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The Return of the Prodigal Sun

By: Chris Smith
Date: 13/09/2009

THIS was my first Town game since Bury away before I disappeared for some sunshine in Malta. Given the demented optimism after that first win, I fully expected to return to the UK with us in mid-table.

I had seen both the Aldershot and Port Vale games as potential victories and more so given that my absence from these shores normally results in the biggest wins of the season. From the texts I received, it appears I picked two good games to miss. Given my track record in missing big wins, I even got a text from a fan asking if I really was abroad given the **** that had been served up.

I therefore had very little optimism today. I haven’t bothered looking at the forums as I have been aware of some rather strong negativity and thought I’d judge for myself. A very downbeat Gary and I met up in Thorne before setting off to Grimsby and had our lunch at the excellent Canal Tavern which is well worth a visit if you are passing through and does some real ale for those so inclined. Its only problem is that, in Flowery Twats fashion, there is always a metal letter or two missing off the wall sign. Thankfully, it wasn’t the C today which has made it an embarrassing place to enter before. Perhaps I could have put that better...

We ummed and aahed about whether we really wanted to go but set off down the A18 before turning off for the M180 without any warning we couldn’t turn on to it. One trip back to Doncaster later, following the diversion signs, and we wondered if we were really meant to get there. The ominous signs meant we didn’t do our usual obscenities as we passed Scuntland, including singing about where they could stick their steelworks, furnace first of course.

A sign of the poor crowd was the ease at which we parked up on Park View and a distinct lack of stripies walking up to the ground. We did consider calling the NSPCC as we saw a dad taking his small son along, presumably for breaking a window. There weren’t too many people at the ticket office either, which was understandable but worrying as the current form has meant that matchday takings must be very light. Let’s hope that John Fenty keeps the faith.

We hung around outside to catch a few more rays before deciding that the inevitable couldn’t be put off any longer and made our way into the sparsely populated ground. I didn’t expect to see too many away fans but was taken aback by their lack of support. I counted about 50 or so. Mind you, fair play to the ones who travelled. I hope they didn’t travel by coach as they obviously didn’t get on, spreading themselves as far apart from each other as possible, or so it seemed. We were in splendid isolation again in the Upper Findus right given there were no offers on. The Pontoon looked empty apart from the left where an attempt was made to drum up some atmosphere, although there seemed to be an air of apathy elsewhere. Perhaps that is the problem, being too p***** off to boo or moan loudly.

The game didn’t start too badly, and Josh Fuller initially caused a few problems for Hereford. Adrian Forbes was trying to make an impact but didn’t seem to have any support when he needed it. He was obviously not match fit either. The game soon degenerated into hoofing long balls over the top which even I would accept nowadays if we were any good at it. There were plenty of late offside flags and some quite frankly baffling decisions from the referee. One of my long time friends, Rob Moss, suggested that the referee keep his book out and book himself for being so substandard although he put it less diplomatically than that. Hereford certainly seemed to be getting away with over physical play. Atkinson was on the receiving end of elbows on a number of occasions and fouls against Town players were resulting in free kicks to the Bulls. Even my patience is being tested by officialdom this season which has gone against my usual philosophising that these decisions even themselves out. The boredom was relieved by my brother Tony asking for an update as he was watching Cwmbran Town play at Tredegar in the Welsh League. Following Cwmbran is a bit like watching Town. They were relegated by about September last season and have won just one game in this campaign.

As half time approached, at least we didn’t look like conceding (although I didn’t dare say it aloud) but it had been poor fare and akin to the atmosphere of a pre-season game. Where the Town defence had tried to perform a bit of self-harm, our loan keeper had looked commanding. Josh must be making our defence less jittery and it would be good to hang on to him for a bit. The apathy even robbed me of the ability of chanting about the lack of away support, from who not a sound had been heard. Our steward, who I’d last seen helping the Manchester licensees out of recession at Bury, came up to have a chinwag having reasoned that there was unlikely to be any fisticuffs from either the Upper Findus empty seats or death threats aimed at the neo-taffies in the Osmond. The only comfort I could take from the first half was about Hereford and “Thank **** they are ****” Lillis had pulled off one good save in the half but that was about it. Whilst acknowledging that Hereford were indeed ****, I think they’d been better than us.

