Question of the WeekWho will win the National League?
|The Spirit manifested|
The Spirit of Grimsby
By: Andrew Doherty
AFTER Wednesday's promising display against high-flying Tranmere, it is to be hoped that Town spent a bit of time honing their skills in the all-important Final Third. Today's opponents Mansfield have been patchy of late after a good recovery following the appointment of Nigel Clough as manager.
But at the end of the day, it's up to us to perform well until the end of the season. That does seem to be a lot to ask.
Today's starting line-up for Town was: McKeown - Hendrie, Hewitt, Waterfall, Clifton - Jackson, Matete, Coke, Lamy - Payne, John-Lewis. As Menayese is on loan from Mansfield, he was ineligible, while Morais and presumably also Hanson were injured, forcing the three changes.
Mansfield's Field Mill ground is nowadays called the One Call Stadium as is the way of these things. Football is field theatre, not One Call theatre, but then I'm out of touch. What hasn't changed is that it has a big, slippery, heavy pitch. It was nice to see Town wearing black and white and not switching to an away kit. Mansfield dominated the first half, showing greater intent and quality. Waterfall headed clear on 9 minutes after the same's player's headed clearance put Clifton in trouble on the left. Coke then gave the ball away and this time Town were saved by Waterfall's alertness. On 19 minutes Mansfield worked the ball up the left. Law passed the unmarked McLaughlin who teed up the unchallenged Maris, who slammed the ball into the top left corner from outside the box. Town 0, Mansfield 1. Town won a free kick on 22 minutes. Hendrie crossed but Waterfall was guilty of a foul. Mansfield went close on 24 minutes when McLaughlin flicked on a Benning free-kick with a header after a Jackson foul. Town were getting nothing to Payne or John-Lewis. The only encouraging sign was Hendrie's runs up the right but there was no support. Town won a free-kick on the right after a foul on Jackson. Hendrie put the ball over but Waterfall was once again the culprit, this time handling the ball. As Town struggled, Mansfield looked a threat Iinattack, with the physical Bowery leading the line. Town looked rushed and were error-prone. A poor clearance on 44 minutes led to Payne winning a corner but this was headed clear, and at half time Town were second best, deservedly being behind. Town were trying to be inventive but didn't manage a single chance.
Spokes and Williams came on at half time for Coke and Lamy to freshen up the midfield. Town immediately played with more enterprise. Nice work by Payne found Jackson who won a throw deep in the Mansfield half. Williams found Spokes who was hesitant and instead of shooting unsuccessfully tried to chip the ball over the defender. A Spokes run on 52 minutes won a free-kick. Town's dead-ball specialist Williams crossed but there were too many defenders around for John-Lewis to take advantage. Jackson was then booked for backing into a defender. Town were committing too many fouls. Town won a free-kick after a foul by Law on Payne but Williams's cross sent the ball into the stand. Mansfield attacked briefly and won a corner but Waterfall positioned himself well and headed clear. 61 minutes had passed. Good work between John-Lewis and Williams earned a corner. Williams took it and sent in a pinpoint cross to the middle, where John-Lewis struck a powerful header into the left corner of the net. Mansfield 1, Town 1. Town deserved this equaliser. Matete was then booked for a foul before Jackson won a free-kick on the halfway line. Spokes had two shots both of which were blocked by a resolute Mansfield defence. Mansfield had a rare attack on 66 minutes. Good perseverance on the left resulted in a cross. In spite of the close attention of two Town defenders, Law saw a gap and blasted home from inside the box. Mansfield 2, Town 1. Town continued to press in spite of this setback, and Matete went on a run which ended only when McLaughlin tripped him, earning the Mansfield player a booking. On 69 minutes Jackson was replaced by Green, an ex-Mansfield who one of the home commentary team described as a “legend”. Williams put in another cross which Hewitt headed over, then Town won a corner. Mansfield were reduced to counter-attacks, and Waterfall was booked on 74 minutes for a high boot. A Williams error led to a Mansfield attack, and it looked as if Town were rushing around to no avail as Mansfield threatened to control the game once more. But Town plugged away. On 81 minutes Adams replaced Matete. Payne did well to get the ball into the box for Clifton who was penalised after battling with the defender. Town stumbled and stuttered. A nice turn on 89 minutes by Adams led to a goalbound shot which the defender cleared for a corner. Williams took it. The ball came back to Williams who ran across the edge of the box while looking for a gap before being tripped by Sweeney. The wall lined up. From 25 yards out Williams curled his Ronaldoesque free-kick over the wall and into the top left corner beyond the keeper's outstretched hand. Mansfield 2, Town 2. Five minutes were added. Town continued to apply pressure. The legendary Green forced Rawson into an error near the left corner flag. Spokes crossed to the far post. Williams was there to meet it but his header crashed against the post. Town weren't giving up. Town won a throw. Hewitt's throw came back and was returned into the box. Under pressure from a defender, John-Lewis's header went wide. With 95 minutes played, Clifton won a free-kick after being fouled. There was no time now to cross the ball into the box so Williams lined up for a direct shot. The dead-ball kick went just over. The game was over. Mansfield 2, Town 2 was the final score. This had been a spirited performance by Town.
This was the proverbial game of two halves. Town lacked ideas in the first half, but although we could never pretend it was a magnificent performance in the second, we showed loads of fight and in the end deserved at least a point out of this game. Town's substitutions were good, and galvanised the team into a much-improved second-half performance. We came to the former mining town of Mansfield. The result wasn't the pits. The performance wasn't perfect. The effort and team spirit were commendable. It's still a long shot but I shan't be dusting off my Non-League Directory just yet.
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