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The Snodgrass Effect
By: Andrew Doherty
IN the spirit of engagement, I asked my wife who she thought I should vote for as Player of the Year. "Taylor", she replied without hesitation. I can only imagine she was either (a) winding me up, or (b) misheard the question, thinking I'd asked "who do I moan about every week?".
Maybe she is aware of some shining influence off the pitch. Proving the paucity of conversation in my household, I came back to the subject later. This time she came up with another name. The name surprised me but when I thought about it, this was a player who I had praised regularly but without always realizing it. Possibly in my head, this was a case of what I will call the Snodgrass Effect. I don't follow Twitter but I do look at forums and other media, and it's very easy to see. So our player, let's say, is called Snodgrass. Week after week and in the stands we'll be subjected to a barrage of "Snodgrass is useless and playing in a league above his level" and we believe this. If Snodgrass scored a hat trick, tracked back and made several last-ditch, goal-saving tackles while ending world poverty, he would still be rubbish. Town have had several Snodgrasses over the years. Two who come to mind are Bobby Mitchell and Mike Hickman. Like woodpeckers pecking wood, a constant cry emitted from the Barratt's Stand: "You're rubbish, Hickman". This is someone who went on to be a highly respected coach. For Town he was rubbish, mind, and as far as I'm aware he didn't stamp out world poverty. Coming back to today, Town's Player of the Year isn't obvious as no-one has really stood out for the whole season. I shall be looking out for Snodgrass.
The last time we played this evening's opponents Barrow, it was a dreadful game which we lost 0 - 1 and for added misery a number of our supporters came out of a certain chain pub feeling ill. It was one of my better decisions not to make the long trip that evening. I just went to Hartlepool four days later and saw us lose there. By no means a glamour team, Barrow started the season well and dropped down to mid-table but have held their position well, even having an outside chance of a playoff spot still. Unlike recent games against Mansfield and Hartlepool, the small away support wasn't ever going to bring an extra buzz to Blundell Park. Coupled with a quiet home crowd, this is dangerous for Town who don't need motivation to put in a lacklustre performance. The team assigned this evening to provide some pizzazz was: Crocombe - Emmanuel, Smith, Maher, Glennon - Clifton, Green, Khouri, Khan - McAtee, Lloyd. Mr Hurst commented after Saturday that tactically Town had had tried something in the first half which didn't work. "Stand around like statues and pass the ball to the opposition`' seems to be what the players heard from the manager. Adjustments were made at half time, and the second half performance was much better. Town played the ball nicely and showed greater all-round intensity, and we should be encouraged by that. Hopefully this momentum would run into this evening's game.
Barrow kicked off with five players lined up rugby style on the right, ready to rush forward, which they did. One of them, Young, confused codes and collapsed on Maher, receiving a yellow card within 20 seconds of the start. Town started nervously, conceding an early corner and two clear chances which Whitfield and Gotts failed to convert. Gotts in particular seemed to panic from 10 yards after Khouri failed to control the ball. After 7 minutes a good interception by Smith led to a pass to Clifton who lofted the ball up to Khan. Khan shook off Ray and was clear but his shot wasn't great, and keeper Farman turned the shot away for a corner. Young went close for Barrow with a volley. Town were making little headway because once again the passing and understanding between the players was lacking. Crocombe made a trademark terrible clearance, Khouri lost possession in midfield and other than some determined work by Lloyd, this was poor. Barrow were no Real Madrid but the concern was that Town were going to concede a soft goal due to a mistake or allowing too much space. Even Mr Hurst looked agitated about the poor play. Khouri burst forward on 25 minutes and was fouled, giving Town some momentary hope. The move ended with a long range shot from Green which landed half way between the post and the corner flag. The game was devoid of excitement or quality. Nothing was happening. 33 minutes had passed. Town out a passing move together which ended when Lloyd was offside. Barrow moved up the pitch slowly. The ball was crossed. Maher's headed clearance was weak. Young shot. Crocombe did well to save low. With 5 minutes of the half left, Crocombe juggled a shot but moved it out quickly. Khan and Glennon combined, but Glennon's cross was way too long. In the final minute, Town moved forward. Clifton laid the ball back to Khouri whose solid shot was deflected for a corner. With seconds left, Khouri lost possession and had to retrieve his own error as Barrow broke. Inevitably the half ended at 0 - 0. Town lumbered and blundered, and once again didn't seem to have any visible plan or ability to get through Barrow's defence.
Young won a corner for Barrow on 48 minutes with a deflected cross. Whitfield delivered. Warren was completely unmarked and headed against the underside of the crossbar. A minute passed and a cross came from the left into Town's box. With Maher standing wrong side, Canavan nipped in and volleyed from 5 yards. Crocombe did very well to get a foot on it. Town had had two lucky escapes. Town continued to struggle. A passing move on 55 minutes was slow and cumbersome and ended when Clifton committed a foul. Barrow looked the more likely to score and on 59 minutes walked the ball into the net after a Gotts cross. Town struggled to clear the ball. Kay passed it into the net but was offside. Town had a break on 62 minutes. Emmanuel ran up the right, sending an excellent pass to Khan who beat the defender and then was guilty of an atrocious touch as he looked to draw the keeper. This was the second good opportunity that Khan had wasted. Amos and O'Neill replaced Glennon and Clifton on 63 minutes. Barrow won a throw and a corner from which Ray that went close with a header. On 69 minutes Orsi and Holohan came on for McAtee and Khouri. Town won a corner after good work from O'Neill and a deflected cross by Amos. From it, Kay broke and was only stopped when Emmanuel got in the way, for which he was booked. Smith committed a foul and then O'Neill lost possession before committing a foul himself as Town's performance continued to exude ineptitude. And then ... some quality. Town advanced. Holohan took the ball as far forward as he could, passing to Lloyd who slipped the ball through to Orsi in the box. Orsi shook off the defender and slid the ball home comfortably. Town 1, Barrow 0. Barrow looked to accelerate their play and increase their attacks as they realised a loss would most probably put them out of the playoff picture. But the overall standard of play was still ragged, and with four fresh substitutes on the field, Town were moving more freely than they had at any time in this dire game. Orsi found Lloyd on the left on 82 minutes as Town advanced. Lloyd's cross was deflected and Farman was able to gather the ball easily. More fresh legs came on after 85 minutes as Waterfall replaced Lloyd. Barrow showed greater urgency, with Brough posing a particular threat on the left. Town had a counterattack involving Holohan, Orsi and O'Neill on 89 minutes but a foul by Green ended the move. Barrow continued to attack desperately while Town hung on and defended solidly. Four minutes were added. Smith fouled Gordon 7 or 8 yards outside the box. Newby's curled attempt went just wide to Crocombe's right. Barrow had one further attack but failed to convert Brough's dangerous cross. The game was over: Grimsby Town 1, Barrow 0.
This was a welcome win for Town in front of the crowd of 4,902 including 76 hardy souls from Barrow. As a spectacle, it was dismal, with memorable moments few and far between. One Emmanuel pass, the contributions of Holohan, Lloyd and Orsi in Town's goal, a couple of good saves by Crocombe and a nice move towards the end were about the sum of it. Picking the player of the match would be hard enough. This wasn't really a game for spotting candidates for Player of the Year. Snodgrass, please identify yourself and step forward.
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