League Two Table
Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
|Top of the League|
By: Andrew Doherty
I NEEDED sausages so I went to Grimsby. At this point the world divides. People from Lincolnshire would know what I mean. The rest would have no idea what I’m talking about. Not having visited The Promised Land since before Christmas, I’d almost run out of pork products. Like a diver needing air, a trip was necessary.
Moreover it was a while since I had had the opportunity to eat fresh haddock and chips, another subject on which I am prone to rant in the presence of anyone who can be bothered to listen. So I went to Grimsby. Coincidentally, Town were at home to another Town, Alfreton.
Following my last report, I was told off for using long words like "Cantabridgian". So be assured that long words do not apply to Alfreton. It is a monosyllabic place. Alfreton is bleak and dour. It is a place in Derbyshire where it rains all the time. It is associated with the functionally named Alfreton and Mansfield Parkway. Its football team’s supporters have a reputation for being foul - or is that Ilkeston I’m thinking of? In footballing terms, one connection we have is Alan Woodward, a winger we signed from Alfreton Town in 1970 and who performed good service for us over the next three years. Bringing ourselves forward to present times, a key link between the two clubs is one Liam Hearn, who I understand is well on the road to recovery. As for results we have played Alfreton Town three times, winning all three, scoring twelve goals and conceding four in the process. On paper we should be able to overwhelm our opponents today. But their recent record is good and my suspicion was that we would encounter stubborn opposition, besides which football is not played on paper.
The trains were a bit messed up today, so it was a bit of a rush to the ground. On the way, I did spot a shop on the Grimsby Road called The VIP Room, advertising teeth whitening, and for £5, "vajazzle", whatever that is. The mind boggles or I’m getting old (delete as appropriate). I met with Andy Humbo, but he was none the wiser but then he is the same age as me. Andy spoke of buzz words - perhaps it is one of those. It is noteworthy that what he quoted as examples of buzz words were from the Grimsby dictionary: "skint" and "desperate". There’s no "blue sky thinking" here.
In fact the only blue sky was that which greeted me on arrival at Cleethorpes station today. The sun shone but the wind blew bitterly. The sea looked icy cold. By the time I got to the ground, the conditions in the UK’s premier seaside resort were arctic. The sky now looked pebbly and the clouds ready to deposit their snow. "When it was -4, no-one was complaining", observed Andy philosophically."It’s cold down here, let’s make some noise for the boys" proclaimed the stadium announcer, giving a fine example of a non sequitur. We made noise.
Town’s team today was: McKeown - Hatton, Miller, Pearson, Thomas - Marshall, Disley, Thanoj, Devitt - Brodie, Cook. Lining up for the all blue Alfreton team today were two ex Town players, Phil Barnes and Darran Kempson.
Unusually, Town attacked the Pontoon end for the first half. Alfreton had the advantage of the wind, which turned to horizontal sleet after 5 minutes. The game was scrappy. Alfreton were industrious, allowing Town’s players no time on the ball. When in possession, they passed quickly but inaccurately. Both sides had an early corner. Marshall took Town’s corner on 8 minutes. It wasn’t a good one but in the ensuing scramble Cook fired a low shot which a defender on the post cleared away to safety. A clumsy tackle by an Alfreton defender 2 minutes later led to a free-kick close to the corner flag, which Marshall took. This time the ball flew over everyone. Brodie attempted to retrieve the ball but stood on the defender. Alfreton’s game plan was to harass Town’s players, holding on to them if necessary and hunting in numbers so that Town couldn’t start to pass the ball. It was working. The game was stale. Another foul led to a Hatton free-kick on 16 minutes. Barnes in Alfreton’s goal saw the ball floating into the top of the net and desperately cleared it for a corner. Brodie then ran up the right but in the absence of a football-adept right foot, was unable to create danger but did win a corner. Devitt then took advantage of an Alfreton slip but Cook couldn’t get control from 10 yards out.
On 20 minutes Hatton failed to close down Arnold whose low shot was ineffective from the edge of the penalty box. Town’s affable manager Mr Scott stood on the sidelines fuming and waving his arms about in apparent recognition of the fact that we weren’t winning much of the ball and certainly weren’t controlling the play. But the pattern of ineffectiveness continued in spite of Mr Scott’s theatrics and a poor clearance from Pearson saw the ball return into the corner at Town’s end. Brodie, showing customary ineptitude with his right foot, made a poor clearance. To retrieve the situation, Brodie ran diagonally across the penalty area to cut out the advancing Alfreton player and in doing so, flattened him. Penalty to Alfreton. There were no arguments. Up stepped Bradley, who slotted his shot into the bottom left corner and in doing so, sent McKeown the wrong way. Town 0, Alfreton 1.
The 85 Alfreton supporters of today’s crowd of 3,868 were in good vocal form. The game continued to go back and forth but not in any fluid way. Neither side looked incisive or even capable of keeping the ball for any length of time. Cook had a header for Town, then Arnold had a long range shot for Alfreton before McKeown put Town in trouble again with a poor clearance. On 32 minutes, Cook headed on to Brodie who supplied Marshall, but Marshall’s control was non-existent. While Alfreton worked hard, Town showed no coherence. Brodie tried to curl a shot but it was well wide. Disley then got in Cook’s way and although Town won a corner, a chance was lost. On 35 minutes Cook put a shot over the bar. Mr Scott stood up and was irate again.
