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|Let Us Rejoice|
By: Andrew Doherty
I'M not a traditionalist in spite of going to Clee Grammar. At the risk of offending some and causing complete indifference to the vast majority, I thought then and still think now all that “Sons of the school, hurrah for Clee” was a load of propagandoid claptrap. Then there was “Gaudeamus Igitur”.
What, to use a modern idiom, was that all about? How many people in Grimesthorpe went round speaking in Latin, let alone singing in it? I remember my parents scrimped to find four and a half thousand pounds to buy a nice little house in the Poshlands of Humberston. Even there they didn't speak Latin. At least the people who joined me in this nonsense were good sorts.
Rapidly moving on to modern times, a few weeks ago I heard a voice. “Are you Andrew Doherty?” it said. Had I committed a heinous act? Did I owe money? No, it was my former classmate and fellow son of the school Tony Dutton, who like me now lives in Cambridge. Great to see him after 36 years. I learnt that Tony had become pharmaceutical. That's not a crime to the best of my knowledge. I on the other hand went off to play trains, which everyone knows is decidedly suspect. The conversation went along the lines of Town … Town .. Town … disappointment … Town … underperforming … Town … Town … promotion … Town … disappointment.
it's always a treat to watch Town, and tonight I joined Tony at the traditional but cosy R Costings Abbey Stadium. Cambridge are flying high, and with Luton in the mix for automatic promotion, it looks like Town's best shot is the play-offs. So here we were, looking for a point or three in our quest to achieve the heights once again of League Two. The Town team on show this evening in the cool air of Cambridge was: McKeown – Bignot, McDonald, Pearson, Fyfield – Rodman, Kerr, Disley, Neilson – Hannah, John-Lewis Cook. No Connell, contrary to strong rumours so The Prodigal Son hasn't returned. We'll just have to wait for a reincarnation of Mendonca, Futcher and Waters, and we're quids in for promotion. For now we'll have to make do with our new signing Oumare Tounkare. Is that not an anagram of something? In fact we should be grateful we're getting a game at all after the recent postponements.
The amber shirts of Cambridge United shone visibly and usefully as the game got under way. Town wore a more austere blue and white. The initial signs were that this was going to be an evening where two teams thrashed about on a heavy pitch. The first piece of action occurred on 7 minutes, when McKeown undemonstrably and impressively came out to block a shot from the advancing Donaldson. Cambridge showed good ball skills and were good at bursting forward collectively but there was no end product. In fact Town won the game’s first corner on 17 minutes. Kerr’s corner kick was poor but Town won another one, and this time Fyfield’s cross was returned back to Kerr who crossed the ball into the middle. The defender miskicked the clearance and the ball landed at John-Lewis’s feet. The unmarked John-Lewis had only the goalkeeper to beat, and he made no mistake, firing past Sullivan into the right centre of the net. “His name is a shop”, sang the Town faithful jubilantly. Cambridge 0, Town 1. Town took heart from this, and started to generate a passing game.
An excellent crossfield pass on 27 minutes from McDonald fell to Fyfield on the left. A sharp cross fell to Hannah who got in front of the defender but Hannah’s headed flick hit the post. Town continued to pass and play with width. Fyfield epitomised the work ethic when battling with Donaldson before being dragged down. Soon after, on 34 minutes, Town won two corners but Kerr’s high ball fell to Sullivan. Rodman showed individual skill on 39 minutes when embarking on a mazy run through the middle but his long range shot lacked power or accuracy. Kerr followed this up moments later with a speculative did which just missed the right hand upright. Fyfield was now winning everything on the left side, and as Town advanced a fould resulted in another Kerr free-kick on 41 minutes. Kerr’s free-kick found John-Lewis whose downwards header ran across the goal when it appeared he had a great chance to score. Cambridge had a rare attack but McDonald stepped into the path of Taylor whose blatant dive failed to fool the referee. On half-time Kerr won another corner after forcing a defensive back header, but the corner was poor. Neilson raced back to avert the danger, once again showing Town's strong work rate in this entertaining half. At half-time, it was Cambridge United 0, Grimsby Town 1.
Over the course of the first half, Town grew as a team. There was plenty of skill and composure. Cambridge were increasingly less of a threat as Town won more possession and closed ranks at the back, where the defence was cutting out any danger that Cambridge might have posed.
