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Question of the WeekWho will win the EPL?
|We are Town!|
Where is Grimsby?
By: Andrew Doherty
IT was a family affair today: myself, my brother who used to bring me to matches invariably involving home losses in the late 1960s, my nephew who’s not officiating at Brigg Town today and my wife who can’t see the point of any of it.
"Where’s Grimsby?", asked my wife while looking at the weather map and deciding what to wear. The devil’s always in the detail. She’s been loads of time before so there was no point explaining that Grimsby is a cold place usually with a proclivity for easterly winds and potentially warming footballing experiences. With juniors packing the Osmond end, and the play-offs tantalisingly in sight, there was the promise of a good crowd as Town had plenty to play for. The potential fly in the ointment was our opponents Maidenhead United, who although languishing at the lower end, have shown plenty of fight over the season including coming back to draw against Town in the reverse fixture. With Alan Devonshire at the helm, Maidenhead were always going to be well organised.
Lining up for Town today were: Crocombe - Cropper, Waterfall, Smith, Amos - Holohan - Scannell, Fox, Clifton - Taylor, Abrahams. Last week Mr Hurst bemoaned our slow start to games. I imagine this is down to the mindset of the players in part, but the negative set-up hardly helps us to start with guns blazing as we sought to nullify the threat of mediocre opposition with a defensive midfielder and a lone striker. Quality has been missing too in certain quarters and in particular in midfield. We were about to find out if lessons had been learnt. Seeing Fox and Abrahams in the line-up was encouraging.
Scannell trickery was the highlight of the first 10 minutes as Town’s winger weaved his way through the defence twice for Holohan to shoot just wide and after a flick on by Taylor for the same player to fire over. Abrahams had a shot was deflected onto the bar, then disaster struck. Scannell went down injured with an ankle problem and had to be replaced by Maguire-Drew on 12 minutes. Town pressed without success, Maguire-Drew and then Abrahams getting shots in. Town had most of the play. Maidenhead won a corner on 22 minutes after a run by the gangling Barratt. Two minutes later Donnellan sent over a cross from the right. Crocombe came out to collect it but Waterfall was there first, flicking the ball back into his own net for the second week running. Town 0, Maidenhead 1. This came against the run of play. Upon kick-off Maidenhead retrieved the ball quickly and worked it up the middle. Town had not switched on. The burly Acquah muscled his way into the box and bore down on goal. Waterfall pulled him down clumsily. Red card for Waterfall and a penalty to Maidenhead, which Barratt neatly delivered into the bottom right corner. Town 0, Maidenhead 2. From a miscommunication, Town lost concentration and paid for it. Pearson replaced Cropper as Mr Hurst sought to reshape the team - a strange move as we were now vulnerable at right back, with Smith previously struggling in the position, not to mention the loss of Cropper’s long throw weapon. The crowd was stunned. Town seemed to enter panic station mode. Mistake was heaped upon mistake, with Holohan and Amos the principal but not the only offenders. A Pearson header from a Maguire-Drew cross went close and Fox showed enterprise but Town looked demoralized and the half-time whistle couldn’t come soon enough. The half finished with a terrible touch from Holohan. Today Town had found a different way of messing things up. The question now was whether the 10 men could retrieve the situation.
A Clifton run across the box on 47 minutes led to Massey being booked and a free-kick outside the box. Abrahams got a shot in after Holohan broke clear, then Fox went on a great run which finished with a corner. But Maguire-Drew’s delivery was poor, as Town had a succession of corners and crosses which showed no invention and were dealt with easily by goalkeeper Gyollai and the Maidenhead defence. On 56 minutes Maidenhead had a rare attack, and exposing Town’s weakened right side, Sparkes ran up the left, found Barratt whose pass landed at the feet of Acquah in front of goal. If not for a magnificent intervention by Clifton, this would have been a third goal for Maidenhead. Fox was fouled in midfield on 59 minutes. As he got up Donnellan was booked for pushing Fox over and was lucky not to receive a red card. Moments later Barratt was booked for tripping the advancing Holohan. Maidenhead now were intent on disrupting play with their gamesmanship, as they went down at every opportunity and used up as much time as they could in order to preserve their lead. A fracas in the corner on 62 minutes involving Donnellan led to the Maidenhead manager deciding to replace Donnellan with Upward. Donnellan went off, sarcastically applauding the Town fans in the Pontoon as he did so. Town were distracted. Once again Sparkes ran up the left. There was no-one to challenge him as he sent in a low cross for Upward to slot home. Town 0, Maidenhead 3. Upward’s goal meant there was no onwards for Town. Foul followed foul. Maidenhead’s players went down. Maguire-Drew lost his bearings but he wasn’t alone. On 73 minutes Sparkes set off again. Amos failed to clear. Acquah’s shot hit the side netting. On 75 minutes Fox won possession and found Abrahams who was heading towards the corner when he was needlessly tripped. A penalty was awarded. Abrahams sent it up the middle and scored. Town 1, Maidenhead 3. Diiseruvwe came on for Taylor in a last throw of the dice. "Any chance of winning the second ball?", enquired a frustrated fan behind me. Town laboured. Abrahams had a high and wide shot from an Amos pass, but it was well over. Town had lost all shape and confidence, and didn’t know what to do. Pearson was booked on 86 minutes for a cynical foul on Smith. On 89 minutes Dieseruvwe wriggled clear on the left and passed into the box where there was no-one in spite of Town being 2 goals down and time running out. 6 minutes were added. This was marked by Crocombe being forced to make a save from Sparkes. Town did get the ball down the other end but were unable to make anything of a defensive mix-up. The crowd was deflated. The final act was another desperate and wild shot from Abrahams. "Embarrassing" shouted a fan behind me in a joint critique of Alan Devonshire’s cynical team tactics and the referee’s inability to control the game. No, it was Town who were embarrassing. The game ended: Town 1, Maidenhead 3. 6,383 spectators were here today including 54 colourful and cheery Maidenhead fans dressed as dinosaurs, leprechauns, waiters and other things. They were happy. As a Town fan, it was hard to find anything to be happy about but 10 minutes of Scannell trickery and Clifton’s goal-saving tackle are the only ones I can think of. This was awful.
So where’s Grimsby? The official answer, amazingly, is 6th place with two games left. But this doesn’t tell the story. Ten minutes of dazzling football from Scannell was all we had to offer. This followed sub-par displays against Weymouth, King’s Lynn and Barnet. The quality of Town’s play was poor again. First touches, second touches, any touches seemed to be beyond most of the team but in particular Holohan, Amos, Maguire-Drew and Clifton. I saw good endeavour from Fox and Smith, and Abrahams tried his best but as a group effort this was nothing short of woeful for a team aspiring to be in the play-offs. The lack of communication between Waterfall and Crocombe for the second week running, and the collective sleep which led to Maidenhead’s striker bullying Waterfall and leading to the red card was ghastly. I did not agree with the manager’s decision to switch Smith or rather nobody to right back because that never works, but the manager must have had some plan. The fact is that we made the yellow and green of Maidenhead look like Brazil. It looks likely that we will make the play-offs but the expected slow start has become a disease which has spread to this team which looks nervous and disorientated. I find it difficult to imagine us getting through the play-offs, assuming we even make them. Perhaps if McAtee and Scannell return, we may do better. "Travel with Confidence" is the slogan of TransPennine Express train company. They are a diabolical shambles. So were Town today, and I shall not be taking much confidence with me to Eastleigh next week in what may well be a crucial game to follow Tuesday’s tough test against Boreham Wood.
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