Question of the WeekWhere will Grimsby be in 5 years time??
The End and The Beginning
By: Andrew Doherty
IN 150 years time, when Prime Minister Christopher Whitty VII finally throws caution to the wind and permits the removal of face masks but only on every third Tuesday afternoon, they will look back on this golden age.
Historians will reflect on the relentless rise of Forest Green Rovers to elite World Super League status, repressing all those around them. The outwardly funny, self-advertising Bristolian will finally have been unmasked as the unit - no longer a man, as now gender reveal parties will now be punishable by repeated viewings of Scunthorpe United videos - whose sinister purpose was to destabilise the world. They will reflect on the glory days when Town were in the English Football League, culminating in today's final fixture at Cambridge.
Just as the future is bleak, so is Cambridge's Abbey Stadium. Like the city of Cambridge, it is a relic of older times but without the splendour. In spite of living less than three miles from the stadium, it is decreed that I watch today's game on i-Follow. At least I could listen to the soothing tones of Messrs Tondeur and Croft. As for the game itself, while we spend our time speculating about who might be playing for us next season, this game matters to Cambridge. Their automatic promotion depends on it. We have nothing to fear, having taken points only recently off Bolton and Cheltenham. It was going to come down to which team was more composed and motivated. With AstraZeneca as a "community sponsor", Cambridge were looking for the shot in the arm they needed to win this one.
Town's line-up today was: McKeown - Hewitt, Pollock, Menayese - Hendrie, Clifton, Coke, Spokes, Khouri - Green, John-Lewis. With the two wing-backs Hendrie and Khouri, this looked like a balanced formation. At Blundell Park, Cambridge's star striker Mullin had showed his pace, while exposing our would-be Premiership defender Pollock's lack of it. Surely Pollock's agent must have made this claim. To be fair Pollock did well when he came on against Port Vale last Saturday. Today is a different story. Mullin would have to deal with Menayese. That promised for me to be the match-up of the day. To Paul Hurst's credit he said that out of respect to Morecambe he wasn't going to play players who hadn't been in the side before and he's done that. But were we going to to play a False Nine? I know about false teeth, and false pretences - that unit who was our manager comes to mind - but not this. I'm told it's a tactic. My friend Mike talks knowledgeably about it but I've never heard Paul Hurst mention this one so I guess it won't be happening. It sounds more like a Michael Jolley tactic to confuse the players. A False Nine won't apply to us Relegated Eleven, I guess.
After constant rain through the morning, conditions threatened to be difficult. But Cambridge's pitch is normally well maintained and looked fine today. The problem was the easterly wind. Town in blue attacked the Newmarket Road end. Town passed. Cambridge looked edgy but got the first chance on 5 minutes when Mullin forced a McKeown save after Menayese made a mistake in midfield and backtracking Clifton couldn't get the ball clear. Town won a corner on 7 minutes. Spokes found John-Lewis's head. The ball came back to Spokes who crossed but Pollock was a bit early and his flicked header went wide. Cambridge then attacked. Town defended well. A Town throw was cleared but only to Coke whose clean shot from inside the box flew over. Another Menayese mistake served the ball up to Cambridge. As Cambridge attacked, Hannant was fouled deep in Town's half. The game was evenly balanced with neither side making inroads. Town played the ball up well on 16 minutes. John-Lewis held the ball up well in maybe what my friend Mike would call a double pivot but slower. Hewitt crossed. Khouri's shot was deflected for a corner. The ball was returned for another corner but Spokes's cross was poor and missed everybody. Town pressed. Coke was fouled outside the Cambridge box on the left. Spokes's free-kick was too far again - wasted. Another decent shot on 22 minutes led to a decent attack and a shot from Clifton. On 25 minutes Cambridge won a free kick in the left corner after Spokes tripped Hannant. Hannant's cross to the far post was headed back by Ironside and cleanly volleyed home by O'Neill, prompting rapturous applause by the 100 plus Cambridge directors and hangers-on. Cambridge 1, Town 0. It was a nice goal. Neither side had dominated play but Town in particular were guilty of carelessness. Khouri did well to intercept a Cambridge attack. Town continued to keep possession but always the end product was lacking. On 32 minutes John-Lewis and Clifton tried to work a move but again the final ball was poor. Clifton supplied Spokes but the cross again was too long and Hendrie was penalised when stretching for it. The roles were reversed when better work was Spokes was undone by Hendrie whose control was now poor. A good interception by Pollock led to a run a run up the middle and a free-kick to Town but Hendrie's cross was too long. The half ended with a series of misplaced passes on both sides. Ironside won a corner for Cambridge, and Menayese did well to dispossess Dunk. The ball was lost and Khouri prevented any progress by tripping Hannant on the left in the same spot where the free-kick for the goal had been. This time Hannant's cross was poor. Town worked forward but without any control over the football. The half ended. Town had shown patience but lacked any quality, struggled with the wind and posed no threat. Cambridge weren't much better but at least had a nice goal to show for their efforts.