I thought I’d let Tony know what he wasn’t missing and he was chuffed to see Cwmbran were 1 0 up. However, the curse of the Town fan struck as I spoke to him and they conceded a penalty whilst I was live on air. I was talked through the conversion a la Sky Sports and was reassured that the 12 away fans were not likely to kick off as a result of their disappointment. Not that he was complaining, £3 to get in with a 50p programme and a ten bob cuppa in a proper mug.

Have you noticed how anything or anyone connected to Grimsby seems to contaminate all they come into touch with? Gainsborough are struggling, the teams I have an interest in are struggling and is it true that one of our ex defenders is currently cursing Bury? And poor old Cwmbran Town doomed because my brother lives up the road and decided to watch them a few times.

We risked a wasted journey to the Ponny end of the Findus in the second half but as luck would have it, there wasn’t any problem in getting an unclaimed seat. At one time, we would go here to make sure we got a better view of any goalmouth activity in the second half. I now do it so I can be as far away as possible from possible away fan goal celebrations.

Whilst the second half started a bit more frantically, the game soon settled down to a slow pace. Town did put some moves together but it was obvious that there was a lack of willingness to take responsibility for finishing the moves. However, Hereford had started to look a bit more dangerous on the break after we had given the ball away cheaply in what passed for a midfield. Again, it was a good job that the away side were as poor as they were. I had to check that N*w*y hadn’t signed for them with a few wayward shots that had Humber shipping running for shelter. Actually, I exaggerate; there wasn’t much on the river this afternoon to grab my attention. I’ve spent that much time gazing at the boats in the last few years, I recognise most of the crews.

A brief “United” was heard on about 64 minutes and a two second “Hereford” after a cross that could have resulted in a goal had any of their players touched the ball as it went unchallenged through our penalty area. A chant of “We’ll score again, don’t know where, don’t know when” drew a smattering of applause from uninspired Findus Town fans. A steward came up to row H, possibly to eyeball anyone who looked as though they might enjoy themselves (fat chance) and we wondered where our next win might come from. Or goal for that matter.

However, the tempo was raised just a bit with Danny North having a few chances and then the breakthrough came with just a few minutes left. We also had that bit of luck that has so often been missing. Another long ball (yawn) saw Danny North break and all seemed lost when the goalkeeper saved his shot. North’s second attempt went in and cue delirious scenes which the fans thoroughly deserved having got behind the team in the latter stages despite what had been on offer. Plenty around us thought there was a hint of offside but who gives a ****! At least we got one decision if that was the case. As had been pointed out earlier when Hereford had been given a free kick outside our penalty area for a foul on our player, what would have been given for the same challenge in the area? One thing is for sure with the standard of refereeing and that is we need to get out of the habit of conceding cheap corners of which there were a few today.

Sweeney should have wrapped it up a few minutes later but his shot was saved. However, for once, the last three minutes of injury time didn’t produce any panic and more importantly, no last minute equaliser. I must admit to having been surprised at three points but delighted as Martin O’ Neill says. It took until mid December to get win number two last season so it is an improvement of sorts and hey, we are only six points off the play-offs now.

It was a happier GTST Board that convened in the Blundell Park Hotel for a post match meeting, (our AGM having taken place after the Crewe disaster) and a productive meeting augurs well for the future. Unfortunately, our short cut across Sidney Park towards the car afterwards was hampered by the gates being closed behind us. It was therefore a less than edifying spectacle as three of us had to scale said gates in a less than athletic fashion. Being gentlemen, we let Emma go first whilst offering her moral support and to see how hard it was going to be. Her other half Ed came within an inch of becoming Edwina as one spike made its presence felt. Just to rub salt in the wounds, a group of semi inebriated youngsters broke into the park within a few seconds and with consummate ease just to remind me how decrepit I’ve become over the years.

I suppose that’s one thing I’ve got in common with my team.

Onwards and upwards.

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