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A Series Of Unfortunate Events

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 21/01/2007

THE festive frolics have passed. Five defeats on the trot, no goals scored. Same players, different day. The December glitch of three consecutive wins seems like many dark years away.

The AB honeymoon is well and truly over. Misery and gloom have descended. As Conference status looms, it’s serious now.

Duty calls, and I set off with my children Merlin and Revis for another potentially dismal display at Blundell Park. Today’s gladiatorial conspirators were Darlington. But we’re not interested in the glamour that they bring, nor in the razzamatazz of Nationwide League 2. We just want points. We need points. Neither of my children were expecting us to get any, having been deprived even of our mini revival all that time ago. I had given them advanced warning: "We’re going to watch Grimsby tomorrow". "No, we’re going to watch Grimsby lose tomorrow" remarked Revis in reproachful reply. I reflected that this was all part of the toughening up process for becoming a diehard football supporter, and they would thank me for this one day.

Today’s journey took us via the scenic route, courtesy of Network Rail. This allowed us an hour in Lincoln. On the way the train picked up the youth of Sleaford and Ruskington. The youth behaved as if they were going to a funeral. And they were, a living one. I’ve never liked Lincoln or its people, and today it could have won awards for ravishing grimness. Icy cold winds welcomed shuddering visitors to this imitation of death. After being made to wait an age on the overbridge at Lincoln station, Eastern European style border controls being necessary here, we made our way into the nearby centre. Character became anonymity and despair as faceless people wandered aimlessly round a miserable and unoriginal parade of shops, surpassing only those which were boarded up. In amongst it all was the Tourist Information Centre - the Samaritans would have been more useful.The youth of Sleaford and Ruskington must be on suicide watch, I reflected, if they really thought that they would find a better life in razor-blade inducing Lincoln. We arrived back unscathed at Lincoln Central where the station lady was trying to extract a £1 coin from the drain - high drama in Lincoln, a headliner for the Lincolnshire Echo? An overpriced hot drink was in order, served by the surly gentleman in the station café. At this stage it was all about survival at all costs. The man on the tannoy announced our train, oblivious that its proper departure time had long since passed. Time is eternal in Lincoln. But then misery is timeless. Our train arrived, and we escaped to a better world outside.

On the train I overheard a conversation about the "Theatre of Screams" - ah, Grimsby Town supporters - and the importance of "not losing", and I came to realise that Lincoln had at least prepared us mentally for the horror show we were about to witness.

The biting wind welcomed us as we got off the train at Grimsby Town station. "That was quick" remarked Merlin on the immediate impact of the fresh conditions to which we once again had to acclimatise ourselves. We met up with Andy Humberstone. Andy’s outlook matched that of his fellow traumatised Grimbarians: "Seventeen quid for substandard output" (OK, something like that). "We must be mad". We are.

A few minutes in the warmth, a bit of cheery conversation about Bob Cumming and happier days of yore, and 150 pence worth of succulent haddock and chips contrasted with the premonition of being about to witness horrific carnage.

First half

The first 20 minutes were dismal. A poor back pass by Grand almost let Darlo in, while Barnes spilled a shot and was lucky that the return came straight back to him. Whittle made a good headed clearance to snub out the danger of Joachim. Paterson was similarly cut out by Wheater in Darlington’s defence, which looked solid and organised. I dropped my pen. This was due to the cold, not excitement, a sentiment which was echoed by Revis. "I’m bored", she said, having brought her Lemony Snicket book which she proceeded to read. Let’s consider the positives: the tide was in, and the view of the river was splendid. As for the football, no positives there. The ball was spending a large proportion of its time in the air, and when it wasn’t the passing was poor. Darlington had the measure of Town’s two best and most creative players so far, Paterson and Newey, and closed them down. I looked over Revis’s shoulder at her book. "You’re volunteers, ready to face the challenges of a desperate and perplexing world", it stated. Yes, it was desperate and perplexing out on the fields of Blundell Park.

On 26 minutes, a nice through ball from Close gave Joachim a chance but fortunately for Town it hit the side netting. "Why are you crying? Why are you so distraught?" asked Violet. She clearly had not been to BP. On 28, Harkins came on for the injured Whittle and took his place in the depleted Town defence. Town couldn’t get through the defence. Andy enquired what Revis was reading. She showed him: "A Series of Unfortunate Events". How appropriate. On 36 minutes, after a neat passing move, Newey crossed but it went behind Paterson and the move died. "The Baudelarian orphans wondered if their hopes would disappear". They already had at BP.

On 42 minutes, Paterson got past Wheater for the first time but Toner’s resultant cross went through the defence and out for a goal kick. Town were picking up a bit before half-time. Paterson was given another chance to run on 44 minutes, cut inside and sped past the defender before being hacked down - penalty for Town! There then followed an argument over who was going to take the penalty - "it’s like Sunday football", commented Andy.

After grabbing the ball, Toner stepped up, aimed it innocuously at the centre of the goal and the goalkeeper kicked it clear with ease. Paterson was understandably not happy and shoved Toner in disgust. Half-time in the Town dressing room promised to be interesting. And so the first half ended: Grimsby Town 0, Darlington 0.

Half time verdict. The general view around me was that this was the best Town had played for a while. From my perspective it was inconsistent and lacking in coherent play. Town’s players were trying but until the last five minutes were struggling against a tight defence and were guilty of too many loose balls. On the other hand, although Joachim looked dangerous, Darlington were struggling to get through a makeshift but resolute Town defence. Revis observed that it was raining.

The report continues in the Second Half

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