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A Giant Leap for Grimkind
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY picked up a valuable three points with a deserved win over Chester at Blundell Park. Town took an early lead through Tounkara, then Scott Neilson missed a penalty not long after. Grimsby then missed several chances to wrap the game up and it looked like the match might end up being another nervy 1-0.
The Mariners though gave themselves a two goal cushion when Scott Neilson set up substitute Andy Cook for a tap-in, and the crowd could relax - or so they thought. Midway through the four minutes of injury time James Caton scored a freak goal with an attempted cross that bounced off the underside of the bar, and the nerves returned for the final two minutes.
The speculation about manager Paul Hurst coming back from retirement at left back proved just that as Hurst did not feature in the matchday squad. Paddy McLaughlin it was who moved back to fill in at left back, and Tounkara and Jennings this week were the preferred starting strikers. John-Lewis did not even make the bench.
After a fairly quiet start Town took an early lead through a passage of play that began with a trademark Scott Neilson run and shot. The shot was saved but it ended up being crossed back in by Alex Rodman, who picked out Tounkara, who'd created a bit of space for himself on the edge of the box. Tounkara slotted the ball past Chapman to give Grimsby another early lead.
Almost immediately Chester went up the pitch and Craig Hobson was given offside after he had put the ball in the back of the net. The big screen replay at half time was inconclusive but appeared to show him marginally ahead of the defender, although it was very close.
On the half hour mark the two goal cushion seemed to have been gifted Town when Chester gave Grimsby a daft penalty to concede. Tounkara was picked out by Hatton, but he was heading away from goal and of no immediate danger to Chester when Jarrett hacked him down. After the midweek controversy over penalty takers there was no reaction when Scott Neilson stepped up to take it, nor much criticism when he hit it low to the 'keeper's right and Chapman made a comfortable save.
Grimsby had one or two half chances leading up to half time but Chester never really troubled Town and the match ended up with a familiar half time scoreline of 1-0 to Grimsby.
Chester made a change at half time and they made another two changes early in the second half. The result of these changes together with the inability of Town to kill the game off, meant Chester gradually became more involved as the match progressed.
Tounkara created a chance for himself, but his final shot was feeble. His strike partner Jennings then did likewise when Neilson set him up in front of goal, but poor finishing let the on-loan frontman down. Tounkara was replaced by Andy Cook in time for a free kick which had been won by Tounkara, and Cook's first touch was to head the ball down at the feet of Jennings who again fluffed the opportunity in front of goal.
McKeown had to make a good save to deny Chester, who began to look increasingly dangerous. With 10 minutes to go Paul Hurst brought on Thanoj in place of Jennings, so it looked like Town intended to protect their 1-0 lead for the remainder of the game.
But within 5 minutes a piece of brilliance by Neilson led to Town's second. Neilson got the ball near the corner flag, took on and beat a defender, just keeping the ball in play, then ran virtually to the goal and picked out Andy Cook at the far post for a simple tap-in.
The crowd could relax and people started making their way home on the 90 minute mark. Suddenly though Chester scored out the blue when James Caton fired a cross in the general direction of James McKeown. It looped over the diving Town 'keeper, and bounced in off the crossbar.
Suddenly with the 1 goal margin restored, the nervousness resumed, but Town were able to win a throw-in and a corner and that killed off most of the remaining two minutes of play.
It was a valuable win and a precious three points. Grimsby had three or four chances to get a second goal, and took one of them. McKeown was not hugely threatened by Chester for much of the game and the goal they did manage was a freak - fortunately had Town not got the second goal it might have mattered more.
Grimsby can't afford to be so profligate in front of goal when Halifax visit on Tuesday as the Shaymen are the only side to beat Grimsby by more than one goal this season, and they are also a fellow promotion candidate. Three of Grimsby's remaining four games are promotion six pointers, the others being Alfreton away on Good Friday and Braintree away on the final game of the season.
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