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The Return of the Bogey Men
By: Rob Sedgwick
DARLINGTON won at Blundell Park for the sixth time in seven years in what has become the customary manner - a game dominated by Town with a handful of chances to Darlo, nearly all of which the visitors took.
After a terrific start by Town the Quakers scored with virtually their first attack. Gregg Taylor's shot took a big deflection which beat McKeown, and Arnison added a second before half time to give the Mariners a mountain to climb. After a half time change of formation, Grimsby got the perfect start when Makofo pulled a goal back straight after the break. However some great goalkeeping by Darlington, plus poor finishing by Town meant that the Mariners once again came away with nothing against one of their bogey sides.
The Mariners made no changes from the side which beat Cambridge in midweek. Town started very well and in early play a Makofo cross found Ridley whose shot went just wide, then Duffy headed straight at the keeper from close range.
A long ball by Darlo fell to McReady whose looping shot took a deflection and McKeowen had to tip it over the bar. The ensuing corner was cleared but Darlo scored soon after. Taylor skipped over Thompson's attempted challenge and whipped a cross-shot into the box which took a big deflection off Pearson (it could even be an own goal) and gave the visitors the lead against run of play
Hearn that had two good chances. Firstly he created some space on the edge of the box, turned and his shot on target was tipped over by the Darlo keeper. Then he was played through into the box by Duffy and tried to poke the ball past the keeper with the outside of his boot, but it curled the wrong side of the post. Hearn next was creator and played Thompson through, but Russell denied him at close range.
Town went 2-0 down when some statuesque marking in the box allowed Darlo to pass the ball at will amongst themselves, before Arnison eventually tapped the ball in from close range.
With Hearn forcing yet another good save from Russell just before the break, the first half ended with Town and their supporters wondering what had hit them. Most of the play and chances had fallen to Town. Darlo had had 3 efforts on goal and scored from 2 of them.
Town switched from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 in the second half and Coulson came on. It paid dividends almost straight away when a great run from Coulson breaking from defence ended with a cross to speedy winger Makofo who fired into the roof of the Pontoon net.
In another defensive blow for Town Lee Ridley limped off with a suspected hamstring injury.
The next goal was critical and both sides had changes. McKeowen had to make a double save before another Coulson break saw Town once again go close. Darlo broke back and Walshaw beat McKeowen, but l'Anson saved Town when the ball was cleared off the line.
A rare mistake by Russell saw Town come even closer. Russell tried to jump up and punch the ball but missed it and it broke to Kempson at the edge of the box but his header beat the defender on the line and clipped the bar.
Russell's one mistake though in an otherwise flawless performance proved to be just that when the denied substitute Spenser's volley with a brilliant reflex save in the last minute of injury time.
McKeown came up for the corner and Darlo broke quickly and Bradley Wood had to clear the ball off the line to deny a third for the visitors.
The match ended 2-1 which was far from a just reflection of play. Town will no doubt get some criticism, but if they create that many chances in their next few games then they will win most of them.
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