Question of the WeekWho will win the National League?
Memories of 68
By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 30/12/2017 (Last updated: 05/01/2018)
A TOUGH December fixture list continued with today’s home game against Accrington Stanley. Although a small club in terms of attendances, spirit and good organisation abound at the Lancashire club, who sit just outside the play-off places.
The good news, at least as far as Town are concerned, was that Accrington are on a run of poor results. We picked up a surprising victory in the away game in September, so there was an opportunity to do the double over today’s opponents.
Town’s line-up has been stable in recent weeks, with only Woolford coming in for Jaiyesimi against Mansfield, and Killip coming in for the injured McKeown during the game. Today’s team was: Killip - Mills, Clarke, Collins, Davies – Jaiyesimi, Rose, Summerfield, Dembele – Matt, Jones.
Town started by attacking the Osmond end with a strong wind behind. Accrington’s Clark had an early chance, but Town were more enterprising with Jaiyesimi, Dembele and then Matt all showing promise. Dembele supplied Mills on 8 minutes but Town’s wing back’s ball control was poor, thus averting the possibility of him getting behind the Accrington defence. The consolation was a corner. Summerfield had a controlled shot two minutes later. It flew wide. A Collins slip then gave Accrington an opportunity but McConville‘s shot just missed the target. After the first 10 minutes, the game became aimless. Killip failed to take account of the wind, which seemed to be winning the contest as both sets of players made the conditions look hard. Sitting in the Upper Findus today, I saw more action on the river. Davies was booked for a clumsy tackle on 21 minutes, and soon afterwards Town had a minor scare when Killip and Collins clashed, leaving both on the ground. Matt then clattered Accrington’s keeper at the other end. A long clearance found Dembele, won won a throw from which Jones attempted an overhead kick, but the referee penalised Jones for dangerous play. Ex Town loanee Jackson was then booked for tripping Mills. The game was now punctuated by fouls and stoppages. Accrington were winning the physical battle but were better on the ball than Town, whose reliance was upon individual play. A Dembele run on 35 minutes led to a corner, and a Davies free-kick was headed over by Clarke , but Town were unable to pose any threat to the solid Accrington defence. Davies committed a foul on the edge of the penalty box on 40 minutes. McConville forced a good save from Killip from the resultant free-kick. Jones responded for Town with a low left-footed strike, which went wide of the post. Accrington had two chances in added time, first when Jackson fired hire from close range after defensive indecision, and Town survived a bullet header after a corner. The half ended goalless. Blundell Park lacked atmosphere as the 4,188 strong crowd had nothing to make noise about. The quality of play was poor. Town were lacklustre. Accrington’s showed superior movement and strength.
Ping – ping. The ball went back and forth aimlessly as the second half began. "It’s like watching a game of subbuteo", commented my brother. Flick to kick. My mind wandered in the absence of anything worth watching to the subbuteo teams I used to have. I had an all red team, but this would have been Liverpool, not Accrington Stanley. With Town doing nothing, on 54 minutes Accrington attacked on the left. Rose’s attempt at an interception resulted in McConville being tripped, and a penalty was awarded. Kee fired a ferocious shot into the left corner, sending Killip the wrong way. Town 0, Accrington 1. The crowd, except for the 79 from Accrington, vented their collective and vociferous frustration at Town’s players, the referee, everything. A Summerfield 25 yard curler on 58 minutes missed the target but was a better effort – "about time", commented a spectator behind me. Accrington were showing their intentions at this stage of playing for time. Such was the dissatisfaction that half a dozen seats around me, which had been occupied in the first half, had been vacated. Sensing that Town simply had nothing to offer, Accrington stepped up and on 60 minutes launched an attack up Town’s right flank. Kee’s cross found the impressive McConville whose header crashed off the bar and into the net. Town 0, Accrington 2. A sliced Jones shot from outside the box on 62 minutes was a reminder that Town had been confined to long range shots, none of which had been on target. On 65 minutes Cardwell replaced Jaiyesimi, no doubt to combat Accrington’s physical threat. As Town set themselves up, Accrington pounced and Kee was tripped. McConville’s free-kick would have given Killip no chance but narrowly missed. Matt, whose contribution this half amounted to a number of scrapes with Accrington defenders, was booked on 71 minutes for a foul.
Good work from Dembele on 74 minutes found Jones, who turned but Accrington’s stout defence stood firm again. This was Jones’s last piece of action as Hooper replaced him on 76 minutes. Once again, Accrington took advantage following the substitution, and broke quickly. Jackson outran Town’s defence and from the left side, raced clear before finding the top of the net from a seemingly impossible tight angle. Town 0, Accrington 3. Further salt was almost added to the wound within a minute when Clark found space on the right and chipped Killip, who pushed the ball back towards the net before it was cleared. Town’s performance was now an embarrassment as they created nothing, and were incapable of withstanding Accrington’s fluid attacks, which came from all angles. All I could see was red shirts. Town were reduced to gestures, as following a corner, even Matt’s long legs could not latch on to a half chance. Dembele had a shot blocked, but as another ball was given away on 89 minutes, it was hard to escape the notion that Rose and Mills in particular were engaged in a private competition for the most misplaced passes. Rose’s latest lapse led to an Accrington corner after Collins managed to block Wilks’s shot. Ironic cheers rang through the rapidly emptying ground on 91 minutes as Summerfield finally got a shot on target, forcing a save from Accrington’s keeper. Cardwell managed another shot on 93 minutes but was off balance. The final whistle was a relief: Grimsby Town 0, Accrington Stanley 3 was the final score. "Now you’ve got to write about that", joked the friendly steward who I spoke to before the game. Town’s performance had been so atrocious and ghastly today that it led to a mood of indifference and disbelief amongst the fans, rather than anger or any sense of injustice. My brother and I agreed that this performance brought back memories of 1968 – not hippies or flower power but Town in the then fourth division losing most weeks to finish second from bottom in the football league. We went home then with a sense of distant resignation, and shell-shocked by the sheer ineptitude. It was the same now.
"That must have been Russell Slade’s Total Football", commented a Town fan, as we left Blundell Park to resume our lives. Total Fiasco, maybe. Today it was a case of men versus boys. Accrington outmuscled us, showed more determination, more skill and four dangerous options in attack. We had none. Town showed no initiative, no quality, no teamwork, no spirit. I could not single out a Town "man of the match". It was like witnessing a collective New Year hangover.
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