Question of the Week
Will Paul Hurst stay at Grimsby?
A Dismal Day
By: Andrew Doherty
IT’S FA Trophy first round day. We have the opportunity to become unstuck against EvoStik Premier side Buxton. On paper we are clear favourites. We are top of the table, have been abundant in the scoring department of late and Buxton are two leagues below us.
But I recall that we played Salisbury and Chasetown from lower leagues and they conquered. Buxton had a decent FA cup run and my suspicion was that they were going to be tough opposition today.
It was a cold, damp and grey afternoon. As I waited for Andy outside the club shop, I noticed that people seemed to be walking in slow motion. This was an afternoon for sleeping, not football. Let’s hope Town’s players didn't see it that way. 94 Buxton supporters had descended 300 metres to sea level for this, the most vertical trip in English football. It looked like Town’s fans had mostly stayed in bed. FA Trophy fever clearly hadn't gripped the supporters, who numbered under 1400 today. On paper Town’s line-up today was a strong one: Fleming - Hatton, Sean Pearson, Miller, Thomas - Niven, Thanoj, Disley - Neilson, Cook, Marshall.
Attacking the Osmond end in the first half, Town started enterprisingly against the all blues of Buxton. The momentum of the passing game in the recent victory against Braintree was there. Town passed crisply and looked to get inside the box and get shots in. Thanoj slotted a ball through to Neilson on 9 minutes but the shot went wide, before Thanoj had a shy at goal himself. Neilson ran at the Buxton defence and Cook looked dangerous but Town persisted in sending over crosses too close to Buxton’s goalkeeper Deakin who gathered them with ease. There was a worrying moment when Buxton broke away. All Reed had to do was to knock in a header from a cross on the by line, but Pearson was on hand and bundled the ball away before Fleming gathered the ball on the line. Thomas set up a chance for Cook and Town continued to press and probe.
Town came close on 39 minutes after winning a corner but the threat of a goal was denied by a foul on the goalkeeper. Attractive as the passing was, there was a disturbing element of "old Town" developing as the ball was sprayed around with no great purpose. On 42 minutes, Miller slipped after a series of purposeless passes and Buxton broke away. Fleming raced out and pushed Towey wide, causing him to miss the target. Town won a free-kick on half time, but Hatton curled it over from 25 yards out. The half ended: Grimsby Town 0, Buxton 0. Town had dominated play but had no clear-cut chances. The best chance of the half had gone to Buxton who as expected were playing deep and defending doggedly.
Cook and Neilson went close with headers just after the restart as Town began brightly. As the half went on however Town’s passes became ragged. Town had learnt their lesson and crosses were clear of the keeper but still no more effective than the first half. Buxton’s tall defenders proved they were capable of dealing with them, and as the ball was knocked out, it was Buxton who constantly gathered the ball and cleared the ball out. There were too many loose balls from Town, and Buxton started to push forward as the game became more open. Pearson was booked on 60 minutes for a foul which came about as a result of sloppy passing by his colleagues. Thomas worked well up the left for Town and looked to create chances.
In a popular move, Hannah came on for Cook after 53 minutes. The hard-working Cook had looked better against Braintree in a more midfield attacking role. As Hannah came on the pitch, a Town fan shouted to no-one in particular "you're in trouble now". Marshall meanwhile provided the comedy with an Ibrahimovic style overhead kick, but sadly his effort ended up in the Pontoon stand. The game became increasingly untidy, and as Buxton realised that at least a draw was on, there were a lot of fouls and time-wasting on their part. Hannah prowled and roamed in readiness, but as Town’s interplay continued to deteriorate, it was Buxton who stepped up from breakaways and had a sustained spell of attacking. On 75 minutes Town were lucky when following a corner Towey hit the post. These were nervous moments. Buxton hassled and harried any Town player with the ball and were succeeding in their tactics. Town made three substitutions. In addition to Hannah, new boy Rankine and Southwell came on to add impetus in the attack. Rankine looked he could cause danger but looked out of touch, making wrong choices and mis-hitting two speculative shots. The substitutions just seemed to add to the heightening disorientation of the team. Hatton on the right seemed to have lost all sense of direction. Throughout the team, belief seemed to be draining away.
On 89 minutes, Hannah was fouled 25 yards out in a rare moment of Buxton indiscipline. Neilson’s free-kick curled round the wall, and Deakin did very well to get down and push the ball away for a corner. 5 minutes were added and Buxton won another corner. Town did manage one more attack but no-one seemed to have complete control of the ball. After a clumsy passing movement, the ball landed at the feet of Thomas whose wild sliced shot into the stand epitomised Town’s poor second half performance. The game ended: Grimsby Town 0, Buxton 0. As we left the Pontoon, conversation was divided between bewilderment at Town’s unimpressive performance and admiration at Buxton’s determination and organisation.
Does it matter that Town were awful, I reflected as I walked back in freezing rain to Cleethorpes station? I guess not as we're still in the competition. I do feel some pangs of concern as it wasn't just the weather, but once again a full strength team who froze against a very determined team in blue. We also get an extra game that we don't want now that we have to go to Derbyshire on Wednesday to lock horns in the replay. None of Town’s team played especially well and some were poor. Pearson was solid in defence as usual, Disley had a decent game and Fleming making his debut in goal performed creditably, but Neilson was our most dangerous player and therefore my man of the match. It’s worth noting that last year’s winners York only equalised in injury time in this round of the competition against Solihull Moors. It was a dismal day today in every sense but we're still in the competition, so there may be brighter days to come.
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