Question of the WeekWho will win the National League?
The Goal Drought
By: Andrew Doherty
PRINCE Harry recently stated that his life has been extremely tough. He wants to try supporting Grimsby Town. You couldn’t prescribe frustration like this group provides.
The problem is that they all seem incapable of playing well at the same time, so it's like seeing 11 individual body parts but no connection between them. Add to that a demonstrable skill deficiency, poor choices like playing high balls in blustery conditions and the inability to create chances let alone score goals, and it's a right royal mess.
It seems like lights years ago but our 5-2 victory in a Tuesday night game in 2018 against Tranmere was one of our best games in recent times. Contrast this with our abject 0-5 defeat against today's opponents earlier in the season. They'd just sacked their manager after a poor run of form. Tranmere are now flying high, so today was going to be a tough challenge. To add insult to injury, yesterday's wins by Barrow and Port Vale have all but made this a "must win" game.
Today's unchanged starting line-up for Town was: McKeown - Hendrie, Hewitt, Mayanese, Clifton - Morais, Matete, Coke, Lamy - Hanson, John-Lewis.
It took Matete 47 seconds to commit the first foul. Town's contribution in the first half was 9 fouls. Lamy was booked on 7 minutes for kicking a defender in the face when going for a bouncing ball. Apart from the nine fouls committed, which disrupted any possible flow, Town once again showed themselves incapable of creating any chances. Tranmere's defence was rock solid but the quality of balls coming to Hanson and John-Lewis was such that the ball was bouncing at an awkward height, giving them no chance. Clifton and Lamy tried to work together on the left but Lamy, in particular, was guilty of clumsy touches. Moves didn't break down. They didn't get started. Town's best chance came on 11 minutes after Town won a free-kick in Tranmere's half. Morais's free-kick was knocked on by Menayese to Lamy who shot into the side netting when he could have done better. The fact was that Tranmere were better. They looked sharp and bright, and dominated the play. Nugent brought a good save out of McKeown after Blackett-Taylor was fouled on the edge of the box. Tranmere were quick and getting the ball in low from both sides. Town had Clifton, Menayese and Hewitt to thank at different points for being in place to clear the ball to safety. Lamy had an aimless panic shot on 37 minutes while Morais had a scuffed snap attempt on 44 minutes but Town were bereft of ideas and quality. Town looked hesitant and were lucky to go in at half-time with the score 0 - 0 against a good Tranmere side.
Town started the second half by looking more aggressive and chasing down Tranmere players. The game stopped on 52 minutes after Morais went down with a hamstring injury. Jackson came on as Morais's replacement. Tranmere looked to continue where they left off, winning successive corners. Then Town broke on 58 minutes. Jackson threaded a through ball to Lamy whose touch was terrible. Clifton was then booked for fouling Tranmere's Woolery. Fenney's free-kick was met by Lewis whose header was just over. Town had been struggling to mount attacks, but again good endeavour from Jackson saw us gain possession in Tranmere's half on 63 minutes. Nice work by Matete two minutes later found Hanson whose header to Hendrie led to a cross, but John-Lewis was unable to get any power on his header with the defender breathing down his neck. Soon after Lamy miscued a shot after a good layoff from John-Lewis. Town were now looking better. On 67 minutes Matete started a move and found Jackson who played a perfectly weighted pass through the defence to John-Lewis. With only the advancing goalkeeper to beat, John-Lewis disappointingly placed his shot straight at the goalkeeper. This was a golden opportunity and John-Lewis failed to take it. Tranmere had an attack which Menayese cleared, but it was Town who continued to press. Town thought they had a penalty when a defender handled after a big free-kick from Clifton but John-Lewis was adjudged to have pushed the Tranmere player. Matete then linked up with Hendrie and Coke who won a corner. The corner was poor and the ball was cleared and a good interception by Clifton got Town on the move again. Jackson put in a across which the defender had to head over. The ball was cleared from the corner but Matete was fouled. The resultant free-kick was headed down by Hanson, but the defender did well to block out John-Lewis. On 77 minutes Hewitt did great work to snuff out Woolery but Town came back. Jackson was instrumental in another attack, heading on but Clifton's shot from long range was poor. Town recovered from a mistake by John-Lewis and a conceded foul as per statute by Matete, when Menayese headed clear. 81 minutes had gone. Good skill by the influential Matete led to Lamy winning a free-kick. Hendrie's free-kick was headed out. Lamy crossed and Menayese was frustrated to go wide with a diving header. Three minutes later Jackson and John-Lewis linked up but couldn't get the ball through to Hanson for a clear opportunity. Tranmere then had a brief attacking spell with Hendrie forced to concede a corner after pressure from Lloyd. Jackson had to concede another corner, from which Clarke headed just over. Clifton had a shot on target as the game approached the 90-minute mark, and then Matete committed another foul in the centre, stopping play and giving Tranmere a break right at the end. Town did have further opportunities in added time, but Hewitt's free kick went straight out of play, and more good work by Jackson found Lamy whose chip into the centre was inaccurate. After a better but still goalless second-half performance, the game ended: Town 0, Tranmere 0.
Town looked like a football team in the second half. It was a decent effort, triggered when Jackson came on. The rest of the team started to play as they're supposed to. Matete and Coke in midfield controlled play in a way that had been missing in the first half, and Town's defence again looked solid. All four at the back played well, but I was particularly impressed with Clifton. Ordinarily this would be a satisfactory result all things considered but I don't think we can ever delude ourselves that this could be a big point come the end of the season. It's two points lost. If we're to have any chance of survival, we have to sort out the goalscoring department. This evening's performance showed promise and I can't fault the team's application or attitude but draws are not enough, and it all seems a case of too little too late. This is not the time to be having a goal drought.
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