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|Not much to cheer|
The Future May Be Forest Green
By: Andrew Doherty
AS WE stumble unconvincingly towards the play-offs, we've been lucky that our rivals have not been excelling either. But Forest Green have the points in the bag, leaving Town, Dover, Braintree and Tranmere to fight for the remaining three places.
I've seen today's opponents Chester several times over the years, but mainly in the 1970s and 1980s, and all I can remember is dour tussles. Like all Town supporters, I'd take the dourest of tussles today if it meant three points. The midweek win at Woking has opened up the opportunity, which was starting to look as if it could slip down the drain.
As the players warmed up, I was reminded of a sign I'd seen outside the gents in Freshney Place earlier: ?Toilet Attendant today is female?. I'm not sure what exactly I was supposed to do with this information, but it occurred to me that Blundell Park could do with an interchangeable sign. It might read: ?The people in black and white stripes ? are grinding out a result, messing about, causing endless frustration or perhaps least likely, playing football. Now on this bright and breezy day in Cleethorpes was the time to find out.
Town's line up today was: McKeown ? Tait, Nsiala, Pearson, Horwood ? East, Disley, Nolan, Monkhouse ? Bogle, Amond.
After 2 minutes, Tait put in a long diagonal cross to Monkhouse whose downward header brought out a good save from the Chester keeper. As the teams settled into the game with neither looking sharp, Chester took the ball upfield after 9 minutes, and after McKeown saved well from former Town loanee Alabi, Richards struck a low shot on target which Pearson cleared off the line. Nsiala suffered an injury shortly afterwards and after treatment struggled on in the absence of an obvious replacement on the bench. Another cross-field pass from Tait fell to Monkhouse who controlled the ball and set up Amond but the Town striker ballooned the ball over from 15 yards out.
Overall, it was a quiet game with nothing to animate the crowd. Town's tactic involved long diagonal passes, which seemed to be this week's training ground routine. Monkhouse was controlling them well, but as a tactic it was one dimensional, Town had no authority through the middle and there was no end product. After another cross field ball, Horwood crossed to Amond whose header from close range went wide. The impressive Monkhouse found Amond in the middle with Disley advancing on 23 minutes but Amond was offside. Monkhouse apart, Town played like a bunch of disparate individuals. On the other hand, Chester used their occasional opportunities to break up field as a unit. Richards's flick-on after 28 minutes almost caused problems.
From Town's point of view, no-one seemed to be in charge through the middle and nothing was happening. A Bogle solo run on 30 minutes extracted a good save. Town's play had no purpose and consisted largely of misplaced passes. My fellow sufferer Andy Humbo and I turned our conversation to how we were going to get to the FA Trophy and half time drinks. Such was the lack of entertainment. The one man Monkhouse show continued as the bearded one won the ball in midfield and passed to Horwood on the left but Bogle's shot from Horwood's pass was mishit. Chester weren't creating much but on 40 minutes McKeown had to repel Alabi and prevented a corner. East had a good chance on 43 minutes after Bogle battled to win the ball. East cut inside to shake off the defender but his shot was blocked. Monkhouse had a chance on the 45 minute mark but couldn't get over the ball sufficiently to keep his volley down after a Horwood cross. So it was 0 ? 0 at half-time.
The first half was poor. There were slivers of hope and a couple of missed chances, but there was no continuity in Town's play and very little imagination or quality.
The second half began with another wasted opportunity at the Chester end, but on 47 minutes the visitors broke out as a group. Passing the ball swiftly and accurately, the ball fell to Rooney who cut inside from the edge of the box and curled a shot into the corner past McKeown, to the delight of the 210 boisterous away fans close by at the Osmond end. Town 0, Chester 1.
The sky had gone grey and the rain came down torrentially. Tait and then East won a corner for Town, but there was no still no authority in midfield and no urgency about the play. On 59 minutes, Richards appeared to handle the ball but play continued and Nsiala was penalised for a foul on Richards near the corner. The high free kick curled in and met the giant Astles whose header fired into the net. Town 0, Chester 2.
Town had a chance to come back immediately as Nolan was fouled on the edge of the box, but Horwood's curled effort was nowhere near the goal. Chester played football while Town stumbled around without any apparent plan or purpose. A Tait cross on 66 minutes found Bogle who was foiled from 2 yards out. McKeown was then forced to make a save at the other end. In an ironic twist, a Town ex-favourite Ross Hannah came on substitute for Chester and received more applause than any Town player had managed to attract. Town lacked spirit. ?You're two goals behind?, cried out a spectator by way of reminder as Town passed the ball round languidly. ?Utter drivel? would cover it. On 70 minutes Jennings and Pittman came on for Bogle and Town's best player Monkhouse. Clay for East might have been a better option to provide more dominance in midfield, and better distribution. Now Town's tactic seemed to be to send in endless crosses for Chester's defenders to clear with ease.
The situation got worse on 73 minutes when Nsiala, who had been visibly and bravely struggling since the first half, made a tackle and could not get up. He had to be replaced, and Robertson came on. Poor pass followed poor pass. Andy Humbo looked at his phone to check the scores, commenting ?I'm not missing anything?. Some of the 4,575 crowd decided to leave 10 minutes early. Town looked as if they had given up, never having started. Then out of the blue after a cross from the left there was a goalmouth scramble and Disley bundled the ball in. Town 1, Chester 2. But instead of rising to the occasion, Town carried on as ineptly as before. ?Join a rugby team?, shouted a crowd member as Tait sent a lofted kick straight to Chester's goalkeeper. On 85 minutes, Town lost possession in midfield, and McKeown was forced to run to the side line to clear. The ball landed with Hannah who took aim as McKeown was dashing back to his goal. Luckily the long range attempt was deflected for a corner. Amond tried to put Disley through on 86 minutes but there was no control. Pittman won a corner shortly afterwards but Pearson's was put off his header which went wide. Bogle provided a rare moment of hope on 89 minutes by winning the ball and setting up Amond who controlled the ball, settled himself close the goal, and with just the keeper to beat, spooned his shot over the bar. Amond held his head in his hands. Those that were left of the Town fans despaired once more. Four minutes were added to normal time, but the day was summed up when Jennings managed to cross straight to the Chester keeper. The final score was: Grimsby Town 1, Chester 2.
Nothing worked. Town's passing and touches were poor, possession was lost before moves could get going and the tactics were limited. After a first half where long cross-field balls resulted in nothing, the second just seemed to involve a series of crosses, which Chester's defence lapped up. Frankly, it was utter garbage. As my mate Andy commented, it was like watching 11 strangers. Now and again, they looked as if they cared but most of the time they didn't, and Chester deserved to win. I don't think we need to worry about who we're going to get in the play-offs because we're not going to beat any of them playing like this. Andy had said to me before the game that if Eastleigh don't win, we'd be in the play-offs. This seemed to be the mind set of the Town players, who with the exception of Monkhouse didn't see to know what they were there for today. The slimmest of motions that they were going through were abysmal. ?These gardens are for your enjoyment?, states a sign at the front of Dolphin Gardens in Cleethorpes. Well, I hope no-one puts up a similar sign at Blundell Park because there was no enjoyment here today. My wife, with great foresight, decided not to come to the match because it would be endless frustration and a waste of money. Yes.
The most exciting part of the afternoon was the bus journey back to town, where everyone was engaging in complicated calculations, working out if we are in the play-offs (we are) and which team we might be playing (TBA, but it doesn't matter on this showing). All we can say after today is that the future is grim, but at least it might involve the orange of Braintree or it may be Forest Green.
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