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Doing a Fluminense

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 13/03/2021

TWO thirds of the way through the season, the team had a 98 per cent chance of relegation. They survived. This wasn't Grimsby but Brazilian team Fluminense in 2009. My mate Erik, who supports Fluminense, Ajax, Os Belenenses and Bristol Rovers, told me about this.

Now that's an interesting combination of teams of support. I've lived in lots of places and watched the local teams but have never been remotely interested in following any of them. At school it was Manchester United or Leeds - the answer was Grimsby. I do follow SK Örebro, Hougang United, Penang FC and MSV Duisburg, I admit. But that's normal compared to Erik. My own lie detector moment came some years ago at a game when a steward whose job was to segregate supporters asked who I supported. I responded: "Grimsby Town". Stunned silence. I'd gone with a mate who supported Bristol City to watch his team at West Ham. In other circumstances, it would literally have been Grimsby Till I Die.

Today's opponents Colchester have been struggling of late, which has no bearing whatsoever on the outcome. The most positive thing to happen at their stadium is that it's been a site for Covid vaccinations. Both teams today were in need of a good jab. At least Town were coming off a spirited all-round performance at Carlisle, where only a late substitution upset the apple cart.

Today's starters for Town were: McKeown - Hendrie, Hewitt, Menayese, Clifton - Morais, Matete, Coke, Lamy - Hanson, John-Lewis. Injuries dictated some of Town's line-up but this was as good a team as we could have expected today. Clifton at left back was a concern but he did have a good game at Carlisle where he came on as substitute. As seems to be de rigueur for Town's visitors recently, Colchester followed the lead of Crawley, Leyton Orient and Forest Green I having two former Town players in Pell and Cowan-Hall.

Town attacked the Pontoon end for the first half. Conditions were difficult with heavy rain and an awkward wind favouring Colchester. After 10 minutes of long balls and rubbish from both sides, good work by John-Lewis on the left found Morais on the right edge of the box, Clampin tripped Morais who went down dramatically. Morais's fee kick was poor, rebounding off the wall before Coke miscued his shot. A good headed clearance by Hewitt on 17 minutes started a move. A quick throw from Hendrie found Hanson whose cross from the right was too high for Morais - these players needed to be the other way round. Colchester won a corner on 19 minutes after Clifton blocked out Cowan-Hall. Hanson was forced to head clear and then block a Pell shot from close range. Town then won a corner after good work from Lamy and Clifton. Town were starting to play well. The flow was broken when Matete put a foot in on Clampin and lucky to get away with a yellow card. Colchester won another corner but Town picked up their game and started to play nicely. A corner from Morais on 31 minutes ran through the defence who scrambled the ball clear with Menayese ready to pounce. A Morais long ball on 34 minutes found the head of Hanson whose one-two with John-Lewis resulted in a shot over the bar from Hanson. Town continued to press. Hanson was flattened when going for a header, then on 39 minutes John-Lewis was pushed in the back after a neat overhead clearance from Matete. Hewitt played the ball upfield, leading to good work from Coke and Lamy, but there was no-one to meet Lamy's cross. Town pressed more and a good run from Clifton took him to the edge of the box but instead of shooting, passed to John-Lewis who wasn't on the same wavelength. Town's play was promising but there was no end product. A minute before half time John-Lewis dragged a shot wide after tight work from Matete and Coke. Then right on half-time, Colchester's Smith found himself under pressure. Hanson did well to win possession and crossed low. Goalkeeper George spilt the ball but incredibly John-Lewis missed from 2 yards. Half time: Town 0, Colchester 0.

Town showed promise in the first half but needed to tighten up in the final third. Long high balls were finding the head of Hanson but more imagination was needed in the ground game for Town to unlock Colchester. The midfield was working hard, with Coke and Matete winning plenty of ball, and effective work from wing backs Hendrie and Clifton. Town's recent record of playing with the wind behind has not been good, so it was to be hoped that lessons had been learnt for the second half.

Long balls from the back suggested that Town hadn't factored in the wind. It was Colchester who looked to break the deadlock. Menayese and then Clifton failed to clear as Colchester worked the ball forward. On 54 minutes Lamy was pulled down by Eastwood after good work by Morais and Clifton to clear the ball out of Town's defence, but Hanson was guilty of fouling a defender from the free-kick. Colchester then had a good spell. On 56 minutes Harriott did good work and crossed low to Sarpong-Wiredu, who laid the ball off perfectly to Pell. Fortunately for Town Pell's shot went just over. Moments later McKeown made a brilliant save from a ferocious shot from Pell, turning it out for a corner. Town were under the cosh. The vocal Pell then had a shout for a penalty turned down on 63 minutes after a tackle by Hewitt. The referee awarded a goal kick. Town's sole contribution during this period was a miserable snap shot from Hanson. Payne replaced John-Lewis on 66 minutes to get something going for Town. But Town's moves continued to break down. Hanson committed a foul when Town threatened to attack and Clifton made a terrible clearance as Colchester attacked again. For Town, it all seemed an interminable struggle. Adams came on for Lamy on 73 minutes but was as ineffective as his team mates. Town were lucky on 74 minutes when Brown's poor touch prevented Colchester from having a good chance on goal. Colchester weren't great but Town were awful. Adams was fouled by Pell inside the Colchester half but inevitably it came to nothing. Town's free-kicks were too long or fouls were committed. There was no originality in the play and no understanding between the players. Another shot from Pell went wide on 76 minutes. Colchester looked the more likely to score of two poor teams. Payne played a good lay-off but the wind beat Morais so another move broke down. Coke then started a move, leading to Hanson laying off to Adams whose touch was poor. Town's pattern was that there was no pattern. Morais was replaced on 81 minutes by Jackson, who immediately won a corner for Town. Nothing came of it. Adams won a free-kick on 85 minutes in the Colchester half. Nothing came of it. Clifton then tried to get things going but nothing came of it. A long clearance from McKeown found Payne who won a throw. Jackson's throw was flicked on across the goal to nobody. Town were their own undoing. On 89 minutes Adams had a chance to cross but the cross didn't make the box, striking a defender. Three minutes were added. Jackson was fouled by Colchester's Pantomime Villain and mouthpiece Pell, who was booked. At this late stage Hendrie tried a low pass, which was a welcome sight after all the failed crosses, and Town won a corner. Pell headed out for a second corner but predictably nothing came of this final opportunity and the game ended: Town 0, Colchester 0. The game and especially the second half was massively disappointing.

At this rate, it'll be Grimsby Till I Die of Frustration. We can't expect to win games if we don't create chances. Colchester's goalkeeper didn't have a single save to make all game from any direct shot. Town weren't inventive enough and moves broke down all the time, suggesting a lack of skill, composure and understanding. Once again, our failure to play in windy conditions let us down, and the players ran out of ideas in a second half of very poor quality. There seems to be no pattern and it's as if it's all left to chance. We see this time and time again - wasted, poor quality balls, headers to no-one and no discernible or sustained team play. The dream of survival is theoretically still alive but I can't see us doing a Fluminense. The likelihood is that we will abjectly drop out of the league. We can then call that doing a Grimsby.

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