Soon after the restart, Burton in Cambridge's goal was forced to punch clear from a Hendrie shot. John-Lewis then robbed Houlahan in possession but poor control from Khouri saw the attack fizzle out. Khouri was guilty again, losing possession after a good switch pass by spokes found Hendrie. Then it was Coke's turn to lose possession in midfield. Cambridge didn't have to do anything to keep their lead. On 55 minutes Khouri needlessly conceded a throw after an aimless Dunk floater towards the right-hand corner flag. Seconds later, Khouri lunged and landed on the ball, conceding a free kick. Hoolahan sent in a low free-kick from the left. It was a poor one. Clifton went to clear it but missed the ball completely. The ball bounced beyond McKeown and landed in the bottom left corner. Cambridge 2 Town 0. Scannell replaced Spokes but replacing one player wasn't going to suddenly ignite Town's recovery. John-Lewis put in a token header on 60 minutes but this was looking like a lost cause. Town had nothing to offer. If anyone were to moan about the injustice of our relegation and to be fair I've not heard anyone say that, then this was proof that we lacked ideas, pace and quality in this ramshackle season. Town's players looked deflated. Token attempts were made to attack the Cambridge goal but Town were nowhere near against a tight Cambridge unit who were depriving Town of space. Khouri fouled Knoyle in the corner, ending yet another futile attack. Town won a free-kick when Green was fouled in the corner on 67 minutes. Scannell crossed. The ball was headed out. John-Lewis tried to get his foot over the ball and put in a decent shot but wide of the target. Cambridge understandably were in no hurry. The game was scrappy and no one seemed bothered. Jackson and Adlard replaced Pollock and Green as thoughts no doubt turned to next season. Almost as if this were a cameo to sum up the season, a free kick from the left landed with Hewitt 6 yards out but Town's defender seemed to be so surprised that he snatched at the shot and missed. It was painful to watch. Hannant won a corner on 74 minutes but my eyes were glazing over. It all seemed so irrelevant. The game was dismal. Clifton managed a shot after a knockdown by Adlard on 76 minutes but it was so weak that it could hardly be classed as a shot. The game was dying a death. On 77 minutes Cambridge won a free-kick outside the Town box on the left after a foul by Menayese on Mullin. Cambridge's top scorer Mullin took the free-kick, curling it low into the bottom right-hand corner with the wall in the wrong position and McKeown in the wrong position. Only Town were in the right position at the bottom of the table on this showing. Town's season was being captured in one game. Town won a free-kick on 83 minutes when O'Neill fouled John-Lewis. I actually wasn't watching and was discussing what I was going to have for tea when this happened, so thanks are due to the GTFC web site match report for this information. I did see Jackson's free-kick which Burton did well to tip over. As if to provide a crumb of comfort, Town powerhouse Clifton sent in a great shot on 8 minutes after a nod-down from Adlard but off target. And that was it as the game fizzled out. Cambridge 3 Town 0. Cambridge were poor today but promoted. Town were poorer.
Ad Solihull, Ad Infinitum. I won't have to put up with stewards at Stevenage asking me why I have got a pen in my pocket. Goodbye i-Follow. Goodbye EFL. I don't know when we're going to see you again, but I'm looking forward to next season already. We have new owners, a good manager and hopefully next season we'll have some good days out and less struggle as we "build back better". So it's the end but it's also a beginning.
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