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Meggies vs Grimbo
Meggies vs Grimbo

The Levelling Up Agenda

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 29/01/2022

LAST week I was in Grimsby for the Bromley game, and I was shocked at the state of Victoria Street. The department store that was once Binns and later House of Fraser is gone and we were invited to go to Lincoln, Sheffield or Leeds. I don't think so.

Newsagents were closed, Pocklington's in the covered market had disappeared as if it never existed, half or more of the market stalls were left empty, my favourite fish and chip shop is now takeaway only, and many shops of various kinds were boarded up without hope. It was around midday and the streets and the shops which were open were mostly empty. So much for levelling up. We don't see this in Cambridge where I now live. You can however go into a bar on Victoria Street and neck as many cocktails as you can drink in 90 minutes but I'm not sure that's much consolation. “There are plenty of reasons to be proud” proclaimed the Grimsby Telegraph last Saturday in connection with Great Grimsby Day. There wasn't much evidence of it here in Victoria Street.

By contrast, Cleethorpes is a hive of decadence. My mate Andy gave me that wonderful Meggie Egg last week, which led me to offer him the hundredweight slab of salted caramel coated brownie which they sell in the cake shop on St Peter's Avenue. Buying it was a flash of madness, a child-in-a-sweetshop moment. The battle is on to beat the obesity crisis but the cake shop is staging a strong fightback. That cake was enough to feed a family of 20, so I was glad to give it away. With Sandhams the butcher and umpteen chip shops, the former moniker of “Europe's Food Town” prevails. Diet Town it isn't - I don't envisage Slimming World sponsoring the Mariners at any time in the future.

No amount of football games won can make up for the economic state of the area. It's a small consolation but with a following wind, football can give a fleeting ray of hope. Myself I'm back again as a visitor for more this week as we take on Wealdstone. Unfortunately however the Grimbarian decay seems to be replicated in the poor results of the football team. So many times it seems to be a case of going back to square one. Last week there were good performances but as we see from other teams in our league, consistency comes from team performances, not individual ones, whether it's teams with pace and flair like Dagenham or attritional teams like Halifax and to an extent Bromley. Last week we allowed ourself to be bullied. But that was last week. The run however continued with the midweek loss at Wrexham which sounded to be a closer game than we might have expected. We stand in 10th place with 11 wins and 10 losses before today's game - a decidedly mid-table look.

Town's line-up today read: Crocombe - Efete, Waterfall, Pearson, Amos - Sousa, Raikhy, Coke, Clifton - McAtee - Taylor. A crowd of 4747 with 166 hardy and enthusiastic souls supporting Wealdstone was here today. Conditions were blustery, thus reducing the prospect of razzle dazzle on the pitch today. Or off it, for that matter.

My hope was that Town would operate in a direct style like the toilet attendant I encountered in Freshney Place. Unlike the Gents in Derby yesterday where there was a sign on the door advertising a woman attendant, and a sign next door on the Ladies indicating that a woman was doing the business, suggesting the need for a change of formation, there was nothing. I was having a pee when I heard someone shouting “Woman” in a loud voice. It was succinct. It was indeed a loud-voiced woman. That told us. No room for the non-binaries, then. No paper, saving the planet. No-one turned round. We kept us shape, as Mr Hurst might say. No time to think. Likewise Town needed to announce their presence without frills. With the wind behind as Town attacked the Osmond end for the first half, it was not unreasonable to expect this. Understandably Town played the ball on the ground. After 2 minutes, Waterfall supplied McAtee who turned and shot, only for the ball to trickle agonisingly wide. Sousa had a run five minutes later and put in a low cross for Taylor whose flick was turned round the corner by Wealdstone's goalkeeper Wickens. Raikhy's corner bent in and Wickens did well to tip it over. Waterfall's volley from outside the area was again pushed over by Wickens. The string of shots ended when McAtee was guilty of a complete mishit. The much-worked Wickens then had to make another save from a Sousa shot. A nice threaded pass from Clifton on 12 minutes set up Efete who fell over when bearing down on goal. After the initially flurry of attacks, the game went dead. Ian and I had an interesting conversation about Qualcast Mutilator, the vocalist of the band Lawnmower Deth. Returning to football, we analysed the relative merits of Crocombe and McKeown. This is the real stuff. Who cares about Boris's parties? Crocombe's luminous shirt today meant he could interchange with a steward if he wanted to. Handy. On 24 minutes Clifton supplied McAtee who seemed to be having trouble with his feet today. Clifton did manage to follow up on the loose ball but blazed over. “It's like Ten Pin Bowling - they're all falling over, commented Ian. Wealdstone offered nothing. Town hadn't got it together. McAtee had a run up the left, finding Sousa in the box who instead of having a go tried a pass and won a corner. It was all scrappy. Such was the entertainment that Waterfall managed to trip himself up on a loose clod of earth. Town won a corner on 33 minutes. It was poor. Coke stooped down to head it on, resulting in a second corner. Raikhy now put in the perfect delivery to Waterfall's head and Efete who in spite of being surrounded finished calmly. 1 - 0 to Town. “Against his old club” observed Andy, showing a commendable knowledge of Wealdstone FC. Town stumbled on. On 44 minutes a lovely ball in from Raikhy found McAtee who had to turn and beat the goalkeeper but his effort was blasted over the bar. Town had spent a lot of time passing in the box but apart from the goal, the decision making, the final ball and the attempts on goal were poor.

