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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 10/03/2018 (Last updated: 11/03/2018)
AN air of gloom and inevitability hangs over us. The general view seems to be that the appointment of the new manager is a good one, and I certainly go along with that. I also share the view that he's not a miracle worker. There are so many weaknesses that it's too much to expect Mr Jolley to plug all the holes at this stage.
Relegation back to the Conference is a realistic possibility, but at least we're playing a team today whose form has plummeted and are in the same boat as us. Then we get to play Barnet, Chesterfield and others so points are available. It's very easy to get over optimistic, as the same rubbish is churned out week after week. While some don't come and others protest, for me home games mean a good day out in the homeland, good company and a good laugh, counterbalancing the ghastly atrocities on the pitch. Today there's the added intrigue of seeing whether the new manager has brought about the slightest improvement.
The mention of Port Vale for me causes me alarm on account of the game against them where we were 3 - 0 up and contrived to lose 3 - 4. That was in 1975 so I guess I should have got over it by now. The prospect of us scoring three goals in our present state would be miraculous, but so too would be the prospect of Port Vale scoring four. Although a thriller was not on the cards, there was an air of optimism at Blundell Park but whether this was the sort of optimism that precedes a subsequently disappointing World Cup campaign was only going to be borne out by the delivery on the pitch.
Town's line-up today was: McKeown - Davies, Suliman, Clarke, Collins, Fox - Dembele, Rose, Berrett, Clifton - Matt. Dembele and Clifton looked to be attacking midfielders as Town faced the Osmond end for the first half.
The game started at breakneck speed with little control being exercised on either side. Port Vale had the first chance after 9 minutes when Harness played the ball out to the left. The ball came across to the unmarked Worrall, who volleyed the ball home from inside the box. Town 0, Port Vale 1. The teams traded corners but already Town's play smacked of desperation. Port Vale looked the more dangerous and on 19 minutes, the speedy Worrall almost caught out McKeown with a long range shot, which mercifully went just wide. Town won two free kicks but first Collins could only manage a weak header, then Davies's cross was poor, with Collins and Clarke up while Berrett and Clifton dropped back. But it was always Port Vale who showed more endeavour. Their 316 fans were vocal while Town's support of just under 5,000 were reduced to murmuring. Tonge was booked for tripping Dembele but Town lacked ideas. Clifton had a run but didn't know what to do, then the battling Matt won a corner which came across and evaded everyone. “We're struggling” commented Andy Humberstone next to me. McKeown was forced to make a save on 39 minutes after Rose lost the ball in midfield, and then followed it up with a brilliant save from a goal-bound effort by Forrester. Port Vale were on the attack. Andy and I were reduced to having a conversation about parcels deliveries. There was a minor resurgence at the end of the half when Collins headed weakly over the bar from a corner, then there was a note of near excitement as Clifton pounced upon a mistake and found Dembele, but the Vale defence managed to scramble the ball away. It was a poor half, and Town had been poorer than Port Vale.
Port Vale started the second half by immediately going on the offensive, and Forrester almost nipped in following a mistake by Clarke. Tonge then mishit a free kick, letting Town off again. Good physical work by Matt gave Dembele a chance of a long range shot but it inevitably led to nothing. A fierce volley by Port Vale's Howkins moments later led to a more plausible chance but it was deflected for a corner. On 53 minutes Hall-Johnson replaced Suliman. Town's play lacked quality, and touches were poor. The pitch was slippery, and Dembele in particular was having trouble staying upright - the wrong kind of boots? “It's like watching Dancing on Ice”, commented Andy. But Port Vale were not having this problem and passed the ball around better. From Town's point of view, the pattern was familiar: the players were acting as if they'd never played with each other, created no chances and lacked individual quality. On 62 minutes, Rose made a clumsy challenge on Forrester. Penalty to Port Vale. Tonge stepped up and placed the penalty kick to the right corner. Mckeown dived - saved! At last the Town fans had something to cheer about. “Could that be the spark?” speculated Andy. Cardwell replaced Rose on 65 minutes, and an attack immediately followed. Port Vale responded with a double substitution and an attack of their own. Matt won a free kick for Town in the corner but Clifton wasted the opportunity with a poor volley. Davies then won the ball in Town's defence and set up Cardwell whose run was only stopped by a foul. But not for the first time Davies's dead ball delivery was atrocious. At least Town were fighting and had momentum. A pacy move up the left side on 72 minutes resulted in Vale's keeper making a good low stop from Clifton. The introduction of Cardwell was helping Matt and giving Town more options in attack. A spectacular overhead kick by Dembele after two Vale corners set up another good move, but Berrett finally wasted the chance by ballooning a cross into the goalkeeper's arms. There was a dangerous moment when Davies committed a foul on the edge of Town's penalty area but it came to nothing. Kelly came on to replace the injured Dembele, and immediately broke out across field, resulting in a booking for Worrall following a trip. Kelly then won a corner after a pas from Fox, but in spite of Matt's determined effort, the Port Vale keeper stopped the move. Town continued to battle. This was an improvement on the customary capitulation, and demonstrated the character, which had been missing in the first half. On 83 minutes McKeown was called upon to make another brilliant low save from Barnett, but in the resulting hubbub picked the ball up from what was adjudged to be a back pass by Hall-Johnson. The referee awarded Port Vale a free kick on the 6 yard line. All 11 Town players spread themselves across the goal. The free kick was blocked. The crowd was uplifted again. On 85 minutes Matt was dragged down for the umpteenth time. Town continued to push the ball upfield in the hope of an equaliser. Five minutes were added on, after time had been lost earlier while players changed over prior to a Port Vale free kick. Seconds into the added time the ball arrived from a long throw in the Port Vale box. Berrett picked up the ball inside the box, trapped it, turned and slammed it into the bottom right corner. Town 1, Port Vale 1. This prompted a pitch invasion by a large group of Port Vale fans. Ugly scenes followed in the corner of the Osmond and Findus stands as the Town and Vale fans squared up while the stewards tried to assert control. After several minutes the game restarted but it was soon over with Clarke gaining a booking for tripping a Port Vale player in the scrappy five minute mini-game. So it ended: Grimsby Town 1, Port Vale 1.
Arise, Sir James McKeown! Our magnificent goalkeeper's penalty stops and heroic efforts before that may have saved our season. From the penalty save and the introduction of Cardwell and Kelly in particular, Town's performance was uplifted and spirited, resulting finally in a great team effort to earn us a much needed point. While at Doncaster station on the way here today, I overheard a young Town fan saying to his mate “I don't know what I'll do if we lose today”. Well we don't have to consider his options now, and I bet that if Town adopt a similar work ethic to today that fan like me can visualise a miraculous escape from our predicament.
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