League Two Form Guide
Question of the WeekWhere will Grimsby be in 5 years time??
By: Andrew Doherty
FROM DN35 to E15 - the Mariners are in town for the play-off final. All roads lead to Stratford, well not for the millions of people heading into London for the Jubilee pageant. Hopefully we were not going to the pantomime but recent events would suggest not. It's hard to believe after such a season of highs and lows but here we are.
The venue is the London Stadium. For me personally, it's strange to think that I worked on this very site, which was once a railway depot, in the early 1980s. By comparison, the area is unrecognisable with its showpiece shopping centre and improved transport links. Town too have undergone a transformation of less epic proportions but it's a welcome one nevertheless. The change of ownership triggered a new positivity. Our season summary so far is a great start, a less convincing mid period, some good results at the end, but above all two disciplined and skilful performances in the two play-off games so far. Great credit is due to the management and the squad for where we are. Today we would get to find out if next season it's Crawley and Stevenage or a return visit to the inflatable-averse stewardship of Barnet and the Beasts of Bromley … let's get it done, Town.
Our form against Solihull hasn't been great this season with two losses but this counts for nothing now. Mental, physical and tactical preparation was going to be the key. In Hurst We Trust. The starting XI entrusted with the job of bringing home the prize was: Crocombe - Cropper, Waterfall, Smith, Amos - Sousa, Fox, Holohan, Clifton - McAtee - Taylor.
It's been a week of villains and heroes. The arch-villain has been the National League administrators with the inflated ticket prices and general arrangements which have indicated their contempt for supporters. The biggest hero is the person who thought of the idea of a support fund for those who can't afford the ticket and travel costs. Above all the generous donations are testimony to Grimsby Town's fans, but also it's fantastic that supporters of other teams, notably Wrexham, have made contributions. We're now looking for heroes on the pitch. With it being like a game of snakes and ladders where you go back to square one if you lose, like previous finals it was always going to be tense with little room for heroics. It was tense enough in the crowd where 22,897 spectators, the majority supporting Town, waited expectantly. It's like the exams. Pass or fail. At least those who could afford it all made it inside the ground after all the dire warnings and copious instructions from the stadium authorities about printing off e-tickets, folding the paper in the right places, not creasing it or getting it wet and making us pay 99p for the privilege. As someone who recently was castigated for checking the Exchange rate on Ceefax for being archaic, even I thought that the idea of an e-ticket was to avoid paper and save the planet. It baffles me. Oh, and don't forget that bag size has to be right. This led to rulers coming out at home and a Bag Measurement Soirée - more pre-match entertainment. If the people at the London Stadium saw me at Blundell Park with my bag filled with Lincolnshire sausages, pork pies and some delights for tea to take back, they'd have apoplexy. It's all for us health and safety, guv.
Twenty-odd dots lined up down below me in the distance. I doubt that binoculars would be allowed under the rules but they would be handy here in the Stadium of Faraway Places. Luckily I brought my glasses. Town were in traditional black and white. Solihull wore Ukrainian yellow and blue. The pre-match entertainment was good, dispelling tensions and putting everyone in the right mood. But now it was exam time. You may start now. The game kicked off. Within a minute Solihull launched an attack. Hudlin laid the ball off to Boyes but Cropper was there to cut out the cross. Smith suffered his clearance from the corner but Hudlin, Solihull's answer to a beanpole, made an equal hash of his shot when he should have scored. Tension was evident. Dallas then broke for Solilhull after Sousa lost control but Town won the ball back and countered. Throw to Town. Cropper launched his javelin, Taylor harassed the defender, the ball bounced off Hudlin's leg and McDonnell was forced to stretch and palm the deflection away. Holohan did well to cut out an attack as Solihull looked to play a varied passing game through the middle and out wide. Town were unable to build attacks. Some of the players looked jumpy. On 12 minutes Sousa was too casual and in trying to retrieve the situation Cropper committed a foul on the right edge. Fox cut out the cross but conceded a corner. From it Howe's header went inches wide. Solihull we're having the better of the play. Town's performance was bitty, but on the positive side Holohan and McAtee in particular were battling in the middle. Town had an attacking spell around the 20 minutes mark when Sousa had a cross but Holohan's shot was blocked. Clifton was then pushed and earned a free kick on the left. Fox put Town in trouble on 27 minutes with a back pass. Dallas advanced and shot. The ball struck the outstretched leg of Cropper and Crocombe made