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Question of the WeekHow important is data in League 2 football?
Shot Shy Shambles
By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 20/04/2019 (Last updated: 21/04/2019)
ONE plus point about away games can be that you get to visit new places and see what they're like. I can't think of any other reason to visit Colchester.
In fact this didn't happen here today as Colchester's stadium is on the outskirts next to the A12, a short walk away from the park and ride. Like Town's league position, this ground is in the middle of nowhere. Even a pre-season game gives indicators of things to come. Here after last week's draw at Morecambe we've officially sunk into the end of season mode with nothing to play for. The sole interest now lay in whether Mr Jolley could motivate the players to give the home side a game.
Town's line-up was: McKeown - Hendrie, Davis, Collins, Hall-Johnson - Vernam, Hessenthaler, Woolford, Grayson - Cardwell, Dennis. It was a nice, sunny day in a neat stadium with good views and friendly stewards, and at a cost of £20 including a programme so the continuation of the good "customer experience" so far now hinged on Town, who wore red today.
The initial stages were noteworthy for a lashed shot by Grayson, a sharp counter attack which Senior for the home side should have done better with and poor distribution by Town, notably Woolford. It was Woolford who tripped a Colchester player on the edge of the area on 11 minutes. Dickenson's curler was tipped away by McKeown. Following the resultant corner Grayson headed off the line from an Eastman header. The game came to life as Colchester had a golden spell. A defence splitting ball from Nouble found Senior whose shot beat McKeown but struck the right hand post. Town were under the cosh. McKeown saved well from a low shot by Saunders. Town's response to this was poor, and amounted to hoofed clearances, high balls and poor distribution. Dennis was clattered on 18 minutes but the free kick was wasted. Colchester dealt with Town's unimaginative high balls with ease and continued to apply pressure. Good combined work and skill by Jackson and Nouble once again found Senior who was clean through but managed to blast his shot over the bar from 10 yards. Town were surviving but then on 24 minutes a disastrous back pass by Woolford fell short of Davis and Collins and found Nouble instead. Nouble calmly passed Davis and slotted the ball home past McKeown. Colchester 1, Town 0. Szmodics then supplied Kent but McKeown easily gathered the shot. Were Town taking part in this game? It was as if they were just making up the numbers. Woolford was guilty of another terrible pass on 31 minutes. The Town supporters started having a go. Three minutes later Jackson escaped Hall-Johnson and crossed for Szmodics, whose shot forced a good save from McKeown with Nouble advancing and ready to pounce. Hall-Johnson was then booked for hauling down Jackson on the edge of the box. Vincent-Young's shot resulted in more work for McKeown. We can only dream of Colchester's ball skills. Town's game still amounted to playing sideways and conceding possession, but Vernam did briefly raise hopes on 40 minutes with a good run before being fouled. Colchester responded to the free-kick with a break out. Szmodics half the length of the pitch and supplied Jackson who shot on the run was high. Town were lucky to be only 0 - 1 down at half time. Poor quality passing and high balls meant that our two runners and ball players Vernam and Dennis received no service. Town lacked skill and no-one was exercising any leadership on the pitch. This was a Grade One shambles.
Rose and Clifton replaced Grayson and the hapless Woolford, who had had the mother of all off days. Predictably, Colchester attacked first and Hessenthaler cleared off the line after a Kent strike. Town finally won a corner on 57 minutes and another one two minutes later after good work up the left between Hall-Johnson and Rose. The ball found Vernam after the goalkeeper's clearance but instead of taking on the shot with his left foot, Vernam tried to lay off the ball to Clifton, succeeding in underhitting the pass to a Colchester player. Colchester continued to have the run of play but were less fluid, as Town's two substitutions seemed to have at last brought some intent into the play. Good work by Clifton on 64 minutes forced Dillon in the Colchester goal to scramble, and then Town's midfielder was booked for a foul. At least Town were competing now. Vernam had a bursting run soon after, but Town became more laboured in the build up, and once again errors were creeping in. Hessenthaler threatened to become the new Woolford after two misplaced passes, and a floated free-kick which went out of play. Town's best action came on the left where Rose and Hall-Johnson linked up. Rose was tripped twice as he sought to break away, resulting in a yellow card for the Colchester player on the second occasion. Hendrie then proved alert as he stopped a Colchester attack. The home team continued to remind us of their skill and were a constant threat. On 82 minutes a link up between Vincent-Young, Saunders and Szmodics took Colchester the length of the field, and only a goal line clearance from Hendrie prevented a goal. Soon after Eisa, who had been brought out to give Colchester a further injection of pace, shot against the side netting. The game had become scrappy, and Town were doing nothing to suggest they could equalise. On 89 minutes Hessenthaler reminded us of Town's inadequacies once more by sending a floated pass to no-one which went out for a goal kick. Burrell pointlessly replaced Hall-Johnson just as three minutes were added to the 90. Town had no opportunities during this period. Instead Jackson had a weak shot for the home side, and Collins was then booked for a challenge on the advancing Mandron. Collins could have had no complaints if it had been a red card but the referee took pity. Pitiful it was. In the final seconds, Colchester had one last attack. McKeown came out to clear the danger, and had to sidestep the advancing Colchester player before passing to Collins. The pass was short however and Collins mistimed his tackle, thus making amends for his failure to get a red card by ensuring he got one now by virtue of a second yellow. That summed it all up. How Colchester only won 1 - 0 is a mystery but that was the final score.
Quite simply, Town were guilty of too many errors, a lack of ideas and a lack of quality. The introduction of Clifton and Rose improved things in the second half, and brought the best out of Hall-Johnson at the same time. Town did disrupt Colchester's fluidity in the second half, and although there were goal line clearances the defence did their job. But this is scant consolation as Town just don't create anything. We all have our opinions on players. What I see is some individual talents but far from enough sustained consistency or threat as a team. The players I've been most impressed with during this season are McKeown, Hendrie, Hessenthaler, Whitmore and on his day Clifton. Vernam adds something different, and could be a really good player with the right coaching. I have read criticisms of Ring for being unfit, but remember that was the case with Fox who turned out to be good. So you could argue it's far from being hopeless. Unfortunately today it was hopeless.
The season isn't finished as we still have the opportunity to mess up the aspirations of other teams. Whether this will happen on today's showing is another matter and I'd suggest it's highly unlikely. As for us, whilst confidence and success at one season's end does not lead into the start of the next, it would be beneficial for the club if Town's manager and players could give some reason and incentive to the supporters to turn up next year. Some of us will still come, while others won't. We're not in the abyss or staring at it but right now Grimsby Town FC is one big shambles in the middle of nowhere.
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