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Observing the Monkhouse

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 15/11/2015

"GOLF or football" was the choice. "Golf" announced my wife without hesitation. "Why’s that?" "Less frustration". That was after the Cheltenham loss when our boys were beaten by their men, and so I missed the destruction of St Albans City. I decided that it would be different this week. Rain or shine, I would go to the Welling game.

Well, rain it was. A bleak day with persistent rain. But Blundell Park looked in good condition, and 4100 spectators including 35 hardy souls from South East London turned out.

Town’s line-up today was: McKeown – Tait, Nsiala, Gowling, Townsend – Arnold, Disley, Clay, Monkhouse – Jones, Amond. Unusually Town attacked the Osmond end for the first period.

Town started positively. "Oh no, no-one there again", moaned the gentleman behind me as a Town player crossed to no-one. The game was two minutes old. Five minutes had gone and Welling set up an attack. The left back moved swiftly and sent in a cross where the minuscule Corne slipped in between the helpless Town defence and guided a header past McKeown into the right corner. Town 0, Welling 1. Oh well, 85 minutes to save the game. No panic. And there wasn’t as Town carried on where they left off. Three minutes later Town’s pressure paid off when Amond’s mishit shot inside the box ricocheted off a defender. Great anticipation by Arnold saw him clear with the goalkeeper going the wrong way and from chest height he controlled his volley to level the scores. Town 1, Welling 1.

On 11 minutes, Town won a free kick 25 yards out on the left side. Townsend’s left footed shot curled round the defence, which was expecting a cross, and amazingly landed in the far right hand corner. Town 2, Welling 1. With the crowd expecting an avalanche of goals, it didn’t happen but Town dominated the rest of the half. Jones looked lively up front but seemed too eager and the Welling defence kept pushing him outside. Arnold tried to curl in a fierce shot from 25 yards but the defender positioned himself well and the shot went wide of the post. After their initial success, Welling struggled to make any impact with Town winning all the loose balls. McKeown, brightening up this gloomy day with his luminous pink kit, was untroubled.

It could not predict what was going to happen in the second half. Would Town sit back and look for a late goal? Would Welling be more positive? In fact both sides took a positive view and rather than risk conceding an equaliser, Town pressed on and passed the ball around brightly. A common tactic was to find the tall, wiry and bearded number 11 – Welling’s Wellard. My attention was distracted. Town’s Monkhouse has a Doppelgänger. Are the Monkhouses breeding? The Monkhouse (GTFC model) has intrigued me for some time. I’m no David Attenborough but his behavioural pattern is a sight to behold. He / it does not over exert himself / itself, but lollops around languidly in gangly fashion, head bowed always but in the right place and ready to head backwards, sideways, anyway to the nearest Town player.

Never has so much been done by someone who seems to do so little. But The Monkhouse is a very wise animal. Town were playing well as a whole, and Disley and Clay were stamping their authority in midfield but the biggest danger looked like coming from The Monkhouse’s cultured head and feet and the impressive Townsend on the left. Welling’s defence however was well organised and were snuffing out the quick but inexperienced Jones and Amond, who was not getting a look in. Welling themselves were patient and passed the ball well but were incapable of getting a shot on target. The Monkhouse was lucky not to get booked or worse for a studs-up tackle, but this referee was one to let the game flow as far as possible. "This game’s boring", proclaimed the gentleman behind. I’d describe it as tactical. Welling did not want to see the game slip away and were reliant on breaks, while Town were not sitting back but patiently progressing up the field.

The quality of football was good, especially with the slippery surface. The rain was now lashing down. While the football was fluid, a number of battles were developing on the pitch, notably between Gowling and Bakere, and Nsiala and Clay … hang on, that’s two Town players. As Clay tried to stop the volatile Nsiala arguing after a tackle, Nsiala pushed him away angrily. Fortunately this spat had no consequences, and Town continued to be effective without any end product thanks to the resolute Welling defence. Mackreth came on for Arnold, who went off to well-deserved applause. Mackreth provided some zip down the right wing and soon sent in a low cross which eluded everyone. Nervous times followed as the game neared its close and there was always the danger of Welling snatching an equaliser but Town kept them out and held onto possession. On 92 minutes, Town broke up a Welling attack and broke out. The Monkhouse gangled up the left and headed towards the corner, drawing the defenders away, before supplying a sublime chip to Marshall, now on for Jones, who raced up the middle. The Welling goalkeeper palmed away Marshall’s shot but in the ensuing scramble Amond got there first and found Mackreth who sealed the game by stroking the ball home. Final score: Grimsby Town 3, Welling 1.

This was an entertaining game and a comfortable victory for Town, whose commendable team effort was matched by some fine individual performances. Townsend won the official Man of the Match award. Mine was Gowling whose anticipation, backing up, overall defensive work, distribution and authority were outstanding. And then there was The Monkhouse. As I walked back in the misty gloom and heavy rain back to Cleethorpes rain, I reflected that watching The Monkhouse in his natural habitat is the sort of thing that tv documentaries are made of.

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