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|Class of 72|
The Class of 72
By: Andrew Doherty
IT was unfortunate that Mansfield's unlikely international collective prevented us from finding out last week whether Town's momentum shift was temporary. Two wins and clean sheets were unexpected and welcome.
I arrived today in the full expectation that today's opponents Exeter would provide a sterner test than Port Vale, the last visitors to Blundell Park.
Exeter themselves were in a similar position a couple of seasons ago. After being firmly rooted at the bottom, they then lifted themselves up the table into the play-off positions. They have stayed at the top since without being able to get over the line and into the nirvana of League 1. Historically Exeter City FC is part of Town folklore. Who can forget the 1971/2 season? Town needed to win against the Grecians in order to secure the League 2, then Division 4, championship. 22,489 (twenty two thousand four hundred and eighty nine) of us packed into BP to watch us win 3 - 0. We ran onto the pitch at the end. People danced in the Grimsby Road. Manager Lawrie McMenemy's heroes that day were: Wainman, Worthington, Campbell, Chatterley, Wigginton, Gray, Brace, Hickman, Tees, Boylen and Gauden. What a team. The current crop has some catching up to do.
October 20, 2018. Town's line-up was: McKeown - Hall-Johnson, Whitmore, Collins, Hendrie - Embleton, M. Rose, Clifton - Thomas, Vernam, Cook. Town attacked the Osmond end on this bright autumnal day in front of 4,038 spectators, 138 of them supporting Exeter.
A chance fell to each side in the first 10 minutes. First Holmes had a chance with a header for Exeter but the angle was too tight after a cross evaded Town's defence. Then Embleton supplied Thomas who turned and won a corner for Town. But although Town looked to pass the ball, both sides were guilty of too many high balls and poor final touches. Neither side asserted themselves. Town did win a string of corners between the 15th and 20th minute but Exeter's defence cleared the incoming ball with ease. Town's best chance of the half came on 25 minutes when the impressive Embleton played through to Rose, whose threaded ball found Vernam. The Town striker's low shot escaped Pym in the Exeter goal but agonisingly rolled off the inside of the post. Hooper then fired wide with a wild shot after a surging run. Exter's Boateng was booked for a robust challenge on Clifton on 29 minutes but the game wasn't unduly physical as both sides sought to work the ball upfield without being able to make progress. Two Hendrie crosses resulted in further corners for Town but again with no end result. Exeter seemed to be playing within themselves, and you just felt they would step up. They then had a chance when they exploited a gap on the left, which ended with Boateng screwing his shot wide. Embleton took advantage of a mistake in midfield for Town and found Thomas whose shot from distance was just wide. Exeter finished the half stronger but this was a dull half of football, with neither side making any impact. The crowd was mute. Town were winning on corners but Exeter were clearing their lines. There were too many poor or hurried passes on both sides to allow any clear chances.
The second half started with an immediate scare as McKeown slipped while trying to clear a back pass, but fortunately he recovered before Forte could slip in. "What we need to get this game going is an incident", commented Andy Humbo next to me. We almost had one moments later when Moxey rounded Town's right hand side with ease and supplied Forte whose shot cannoned off the bar. Andy was right. We were looking for someone to make something happen. Town weren't bad, but the most likely sources of inspiration on the performance so far were going to be Embleton, Rose or Vernam. On 55 minutes McKeown saved the day with a good low save after Boateng struck a shot after a neat through pass. Then, as Forte looked to go clear in the box, Hall-Johnson cut across the Exeter striker and looked to have pulled him down. The referee awarded a penalty. Sweeney took an age. He fired his shot low into McKeown's left hand corner - saved! The crowd finally had something to shout about. But it was Exeter who were spurred on by the miss. Law curled a shot just wide, as they applied pressure. Thomas had a chance for Town on 59 minutes, cutting inside to shake off the defence but shot wide at the Pontoon end. Cook replaced Vernam on 61 minutes, leading to the hope that the Thomas Cook combination would improve Town's mobility. Cook wasted a good opportunity on 66 minutes, shooting well over after good initial work from Collins and Hendrie. Exeter looked increasingly dangerous. They started to press and work well as a team as their league position suggested they could. Town needed to stay firm and were doing it. Hessenthaler replaced the impressive Embleton on 71 minutes, presumably to bolster things up in midfield. But it was Exeter who did most of the probing while Town relied on counter attacks. Determined work by Thomas without support on 78 minutes deserved better than a poor high shot from Hooper. The game was in deadlock as Exeter continued to repel Town's high crosses with ease. Sweeney had a great chance on 81 minutes when he burst through the defence but fortunately for Town lost his balance at the crucial moment when setting up his shot. Thomas then lost possession in Exeter's half again with a lack of support evident from his team mates, but thanks to Whitmore, who was showing a cool head in Town's defence, and poor control from Exeter, the threat was averted. Exeter had another good chance on 84 minutes after an excellent one-two between Stockley and Taylor, but Taylor's shot with only McKeown to beat was woeful. Exeter continued to look for a winner but Town held firm. Akheem Rose replaced Thomas on 88 minutes. Town spent the three added minutes in Exeter's half but Mitch Rose's long throws led to nothing, with Exeter heading clear for the umpteenth time and finally Hall-Johnson blasting a left-footed shot over the bar. So it ended on this sunny day: Grimsby Town 0, Exeter City 0.
Blundell Park was largely an incident free zone today. The game picked up for a while after the penalty decision but in the latter stages it was Exeter who had the better chances. Town weren't incisive enough and apart from the Vernam shot that struck the post in the first half, Pym in the Exeter goal was untroubled. Once again I saw high balls being pumped in to tall defenders and a lack of quality in some areas. Yet there was something there. It was pleasing that Town showed patience and tried to stick for the most part to the game plan of passing to success, even if it didn't come off. Individually there were some good performances. Embleton and Rose provided impetus for Town, McKeown played his part once again, and I saw good work from Whitmore, Collins and Hendrie. Whitmore in particular deserves mention for snubbing out Exeter's hitherto free-scoring striker Stockley. The work rate all round was good, and this was a hard-earned point. This group is nowhere near the heights of the Class of 72 yet but there are signs that they are coming together as a unit and deserve credit for their endeavours against one of the division's better sides.
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