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The runway train
The runway train

A Slippery Slope

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 10/03/2013

THERE’S been a landslip at Stainforth, blocking the railway line and isolating Lincolnshire from Yorkshire. This latter state of affairs of course is a good thing but it’s not so convenient if you're trying to get to Grimsby by train.

The replacement bus, which might as well be renamed the final straw, didn't appeal to me so much, so my extended journey opportunity took me via Newark and the seemingly eternal life-sapping experience that is the train via Lincoln and Market Rasen. At least the company was good. Meanwhile the Mariners are engaging upon a slippery slope of their own. Once at the head of the table, a loss at Braintree, cancelled league fixtures and underwhelming performances have seen a slide in confidence and league position. Today’s opponents, Kidderminster, on the other hand can’t stop winning after a miserable start to the season, and are one of the teams to overtake us. There was momentary respite on Tuesday when they finally lost and we won at Forest Green, but others around us picked up points at the same time. So today was going to be a crunch game, in which we needed to get back on track.

Constant rain led some people to study their i-phones and other media carefully, and much fretting took place over the possibility of pitch inspections but this match did not suffer the unfortunate fate of Cleethorpes Town and went ahead. Town’s line-up today was: McKeown – Wood, Miller, Naylor, Thomas – Colbeck, Disley, Thanoj, Marshall – Hannah, Cook.

There was a noticeable buzz in the crowd of 4,629 as the game got under way. The electricity transmitted itself to the pitch as both teams played as if they wanted to win. The football was fluid but tight. Kidderminster in particular showed great determination as they closed in on Town’s players on the ball, but both sides passed the ball around and showed purpose. Kidderminster passed quickly and looked more confident than Town for whom Thomas and Marshall in particular looked nervous and unsure. Thomas made an error with a cross pass, but nothing happened as a result. Cook wasted a chance by ballooning a shot over the top of the Osmond stand. On 25 minutes after a good build up Wood’s cross from the right came in behind the defence for Hannah to run on to. Hannah timed his header well but it went straight to the goalkeeper.

After further pressure at both ends, Kidderminster responded and set up an attack after an interception on 31 minutes. Town were slow to get back and the ball landed on the left side with Demetriou, who slung over a deep cross. The cross escaped McKeown and found Malbon who had the simplest of tap-ins on the right hand far post. Grimsby 0, Kidderminster 1. Kidderminster continued to play with confidence. Their yellow shirts seemed to be everywhere. “It looks as if there are 15 of them” observed Andy Humbo. Town passed and pressed, showing commendable patience as they waited for the right opportunity to make an assault on goal.

Wood meanwhile was having none of this nonsense and broke up a Kidderminster attack by intercepting and bursting through the middle and providing support for the ensuing move. Town passed and the moment came when the ball was flashed across the middle from the right. Marshall was the provider. Hannah made contact ahead of a packed defence and nudged the ball on its way low into the left hand corner but Kidderminster’s goalkeeper got down and made a world-class save as he pushed the ball round the corner. Towards the end of the half, there was an extended stoppage for an injury to the referee. Bizarrely only one minute was added at the end of the half. Marshall, who didn't seem to have his usual self-belief, found himself crowded out and lost the ball in the Kidderminster half. As Town’s players seemed to have decided it was half time, Kidderminster launched an attack. As Town’s defence lumbered and watched, Kidderminster passed the ball quickly and the ball came across to Gash who from close range drilled the ball home. The half-time whistle blew: Grimsby Town 0, Kidderminster Harriers 2. The 252 supporters from Kidderminster sang jubilantly.

Each side had two real chances in the first half. Kidderminster took both of them. Town looked hesitant. Kidderminster looked good and were firing on all cylinders. Thanoj and Disley were winning balls in midfield but Town’s players were constantly being shut down by an alert opposition team.

Town dominated the early stages of the second half, sticking to a strategy of patience. On 49 minutes, Town won a free-kick. The ball found its way into the opposition penalty area. Disley headed the ball on. Miller hung back and pounced on a loose ball in front of him, blasting ball into the top of the net from 10 yards out. Grimsby 1, Kidderminster 2.

At last Kidderminster had been caught off guard, just as Town had at the end of the first half. The fast tempo of the game continued and a moment of hesitation on 51 minutes by Thomas almost let in the opposition. McKeown advanced and pulled off a magnificent save. Devitt replaced Colbeck on 53 minutes and almost immediately had a shot on goal. Two minutes later Cook had a good chance but was unable to keep his shot from within the box under the bar. The tempo increased further. Kidderminster kept up their quick passing and were effective at it. On 65 minutes, John-Lewis came on to replace a dejected-looking Hannah. Meanwhile in the dugout Mr Scott had an altercation with Kidderminster’s manager Steve Burr and had to be dragged away. Marshall had a surging run on 69 minutes and was tripped outside the penalty area. Devitt’s curling free-kick went over the bar. Kidderminster continued to keep their shape in spite of Town’s pressure. As if to prove the point, on 77 minutes, they broke out of their own half. After 6, 7, oh an abundance of quick, diagonal passes, culminating in a through pass by Jackman, the ball landed in Town’s goalmouth. Neither McKeown nor Wood could prevent the advancing Malbon from bundling the ball over the line. This was an excellent team goal. Grimsby 1, Kidderminster 3.

Brodie came on for Marshall after 79 minutes and immediately started to look dangerous. On 85 minutes a good move involving John-Lewis, Wood and Devitt resulted in an unsuccessful snap shot from the latter. Town pressed but they were being outpassed and outplayed by a very good side. Just as we were poor in the “final third”, Kidderminster played their part by knowing how to hurry us and close us down. Meanwhile they continued to pass the ball well. Although the game hadn't been dirty, it had become niggly in the second half, and the referee, who had overseen this fluid contest well, started to brandish yellow cards with impunity. Disley joined the group on 90 minutes by being booked for what appeared to be dissent. The crowd wasn't happy and turned on Mr Scott, who turned and gave a “what can I do about it from here” gesture. 5 minutes of injury time was added, and after 92 minutes Town interplay led to Cook tee-ing up Devitt whose flicked shot went well over the top. Town were huffing and puffing as they done all game, and the final act came when Thanoj had a header which went straight to the goalkeeper. The final score reflected that the better side had won: Grimsby Town 1, Kidderminster Harriers 3.

As a spectacle, this game was a good one. Town’s passing was good and unlike previous teams, it wasn't passing for its own sake and thought went into finding the right moment to pounce. Balls weren't being desperately lumped into the penalty box. There were however a number of poor crosses, several misunderstandings in defence and the finishing was very poor. Kidderminster were better and more incisive with their passing, better at finishing, and their organisation and work rate were relentless. Town’s players were closed down quickly when on the ball, to the frustration of some of the players, and the Kidderminster defence was resolute apart from one period of pressure early in the second half. Town were outgunned in all departments but it was also as if they didn't believe that they were going to win. The one exception, and my Man of the Match, was the ever combative Bradley Wood who decided he was going to take on the opposition and in doing so provided good skill and impetus throughout the game. But the fact remains that we were beaten by a superior team. Whilst it does mean not the end of our season, this does not bode well for our promotion and play-off chances. Unless we learn lessons quickly, the slippery slope beckons.

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