Question of the WeekShould Stefan Payne be allowed to play again?
Seagulls and Trawlers
By: Andrew Doherty
"WHAT did the manager have to say this time?" asked my wife. She's now used to me giving an unwanted commentary on Town's performance and Mr Bignot's utterings. After the win at Leyton Orient, I agreed with his key point that we'd achieved the primary milestone of 50 points.
Before the game, he had been quoted as saying "it is important we keep our momentum and consistency". I'm not sure which momentum or consistency he had been referring to exactly, but at least he was right about the 50 points. As if to prove the point, we then lose 4 ? 0 at Portsmouth, but this was attributed to the players being tired mentally. Well, if it's any consolation it's tiring watching this team. And the bus broke down ? it makes a change from parking the bus, which we were clearly incapable of doing.
Today's opponents are Crawley. "A massive game ... they want to switch the machine off but we're still breathing", according to the maestro in a Cantona-esque moment. We lost at Crawley earlier in the season in spite of being on a decent run at the time, and entering the game with optimism. Unfortunately football matches are not decided on the basis of optimism. Crawley is an uninspiring place of Stevenagian charm with, like ourselves, a decidedly mid-table team. They're on a poor run, which on the basis of precedent seems to mean the kiss of death for Town's prospects. We have the Findus, the Pontoon, the Osmond and the Findus. These names have an exotic aroma about them. Their ground has prosaic stand names like Structured Communications and People's Pensions. We will enhance your customer experience with nomenclature. But wait ? does this mean there is an Unstructured Communications stand? Would there be a lot of gratuitous swearing and ranting? Well, we had one of those managers a while back. I think we're better off now even if I don't know what he's on about half the time.
I seem to recall that before the Crawley away fixture, Mr Bignot called for intelligence from the players. I'm not sure this is something you can just call up as if players had forgotten about it, but I'd have thought that to go with this intelligence, there needs to be intelligible tactics. From that comes the consistency. Town's academy of intelligence today was: McKeown ? Mills, Pearson, Collins, Andrew ? Osborne, Disley, Vose, Comley ? Dyson, Jones.
As I sat next to my mate Andy Humbo, I recalled his wife's pithy observation: "I can see why you're mates, you both like moaning". She wasn't here today, having inexplicably decided to forego the prospect of a dour mid-table struggle for a bit of Spanish sunshine. It's ironic really because my wife, who nowadays can only see watching Town as an exercise in abject futility and doesn't go, complained about all the moaning in the Findus, so I responded positively and we moved to the Pontoon. I now join the cheery chappies in the Main Stand. The game was ready to start. Let the moaning begin.
The conditions were blustery. It was spitting with rain. Town attacked the Osmond end and got the first strike in after a minute when Andrew crossed to Osborne whose header went well over the bar. 4,263 spectators were here, 124 from Crawley, the rest no doubt trapped back home in their misery. A worrying misunderstanding on 5 minutes in the Town defence led to nothing but a minute later, the lively and exotic-sounding Enzio Boldewijn beat Town's defence with a cross, which Collins met. The header struck the post when it looked easier to score. Collins knew it. The lean-looking Crawley zipped about and pressed. Town couldn't get going. Only Vose was showing signs of flair for Town. The fussy referee stopped the flow by blowing for fouls. On 18 minutes, Jones started a move from deep in Town's half. Linking up with Dyson, he was foiled at the last minute in Crawley's penalty area. Town now woke up, winning two corners after good interplay and sustained pressure. Town worked well as a team with Vose and Disley creating options from midfield. On 22 minutes after further pressure, the ball landed at Jones's feet on the inside of the penalty box. Jones held up the ball and bang: his low shot was unstoppable and fired into the net with no time for the goalkeeper or defence to react. Town 1, Crawley 0. Five minutes later Town landed themselves in trouble when a poor cross field pass provided a gift to Boldewijn who set off on a run before being tripped on the edge of the box. Payne's free-kick was dangerous but a Town defender was fouled as the cross came in and the move broke down. Vose, Osborne and Jones played with confidence for Town, and Dyson set up Osborne who failed to control the ball. Crawley were passing well when they got the opportunity, and on 34 minutes Smith found himself clear, only to be foiled by McKeown who spread himself and made a great save. After an injury to Disley which stopped proceedings, Crawley took charge and continued to pass the ball around, winning a corner on 43 minutes. Town had gone flat, prompting Andy and Ian next to me to wander off into a discussion about a domestic toilet product and an unfortunate incident. Ian was very enthusiastic about the product. Just at this moment the diminutive Djalo was crunched outside Town's box. Payne's free-kick curled in. McKeown palmed it away but only into the path of Murphy who reacted more quickly than the Town defence and scored with the follow-up from close range. Town 1, Crawley 1. I didn't hear the end of the toilet incident. Town left the pitch at half-time to tired applause, reflecting the performance of the team in the latter stages of the half. Town seemed to go to sleep for the first and last part of the first half, with one spell of good quality team play in the middle. Crawley looked good on the ball and created a couple of good chances.
