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Better Days
Better Days

Frustration in the Findus

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 17/03/2012 (Last updated: 19/03/2012)

TODAY Celine and I sat in the Findus Upper. It’s only the second time this season. We normally go in the Pontoon. I like both. The Pontoon is loud, passionate, aggressive and dripping with humour. The fans are more resigned and more prepared to meet disappointment than the Findus. Heart attacks and frustration combine, but it’s a laugh.

It’s complex. There’s more expectation in the Findus. As horror unfolds on the field, reality dawns and the chattering begins. But the Findus faithful are ready, consoling themselves with their tea from flasks and home made cake at half time. Preparation is the only way. The views of the languid river beyond, oh and of the pitch are majestic. The Findus is like a throne and we are kings surveying the scene beneath us.

Tamworth visit Cleethorpes today. I know Tamworth. It is a grey Midlands town with no character, finding itself in the distant hinterland of Birmingham but without its charisma. I can only remember this Staffordshire town as being terminally boring. It is where Robin Reliants were built. It is also known for the "Tamworth Triangle", so called after people in the early 1990s kept mysteriously falling out of railway carriages. I was attacked there once.

On the footballing front, we have never managed to beat Tamworth. The signs are not good as we have recently contrived to undo our earlier good work after having the play-offs within our grasp. So we must win and others must lose. It was ever thus.

Town’s line-up was: McKeown - Silk, Pearson, Miller, Townsend - Coulson, Disley, Wood, Winn - Elding, Hearn. Tamworth, in red and white and known as The Lambs, attacked the Pontoon to start. Lambs to the slaughter? Let’s see.

First half. The message issued to Town’s players was "patience" and patient they were in the build-up. Soon after the start Coulson found Hearn whose low shot from the edge of the box was gathered by the keeper underneath the post. Elding then had a free header but put it wide into the Osmond stand. All the early work was up Town’s right flank through Coulson. Neither side seemed in a hurry. The languid football suited the watery sunshine. New boy Winn finally got a chance to show what he could do on 11 minutes, and he did it well, linking with Townsend on the left to get a cross over. Hearn and Elding waited as the Tamworth defence took the opportunity to seize possession and boot the ball clear. Coulson was then tackled as he ran towards the box. The signs were promising. Winn again showed skill, looking up and placed the ball from the left to Hearn who hesitated and was closed down by an alert defence. Coulson put in a great cross on 15 minutes which a despairing defender managed to head out of play. Town were passing well and the play was inventive. Town showed plenty of determination, resulting in the lion’s share of possession thanks to blocks by Elding and the midfield.

Town were not letting Tamworth into the game and the opposition was showing no threat. The odd pass was being misplaced however and Wood in midfield was worryingly off the pace but Town were admirably patient and looked to unlock Tamworth’s defence. On 26 minutes, the impressive Winn broke up the middle. His pass picked out Elding who spooned the ball into the Osmond stand. Another mistake by Wood on 27 minutes gave Tamworth an opening but the resultant shot was fired over from 30 yards out. Elding then put in a great cross ball to Coulson the right. The cross was blasted behind Town’s advancing strikers and frankly defied explanation. Soon after a Hearn volley forced a great save and won a corner. More good work from the orange-booted Winn on the left led to more exploratory work and finally Hearn blasted a low shot through the legs of the defenders. The goalkeeper was well positioned and gathered the shot easily. Tamworth had their first real chance on 32 minutes but Patterson took his eye off the ball bobbling on the penalty spot and messed up his shot. Tamworth’s attacks were like slow motion, but for all Town’s endeavours, no progress was being made. "You're giving them confidence, Town" shouted one of the Findii behind me. He was right. Town’s initial threat was diminishing. We were starting to look more anxious and passes were not finding team mates or giving them no chance. On 41 minutes, a great cross from Pearson of all people gave Elding a volley, which was blocked and resulted in a corner. The ball bobbled around, Coulson was teed up and hit it straight into the stand. Good work this time from Coulson on the right resulted in a spectacular and well directed overhead kick by Disley, but the keeper was alert and got his fingers to it. The ball came out from the corner to Wood, whose shot flew off the back of the defender. The half-time whistle blew. Grimsby Town 0, Tamworth 0. The flasks and tupperware came out in the Findus. Picnic time.

Half time verdict. For all their superiority, Town had nothing to show for it. Town were playing ok, but the final ball was invariably poor, either going to empty spaces or to marked players. Everything was by instinct. The only player to buck this trend was Winn, who was weighing up his options before playing intelligent passes. Coulson was either good or awful. Nothing was happening up the middle. Most worryingly, Town’s patience seemed to be wearing off and desperation was creeping in as the half progressed. This was not good.

