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|Pittman: Pen Miss|
Town Suffer Wembley Heartache
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY suffered the agony of another Wembley penalty shootout defeat and it means a sixth successive year in the Conference for the club and its supporters. Town were marginally the better team in a close fought game, but didn't create enough chances to make the most of their possession.
After a frenetic first half strewn with errors and controversy, the game settled down in the second period but chances were at a premium as the two sides tired. Bristol Rovers in particular suffered from cramp and fatigue as the game went into extra time, but Town were unable to capitalise on their opponents weaknesses and Grimsby only really threatened their goal in the last few minutes of extra time.
The game had started in dreamland for Grimsby who took a first minute lead thanks to Lenell John-Lewis's twentieth goal of the season. The Town striker took advantage of a mistake by Rovers to bundle the ball in the net and silence the 20,000+ support at that end of the ground.
Controversy followed when Will Puddy handled the ball outside of his box. The referee awarded the free kick but failed to send the Rovers 'keeper off, and Grimsby failed to capitalise from the free kick.
Rovers soon equalised to rub salt in the wound. Nsiala hooked a ball over his own bar to give Rovers a corner. Town had a chance to clear the ball, but Palmer inexplicably tried to backheel the ball out of the penalty area, missed, and presented it to Harrison who smashed it into the net to make the score 1-1.
A terrible mix-up by Robertson when he should have cleared the ball into "Row Z" but instead tried to take it round a Bristol Rovers attacker, but was dispossessed. Robertson managed to get back and challenge the player in what could well have been given as a penalty, but the referee favoured Town with his decision.
Another mishap happened when Pearson gifted the ball to Taylor who just had Pearson to beat. The striker was challenged by McKeown and exaggerated what little contact there was to try and win a penalty and get the Town 'keeper sent off. It proved to be a poor decision as the ref booked him for diving, and had he not gone down it would have been a simple tap-in. Town were fortunate to still be level after two horrendous errors that Rovers failed to capitalise on, and the referee favoured the Mariners in two crucial decisions which could easily have gone the other way.
In the second half the game settled into a less frenzied affair with both teams frightened of making a critical error. Grimsby passed the ball around better than their opponents but never really threatened in the final third where everyone was strangely reluctant to shoot. Rovers were most dangerous at set pieces and their long throws kept putting Town under pressure from both sides of the pitch. Hurst brought on Pittman for Palmer in an attempt to try and break the deadlock but it made little difference.
Rovers players began to tire in the latter stages of the second half and Town finally carved out an opening late in the extra half hour. Substitute Clay, one of the few players with any energy left, made a run into the box and picked out the other sub Pittman. The Town striker though tried to pick out John-Lewis in a crowded six yard box rather than shoot himself and the chance was gone.
The match went to penalties at the Grimsby end. Rovers scored all of theirs and Town missed their third when Pittman blasted over the bar to sent Rovers into League Two by a 5-3 scoreline.
It was harsh on Town who have probably been as good in the last few weeks for a sustained period as at any time since they have been in the Conference. The board should do all they can to keep the nucleus of the playing and management team together for next season. The Wembley and play-off money should at least help towards assembling as good a squad to mount a challenge next year as we ended this season's with.
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