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Bore: Winner!
Bore: Winner!

The Beautiful Experience Part 3

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 10/09/2006

TOWN started the second half positively, but the first move came from the impressive Wright on Walsall’s wing who won a corner. A short corner was taken. The ball came across for Butler on 49 who misdirected a powerful header just over the bar. Town were a bit lucky.

A nasty foul on Beagrie earned Town a free kick on 50. Beagrie picked himself up admirably and got on with it. The ball came in for Fenton who made an impressive forward-like turn but straight at the goalkeeper. Bore came on for Beagrie shortly afterwards.

For the next 10 minutes, the teams tried to assert their superiority with both sides engaged in a midfield battle from which they were attempting to break loose. Barnes made an unimpressive clearance on 60 after a back pass, and on 61 Walsall had another good chance go to waste when Sam set up Fox who headed just over. Butler almost got through moments later but was offside. Walsall were marginally on top at this point. Jones was adjudged offside on 63, at which point a voice in the crowd observed "He’s not quick enough to be offside". Jones’s contribution was nevertheless impressive and it was unfortunate that on a number of occasions, Town players played through balls to Jones, expecting him to be a gazelle or Rankin. In another counter attack, Fox skewed the ball across the Town goal. Back up the other end, on 65 Bore played the ball through to Rankin who was barged off the ball by Walsall’s Gerrard who was booked. Merlin and I speculated as to the outcome of Newey’s free-kick. I predicted it would go sailing over the bar. I was wrong. It went straight into the wall.

Moments later there was scuffle off the ball in which Sam appeared to push Bolland into the ground. The referee calmed things down impressively without sanction. The flow of the game was undoubtedly helped by the referee, who did not stop the game for petty things, nor did he inhibit the players by booking them at every opportunity. All credit to him for that. Macintosh came off and was replaced on 68 by Whittle, who immediately made a contribution by anticipating and cutting out a cross. The ball was worked up to Rankin who in a one on one situation was once again denied by Ince. A lack of confidence on Rankin’s part? A weak shot followed by Jones. Sam got the ball though to Wright for Walsall, but a brilliant interception by Whittle cut out the threat. Then, on 72, determined work by Jones again threatened the Walsall goal. A cross came in. The opportunity appeared to be lost but a poor header by the stretching defender resulted in the ball landing at Bore’s feet. Bore controlled the ball, picked his spot and from the right side, coolly slipped the ball into the left hand corner of the net. Grimsby 2, Walsall 1.

On 77, Whittle cut out another cross in the centre of defence. On 79, an overweighted Walsall back pass led to Ince trying to clear the ball desperately, only for it to ricochet off Rankin’s leg. Perhaps the relentless Town pressure was leading to the appearance of cracks in the Walsall defence? As if to press the point, on 80, a great turn and speed from Rankin created another chance but the ball went straight to Ince. Walsall came back and Keates blasted a free kick into Town’s wall 20 yards away from goal, only for Fox to fire wide. Fox was then replaced by the euphonious Ishmel Demontagnac, much to the chagrin of the stadium announcer who had difficulty coping with such exotic nomenclature. I guess there aren't too many Demontagnacs in Grimsby.

On 85, Jones was unluckily offside after a header from Bolland. Bore was dispossessed on 86 while working up the right, showing his inexperience perhaps while almost as if to prove the point moments later, Rankin shielded the ball and won a corner. Walsall attacked again on 87, but once again Whittle came to the rescue with a header back to Barnes. On 89, Whittle gave away a free kick on the 35 yard line with a foul but Bolland hooked the ball clear. There was then a minor scare as Whittle left the ball for Barnes and a Walsall attacker almost nipped in. 90 minutes were now up but 3 minutes were added on. Another cross was cut out by Whittle. Walsall earned a corner after a Town player appeared to be pushed, causing debate of a heated kind, but from the corner everyone fell over each other in the box and the referee awarded a free kick to Town. Momentary relief. Toner was a bit slow on the ball, Walsall crossed but Whittle was there again to take charge. Walsall got in a low shot which Barnes saved well. Town cleared the ball but it came back and Walsall won a corner. There was a big scramble, the ball was cleared to the edge of the box, the Walsall player moved in towards the 6 yard line and blasted it. The ball was blocked, there was another desperate struggle before the ball was hooked away. The referee blew his whistle for full time. It was over. Grimsby 2, Walsall 1 !

The Verdict. This was a deserved victory. Although the second half wasn't as fluent as the first, nevertheless Town persisted in getting the ball forward and looking dangerous each time they did. There were many positives to be taken away from today’s game. The key moment for me came when Whittle was brought on, and suddenly we had a defender who could anticipate and cut out the dangerous crosses which Walsall were supplying. The whole Town team performed with steely determination, no doubt inspired by the leadership of Bolland, the natural candidate in my view to be our captain. There was plenty of skill too, with crisp passing, sharp turns and defence splitting balls designed to exploit Rankin’s pace and get him free. Unfortunately Rankin, whilst looking very sharp, did not make the most of his chances and seemed short on confidence when one on one with Walsall’s excellent keeper. My other reservation is our poor return in dead ball situations. Newey has a great left foot but as I said last season, he needs to have more discipline when using it. There’s no variety or surprise element either. In fairness though, the overall performance was very good and gave great encouragement for the future. My Man of the Match was Gary Jones, who in spite of a lack of pace, fought and battled, used the ball intelligently and caused problems for Walsall’s defence all afternoon.

And so my pre-match fears of another deflating performance were allayed. Even the harshest winter passes away. On leaving the ground after this encouraging display, the cold wind turned to tropical warmth as the taste of prime haddock and chips and the nostalgic sight of the Grimsby Fish Docks in the early evening sun turned a Beautiful Experience into a Holistic one. Or it would if I knew what it meant ...

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