an excellent reflex save. A great ball from Waterfall out to McAtee saw a chance for Sousa who was unable to gain control. Town had a better chance moments later when Sousa, who by now had overcome his earlier nerves, sent over a dangerous cross but Solihull closed the spaces with solid defending. Good work by McAtee on 36 minutes after a trademark layoff from Taylor lead to a real chance for Holohan but he was unable to make it count. Solihull still threatened but Town were now much improved and showing signs of getting into the game. On 38 minutes the diminutive Sousa won a header and found McAtee who returned the ball to the overlapping Sousa. The cross came in. Clifton was on the receiving end at the far post and spectacularly missed from 5 yards. This was by far the best chance Town had had. Just as one added minute was announced, Town switched off like a signal. Boyes had possession and crossed for the lanky Hudson to rise above the hapless Amos and head home. Half-time: Solihull 1, Town 0. Solihull looked to be an efficient side and were good on the break which they did in numbers but they were hardly exceptional.
As the second have began, Fox's retrieval of a Holohan mistake set up a Town attack. Sousa lined up Holohan but the shot was deflected inches wide. McAtee was then nicely teed up but although the shot was solid it went over. The game stopped on 51 minutes for a clash of heads between Smith and Hudlin who had to be replaced minutes later. In the meantime Solihull attacked and Dallas came close with a header. Town slowed the game down. This seemed to be working to Solihull's advantage. It was good not to be panicking but Solihull were solid and were able to position themselves with ease to repel Town attacks. Town laboured. On 60 minutes Clifton won a corner after a McAtee layoff. Amos's corner was poor. Town were playing as if they were frightened of Solihull and their ability on misplaced passes. The play was conservative. On 63 minutes a great through ball from Holohan found McAtee who took the pass in his stride but again Solihull's defence stood firm and the shot was deflected for a corner. The ball came in to Smith who controlled it and passed to Taylor but the defence was quickly on top of Taylor who was too slow. On 65 minutes Maguire-Drew replaced Sousa. Maguire-Drew was straight into the action, combining with Holohan to win a throw. Cropper launched it into the box. The ball was cleared. Amos won it back and found McAtee who in turn supplied Taylor but once again Taylor was too slow and unable to beat the defender. Back came the ball for another Town attack. 68 minutes were up. Maguire-Drew picked up the ball in the middle and telepathically picked out McAtee who advanced into the box on the right and calmly slotted the ball past McDonnell. Solihull 1, Town 1. Town's fans were not so calm. Concentration was now required. Holohan, who had been active and influential all afternoon, was dispossessed twice. Dallas went close with a header. Solihull broke away after Boyes fouled Cropper and Maguire-Drew's free kick was cleared on 73 minutes but Holohan showed his worth with good work to repel the advancing Solihull left wing-back. Three minutes later Boyes was involved again when Cropper tripped him inches outside the penalty box. Cropper was booked. Storer basted his shot towards goal. It rebounded out to Sbarra who had a free shot but thanks to defensive determination the shot was blocked. Solihull won a corner and the threat was averted. A Waterfall block resulted in another Solihull corner two minutes later. From it Town broke out, such was the pattern of the game. Storer dragged Clifton down, getting himself booked in the process. On 80 minutes Dieseruvwe replaced Taylor. On 82 minutes the hyperactive Boyes was fouled on the left by Holohan. The same player's free-kick was headed on to Gudger who, clear on goal, missed a sitter with his header and knew it. Town continued to battle and on 86 minutes McAtee ran down Boyes and won a throw which Cropper launched into the box. The ball came out, but Cropper came up with a perfectly timed tackle to stop the attack. Maguire-Drew picked up the ball on the right and for the second time send McAtee through with a low pass, but McAtee was able to squeeze it home this time. Maguire-Drew himself had an opportunity as he weaved his way into the box but instead of trying a silky left-footed curler which we know he is capable of, took one touch too many and lost possession, setting up a Solihull attack as both sides sought a decisive late winner. Six minutes were added following Hudlin's earlier injury. Raikhy replaced the hobbling McAtee. Amos went on a great run after making an interception in Town's half but couldn't find support and eventually ran out of steam as he marched in Solihull's box. An attack from a Cropper throw ended when Storer was fouled. The final act was a Solihull attack which Crocombe collected before clearing quickly to Dieseruvwe but time was up. 1 - 1 after 90 minutes. After earlier struggles, Town had looked dangerous since the introduction of Maguire-Drew, but Solihull still looked compact and skilful and above all fit, which was going to be a key factor as we entered extra time. The game was in the balance.