The second half started with good passing from both sides. Collins stopped the flow with a crunching tackle on 48 minutes, for which he got booked. McKeown gave everyone palpitations as he allowed the resultant curling free-kick to run over him, but it went wide. Disley set up Jones who won a corner, then a Vose free-kick from range flew way over the bar. On 52 minutes Vose placed a sublime free-kick to the feet of Mills who was fouled by the corner flag. Vose and Disley were looking to use the width of the pitch. An Andrew cross to Disley won Town a corner after pressure, and on 56 minutes Comley wasted a chance by misplacing a through pass when a shot or forward run would have been a better option. Frustration was beginning to show. Town were flat and ordinary. Jones showed endeavour as he tried to shake off the Crawley defence. But it was just crumbs and the game was dying a death. "I'm not sure I'm going to stay awake", commented Ian. Andy and Ian went back to lavatorial matters, and found momentary excitement at the sight of the Crawley substitute's tight, body-hugging shorts. To try and liven things up a bit on the field of play, on 69 minutes Mr Bignot ordered a change, and Bolarinwa and Asante came on for Comley and Dyson. Four minutes later, Vose started a move. Mills and Bolarinwa linked up but Asante's shot was weak. The clouds were grey. The substitutions had brought about no apparent improvement in Town's sluggish performance. The crowd was roused momentarily on 75 minutes when after a tussle on the left Crawley won a free-kick. As Crawley won a corner, Andy and Ian embarked on an interesting discussion about the origin of Meggies ? to do with Megs Island apparently, which is near the Cleethorpes Bohemia of Sea View Street. Asante showed strength and was pulled over on 79 minutes. Vernon came on for Disley who left the field to deserved appreciation. The free-kick was poor. Osborne misplaced a pass, not for the first time, and Crawley broke quickly. Collins pulled down the Crawley attacker on the edge of the penalty area, and received a second yellow card. The only surprising thing was that he didn't receive a straight red. Payne's free-kick curled well over the bar, posing no danger and summing up the poor quality of this game. Pearson was then booked for a foul on Crawley's Collins. Crawley dominated the play against Grimsby's ten men. Another quick move led to Boldewijn setting up Smith who sliced the ball over from close range. "You haven't got a clue, Marcus", shouted a dissenter. Even before Town were reduced to ten men, the performance was lacklustre. It was agony to watch. I was reminded of that sign you sometimes see next to football pitches: "no ball games allowed". "5 minutes of joy, 80 minutes of killjoy". Thus spake the sage Ian. As if to prove Town's lack of awareness and general ineptitude, Town stopped on 85 minutes, thinking the ball was out of play. But it wasn't and Collins sent in a good curler which McKeown managed to sweep away. Pearson was then dispossessed by Smith in Town's half. It was as if we were trying to give the game away. "It's the can't go down syndrome", commented Andy. But the same applied to Crawley who won another corner on 88 minutes. Osborne once again gave the ball away. Djalo set up Smith who once again spooned the ball over when it seemed easier to score. Town's old boy Matt Harrold came on for Crawley to warm applause. But he didn't have the time to do anything. Crawley had had chances galore and wasted them all. Town were inept beyond words. On 92 minutes Andrew sent in a harmless free-kick after momentary hope was raised of a last minute chance. Vose wriggled, but Town's players did what they do best and stood around like statues, offering no support. Bolarinwa rose to the occasion and went on a run but was blocked and Andrew was too slow to respond. The orgy of suffering ended: Grimsby Town 1, Crawley 1.
We were lucky to get with 1 ? 1. Crawley missed a number of gilt-edged chances in the second half. We created nothing. Limp, uninspiring, incoherent, woeful ? no adjective really describes the awfulness of Town's performance outside of a short spell in the first half. I derived greater entertainment listening to the conversation between Andy and Ian. On the pitch I was impressed with Vose and Jones, and Disley worked hard, but beyond that Town's players lacked concentration, spirit, thought and interest. The players don't seem to be on a wavelength. Thinking of Mr Bignot's quest to maintain consistency, I'd say at best we are consistently inconsistent, which at least caters for fleeting moments of joy. At worst we are consistently awful. As always I look forward to Mr Bignot's analysis. When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea ?. it's all nonsense, you know.
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