Anyone expecting Cambridge to come out in the second half to look for a quick equaliser would have been mistaken. Town were immediately on the attack. The efficient Bignot’s free-kick finished with Rodman who burst down the right and crossed. With a crowd of defenders in front, Neilson dummied but his shot was blocked. Town passed the ball well. Hannah had a chance, then Fyfield wasted a cross after a good Disley pass to send him off down the left. Rodman supplied John-Lewis who forced a save out of Sullivan with Hannah advancing. After a rare lull, Disley headed down to Rodman inside the Cambridge half. Spotting that Sullivan was out of position, Rodman attempted a snap shot from 35 yards. It just went wide with Sullivan scrambling. On 54 minutes McDonald gave the ball away with a poor pass. For the first time in the half Cambridge attacked. Chambers crossed from the right. His cross ws glanced on by the unmarked Berry into the top left corner. Cambridge 1, Town 1.
Town responded immediately with a Rodman run up the right. Rodman was tripped, so Town had a free-kick on the edge of the penalty box on the right. Hannah’s left footed curled cross met flailing legs. The ball bounced off goalkeeper Sullivan’s back and out to Neilson whose low shot ricocheted through the packed defence and into the left corner. Cambridge 1, Town 2. The game became very open as Cambridge attacked, before Town burst out with attacks of their own. On 60 minutes Hannah sent a low cross into the penalty area but there was no-one to follow up. Kerr won yet another corner from a back header, but good defending prevented McDonald from causing damage. Colbeck replaced Neilson on 64 minutes. Disley was booked on 68 minutes for time-wasting after it seemed he was going to send Hannah on a run, but Cambridge had been awarded a free-kick. Hannah unsuccessfully tried to chip Sullivan on 70 minutes shortly before McDonald cleared at the other end after an attempt by Elliott.
All the time it seemed that Cambridge were going to enjoy a period of domination but Town were winning the ball in midfield and clearing efficiently out of defence, and thus had the chance to set up attacks of their own. Bignot started a move which resulted in John-Lewis beating a defender and forcing a low save, when the better option might have been to send a cross ball to Hannah. Rodman had a shot blocked as Town continued to burst out and look dangerous with each attack. The effect this had was to keep the game open. On 73 minutes Kerr put in a superb block in defence as Cambridge bore down on Town's goal. This led to another breakout and a desperate tackle on Rodman in the Cambridge half. Town were both winning balls and now put together a multi-player passing move, which only ended when John-Lewis’s back pass failed to reach Disley. On 78 minutes, the majestic McDonald was injured, resulting in Fyfield moving across to the centre and Thomas replacing McDonald. This was a concern as Pearson and McDonald had developed a near-telepathic understanding.
Cambridge pressed and Berry forced a good save out of McKeown. Rodman responded by cutting inside from the left but with a clear view of goal, his shot was blocked. On 84 minutes the massive frame of Tounkare appeared for the first time in a Grimsby shirt and replaced John-Lewis who went off to rapturous appreciation from the Town fans. On 85 minutes, when it seemed that Cambridge were going to be confined to long range efforts, the impressive Berry set up a move, and McKeown made two brilliant stops in succession following shots from Barnes-Homer and Berry himself. Fyfield momentarily lost concentration with an aimless headed clearance but nothing came of it. Rodman and a Cambridge player were injured after battling for the ball. The players looked tired on this draining pitch. Pearson cleared twice with headers as Cambridge pressed for the equaliser with four minutes added on. Thomas sent Rodman away on another attack but this was averted and Cambridge returned to the Town end in search of a goal. The game ended however with Town in possession and passing the ball around as they had done for much of this game. So the game ended: Cambridge United 1, Grimsby Town 2.
There were many things to be pleased with about this performance, quite apart from the result. Town showed all-out commitment at all levels. Neilson racing back to stop a Cambridge attack and the impressive Fyfield refusing to give up possession in the first half were just two moments where Town proved they had the will as well as the skill to win. Grit, determination, excellent support play, ball-winning, speed and good passing were all in evidence. Town gave sub-par Cambridge little chance to relax on the ball after the first few minutes. This was a supreme team effort. Hannah unselfishly performed for the team and supplied the free-kick for Neilson’s goal. McDonald was gargantuan in every sense in the defence. Everyone played their part without exception and with different types of contribution but my man of the match was Disley who was instrumental in switching play, causing problems and steadying the ship towards the end when a frenetic end could have gone against us in this open game. And what a useful three points to win. we're up there and in the promotion mix.
So, “Gaudeamus Igitur”. I believe this means “let us rejoice therefore”. So let us rejoice. We have good reason. Here’s to the Town's prosperity.
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