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A View of Higher Places
By: Andrew Doherty
LIFE Is complicated. Once upon a time, I'd turn up at Blundell Park, buy a ticket and that would be the end of it. Somewhere along the line, and nothing to do with the consequences of success, buying a ticket in advance became the thing.
Ringing and speaking to a helpful person in the ticket office became the method, and remained that way when Town introduced a clunky internet booking system. Tickets were posted or collected on the day. The internet booking system improved, and then we had all of the above, plus e-tickets and 1878 cards to load onto. Plenty of options. Now for today's game with Dagenham my friend Richard was coming along. He's not a regular and doesn't regard living and breathing Town as a religious experience like the rest of us. I am an 1878 cardholder. Richard isn't. Does the ticketing system allow us to mix? I froze. What do I do? To be an 1878 cardholder or not to be? I reverted to my B plan and a very helpful lady sorted me out through the morass of possibility. So it came about that Richard and I would enjoy the panoramic views from the Upper Findus and hopefully see a good game when we weren't ship or train spotting. Not many trains to spot today mind, as Trans Pennine Express are still reducing their service, Northern don't have any drivers, thus obviating their raison d'être I'd have thought, there are diversions on the main line and even a bus service from Scunthorpe, making the whole business of getting here and going back like a military operation, all mitigated by a much-appreciated lift in Richard's car.
Last time I was here, I picked up a visitor's guide to Cleethorpes. I don't know what I was going to learn from this, but I found out that a place to visit is Sea View Street, "the shopping jewel in the crown". This was news to me. The last time I was over this way, Andy Humbo drove us up Mill Road past a hair salon which once was a second-hand shop, commonly referred to as Jizzer Joe's. Nowadays it would be called a recycling centre but as Andy observed, in those days it would have been known as a junk shop. Replacing a junk shop with a hair salon is on the scale of what happened in, ironically, Mill Road in Cambridge where the wonderful Colonel Fudpuckers pizza place became an insurance broker's. Quite sad. Returning to today, Richard and I duly followed the tourist trail and walked up Sea View Street. My first recollection was of the Queen's, now closed and replaced by a "Gallic inspired space" called Le Petit Delight, at the bottom, and of going in there of a Saturday night. My only company was a sad man and his dog. Whatever happened to them? At the top is the Nottingham, still there. My grandad used to come over from Oldham, get off the train and would spend the night in the Nottingham. I used to go in there myself in later years. If you walked by, you couldn't see anything because the smoke was rising to the ceiling. They don't mention this point of heritage in the guide. As for Sea View Street itself, there is a view of the sea at the top, so no complaints there, and there are some shops. Some of them were closed.
Today's game is against the best side I've seen this season. In the reverse fixture, Dagenham had pace, ran forward in numbers and were dangerous on both flanks. I also remember that Dagenham were vulnerable on set pieces, something that Town could hopefully exploit today. As a team like Town who are in touch with the play-off positions, there was no incentive for Dagenham to come and grind out a draw, as some teams have done, so there was the prospect of a good game today. As for Town themselves, Tuesday's loss against Solihull was a blow, and there are ongoing causes for concern, not least the loss of Efete through injury. My fear was that Dagenham were always going to take advantage of Town's right-hand side where while Efete can be prone to mistakes in his own position, while showing strength elsewhere on the pitch. The signing of Cropper may mean that we avoid coming one. Even so, at the other end we don't create enough chances, and I find it frustrating not to see at least one of Dieseruvwe or Abrahams on from the start. Meanwhile we have a new midfielder in Holohan who needs time to gel. So there's a lot for the manager to sort out.
