Question of the WeekWho will finish bottom?
|Who are they all?|
By: Andrew Doherty
ZERO points, zero games, optimism high. It's the first game of the season. Friendlies have no meaning. What happens in the first game is always ok. There are plenty of games to follow. We're allowed a blip at the start. It will take time for the team to gel.
It's been a while since I have been to the first game. I do remember us beating Newport 3 ? 0. That was in 1968. As the nation hangs on something that happened in 1966, I shall reserve the right to hang on to something that happened two years later. We finished the season in twenty third place. No-one knows what to expect now as we're a newly promoted team, and mid-table might sound ok. But how do you aim for mid-table? Mr Hurst seems to have done well in attracting players who sound like they fit the bill. Time will tell. The unknown players are immune to criticism at this stage as we don't know their weaknesses. We don't know if they can't pass, tackle or head a ball, or whether they're too slow or always out of position. Will we have another Tom Newey on our hands: Deadly from fifty yards but five yard passes proved a problem, and a specialist at mistimed tackles. Or a Gary Liddle: as a friend once described it, he'd be great if he could stand up. We will soon find out the qualities of our newcomers.
Nor do we know much about Morecambe. A town on the bay with fishing connections, but there the connection ends. On the footballing side, they seem to have been struggling in League 2. This is a team we never hear about. They don't have the history that we do. But history isn't important, and I'm sure their supporters have the same expectations as we do.
Our mix of newcomers and old friends on this fine summer's day was:
McKeown ? Davies, Boyce, Gowling, Andrew ? Berrett, Summerfield, McAllister, Bolarinwa ? Jackson, Vernon.
My wife had earlier commented that everyone around Town in their black and white shirts looked relaxed and happy. I reminded her that we hadn't played yet. Now was crunch time. The 6004 spectators were ready and excited. The first five minutes of the game was spent jockeying for position. On 5 minutes Morecambe failed to clear. Berrett was alert and pounced. Morecambe were looking for a decision in their favour, but Berrett carried on and threaded the ball through to Jackson, who cut wide and calmly fired the ball low into the right hand corner of the net. Town 1, Morecambe 0 ? a dream start.
It was almost 2 ? 0 two minutes later. Bolarinwa set off at lightening pace and supplied Vernon, whose low shot was cleared off the line. Stout Town defending kept out Morecambe's Dunn a minute later. Town were playing in confident and enterprising fashion. Long balls were de rigueur, and weren't always coming off. The play was purposeful. Bolarinwa, who hadn't impressed me in pre-season, looked particularly sharp and tricky. Jackson nearly scored a wonder goal on 14 minutes after showing strength and shaking off a defender, but his left footed shot curled just wide. Morecambe's retort was a 25 yard pot shot volley over the bar from Wildig. The game was open, and the impressive Jackson struggled to control a half chance on 17 minutes after a pinpoint free-kick from Andrew was headed down. More Bolarinwa trickery led to a foul. Summerfield tried to slip by the defence from the resultant free-kick but the Morecambe defender got his foot in the way and conceded a corner. As well as Bolarinwa, McAllister and Berrett were showing good touches. Town were applying pressure but the long balls weren't coming off. On 29 minutes, Berrett started a great move by running up the middle and laying the ball off to Jackson but Berrett couldn't control the return pass and spooned his shot over from 6 yards.
A catastrophic mix-up on 38 minutes involving McAllister and a short back pass almost undid Town's good work. Barkhuizen was clean through but McKeown spread himself and saved the day with his foot. The game was scrappy with balls flying high and long but of the two sides Town were showing the greater skill and flair. On 42 minutes Bolarinwa was booked for stretching out and catching Wildig. McKeown took the cross from the resultant free-kick cleanly. Morecambe were becoming wise to Jackson's pace and closed him down with two defenders in attention. The half finished at 1 ? 0 in Town's favour. After an explosive start, the performance wasn't perfect and at times the distribution was off key, but Town showed great promise and purpose and deserved to be in the lead after an open first half.
Town were quickly in action as the second half started and won a corner on 46 minutes. Davies's corner was short and cleared. Summerfield was influential in midfield and supplied Berrett but the shot was weak. Berrett got his feet caught up moments later after Jackson went clear and sought support. A swinging free-kick from Davies was headed clear, then a big clearance from McKeown found Jackson who set up Bolarinwa, but the spectacular looking curled shot was well wide of the target. Morecambe attacked sporadically and on 54 minutes Boyce saved Town with a last ditch interception. Town continued to have most of the play, and Jackson once again got a shot in after wriggling through the defence. Summerfield's follow-up from the rebound was just wide. After another long clearance from McKeown, Vernon teed up Summerfield whose dipping volley from 25 yards fell tantalisingly over the crossbar. Gowling, who with Boyce had been dealing effectively and efficiently with the rare Morecambe attacks, stood firm and headed clear on 58 minutes. Davies then put in a dangerous cross seconds later, earning Town a corner. Davies put in a cross but Boyce got underneath it as he twisted his neck to glide a header in the direction of the goal. Town fought and pressed, then Davies started a move by keeping the ball in play in the Town half on 60 minutes and sending Andrews on a run. Andrew was tripped 25 yards out. Free-kick to Town. Davies, Summerfield and Andrew, who had all shown good ball skills, stood and waited. Davies took the kick and clean as a whistle, struck his shot past the wall and into the net, giving Morecambe's goalkeeper no chance. Town 2, Morecambe 0. The crowd went wild. Town were the better team and deserved the lead.
As after the first goal, Town went on the offensive immediately and following another corner, a Jackson header found the goalkeeper out of position. The defender cleared the ball off the line. Morecambe were offering nothing but on 70 minutes Ellison set up an attack and found himself clear with Gowling in pursuit. The referee decided that Gowling pulled Ellison down. Gowling was sent off. Town already had Bogle lined up to replace Bolarinwa, but now Pearson was brought as well in place of Vernon to bolster the defence and replaced the dejected Gowling, who trudged off to sympathetic and appreciative applause after his defensive efforts. Town played 4-3-2 now. Morecambe had the right ideas but their play was error-strewn. Town were far more competent and matched Morecambe easily even with ten men. McKeown was booked for time-wasting on 80 minutes. Chambers came on for Jackson on 88 minutes and had one chance after a pass from the battling Bogle on 88 minutes, and Bogle had a shot himself after good work by Davies, but the last few minutes were spent containing the non-existent threat from Morecambe. So the game ended: Grimsby Town 2, Morecambe 0.
This wasn't a flawless performance from Town but they did everything that could have been asked of them in this one-sided game. The step-up in quality compared to last season's side is noticeable. This is an exciting team at all levels. Apart from one mix-up, the defence was solid, the midfield is creative and purposeful and there is pace and skill in attack. There was a never-give-up mentality about Town who worked hard and fought for every ball with a view to setting up attacks. Davies in particular epitomised this spirit and was my man of the match, but there were many other good performances too. Summerfield impressed me greatly in midfield and Jackson looked electric. Boyce, Gowling and Pearson will make a formidable defence, with McKeown impressive as ever and Andrew looking sharp too. There are forty five games to go, but I think we will have a good season. The Unknowns gave us great cause for encouragement today.
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