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Question of the WeekWho will finish bottom?
By: Andrew Doherty
I READ this week that Paul Wilkinson had joined the Greater Anglia train company as its Integrated Transport Manager. Was this a case of pre-emptive moonlighting, or does the iconic caretaker Grimsby manager, as I've seen him described this week, have a namesake? I suspect the latter.
Our Icon has his work cut out to get integration out of this team, and I for one am not expecting miracles. The facts are that we haven't won for a while, and scoring is a rare event, even though we have umpteen strikers. Our midfield engine room is light and splutters with faults, so there may be the demand from the strikers but not the supply, while there's an overall lack of talent. The good news is that our opponents Cambridge seem to have a harder time scoring than we do, save for a 3 - 2 win in their most recent game against Chesterfield, when the admirably named Harrison Dunk scored a 95th minute winner. Even so, a 0-0 draw as these teams managed in November at Blundell Park, is a strong possibility, provided Town's players can exercise self-control and concentrate to the final whistle.
Town's line-up today was: McKeown - Osborne, Mills, Clarke, Dixon - Hall-Johnson, Summerfield, Berrett, Vernam - Matt, Jackson. Funky Dunky and their very own human bulldozer and top goalscorer, Iche Ikpeazu, were playing for Cambridge.
After lots of waving, hugging and bonding, Town got down to business, passing the ball around patiently without causing any threat. The match programme had an interesting statistic about Summerfield, who has apparently had 44 shots on goal without scoring. He now had a 45th but his shot was on target at least, and Cambridge's keeper Forde had to get down low to palm it away. Town looked the better side against poor opposition but the build-up was slow. On 19 minutes a long clearance from Forde was headed onto the Human Bulldozer, who shook off Osborne and fired a low shot from outside the box past McKeown and into the net. Cambridge 1, Grimsby 0. This was Cambridge's only shot of the half. But Town failed to take advantage. Hooper came on for Jackson, who sustained an ankle injury after a clash during a Town attack, and after a lay off from Matt, turned and shot just over the bar. Venam had a couple of incisive runs but overall Town's performance was languid, as the build-up continued to be patient but without purpose, and mistakes started to creep in.
Town started the second half brightly, with Hall-Johnson on the right looking sharp and getting behind the Cambridge defence. Town had a good chance when Hooper supplied Matt, who attempted to go round Forde, but Cambridge's keeper was alert. Then the goals came. With Town's brief spell of dominance over, Cambridge started to apply pressure and McKeown was forced to make a low save from an angled shot on 67 minutes. Waters was quick to pounce and side-footed the rebound into the net. Cambridge 2, Grimsby 0. Fired up, Cambridge continued to press and four minutes later Maris waltzed to the right hand side unchallenged and angled his shot from the right through the defence. Cambridge 3, Grimsby 0. In my mind, I relected on a text I received from Andy Humberstone during the Crawley game last week: "we're getting hammered again". Town had no response and floundered for the final 20 minutes. Quality and commitment were noticeably absent. Kelly, who had replaced the woeful Dixon, showed ball skill but jumped out of the way of a tackle, as surprisingly did Matt. Town were just going through the motions. Jaiyesimi, who had come on as substitute, did win what seemed to be a soft penalty on 90 minutes after good work on the left, and Hooper coolly sent Forde the wrong way to gain a consolation goal. So it finished: Cambridge United 3, Grimsby Town 1.
"Men against boys" was a comment from one of the spectators around me. That's how it was. Town's passing game was probably the right way but there's no quality of threat. I saw brief moments from Vernam, Hooper and Hall-Johnson, and Matt tries very hard but the reactions are slow and there's no purpose about Town's play.
I await the talk of re-building. Let's hope it's more successful than the last attempt. Bizarrely I think it will be good news if we only have 5 players in June because at least we'll then have a new and presumably more streamlined squad than this season. I think that we had the right idea when we appointed Marcus Bignot instead of an old dinosaur. Unfortunately he spoke nonsense most of the time but he did bring in Osborne, Clements and Jones. Usually non-league managers are good at organising and getting the best out of limited resources. It doesn't look like the answer lies in The Icon. I like the suggestion of Stuart McCall who I think would bring a fresh approach. But the question now is whether we're going to get enough points to be playing Swindon next year, or will it be Solihull. With the concession of 3 goals per game now de rigueur, an inability to score and overall poor quality in the team, I fear it will be Solihull.
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