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Can We Play You Every Week?
By: Ian Townsend
AS this strangest of seasons meandered fitfully to it’s close it was time to point the Battle Bus in the familiar direction of the East Midlands town of Mansfield. Field Mill is one of a select few grounds in the B.S.P. that has seen a standard of football far higher than it is currently being forced to endure.
I have memories of a promotion clinching 0-0 draw in the sublime 1979/80 season and more recently the venue for John Fenty’s first "free coaches" act of supreme generosity stand tall for many Mariners fans. As I surveyed the sparsely populated away end the depths to which Town’s fortunes have plummeted couldn’t have been more starkly displayed.
Times are undoubtedly hard, especially if you are a new management team trying to eke out a first win of your tenure. It is however an ill wind that blows nobody any good and the circumstances were ideal for some experimentation in preparation for what could be a "Make or Break" season in 2011/12.
To call the line up "inexperienced" would be a bit of an understatement as Scott and Hurst went with:
The bench joined in with the theme of inexperience with Mulready and Southwell, joining Hudson, Watt and Rob Atkinson.
Town started the game with a higher level of energy than has recently been on display but against a Mansfield side who’s collective minds were obviously on their impending visit to Wembley for the F.A. Trophy final, their attempts to play a bit of football were constantly thwarted by big booted clearances.
There were signs that things might actually be coming together as Peacock and Thanoj linked well before a defender got back to clear Peacock’s dangerous looking cross.
Thanoj was involved again shortly afterwards when he threaded an excellent ball through to Coulson who hesitated slightly too long allowing a defender to block his eventual shot. The ball rebounded to Connell who’s attempted "floater" went ludicrously high and wide.
The game continued in similar vein as only the away side had any thoughts of creating an entertaining spectacle. A great interchange between Peacock and Connell ended with the former side-footing wide when placed well. The look on Peacock’s face suggesting just how good a chance it was.
As the game chugged towards the break Town gave the faithful something to cheer. A fine ball from Cummins found Thanoj wide on the left. The youngsters pinpoint cross was headed into the net from a remarkably tight angle by of all people Michael Coulson.
The goal seemed to galvanise Mansfield and only seconds later Town fans hearts were in their mouths as Arthur fumbled a cross but caught it at the second attempt. From his throw out Town went straight back on the attack. Leary made room for himself and was desperately unlucky to see Mansfield’s keeper save with his feet.
Half Time: Mansfield Town 0 Grimsby Town 1.
The second half began with Mansfield stepping up a gear. Their long ball tactic was dealt with however very well by Garner (enjoying himself against his former employers) and I’Anson whose performance belied his experience with some very well timed tackles.
When the backline was breached Mansfield found Arthur in determined mood. One save where he dived to punch away a dangerous effort was top drawer.
Town were beginning to impose themselves and the industrious Leary after a great run saw his eventual shot beaten away for a corner. Mansfield’s respite was however short as from the corner I’Anson rose at the back post to power an unstoppable header into the net for Town’s second to cap a hugely memorable debut.
There was still almost 20 minutes to go and the faithful looked forward almost in resignation to the come back Mansfield would surely launch.
In truth the message from the management team has obviously begun to be absorbed. Gone was the hesitation of previous games. The team defended as a unit with some sterling tackles from Garner and Peacock on defensive duty. There was even time for Connell to strike the foot of a post after a trade-mark turn and shot. So comfortable were the team against a toothless Mansfield attack that there was a chance for Coulson to be replaced by the 1st. year Y.T. Southwell for the last few minutes.
The final whistle was greeted by an audible sigh of relief. The players enjoyed their moment and the fans stayed to applaud their efforts
Full Time: Mansfield Town 0 Grimsby Town 2.
Man of the Match.
Football is a game of dreams. Few players in the history of Grimsby Town can have had such a fine debut as Charlie I’Anson. At 17 he belied his tender years to turn in a performance of maturity. He was vocal but backed his words with actions and you cannot help but think that he will be a feature of games far beyond this season.
It was a good all-round performance albeit against a team that offered little of their own. Given the experiences of this season it would be churlish in the extreme to take anything away from them. Arthur, Garner, Leary and Connell showed the necessary desire, commitment and skill. Question marks over certain positions still exist but Town now have the chance to do something not seen since early 2008-put together a run of victories the value of which in the light of the need to get the fans on board could be vital.
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