Question of the WeekHow important is data in League 2 football?
The Hand of Cod
By: Rob Sedgwick
GRIMSBY produced their third win out of three Christmas games to lift themselves into the halfway point in the league table. It was an extraordinary display of backs to the wall defending, compounded by the sending off of Alex Whitmore early in the second half
Whitmore was replaced by 17-year-old rookie defender Mattie Pollock with Woolford sacrificed as Town kept a back four despite being down to 10 men.
Three points looked a lost cause when Stockley scored in the 78 minute, but Wes Thomas was brought down two minutes later and Mitchell Rose scored from the spot to put Town 2-1 up. Somehow Town hung on with McKeown and Pollock magnificent. Town's keeper was flawless and produced a breathtaking display between the sticks especially in the second half.
The Mariners conceded 15 corners and failed to win a single one of their own. Exeter had 30 shots on goal but Grimsby scored 2 goals from their 6 shots at Exeter's goal.
Fishy poster BigDog had the following comments to make:
The first thing I have to say is that I’ve never seen such a great goalkeeping performance in a Grimsby Town shirt. Macca made at least eight incredible saves. A ten out of ten performance if ever I’ve seen one.
Exeter are a good side with the ball. Not so great without it because they gave us time to play in the first half. They started on the front foot and could have been ahead inside two minutes if it wasn’t for a wonder double save from Macca. We grew into the game, played some nice football and looked dangerous on the break. Whitmore was winning everything as RHJ looked a little lost positionally and we didn’t really stop them from crossing in some great balls from deeper positions. Another couple of saves from Macca then we broke down the other end and Woolford superbly volleyed in a looping ball at the back post from twelve yards showing incredible technique. Exeter were always dangerous yet the game evened out a little as we played some nice football at times. On the balance of play and chances created you couldn’t say we deserved our half time lead, but knowing the injuries we’ve got and how MJ had to shuffle the pack, our endeavour and hard work deserved something. Hessenthaler and Clifton were busy, Embleton not quite at his best, our full backs were both outstanding and Thomas working his nuts off up front on his own assisted occasionally by the hard-working Cardwell from the right. Woolford buoyed by his goal showed one or two good touches yet we were still letting too many crosses in from deep and those crosses were excellent, the best I’ve seen from a team this season. We had a scare just before half time as Exeter had a goal ruled out for offside as one of their players came back from off the pitch and nodded in from close range. Hats off to the linesman for spotting this as the ref looked like he had awarded a goal and hats off to every Town player for rushing over to the linesman to complain.
Having played so well with a makeshift partner first half Whitmore was deservedly sent off for a foul in a midfield area when he didn’t have to challenge for the ball. Hardly cynical and not the worst challenge you’d ever see, just a little late and slightly high lunge that gave the ref a decision he had to make. Hopefully, he’ll learn from it and thanked every one of his magnificent teammates after the game.
With 11 v 11 on the pitch and even though Exeter could out football us for long periods as they have some seriously good ball players, I always thought that we could score another goal second half but the sending off put an end to that. For the last forty minutes, it was like an attack versus defence training drill. Exeter could not have played better against ten men yet they came up against a never say die side that put everything on the line to get three points. Yes, we rode our luck, and yes, Macca made at least half a dozen wonder saves but I’ve never seen a side so under the cosh and keep their shape so well. Pollock got his head to at least half a dozen dangerous crosses, a goal line clearance and made two or three important challenges and must be really proud of his performance tonight, and well done MJ for putting his trust in him. At some stage, Exeter had to score, and they did, only for them to give away a stupid penalty a minute later. It was the only time one of our players touched the ball in their penalty box after the sending off. Ahkeem ghosted behind their defender who put an arm across him and Ahkeem bought the penalty well with a superb fall/dive as the contact wasn’t that strong and the referee pointed to the spot. In my amazement, MJ brought Rose (pen) on to take the penalty. I really wanted Embleton to keep the ball and take the pen as I hate seeing players taking a pen with their first touch of the game. How could I ever doubt Mitch Rose? He strode up and nonchalantly sent their keeper the wrong way and sent those magnificent travelling haddocks into delirium and also this one over here in Spain.
After that, it was like the Alamo. Cross after cross, block after block, save after save, faux penalty appeal after faux penalty appeal plus Stockley hit the bar with a header and a sitter from six yards was missed as we nail-bitingly entered injury time. There was still enough time for Macca to make an unbelievable save from a point-blank Stockley header, but we held out.
We may not be the finished article by any means, we’ll need players back from injury and two or three new additions in the transfer window, but.. these players are playing for MJ and they’re playing for the shirt. 10% less and they’d have got beat by six today and that’s the difference. Incredible battling performance today full of endeavour, team spirit and exceptionally strong work ethics that should make every Town fan’s heart burst with pride tonight..
So much going on in the match, I’ve probably left out loads of talking points. Great game and an even greater result!!
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