Question of the WeekWho will win the National League?
A Tough Exam
By: Andrew Doherty
ELEVENTH in the league, our starting position today, isn't bad. But we haven't scored in open play for six matches, and the regular goalkeeper of today's opponents Cambridge, has saved five out of the last six penalties he has faced. After a poor start, Cambridge's results have improved, so today's game was always going to be a tough exam.
Town's line-up today was: McKeown - Mills, Collins, Gowling, Andrew - Jackson, Berrett, Summerfield, Vose, Comley - Bogle.
Over a thousand Town fans turned out to boost the attendance to over five thousand on this sunny afternoon. The opening stages were even as both sides struggled to get going. Town, today in all red, had the first chance on 12 minutes when a quickly taken free-kick found Jackson but without end product. Town started to pass the ball well and on 20 minutes, Vose showed sublime ball skill, which started a passing move and finished with Vose himself curling a shot wide from 25 yards. Town were using the width of the pitch to apply pressure on a very poor Cambridge side. Cambridge did have a chance on 25 minutes when McKeown was forced into a save with his feet. Then on 28 minutes Town put together another good passing move. Vose took time on the left to weigh up his options before beating the Cambridge right back and sending in a perfect cross to Berrett who headed home from 6 yards. Cambridge 0, Town 1.
Bogle was sent clear four minutes later but couldn't get control, thus allowing the Cambridge defence to recover. The impressive Mills was lucky not to get booked soon afterwards after hacking down a Cambridge attacker. Nothing came of the free-kick. Andrew sent in a dangerous cross on 37 minutes but Bogle fired his volley over the bar. Bogle was involved in the action again after Berrett was tripped outside the box on 39 minutes. His free-kick beat everyone and hit the angle of the crossbar and post. Town's passing and interplay were good, especially on the right, where Mills and Jackson were working well together. Bogle had a chance after a Vose corner kick on 43 minutes, but then Town had a major scare on the stroke of half time, when Dunk headed a cross onto the post for Cambridge and the ball was scrambled clear after a second attempt from Dunne. This moment apart, Town had been on top for most of the half and looked capable of creating chances without giving Cambridge's keeper anything to save.
Three minutes into the second half, Dunk claimed and was denied a penalty after striking the ball into Mills. The same player found space on the left five minutes later but Gowling came in quickly to block the shot from close range. Collins conceded a free-kick from 25 yards out after a tussle with a Cambridge player on 56 minutes. Berry's free kick was low and wide. Cambridge were now exerting pressure after their woeful first half performance and were benefiting from two substitutions, which brought more freshness into their play. On 63 minutes the tricky Mingoia crossed from the right to Dunk who headed the ball back to McGurk, who managed to spoon the ball over from about 5 yards out. This was a major let-off. Berrett gave away a silly foul on 66 minutes by pushing a Cambridge player in the back and giving Berry the chance to make amends following his earlier free-kick. This time Berry curled his shot over the bar. Town made a double substitution after 69 minutes with Bolarinwa and Disley coming for Jackson and Comley. Within 10 seconds Bolarinwa broke clear and fired a shot wide from the edge of the box.
Town started to come back into the game after a period of Cambridge pressure, and Bogle tested the keeper on 70 minutes with a low shot. Five minutes later Summerfield provided an inch-perfect through pass to Bogle who composed himself and rounded the keeper, only to be denied by good defensive work from Roberts. Town went back on the defensive, and Berrett was guilty of a poor pass, which would have set up a counter attack. Cambridge's advance was stopped with a push on Andrew. Bolarinwa captured the visible spirit that Town were showing with an excellent tackle on Dunk on the byline. This led to a quick break where Town troubled the Cambridge defence with their pace. Cambridge's McGurk was guilty of another glaring miss after more good work on the right by Mingoia. Tuton came on for Vose on 90 minutes and was immediately involved with the action when offside after appearing to be sent through. Cambridge came back in numbers to try and salvage the game but Town stood firm. After conceding a corner, which evaded the waiting throng in the penalty box, the referee blew for full-time. Cambridge United 0, Grimsby Town 1.
Town's performance was professional. The work-rate, passing and teamwork were all good. Cambridge's keeper wasn't troubled much, but there was plenty of skill and pace in the Town build-up to suggest that goal scoring should not continue to be a problem. Town's defence withstood pressure from Cambridge in the second half with good positional play and blocking. It was encouraging to see such a good understanding between Gowling and Collins, both of whom were very impressive. Vose, Bogle, Jackson, Andrew and Bolarinwa all deserve mention but my man of the match was Mills whose defensive work, passing and support play were symptomatic of this very good team performance. It wasn't plain sailing, but Town passed today's exam in Cambridge with great credit.
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