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Down the Drain
By: Andrew Doherty
I DON'T know if I'm the only person to notice this, but if you look at Town's web site, manager Michael Jolley is invariably shown pointing up the pitch. Usually it's with his left hand. In one it's with his right but either way I suppose we should be grateful he's not pointing in the air.
I guess I must have been having a light day when I noticed this, but at least let's hope he's pointing in the right direction. Today was going to be an indicator.
It's impossible to judge form when neither side has played a competitive game, especially so as Forest Green have like us had a bit of a clear out. My recollection of these Vegetable People was that they defended grimly and wasted time from the first minute of last season's equivalent fixture. With some teams, it's an art form. With them it was just ugly. Rationality doesn't come into football but I guess we have our likes and likes and dislikes. In spite of having no special reason to dislike Gloucestershire, I don't like Cheltenham or the Vegetable People. I'm sure their supporters are ok, but historically their management and players … yuk. For the record, I don't like Lincoln either or Stevenage, the latter for off field reasons. But that's another story.
It was nice to be back in the Main Stand with Andy and Ruth, Ian and the other good people. It's all part of a good day. After last season's desperate fare and ultimate recovery, hope was in the air. The sun shone as the teams lined up for the start. 5,879 spectators, 72 supporting Forest Green and many home fans in their Town replica shirts, waited happily and expectantly. Contrast this to my home from where my wife had just reported that our oversleeping student had missed his trip and blocked the toilet. Continued radiant happiness or the blocked toilet option? The BP faithful would know which applied by 4.50pm. The Town team today, upon whom this hung, was: McKeown - Davis, Whitmore, Collins - Clifton, Dixon - Rose, Welsh, Woolford - Hooper, Cook. Forest Green wore turquoise - "they shouldn't be allowed to win with colours like that" commented Ian, adding that the kit colour reminded him of a Fiat 500.
The game started in kick and rush fashion. Even after 8 minutes Andy and Ian were engaged in "guess the gate" in the face of the uninspiring fare. Town won a free-kick on 10 minutes when Cook was pushed in the back, but Welsh's free kick was curled over the bar. Good work by Rose a couple of minutes later led to Hooper laying off to Dixon but Dixon waited instead of coming forward. The opportunity was gone. The Eco Warriors were more enterprising. Town did win a corner after a long clearance from McKeown found Cook, and from it Rawson almost headed the ball back into his own net. A foul in front of the Pontoon resulted in another corner. Collins's header rebounded off the unknowing Rawson. Forest Green however continued to play the better football. Mills missed a good chance when set free, then a patient passing move looked to be innocuous before the pace picked up. Rawson got behind the defence and forced a good save from McKeown. Offside was given, but Town's defence was undone. Town's response was a wild shot from Dixon. Town just looked static and were unable to build anything. Rose was the best of a poor bunch. On 28 minutes Shephard had a clear chance for Forest Green but volleyed over the bar. Town were losing the midfield battle. On 29 minutes Town had a rare attack, and Woolford's cross hit the hand of a defender - penalty! Rose stepped up and coolly placed his shot low to the goalkeeper's right. Town 1, Forest Green 0. More Forest Green build up play led to Brown shooting wide. They were consistently better at finding each other than Town, whose tactic seemed to amount to long balls and winning throw-ins. On 37 minutes a Woolford cross from the left almost resulted in a freak goal as Forest Green's goalkeeper Sanchez theatrically the ball outside the post. Woolford then supplied Cook but the Town striker's delivery was poor. Although the half ended with a long range shot from Welsh which forced a save from Sanchez, Forest Green showed greater skill and co-ordination and were unlucky to be behind. What was now needed from Mr Jolley was a lecture on composure.
Town started the second half with intent. A move on 49 minutes involving Dixon, Hooper, Woolford and Rose led to two corners. Dixon's delivery was very poor, and Forest Green mounted an attack. As in the first half, Forest Green played the ball intelligently and unlocked Town's defence. Winchester found himself in the six yard box with only McKeown to beat and made no mistake. Town 1, Forest Green 1. Winchester was then hacked down as Forest Green smelt blood against this poor Town side. The free-kick from Brown was wasted, but with Town unable to win balls in the middle and with Forest Green's lookalike central defenders dominating, Town struggled. Welsh conceded another foul before Town had a half chance when Hooper attempted to flick the ball on following work by Woolford and a measured pass by Dixon. But Town had no energy. A double substitution took place on 62 minutes with Hessenthaler and Hall-Johnson replacing Woolford and Dixon. Forest Green acted as if they were going to waste time and settle for a draw. But if they were, then Town did the work for them when on 67 minutes following a throw-in Collins passed the ball back towards the goal. McKeown was inexplicably standing outside the penalty area on the left side and presumably Collins hadn't checked, as the ball now dribbled agonisingly towards the gaping goal. McKeown raced after the dribbling ball but was unable to reach it in time. Town 1, Forest Green 2. Even Forest Green's players looked embarrassed at this farce of an own goal. This was the misunderstanding of all misunderstandings. With Town in disarray and switched off, Forest Green won a corner a minute later, and the unmarked Doidge got up and headed the ball home off the left post. Town 1, Forest Green 3. This was nothing short of a shambles, and nothing Town had done suggested they were going to get back into it. Town were slow, lumbering and clumsy. Forest Green on the other hand played well, had most of the possession and passed with authority and purpose. I cannot imagine what Mr Jolley said to Town's players at half time because Town continued to be invisible in midfield. Everything was wrong with Town. The passing was poor, Sanchez had not been tested in Forest Green's goal and that was when we were able to escape Forest Green man mountain defenders including ex Mariner Gavin Gunning. There was simply no momentum or energy. Vernam replaced Davis on 70 minutes but had no impact. Forest Green won another free-kick on 78 minutes after another Welsh foul. That came to nothing, and there was a small ray of hope a minute later when Hooper pounced on a mistake, but all was undone by the customary poor pass, this time by Clifton. Forest Green's Rawson almost had a Collins moment but showed he knew how to weight his back pass. With Forest Green winning all the headers, Town momentarily thought to keep the ball on the ground, but there was no quality. Then in what was the icing on a ghastly cake, to the Town fans' continuing disbelief Hall-Johnson on the left got his feet tangled up when attempting a back pass to McKeown. Doidge pounced on the short pass, rounded McKeown and rolled the ball into the net. Town's Clowns 1, Forest Green Veggies 4. The stadium emptied. Even after this Forest Green showed all the endeavour. 6 minutes were added after an injury to Sanchez in Forest Green's goal, but unsurprisingly Town were unable to make any impression. The game was well and truly lost. Town were abject. Final score: Grimsby Town 1, Forest Green 4.
Welcome to the new season. I am boiling with frustration. Town's performance was shambolic and clueless. I cannot find anything positive to say. Town were pedestrian and incapable of putting together any moves. Forest Green's goalkeeper wasn't tested. Town were guilty of mindless long balls towards a resolute defence, and whenever there was any attempt to create something, play broke down with poor passes. This one dimensional, panicked, error-prone rubbish suggested that the players don't trust themselves or each other, or they are just incapable of thinking. This isn't a team. What have these people all been doing on the training ground? Forest Green outplayed us and deserved to win. On that point I have no complaints. The final straw was the two defensive blunders. Misunderstanding, incompetence and lack of awareness or energy ran through the whole team. The performance stank like a blocked toilet. Our plumbing is broken. We need Mr Jolley to fix it at this early stage or our season will go down the drain.
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