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The Beautiful Experience Part 2

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 10/09/2006

TOURISM was however not on our agenda. It was time for holistic beauty of a footballing kind. Grimsby versus Walsall. We took our seats in the Carlsberg Stand, formerly the John Smith’s - "still beer" observed Merlin with unerring accuracy. The game began.

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A clumsy push on 2 minutes by new boy Fenton gave Walsall a free kick outside Town’s box. It was wasted. Things picked up as good work by intricate work by Toner and Rankin almost put Captain Bolland through. A good header by Jones got Rankin clear but offside was given. Jones in particular was putting pressure on the defence and Town looked lively. Our first corner came on 5 minutes. Walsall had a break on 9 and after a good run and cross by Sam to Wright, Barnes in Town’s goal dithered and was caught in no-man’s land. The ball was passed across to Butler who slotted the ball into an empty net. Grimsby 0, Walsall 1.

It was against the run of play. Questions have to be asked about the lack of defence on the left side and a hesitant goalkeeper. Town did not however collapse into a heap of jelly. On 15, determined work by Bolland led to a throw. A good flick on, and Rankin turned Peter Crouch-style and was unlucky for his shot to cannon off a Walsall defender for a corner. A minute later, the ever dangerous Rankin was the provider but weighted the pass too strongly across the goal face, before volleying just over himself a minute later. On 18, a Croft clearance resulted in another corner to Town, but the move ended with a lob over the defence which failed to take account of the wind.

At the other end, Fenton let Sam in after indecisive defending but a resultant scramble led to a Walsall corner and nothing more. On 21, there was a controversial moment when Walsall’s Dobson seemed to slip just as Town broke through. The free kick to Walsall was not met with unbridled approval amongst the home crowd. For a few minutes the game got scrappy and even the redoubtable Bolland was party to the miskicks and misunderstandings. Ravenhill then miscued a header and in his haste to make amends, kicked a Walsall player in the face. Town were soon back on the offensive and on 26 Rankin appeared to be impeded in the Walsall box. No foul was given. On 27 more Jones pressure led to a back header and a Town corner. Walsall were looking dangerous on the break and had one or two quick players but another brilliant burst on 29 by Rankin brought out a great save by Ince in Walsall’s goal and another Town corner. Another run by Rankin on 30 gave the impression we were a one man team. Yet another Town corner resulted from a penetrating ball on 32. Walsall were looking quick and dangerous on the counter attack and their free-kick specialist Keates shot an attempted curler at Barnes on 33, but Town were encouragingly creating chances themselves.

On 35, Newey floated one in, a header came out and was promptly returned, to be headed off the Walsall line. Town battled to get the ball back, but Rankin couldn't get through, the ball ran out to Bolland who controlled the ball and blasted a screamer into the top left corner from 15 yards out. Grimsby 1, Walsall 1. Town deserved to level the score and continued to play in a determined fashion. On 38, Jones had a fierce stab. The ball was returned and Rankin was put clean through. Unfortunately he hesitated and Ince gathered the ball brilliantly. As half time approached, Bolland and Newey applied pressure to break through the defence. An electric Rankin turn resulted in a corner to Town. Bolland pressed through but a Walsall player fell on the ball. Beagrie’s free kick was aimed into the wall. The half-time whistle blew. Grimsby 1, Walsall 1.

Half time verdict: This was the most promising Town performance I had seen for ages. Not everything worked, especially at set pieces, but the ball play was incisive, the passing was crisp and the support play was good. Town were getting the ball where it mattered and chances were being created. It was disappointing that corners were not resulting in much and there seemed to be no variation such a short corners to give the defence doubts. This said, there was plenty of team work and determination in the performance, not to mention skill from Rankin in particular. Walsall were benefiting from having a good goalkeeper. They were also very good on the counter attack. All in all though, this was most encouraging, in fact so much so that Revis, Merlin and I spent half time planning the forthcoming matches we could go to.

Meanwhile, out on the river, beneath the cloudless sky the water looked glacial and crystal clear as the tide was now coming in and ships were moving into the port. The first half had been sufficiently interesting that I had not been monitoring the flow of traffic.

The report continues in Part 3

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