Half time verdict: rubbish. Town had all the play and deserved to be in the lead but it was a laboured performance. With no football to talk about, Andy, Ian and I discussed Wealdstone, the state of their toilets and Auntie John's Radio Humberside commentary at the away game where the floodlights were poor and the commentary consisted of what he couldn't see. “Not much help to a blind person” commented Andy. “The blind person should have come here today”, added Ian. “Nothing to see”.

As the second half started, Town went on the attack. McAtee put the ball across. Amos and Coke had shots, and the ball was cleared off the line by an outstretched Wealdstone leg. Raikhy picked up the ball on the edge of the box and was fouled. Raikhy took the free-kick, floating it to the onrushing Efete who headed home to make it 2 - 0 to Town. On 51 minutes only a desperate clearance foiled Amos. Town were well on top but three minutes later, defensive hesitancy on the left involving Amos saw possession conceded. Wealdstone's Mascoll spotted Crocombe well of his line and delivered an exquisite lob from 35 yards into the corner of the net. The Wealdstone faithful erupted with happiness. Town 2, Wealdstone 1. On 57 minutes Sousa shook off his man and passed to McAtee who crossed from the right but Wealdstone's defence stood firm. Elito for Wealdstone then tried to emulate his team mate Mascoll by chipping Crocombe but this attempt was unsuccessful. Wealdstone now had a spell, having gained confidence from their goal and Town's defensive mistake. On 62 minutes Wealdstone won a free-kick on the left. Mascoll sent the ball in, and the ball was flicked on. Fortunately for Town it went wide. Town were losing control. Amos showed a nice touch on 66 minutes but wasted the opportunity with a poor cross. Sousa then went on a great run, laying the ball off to McAtee whose shot was blocked. The rebound came to McAtee but his through pass to Clifton was woeful. Good work by Clifton on 70 minutes up an attack. Pearson was fouled in the corner. Raikhy's free-kick however curled over. Abrahams came on for Taylor. Town went on the attack but Wealdstone defended resolutely. A mazy dribble and cross from Sousa won another corner for Town on 75 minutes. McAtee then found space but his shot was deflected off another Town player. As Wealdstone sought to attack, Town's best chance of scoring was to counter. But Town's defence dropped deep, allowing Mascoll a shot. These were nervous moments, the likes of which we have seen many times before. It didn't need to be like this. On 80 minutes Fox replaced Raikhy who went off to appreciative applause. Almost immediately Wealdstone had a chance, and Town had to thank Waterfall for a last-ditch tackle. On 84 minutes McAtee propelled the ball up the middle towards Fox who got into a wrestling match with the Wealdstone defender on the edge of the box and was penalized for it. Three minutes later McAtee, who now seemed to have found his feet again, found space and supplied Sousa who fired in a low left-footed shot which Wickens had to get down to and save at his near post. Soon after the ball fell to Fox, but just as it is The Law that Mr Hurst makes substitutions on 70 minutes, so too do Fox's shots go wide. It did. Four minutes were added on. Wealdstone had been pressing and Town had showed signs of panic but brilliant work by McAtee on the right saw him slip the defender and lay off to Abrahams who didn't do justice to McAtee's efforts and fired the ball over into the Pontoon stand. Wealdstone won a free-kick. Wickens the goalkeeper went up. The ball was cleared but Town conceded another free-kick. The goalkeeper went up again, but time ran out and so the game ended: Grimsby Town 2, Wealdstone 1. It wasn't silky, it wasn't a thriller and although there was relief at winning, through their own doing Town had made this a closer game and more nerve-wracking encounter than it should have been.

Grimsby is in decay. Cleethorpes shows signs of decadence. Today's game at Blundell Park was no indulgent feast. This was mediocre fare from Town against a spirited but underwhelming Wealdstone side. We almost let them back in the game with a defensive mistake and a nervous finish, allowing Wealdstone to gain in confidence. The Crocombe - McKeown debate continues to dominate households. But there were some positive signs. Raikhy looked promising. Efete was allowed freedom to roam to the benefit of the team, and I saw good touches from Clifton and Coke and plenty of endeavour from Waterfall so it wasn't all bad. But although we solidified our record of winning more games than we've lost, all today told me was that we will finish this season in mid-table at best.

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