On 39 minutes, Pearson accelerated out of defence, found space and set up Brodie, who turned in from the left and tore into the penalty box. Pantomime villain Brodie then turned hero, as too quick for the defence, he was tripped, dived theatrically and won a penalty. Brodie tried to take it but Devitt got the job, firing it low into the right hand corner and sending Barnes the wrong way. Town 1, Alfreton 1. High balls and scrappy football returned to the agenda. Alfreton continued to play quick and ineffective passes while Town just struggled to get any grip or team movement. As half time approached, Town had the nearest they had had to any sort of applied pressure. The move broke down, and returned to the half-way line where Thanoj was fouled. The ball was pushed back into the penalty box. Amongst a sea of players, Brodie saw his opportunity and stabbed at the ball from 6 yards out, firing it low into the net. Town 2, Alfreton 1. The half-time whistle blew.
Alfreton probably couldn’t believe the score at half-time. They contained Town with their aggressive spoiling tactics. Town simply hadn’t got going and through their own errors and Alfreton’s persistence hadn’t put any serious moves together in a very poor first half.
We shivered even with the reappearance of the sun as the teams returned for the second half. There were signs of Town pressure. Cook headed off for Brodie whose right-footed shot was expectedly weak, and Devitt and Thomas worked together to win a corner. Arnold had a shot for Alfreton before Devitt had one for Town following a run. There was still no fluidity in the play. Mr Scott looked frustrated and became animated. On 55 minutes Cook laid the ball on for Brodie but his chip wasn’t strong enough. Alfreton’s counter attack quickly broke down and on 56 minutes, Thanoj burst out from midfield and connected with Brodie on the left. Brodie took the ball up to the line, crossed low and found Cook who "did a Welbeck" from a yard out and back-flicked the ball in the net in spite of the attentions of Barnes and a defender. Great goal. Grimsby 3, Alfreton 1.
Three minutes later, Devitt found Cook who chested the ball down but Barnes gathered the shot safely. Town were starting to take charge. Brodie linked up with Cook but Cook’s control was poor on this occasion. Town still allowed Alfreton too much space and Thomas saved Town by heading off the line on 61 minutes. Town’s passing was much better. After 63 minutes, Colbeck came on for Devitt. Soon afterwards, Brodie built an attack after seemingly pushing off a defender and simultaneously making a derogatory comment to the linesman. The referee called play back and booked the multi-tasking Brodie for unsportsmanlike behaviour. Brodie came off after 69 minutes, being replaced by new boy Lenell John-Lewis. It is doubtful that the rapturous applause the larger-than-life Brodie received would have been replicated if this had happened after 30 minutes.
Town were re-grouping while Alfreton took advantage and attacked. After a good defensive block, the threat seemed over but Alfreton’s Clayton, who himself had been on for only a minute, decided otherwise and fired a fierce volley into the bottom right corner from the edge of the penalty area. Town 3, Alfreton 2. Colbeck moved over to the right side. On 71 minutes, Cook was flattened for the umpteenth time. Alfreton’s physically-minded defence was strong on tight man marking, and conceded many fouls while other cases of manhandling were let go. This was their way. Marshall, who struggled to make his presence felt today, then found himself surrounded and eventually was fouled by the raging Alfretonian mob. On 73 minutes Alfreton won a corner after a poor clearance by Pearson, who wasn’t having one of his better days. Finally Town showed signs of matching their opponent’s robust tackling, when Disley won a midfield battle, culminating in a through ball to Cook who went down with a defender in tow. No penalty was given. On 76 minutes it was the lively John-Lewis’s turn to be flattened on the edge of the penalty box. Hatton’s piledriving free-kick knocked Barnes back. Barnes did well to stay upright and concede a corner. Alfreton’s physical approach called for Niven, and on 77 minutes the tough-tackling Niven came on for Thanoj. On 79 minutes, good work from Marshall saw a cross to John-Lewis whose powerful header was beaten back, for Disley to pounce first and fire a shot into the roof of the net. Town 4, Alfreton 2. Good interplay between Marshall and John-Lewis led to Cook getting in a low shot on 86 minutes. This wasn’t a game of sustained pressure from either side, apart from one spell from Town in the second half, and Alfreton’s hard work could not be matched by incisive attacks. So as Town played down the clock, Alfreton tried to make inroads but the cutting edge wasn’t there and the game finished with no further addition to the scoring. Grimsby Town 4, Alfreton Town 2.
The best team won, although it was far from a convincing team performance. Town’s skill levels were more than a match for Alfreton’s physical game. There is a warning here. If we do progress to League 2, then we will find physical sides like this but with greater levels of footballing skill. We will need to deal with that here and now in the Blue Square Bet Premier league. Even now we have to be capable of withstanding teams whose spirit and endeavour outweigh the talent. Niven proved his strength and value to us last week at Cambridge, and the enigmatic Brodie clearly enjoys a fight, so we are not completely lacking in this area. Disley and Thanoj started to show physical strength as the game progressed. Town finally got going as a team in this poor game after 60 minutes, and improved in all areas after a patchy first period. It is to our credit that we did wear Alfreton down, and although I have some reservations, this was a good and well-deserved victory. Not too many Town players played exceptionally well today, although anti-hero Brodie deserves a mention for his considerable contribution after gifting Alfreton’s equaliser. For overall play, endeavour, teamwork and skill I agree with the official verdict at the game that Andy Cook deserves to be man of the match.
In case you were remotely interested, in spite of the trains running late I got the sausages. I also got a copy of the Evening Telegraph and the Bygones magazine, which I like. Town got three points and we’re top of the table still. Was I vajazzled? Well, in the interests of research and accuracy, I looked up this curious word and found the following definition of "vajazzle": "to decorate the vulva or pubic area with jewels". Educationally enlightening as this may be, this sounds rather unpleasant, and even in a figurative sense I don’t think this would be appropriate to the occasion. So let’s just say I had a really good day.
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