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Town Lose First Leg
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY lost the first leg of the play-off semi-finals at Blundell Park in the most unfortunate of manners. An Ian Miller own goal from a dubious late free kick proved to be the only goal of the game, in what turned out to be Newport's only shot on target.
The Mariners however played poorly and were second best for long periods of the game. Too many Town players were below par for them really to deserve to win. Newport didn't create much but looked the better side in the first half. When Grimsby finally raised their game in the second half and started to look threatening, Craig Disley hit the post, then just a few minutes later Newport struck out of the blue.
McKeown, Pearson and Cook all started for Grimsby in changes from Saturday's side who beat County 3-0. Newport top-scorer Aaron O'Connor didn't recover from his injury in time, but Justin Edinburgh still made seven changes from the side which lost at Blundell Park.
Newport started brightly with Jolley prominent in the first 10 mins. Town's first chance of note fell to Disley on 11 minutes, but his volley was held by Pidgeley.
The visitors continued to dictate the game, but Town still strangely had what few chances there were. Hearn failed to make full contact when a ball that fell to him in the box, and Jamie Devitt had a free kick tipped over from virtually the same position he scored from on Saturday.
Town had the best chance of the first half right at the end of it when the 'keeper spilled a swirling Jamie Devitt cross into the path of Hearn. Pidgeley was on hand to deny Hearn but Town's third shot went wide.
Early in the second half the Grimsby bosses looked to stiffen up the midfield and brought Thanoj on for Devitt, who had looked Town's most dangerous player. Taylor wasted a glorious chance for Town when Thomas set him up, but the winger skied his chance. Taylor was soon replaced by Marshall.
Town looked sharper following the substitutions. Grimsby then looked the stronger side and Disley hit the post when he got his head to the ball in a crowded penalty area following a free kick.
Newport scored when they were probably at their least effective. A dubious free kick against Thomas was headed into his own net by Miller who was unsighted by the jump of Yakubu in front of him.
Grimsby had free kicks and corners in the remaining 10 mins of playing time, but failed to get the ball over the line.
Town were poor and didn't deserve to win. They were unfortunate to conceded in the way that they did, but the tie is far from over. Grimsby will have to improve in the second game, but if they do (and their away form is better than their home form, especially in the second half of the season) then it's not inconceivable that they can win at Newport. But they will need to line up the way they did in the second half rather than the 4-4-2 formation they started the game with.
Grimsby: McKeown, Hatton, Pearson, Miller, Thomas, Taylor, Disley, Naylor, Devitt, Hearn, Cook
Subs: Wood, Southwell, Thanoj, Hannah, Marshall
Newport County: Pidgeley, James, Yakubu, Anthony, Pipe, Sandell, Gilbey, Minshull, Flynn, Crow, Jolley
Subs: Julian, Hughes, Willmott, Washington, Donnelly
Referee: Graham Horwood (England)
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