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By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY threw away a half time lead at Mansfield yesterday, conceding two set piece goals in the second half to send over 600 away fans back disappointed. It had all looked so promising for the Mariners after a great first half displayed crowned by Coulson's long range strike,
However after the break Mansfield upped the tempo of the game and Town spent long periods of the game defending. With a fussy referee giving set pieces away like a metronome and Town's poor record defending free kicks and corners there was a sense of inevitability about the Stags goals. The first came from a free kick, admittedly from a stunning strike by Mansfield's O'Neil (although there were questions about McKeown's positioning). But the winner from a corner was thoroughly Town-esque, as poor marking gave Connor a free header to put the home side in front.
Town had time to pull the game level, which might have been a fair result, but never looked particularly likely to score with Mansfield pressing for a third, and in fact only poor finishing stopped the home side going 3-1 up.
Town made two changes for the trip to Mansfield, neither of them forced. Makofo was surprisingly dropped on the left wing for Eagle, while Garner was preferred in central defence to Pearson.
With all the recent rain conditions were very slippery and it was also dark - the floodlights were needed very early in the match.
Town started very strongly (Duffy could have scored in the opening minute had he been quicker to react to a good cross by Eagle) and looked like the home side for most of the first half, passing the ball around well, and often looking dangerous when they attacked. Mansfield did threaten on occasion, but Town's dominance restricted the Stags mainly to attacks on the break.
The Mariners, backed by a vociferous away support, deservedly took the lead on 32 minutes with a solo goal by Coulson. The Town winger found himself in a bit of space and launched a dipping swirling shot that bamboozled the 'keeper. Marriott managed to make some contact with the ball but couldn't stop it from going in the net.
Mansfield were almost level shortly when the ball broke from a corner to Meikle, who lashed the shot just wide of the post. Shortly afterwards Disley hacked down a Mansfield player and was booked, then Mansfield won a free kick on the edge of the box. O'Neil's shot came crashing off the crossbar but the follow up shot was collected by McKeown.
Town fans thought they had gone 2-0 up but a Duffy "goal" was disallowed for a foul (it was) on the 'keeper in the build up.
The game totally changed in the second half because Mansfield suddenly became the dominant side and Grimsby had to adopt a more defensive role. Town generally defended well, Bradley Wood and Kempson both making telling challenges in the box. However with the referee pulling up any infringement and also booking players from both sides for the slightest excuse (Eagle was booked for taking a free kick too quickly when we were generally time wasting whenever we could!), it was likely that the game would hinge on either a set piece or a sending off.
Town's talisman Duffy was replaced on 72 minutes, which proved to be the turning point of the game. The former Stag, who before he left fell out with a section of the Mansfield crowd, was public enemy No 1 with the home supporters, and he was jeered off as he limped out of the game.
The first Mansfield goal came from a stunning free kick about 25 yards out. O'Neil blasted it past the wall and McKeown. Mansfield went close from another kick shortly afterwards, McKeown unconvincingly fumbling it over the bar for a corner when it looked catchable. From that corner (I think) Mansfield went ahead. Nobody had picked up the substitute Connor on the far post who had a simple free header.
Mansfield were closer to extending their lead in the remaining minutes of formal time than Town were to equalising. The ref very generously gave 5 mins of injury time (sponsored by Tesco), but they fizzled out and the opportunity was wasted.
Generally Town played well, apart from set pieces (both taking them and defending them). They dominated the first half. It's inevitable that at some point the home side will have a dominant period. Town had weathered the storm with some dogged defending. Having conceded one though (from a stunning free kick, it happens) there only looked one winner - Grimsby simply capitulated. That was probably the most disappointing thing.
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