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Meat and No Veg

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 09/12/2017

IT may be December, and the weather is cold and bleak but we need football. Two weeks without it seems a long time. It's true that there's a summer break but psychologically it's not the same. I know that other teams play but that's only of passing interest.

Whether I'm out there freezing or not, what I'm interested in is Grimsby Town. The good news is that we're back in action today. Hopefully Mr Slade will have spent his time wisely and has spent the time honing the skills and fitness of the squad after an encouraging couple of wins before the break.

Today's opponents are Forest Green Rovers. We're both football teams but it's like polar opposites. We have tradition, they don't. We're fish and meat, they're vegetarian. Chalk and cheese if you like. In spite of their ecological credentials and maybe because of our rivalry in the Conference, I've never found them to be a particularly sympathetic bunch. The Forest Green support today amounted to 38 of the 4,396 strong crowd. On the field they've been moving up the table so Town were going to need to be organised, solid and creative, not qualities that we've been witnessing with any great consistency this season.

Town's line-up today was our strongest, based on recent form and results: McKeown - Mills, Clarke, Collins, Davies - Jaiyesimi, Rose, Summerfield, Dembele - Matt, Jones. Town started by attacking the Forest Green 38 at the Osmond End.

Town started brightly with Jones getting clear in the first minute and crossing to Dembele whose shot was deflected for a corner. This was followed by another corner and shot from Dembele. Town were on the attack. Forest Green launched their first attack after 8 minutes but didn't seem to be operating at the same pace or with the same intensity as Town. So it went on as a link up between Matt, Dembele and Jaiyesimi only falling down when Jaiyesimi lost balance on 9 minutes. Five minutes later Matt set up Rose who didn't seem to realise he had so much time and space, and skied his shot from the edge of the box. Jaiyesimi's pace led to a cross to Jones on 18 minutes. Jones's low shot was accurate but well saved by the Forest Green keeper. It was all Town. Summerfield muscled his way in on 21 minutes, summing up Town's determination and total success at winning 50-50 balls. Summerfield set up Jones whose shot just cleared the bar. Shortly afterwards Matt had a good chance after a defence-splitting through ball but was too hasty with his shot. Town played with flair and movement. The crowd purred as Dembele's trickery found Mills who waltzed through the defence, only for his left-footed effort to trickle agonisingly wide. Town's only failing was not to test the Forest Green keeper enough in spite of all the pressure. A defensive mistake on 28 minutes led to Jones cutting inside and forcing a save from his low shot. On 32 minutes, Forest Green's Fitzwater was booked for time wasting. This summed up their miserable day so far. Mills then slipped up, giving Forest Green a chance to break but Rose backed up well - another positive sign of Town's preparation and teamwork. The ball found its way into Forest Green territory again on 36 minutes. Rose headed onto the advancing Jaiyesimi, who was dragged down by Fitzwater. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and sent off Fitzwater. Forest Green's 33 James stayed down injured after a previous tussle, thus delaying the penalty. Forest Green's players went over to their manager for a discussion to waste further time as Jones waited for the referee to bring the situation under control. Finally, Jones stepped up and fired to the goalkeeper's left - saved. But the ball came back out and Rose was the quickest to pounce, belting the ball home low into the bottom left corner. Town 1, Forest Green 0. The first period of calm followed and the score remained the same at half-time. Town had totally dominated play, and could well satisfied with their team performance. Forest Green were awful and we all sensed that they had to improve in the second half.

Forest Green started the second half strongly. A long range free-kick from Laird curled just wide, and other than momentary excitement from Dembele, it was Forest Green's 10 men who pressed. A mistake by Rose on 51 minutes found Doidge but Clarke did well to block his shot. Forest Green now had the edge, and there was a serious concern that Town had dropped off, as they tried to hang on to the slim lead. Rose cleared off the line with a header, and another free-kick on the right deep into Town's half led to Forest Green's bizarre Jonny Wilkinson type ritual on 51 minutes, but on this occasion it came to nothing. Town needed to get going. Jaiyesimi had a good run on 55 minutes his shot was wild. Town were guilty of conceding silly free-kicks but on 56 minutes got one of their own after Summerfield was pushed. Summerfield himself sent in a perfect free-kick to the packed box, where Jones rose above the defence and placed a fierce header against the inside of the bar - unlucky. A Forest Green corner three minutes later led to a quick break with Dembele and Summerfield working upfield in tandem. Dembele's well placed pass found Summerfield who rounded the advancing keeper and disappointingly only found the side netting. Jaiyesimi won a corner for Town on 60 minutes, but more striking was Matt's effort two minutes later when he chased down the goalkeeper and three defenders to win a throw for Town on the half way line. Town were having a good spell now. Rose won the ball on 63 minutes and found Dembele who raced away before being hacked down by Laird on the edge of the Forest Green's box. Davies's free-kick was tame, to say the least. The 10 men were still fighting, and Town were lucky on 66 minutes when after a defensive mistake Doidge had a chance but his shot struck a teammate. Town had gone back into their shell and were now grimly hanging on. There were only glimpses of the first half sparkle as Forest Green exploited Town's lack of sharpness. Summerfield found Matt with a header. Town's striker had three defenders in front of him and wisely waited for support, which came in the form of Dembele who supplied Jones. Town won a corner. Woolford replaced the impressive but now tiring Jaiyesimi, before Summerfield was booked for tripping a Forest Green player 30 yards out. Laird won a corner for Forest Green at the second attempt, before the ball returned upfield and the same player visibly flattened Dembele as he went to retrieve the ball. The referee booked Dembele for diving. "We're at the nervous stage", commented my mate Andy. He was right. Forest Green were winning the loose balls as Town had in the first half and were looking more dangerous, as Town committed fouls and were not holding onto the ball for long enough. At the same time the game was becoming feisty and ill-tempered with niggly fouls. The deterioration of quality and disruption to the flow were possibly working in Town's favour, but these were nervous times. Hooper replaced Rose after 82 minutes. Mills and Dembele then set up Jones who not for the first time in this half was slow to react. Three minutes later Jones almost redeemed himself after good work but generally the quality was poor. Jones and Matt worked hard up front, and Matt had a chance on 87 minutes after a pass from Jones, but the Forest Green goalkeeper was alert. Forest Green pressed but Cooper wasted a good chance. With for minutes added, McKeown was booked for time wasting as he set up a free-kick for Town. Welcome pressure from Town led to Forest Green's advancing goalkeeper heading the ball out. The ball returned back quickly up field but Jones wasted the opportunity with his shot going well over. Dembele then joined the wasteful brigade with a failed attempt at a curled shot. Forest Green bounced back and won a corner in the last seconds. McKeown was able to punch the ball clear, and to everyone's relief the referee blew the final whistle. Grimsby Town 1, Forest Green Rovers 0.

We saw two sides of Town today. In the first half we played with confidence and flair. Dembele and Jaiyesimi in particular were electric, and sparked the rest of the team as created numerous opportunities. The sending-off prior to the penalty changed the game tactically, and in the second half Town looked less certain. But to their credit Town's defence was well organised and Forest Green had no clear cut chances. Town deserved to win. There were some good individual performances. Dembele was given the official man of the match, and it's hard to disagree but I thought Matt's work rate in particular was outstanding, and he looked to present a danger to Forest Green when we attacked. With games against the top teams in the next two or three weeks, we'll know where we stand but even with the second half wobble, we showed both resilience, energy and flair at different periods of the game. This performance was hugely encouraging.

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