League Two Form Guide
Question of the WeekShould Stefan Payne be allowed to play again?
The Grimsby Boys
By: Andrew Doherty
THE news came on the TV. It was about Brexit as usual. "I'm not watching this", commented my wife. "This Brexit is as frustrating as going to watch Grimsby". Predictably she wasn't at Blundell Park today but you can get her point. As we seem to play in alternate months, March was one of our barren ones.
Two goals in six games, and none in the last three is never going to set anyone's pulse racing. The fear is that we just lose heart and confidence, and become cannon fodder for teams with greater ambition. Our opponents Stevenage's form hasn't been earth shattering either: six points and one win in their last six games, meaning they have sunk to mid table and probably out of play off contention. So anyone here expecting a high end spectacle was likely to be be disappointed.
Town's Swedeless line-up today was: McKeown - Hendrie, Davis, Whitmore, Collins, Hall-Johnson - Hessenthaler, Clifton - Vernam, Cardwell - Dennis. Town attacked the Osmond end for the first half.
After the initial exchanges, Town won a free-kick on 6 minutes. Hessenthaler's delivery was good, and after bobbling around, the ball fell to Hendrie whose ferocious shot from inside the box was tipped over by Farman. The Stevenage goalkeeper then made another good block from Hessenthaler after the resultant corner. A terrible mistake by Ferry almost let Vernam in 6 minutes later, then Hendrie forced a corner following a good run. Town showed good spirit and energy. Stevenage had a couple of counter attacks and looked sharp. Chair scuffed a shot on 17 minutes, missing the upholstery by some distance. Town mixed up passing with long balls. Stevenage relied on counter attacks and on 23 minutes broke out. A pacy passing move found Chair, who supplied Guthrie. The Stevenage striker slipped Collins and chipped McKeown to put Stevenage 1 - 0 up against the run of play. Town continued to work the ball upfield quickly. Clifton and Hessenthaler in particular showed endeavour. Clifton was tripped 25 yards out but the free kick from Dennis was too high. The game then stopped for attention to a Stevenage player. Everyone came off for a drink and a timeout. Stopping the game proved to be a tactic for Stevenage as a number of their players went down for attention. On resumption, a good move between Dennis and Cardwell fell down when Cardwell lost control. Town proceeded to play good passing football. Hall-Johnson was hauled down outside the box, allowing Stevenage to regroup. The move ended when Collins committed a foul. A good move along the right resulted in Vernam finding space and crossing low for Dennis, whose left footed flick hit the side netting. Timlin had a shot on 43 minutes for Stevenage, who spent the rest of the half turning time wasting into an art form. So the score remained 0 - 1 at the half time break.
Town played with purpose and energy in the first half, but had nothing to show for it. Stevenage had been more professional but that game was far from Town's reach.
Town had a free-kick on 47 minutes outside the box after the advancing Clifton was fouled but in a replica of the first half, the ball was cleared. Stevenage launched an innocuous looking counter attack. As they advanced, a cross came in from the left from Chair and for the second time Guthrie escaped his marker and fired a header downwards. McKeown dived to his left but the header crept in off the post. Town 0, Stevenage 2. Town faced an uphill struggle. The mist came down. Town started to look ragged. Grayson replaced Hall-Johnson on 56 minutes. Shortly after Farman made a save at point blank range from Dennis following a cross. On 59 minutes the game was delayed as Stevenage's Chair was injured. The ground was quiet as the 3,689 spectators reflected. Town won two corners on 64 and 66 minutes, the second of which could have resulted in catastrophe as Stevenage broke out. Hessenthaler did well to get back and stop the attack. A minute later it was time for another drink as a Stevenage player received attention. In fact there was no need to disrupt the flow as although Town tried hard, it was just bits and pieces on the pitch. Woolford replaced Cardwell on 69 minutes. Clifton was then dispossessed, allowing Timlin to get a shot in. Stevenage now looked comfortable, so comfortable in fact that Makasi sat down in the middle of the pitch with no-one around him, resulting in more drinks and time wastage. I sensed it was Stevenage Men v Grimsby Boys out there, as the away side stopped and started play like a tap being turned on and off. The referee to be fair was alert to this, but as we have become accustomed, Town's performance became piecemeal and other than for the briefest of patches lacked any form of fluidity or threat. Town did have a moment of hope on 80 minutes when an exquisite ball from Woolford found Vernam whose curled left footed shot fell just wide. Another stoppage took place on 83 minutes after a Stevenage player fell in a heap. Burrell came on for Vernam but could not be expected to do anything, with Town struggling and running out of ideas. 6 minutes were added, but Stevenage played out the remaining time with Town posing no threat and simply floundering. The game ended: Town 0, Stevenage 2. Town had failed to score again. After a promising first half, Town failed to dominate play, and in the end were beaten by a more organised and well drilled outfit in Stevenage.
Who knows where our next point is coming from? Town's performance wasn't all hopeless to be fair, and I saw patches of quality from Hessenthaler, Dennis, Vernam, Hendrie and Clifton. I saw interplay in patches, and we did create chances. We worked hard but as a unit we were inferior to Stevenage, who were workmanlike and professional, but who also had pace and talent. Ultimately we fell short in the quality department. We need to look at what other teams do in the way they score goals, and approach the physical side of the game. Other teams seem more organised and less naïve in their play.
I read in the programme notes Mr Jolley's criticism of those who have concentrated on the negative aspects of the season. I did hear some boos at the end of today's game, which was unfortunate, but where I sat the crowd was largely reduced to silence. Football is like politics in that people do tend to remember only what happened in the last week, and even worse than that like a bit of entertainment for their money. I have no doubt that Mr Jolley has plans, and there is raw material there at his disposal, but as supporters we do hang on for glimmers of hope like unlocking defences and scoring goals. My wife is right. On today's showing, football is as frustrating as Brexit. Like the cold and drizzling weather, today's performance was bleak and didn't offer any short term hope.
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