoring the conditions, the underdressed visitors ate chips and ice cream, consumed slush and buried their children alive on the beach in the name of entertainment. Sounds of Rick Astley blared away in the background. A man sat sullenly waiting to hire out "Sun Shade Wind Breaks" - all angles covered there - as he drank a mug of piping hot tea. Merlin and I sat on a bench for a while taking in the splendour of it all before heading towards the sea wall and Blundell Park.
So here were Merlin and I, taking our place in the Pontoon with my mate Andy and anticipating not very much. "We're Here Because We're Here", to quote the title of an album by Anathema. Maybe Anathema could be our sponsors next year? It would look good on the team shirt.
Town, attacking the Osmond end in the first half, had an unfamiliar 4 - 3 - 3 line-up today: Arthur - Samuels, Garner, Kempson, Wood - Hudson, Hughes, Leary - Coulson, Connell, Peacock.
The start was all too familiar. Defensive hesitancy allowed a gap between Kempson and Garner in the first minute. Arthur saved a decent shot from the edge of the box. As the match progressed, a sense of urgency was evident as players endeavoured to impress the management team. Wood raced to take a throw-in as if it was the 89th minute and we were 0 - 1 down. Would the enthusiasm last? All the running around was aimless. "They're too scared to be good" commented Andy. Kiddie meanwhile were direct and had three or four half chances in the first period.
On 19 minutes, Samuels controlled the ball poorly. It ran up his arm like a spider attracted to a child. Kiddie didn't take advantage of the free kick. A game of headball ensued in the Town box. Kempson's unintentional back header fell to Wright who headed over the bar from 5 yards. Town continued fruitlessly to find a game plan, then on 24 minutes the ball came in from the right in the Kiddie half to Hudson in the middle. Seeing the ball bouncing up and unchallenged, Hudson had a pot shot from 30 yards out and volleyed it over Lewis in the Kiddie goal. Against the run of play, the score was Town 1, Kidderminster 0. On 28 minutes, a Kiddie corner beat Town's defenders who lost sight of two attackers. Fortunately they fell over each other and wasted an opportunity.
Four minutes later, Hughes hesitated and gave away a corner. Kiddie pressed and the ball bounced around Town's penalty box. Arthur tipped the ball away. The ball was crossed over to Blair on the right hand side. With no-one marking or approaching, he took time to control the ball and drill it low into Arthur's bottom right hand corner. Town 1, Kidderminster 1.
Town had a couple of moments around the 40th minute when good skill and a turn by Hughes in the Grimsby half resulted in long ball out right, setting up a good move and a corner. Not long after Coulson fired in a fierce shot from the right. But it was Kiddie who always looked the more dangerous. In the 43rd minute, a run up the right led to a cross into Town's goal mouth. Kempson left it for Arthur who didn't come for it and Blair headed in from 2 yards. Kempson gave Arthur a piece of his mind. Connell won a corner for Town on 46 minutes but it was a gesture only. At half-time it remained Grimsby Town 1, Kidderminster Harriers 2.
Town were all at sea in the first half. It was the familiar story of no team ethic and any success was down to the individuals, most of whom weren't up to the task. Passes went nowhere, there were a lot of headers and there was a poor understanding in the defence. The highlights were Hudson's goal, Hughes's pass and Coulson's shot, otherwise Town just floundered around. The only positive Andy and I could think of was that Town's kit looked good this season. "Nice socks" commented Andy. Kidderminster were impressive, passing and crossing well. They looked quick, organised and purposeful.
Bore came on for Samuels at half-time. Town won a corner straightaway. Peacock got a good header in which the goalkeeper fumbled but no-one was following up and the ball was gathered safely. Town continued to attack and from the right Leary floated a cross over to Peacock at the far post but it was too high. On 51 minutes, Peacock found space and returned the compliment, giving Leary a free header from 10 yards. Leary took his eye off the ball and skied his header high and wide. Coulson showed exquisite skill on 53 minutes, bringing the ball from a tight position on the side line and beating four players. He was unlucky not to win a corner. Even Kiddie's goalkeeper sportingly acknowledged his skill. Town were having a good spell.
Kiddie's defence was holding firm and on 56 minutes Peacock and Connell tried to work a move with each other but found themselves with their backs to the goal. Undeterred, Connell took advantage of the bounce, saw his opportunity and placed an overhead kick from outside of the penalty area into the roof of the net - a magical goal. Town 2, Kidderminster 2.
It was noticeable that Town were more patient in their build-up while showing a determination that was missing earlier. The second half was different. Kiddie won a corner and Arthur made a super save after another cross and header. Then Coulson broke away to the Kiddie end. Game on. Town set up another attack on 63 minutes. Peacock got the ball 30 yards out. He weighed up his options and chose to pass wide to Coulson who cut in, beat his man and crossed perfectly for the advancing Peacock to glance his header into the right hand corner. Town 3, Kidderminster 2.
The impetus was with Town who tackled and fought like tigers. The drummer drummed for the first time, and the "Fish" chant went up. The majestic Peacock made a fantastic cross-field pass on 73 minutes, finding Connell who controlled the ball. Connell drew two defenders and back-flicked the ball to the overlapping Wood. Wood crossed precisely to Leary who slotted home. But wait .. Peacock, who it could be argued was not "active", was considered offside by the linesman and referee who disallowed what would have been a magnificent goal. At least it showed what Town are capable of. Two minutes later Peacock rose and headed on for Connell. The goalkeeper gathered the ball. Cummins came on for Hughes after 76 minutes. Leary hit a long cross on 78 minutes for the ubiquitous Peacock to head across for Connell who got under it. If Peacock wasn't winning headers and picking out players with pinpoint passes, he was holding the ball up for others. He doubtless could have solved the Libyan crisis if asked.
Meanwhile back at Blundell Park, Wood was benefiting from the supply on the left but put in a poor cross and lost possession. Wood raced back to the half way line and although he conceded a free kick, he made amends with his determination. Kiddie had a rare attack on 81 minutes but it was a rare moment. A minute later, Bore lost it, and Kiddie looked to probe Town's defence. The ball was picked up by the impressive Blair on the right. Playing it off Matt, he retrieved the ball and continued his run to the left side. Too fast for the Town defence Blair controlled the ball before firing in a stinging shot from the left. Arthur had no chance. Town 3, Kidderminster 3. There were some nervous moments at Town's end but a Bore pass picked out Peacock who precise cross was ripe for Leary to head home. Kiddie's Williams saw the danger and threw himself at the ball before Leary could get there, saving the day. Kiddie's players recognised Williams's gargantuan efforts to get to the ball and clear it off the line. Eagle came on for the injured Coulson on 91 minutes but there was still time for an attack at each end. Peacock's long cross found Connell on 92 minutes but the header from 6 yards was mistimed. Town started another attack but it was too late. The final whistle blew and the game ended Grimsby Town 3 Kidderminster Harriers 3.
This was a good game. The performance from Town was schizophrenic. In the first half they were for the most part clueless. In the second Town played with skill, determination and composure. Let's give the Dynamic Duo credit for changing the mindset. What was most impressive was the fact that Town turned into a team without fear. I have doubts about the defence who seemed to struggle against pace and crosses, but there's no doubt that when going forward we were dangerous. Top of the performers was Peacock whose awareness, passing, control, headers and goal were magnificent and earned him my Man of the Match nomination. Doubts remain about this team, but the second half was a great spectacle. This is what we come for.
So my affair with Grimsby Town continues. I don't mind so long as they compete as a team. Today they confirmed they are capable of doing so. At this rate we might even finish 12th.
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