Mr Hurst's answer to this conundrum was the following line-up: Crocombe - Cropper, Waterfall, Smith, Amos - Maguire-Drew, Holohan, Clifton, Scannell - McAtee - Taylor. In front of 4,804 including 82 Dagenham supporters, Town attacked the Osmond end for the first half. After a passing move, Clifton scuffed a shot but won a corner. McAtee then went on a run and scuffed his shot. On 7 minutes Maguire-Drew crossed from the right and by way of a change Taylor fell over, before normality resumed before Maguire-Drew had a shot which he scuffed. Is this some new training method? In spite of all this scuffing, Town showed signs of competence. On 12 minutes a nice ball from new boy Cropper found Maguire-Drew who earned a throw deep into Dagenham territory. Then came a moment of gobsmackingly unexpected excitement as Cropper, who thanks to the research on Instagram by a kind young lady I learned once played for Chesterfield and Burnley, launched a long throw into the box. This mere act caused the crowd to collectively hold its breath like watching a fire eater in a circus, if they still do that sort of thing. No-one in the ground was prepared for this. It came to nothing. A Taylor tackle of the most robust variety led to Scannell running clear on 14 minutes. Eschewing the option of passing outside, Scannell ran on, took a shot and won a corner when that pass might have been a better option. Clifton then put in a great tackle to win the ball in midfield. That's Clifton. He passed the ball into touch for a Dagenham throw. That's Clifton. Dagenham worked the ball forward and won a corner on 18 minutes, and played the ball around without having much impact. Maguire-Drew had a trademark curler on 20 minutes but the shot went wide. Dagenham then had a brief spell as Waterfall cut out a cross from Hare. The ball came over and Dagenham's Reynolds got the job of being trodden on as everyone piled into the ball and the player in the packed Town penalty area. Following another Dagenham corner, resulting from another Waterfall block, magic man Cropper had another long throw, which escaped everyone in the box and ran through to Justham in the Dagenham goal. Town's best chance so far came on 28 minutes when Maguire-Drew played a perfect through ball to Holohan, who with only Justham to beat, fired his shot sideways. Another long through from muscle man Cropper was cleared on 30 minutes. The ball fell to Holohan in midfield. Holohan lobbed the ball exquisitely over the defence. The world stood still. The players, the crowd, North East Lincolnshire, the UK and the rest of world entered a momentary vacuum of time. As the defence and Town's players stood waiting for an offside decision, the equally surprised Maguire-Drew found himself clear of the defence, and realizing that all was normal in DN35, gathered his wits and shot. It bounced off Justham's legs but Maguire-Drew was now connected to reality and struck the ball home from the rebound to make it 1 - 0. It was a bizarre goal. Two minutes later Maguire-Drew hauled down Rance outside the box. Wright's curled free-kick went just over. On 37 minutes a rare moment of indecision by Waterfall when under pressure led to a Dagenham corner. The half was running out comfortably when McAtee was dragged back in Dagenham's half. Maguire-Drew's cross from the free-kick floated over the defence, and Waterfall was on hand to blast his shot home under Justham's legs from close range. So at half time it was 2 - 0 to Town.
Town started the second half purposefully with a great switch of play between Taylor, McAtee and Scannell but a promising attack ended when Maguire-Drew missed the cross-field pass. Town pressed. Maguire-Drew had a shot, It was blocked. Town won a corner on 58 minutes following a throw from Helicropper, but Dagenham came back. Town's defence stood firm, forcing the visitors back as Rance was reduced to a long-range effort which went wide. On 60 minutes Dagenham hesitated. McAtee pounced and robbed the defender, running on and rounding the keeper but the ball was cleared off the line. Dagenham's defence looked shaky but Town weren't taking full advantage. Town were on top without doing much against a deflated opposition. A nice move between Amos, McAtee and Maguire-Drew ended when Holohan was judged offside. Scannell then broke free on 74 minutes but the referee stopped the game for a clash of heads between Taylor and the much-abused Reynolds who for the second time this afternoon had a lie down on the Blundell Park turf. Dagenham won a corner after an Amos block. The ball was cleared. Scannell boke. It came to nothing. This was the pattern. On 78 minutes Taylor and Maguire-Drew came off and were replaced by Dieseruvwe and Burgess. Soon after Dagenham attacked up the left and for the first time broke through when Vilhete beat the defence, but found himself at a tight angle so Crocombe was able to save with his legs. On 84 minutes Abrahams replaced McAtee. Time for more applause. Abrahams was involved twice following good supply work from first Amos after an interception and then Cropper, but the end product was once again lacking. Town continued to pass the ball and didn't sit back, but just as it looked like the game was over Dagenham won a corner. Wright's cross was met by Johnson who burst through a crowded defence and headed home. Town 2, Dagenham 1. 4 minutes were added. It could have been nervous times but Town saw out the remainder of the game comfortably. 2 - 1 to Town was the final score.
We may not have reached the dizzy heights, but today's victory has taken us back into the play-off places for now. The second half was largely event free as was much of the first, and we do need to be better at creating chances. We still look cumbersome up front. But today was also a revelation. We knew about Maguire-Drew's capabilities but Holohan's lob for the transfixing first goal and his creative play, in general, were outstanding. The introduction of Cropper and the added bonus of his secret weapon was inspirational on behalf of Mr Hurst, and did far more than fill a gap. It may not be a view from the top, but we're in a good place and certainly in a position to press on towards the play-offs and higher places.
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