Solihull showed greater adventure as extra time got underway, first winning a corner and then winning a free-kick as Smith checked Dallas. Town finally won a free-kick to ease the pressure but Solihull were back, and it relied upon Smith to cut out the attack. Town tried to start one themselves but Holohan lost the ball. Town had shared the possession in midfield but now Solihull were dominating in this area. Abrahams replaced Holohan on 100 minutes, and was soon in action, finding space up the left after good work by Dieseruvwe, but Abrahams had no options. Both sides were now making mistakes. Solihull won a corner just before the first period ended when Waterfall headed the ball out as a precaution. Smith headed the ball out from the corner. The first period ended.
Play was getting slower. It became apparent that Solihull were getting wearier. Abrahams's fresh legs were helping Town. A nice move between Dieseruvwe, Abrahams and Maguire-Drew couldn't get the desired breakthrough but Town were showing endeavour as Solihull started to tire. On 110 minutes, Town won a throw on the left. Cropper went over to take it in a bid to cause havoc in the Solihull defence and break the deadlock. The throw was sent into the box. Dallas went up to clear but only succeeded in heading the ball backwards over the top of the defence into the waiting path of Maguire-Drew who was ready at the near post to slot it in. Solihull 1, Town 2. Town's fans went wild. The job now was to maintain focus. Solihull made substitutions as their players were going down with cramp. Town fought to keep Solihull in their own corner. Maguire-Drew ran back and fought to win a throw-in deep in Town's corner. Abrahams was booked for obstructing Solihull as they desperately tried to get the ball out of their own half. Two minutes were added. Barnett went down with cramp after messing up a shot that Crocombe gathered. The final whistle blew. We'd done it. Solihull Moors 1, Grimsby Town 2. We're back in the league. Unbridled joy ensued.
This was a closely fought game but after a nervous start and losing their way for a period in the second half, Town once again showed their determination and resilience. Fox was awarded the official man of the match, but it was Mr Hurst's masterclass in substitutions which really turned the game in Town's favour, in particular the introduction of Maguire-Drew. Crocombe had a great game and once again Waterfall and Smith were imperious. The midfield showed an authority which we haven't always seen, and apart from Fox, Holohan was influential as inevitably was McAtee. Both Amos and Cropper, although under pressure from a lively Solihull attacking force, both played their part too. I see signs of promising play in both our full backs, which coaching will undoubtedly improve as we have seen with Sousa and others. Solihull had not been exposed to the Cropper long throw threat earlier in the season, and finally it was their undoing. But no one was discussing tactics at the end. After paying a fortune to be here, Town's fans were rewarded and it was party time.
Congratulations and jubilations. What a fantastic effort. The whole of London is celebrating. Maybe not for Grimsby but they should be. We are. Now we can concentrate on who's staying, who's going and who's coming in. I've had nice days out at Maidenhead, Weymouth, Dagenham and the like this year. We now move on in the right direction. We have the makings of a good squad here, even if there's been inconsistency at times. But we stepped up to the plate when it mattered. Our next concern is who stays, who leaves and who comes in. We'll all have our opinions on that. This is the nature of the off-season. I'm looking forward to next season already. Today was a day of pageants. We will be going to Rochdale. Let's celebrate.
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