Second half. A pattern was emerging. Town pressed and passed and headed the ball down, but there was no basic control in the all-important "final third". Elding produced a moment of hope on 50 minutes when nodding down to Hearn who was beaten by the defender. Town’s tactic now seemed to be to swing in crosses to the 6 foot defenders who had no problem in clearing them. On 53 minutes, Wood tried a direct run and was tripped 25 yards out. Winn received the ball from the free-kick and he found Pearson who could only manage a limp header from 6 yards out. Tamworth won a corner. It was clear from their build-up that they had no pace. Town’s best opportunity seemed to come from a break, but Disley could gain control and when Town did break out, the lumbering Tamworth hordes had managed to find their way back. Town’s passing was starting to pick up again and Wood was now showing welcome aggression and purpose in midfield, but this was a stuttering performance. Whereas Wood and Coulson were fighting for every ball, the general self-belief wasn't there. Silk seemed to have forgotten how to pass the ball. Disley dithered and waited instead of going for the ball. Townsend’s touch was poor and he didn't seem to believe he could win the ball.

From promising beginnings, Town’s performance was patchy. Our sole method was to hoof balls into the box. On 57 minutes, Duffy replaced Elding. On 63 minutes, Winn put in a now familiar cross to Coulson who needed a rubber neck to get it near the goal. He didn't have one so it didn't go near. Tamworth had a rare attack soon afterwards. It was easy to envisage them scoring at this rate. On 67 minutes, Soares came on for Winn who had played well but tired off in the second half. Soares’s response was to put in an identikit cross from the left for the defender to head clear. Coulson got round a defender on 68 and was flattened. The defender was booked. The free-kick came to Duffy whose shot was blocked. The ball rebounded to Wood who hit it out of the ground. Town’s performance was increasingly lacking in imagination. The defenders had plenty of height but no mobility so sending in high crosses made no sense and smacked of panic. Hughes-Mason replaced Coulson on 72 minutes. Duffy headed down on 76 minutes to Hearn who was surrounded. Hearn managed to get the ball clear to Soares whose low shot agonisingly hit the inside of the post with the goalkeeper well beaten. Hearn chested down for Soares whose shot won a thrown in near the corner. Moments later, Town won a corner. Soares’s delivery was terrible.

A determined Hearn run on 82 minutes won another corner. The mouthpiece of the Findii issued sound advice to Mr Soares: "Get it past the first defender". He did, but having done it first time, he couldn't do it a second. Hughes-Mason bucked the increasingly formulaic trend and using his initiative slotted the ball through to Pearson on the 6 yard line but Town’s defender couldn't control it. This was better. After more battling from Hearn down the right, Silk was set up to put in a good cross for Duffy whose header caused the goalkeeper problems in preventing it going over the line. Wood caused havoc in the defence who gave away a corner. Soares this time rose to the occasion by putting it straight out of play for a goal kick. 4 minutes of added time was announced. Soares went in bravely for a one-on-one ball about 30 yards out and got a foot on it, injuring himself in the process. Hearn received the ball on the left, wriggled his way past the defenders and around the goalkeeper before slotting the ball neatly into the net. Goal! But no. The referee called play back to restart play from the place where Soares was fouled. Free-kick to Town. Out of the confusion it emerged that Hearn was offside. From the free-kick, Duffy headed over. Town pressed but time was short and the wind had been taken out of our sails. The game ended. Grimsby Town 0, Tamworth 0. The 55 Tamworth supporters were happy. The Findii went home for their tea.

Verdict. Let’s look at this. We may have dominated the game but there were a number of clear reasons why we didn't break Tamworth down. Our tactics were unimaginative. Our initial patience ebbed away and we made too many mistakes. After the first period, there was no sustained pressure. Tamworth were slow and immobile but instead of continuing to trying to penetrate a pedestrian defence, we decided to waste most of our opportunities putting in poor crosses to a packed defence with 6 foot defenders who were very happy to head the ball clear. Glimpses of imagination and flair from Winn, Coulson and latterly Hughes-Mason were never going to be enough. What was astounding was the apparent lack of self belief amongst Town’s players. Why? We were 7th in the table. They were 15th. Tamworth were not good but they did the job. We helped them by not testing them. It looks very much like we won't make the play-offs but on this display and with this lack of tactical nous we're not good enough anyway.

Before we entered the ground today, I noticed a sign on the door of the euphemistically named Private Stops UK. It said: "Persons passing beyond this notice will find material on display which they may consider indecent". I'd suggest that Town may wish to adopt this sign and post it on the entrance to Blundell Park, replacing "indecent" with "frustrating".

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