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The real heroes
The real heroes

Heroes

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 27/03/2021

August 2019: I joined Town's army of supporters as we went to Walsall and all joyfully watched the heroics of Hanson and co as we beat Walsall 3 - 1. How things have changed. The team is beyond struggling and we're confined to watching them on i-Follow.

During this period of desolation, as well as my twice-weekly dose of Town by TV screen, I've been watching a re-run of the 00s cult series “Heroes". In this series, people have special abilities, including one who can freeze time and re-shape events. That would be very handy right now at Blundell Park.

Walsall came to Cleethorpes today on the back of a poor run of form. Town meanwhile are unbeaten in five games, including Tuesday night's battling victory at Barrow. So there is reason for optimism. With it being an international weekend, all eyes are on Grimsby. Even Gala Fairydean v Vale of Leithen is off. Town's line-up today was: McKeown - Hendrie, Hewitt, Menayese, Clifton - Coke, Matete, Spokes - John-Lewis, Hanson, Payne.

A "moderate breeze" was forecast for Blundell Park today. Knowing Town's statutory inability to cope with wind, this was a concern. Town attacked the Pontoon end for the first half. The game started, and stopped in the first minute after Payne caught Walsall defender Clarke with his arm. After an extended stoppage, the game restarted. With 8 minutes on the clock, good work on the left between Spokes and Clifton led to a cross which John-Lewis controlled well. Hendrie crossed and Payne put in a decent header which Roberts saved. Hanson was on hand to follow up and slot the ball in. 1 - 0 to Town. It was a great team goal. Town were unable to keep this up and were guilty of loose play while committing too many fouls. The fouls were giving Walsall encouragement and Town found themselves defending. On 21 minutes Matete committed his second foul in three minutes as he battled for the ball in midfield. This prompted a spell of attacks from Walsall. Clifton blocked well from Gordon's shot, then Osadebe found space and forced a good save from McKeown, who managed to tip the shot over. From the resultant corner, Lavery shot and Town were saved by Matete who cleared off the line. Soon after this Matete had to come off injured as a result of his earlier challenge. Rose came on. Town had a good attack as Menayese headed down. A blocked shot came in but Spokes committed a foul to end the opportunity. Hendrie gave the ball away on 31 minutes in Town's half. There was too much of this. Payne had a shot after Spokes lofted the ball to Hanson, but his shot was straight at Roberts. Menayese then blocked an Osadebe shot before Spokes slotted a path for John-Lewis. John-Lewis took aim inside the box but slipped and fell over. After decent work by Rose, Coke and Clifton, Hendrie passed out of play when under no pressure whatsoever. As if by statute Town's moves ended with mistakes. 5 minutes were added following the earlier injury. Immediately worked up the left, and after shaking off Hendrie, put in a cross. Menayese found himself out of position and behind him Lavery met the cross with a crisp header which was too strong for McKeown. Thus at half time it was 1 - 1. Walsall had been allowed into the game by an error-strewn Town performance. The strong start was wasted. The conditions were blustery and bobbly but it was Town's poor quality of play which was the main cause of concern. There was no sustained passing so moves broke down routinely, and too many fouls were committed.

The second half started with the sides trading corners which led to nothing. On 53 minutes Payne did well to track back and set up an attack but Hendrie's cross went straight to Walsall's goalkeeper Roberts. This set the pattern for the half. It shouldn't have been a surprise as I can't remember when Town last played well with the wind behind. They just don't know about wind. For a short spell they showed as if they might know about passing and control, as McKeown launched a clearance for John-Lewis to bring down and pass to Spokes, whose cross was then woefully long. Town's play was slow and cumbersome, allowing Walsall to get back in numbers. Coke committed a foul in Town's half around the 60 minute mark, conceding the initiative again. There was no sustained pressure from Town as they continued to give away a ridiculous number of free-kicks, but Town did have a decent move when John-Lewis set up Coke who had a shot blocked. Clifton received the return and his shot was blocked also. Spokes received the ball on the right but his bullet-like cross was too hard for Hanson to get near. Finally on 69 minutes, a decent cross came in. Rose was the supplier. Hanson headed goalwards. The ball was cleared towards Hendrie whose cross sailed directly into the Osmond stand. Town then had half an attack when Hewitt's long clearance found Rose but Rose's no-so-deft chip over the defence gave John-Lewis no chance. Town needed to step up the pace and find some quality, and on 72 minutes Williams and Jackson came on for Spokes and John-Lewis. Nothing changed. Town added to their catalogue of fouls committed and seemed to be having problems coping with the space-time continuum as time ticked on with no demonstrable improvement in output. On 79 minutes Clifton got a cross in which Payne flicked on with his head, but it was well wide. Menayese then conceded a corner when under pressure from two Walsall attackers. Kinsella for Walsall then went through the left side of Town's defence like a knife through butter, but as if not to be outdone in the rank ineptitude stakes Lavery's shot ballooned over the top of the Pontoon stand. Town put a few short passes together on the left but with an air of inevitability the move ended with an overhit pass from Rose. On 86 minutes Hendrie committed a foul - we hadn't had one for a couple of minutes - and from the left byline Osabede sent in a curled cross which had McKeown scampering back. The ball landed on top of the net. Town actually had a chance on 87 minutes when Williams was fouled 12 yards outside the box. Now Williams was the one who scored a wonder free-kick against Mansfield as we all remember so could he do it again? After a theatrical performance in the build-up, Williams's free-kick went limply into the wall but at least it was in play still. Williams showed the only skill that I could remember since Town's early goal by setting off on a mazy run through the defence and winning a corner. Walsall cleared the resultant cross with ease. Two minutes were added. Jackson touched the ball. This is significant. I had forgotten he was on the pitch. Town foundered and messed about, and with 20 seconds left Hendrie received the ball on the right. With so little time left, Hendrie could have been expected on this one occasion to pile the ball into the box towards the head of Hanson but no, he underhit a short pass and gave the ball away, thus summing up the dire rubbish we'd been witnessing. This anti-spectacle ended: Town 1, Walsall 1. No good and not enough.

Aimless, tired, uninspired - this sums up Town's performance today. This had nothing to do with Walsall. After the opening goal, Town had nothing to offer. The Barrow victory looks to have been a false dawn. One of the most significant statistics was the 17 fouls we committed. Between this and the relentless poor passing and crossing, there was no chance of any flow. Some players were worse than others, and losing Matete in the first half was a blow for sure, but this was a wretched performance. The end, I fear, is nigh.

I did read a ridiculous comment suggesting that the only true supporters are those who watch the games on i-Follow. This is like saying you're not a true supporter if you don't go to every game. Not everyone can afford 20 quid a week, some have to work when we're playing and some don't have access to i-Follow, some are ill or, horror of horrors, don't live near North East Lincolnshire. I'm sure others can associate with my pre-WiFi experiences of being in some remote place scrabbling around to find out how Town have got on. Right now the real heroes are people working in the NHS and that. On the football front it's the people behind the scenes who enable the games to take place that I take my hat off to. I once regarded the players as heroes but 1998 was probably the last time I thought that. There certainly weren't any heroes on the pitch today. As supporters, whoever we are and however we support the team, we can't consider ourselves heroes but I reckon we do each deserve a medal for putting up with the tribulations that the 2020/21 edition of Grimsby Town provides.

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