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Disunited in Eptitude

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 05/04/2021

AS I watch Town games on i-Follow and the EFL highlights programme, it strikes me how teams are capable of rapid sweeping attacks in numbers, and low driven shots on the run which find the corner of the net.

Now it's true that for 20 seconds of highlights we are probably missing 89 minutes of abject rubbish, but with Town these moments come about as often as solar eclipses.

But here has been an improvement in recent games. We've seen decent strikes from Williams, Spokes and Clifton lately, and the early period against Salford was a good team effort, but usually fluid play is an exceptional event, it rarely lasts for more than 10 minutes, it's always slow and so often moves routinely break down with fouls and misplaced passes. I imagine that by virtue of their position in the league today's opposition Cheltenham are more adroit in the eptitude department, so today's fixture was always going to be a tough one as we desperately seek points towards our increasingly unlikely survival. Eptitude is not really a Grimsby Town thing. Synonymous with talent, the dictionary definition of eptitude is "natural ability to find knowledge or skill". I have difficulty applying this to Town's current team. With them, it involves a lot of effort.

Town's team today at a cold and windy Blundell Park was: McKeown - Hewitt, Waterfall, Menayese - Hendrie, Matete, Clifton, Habergham - John-Lewis, Hanson, Payne. My own reaction on seeing this line-up was that where Hewitt and Menayese have proved to be effective, a third defender has led to misunderstandings. Two in central midfield could lead to us being overrun, and while I was pleased to see Habergham in the side, Hendrie's effectiveness as an attacking wing back was going to depend on which version turned up.

It took Town only 20 seconds to have their first chance. Habergham seemed to be caught by surprise and struck his shot after a Hendrie cross from the edge of the box into the Osmond stand. Town had a half a chance on 7 minutes when Clifton dragged his shot after a lay-off from John-Lewis. A minute later Town attacked again. The ball was played upfield to Hanson who flicked the ball from the right inside the box to Payne who turned and skilfully squeezed himself between two defenders. Payne passed across to John-Lewis who walked it into the net. 1 - 0 to Town. Good work from Matete and Clifton led to a Town corner. Town showed more desire than Cheltenham. Good work by Habergham won a corner after a long ball from Hewitt. Cheltenham were committing the fouls today, and Habergham was fouled on 15 minutes. Hanson's header from the free-kick went wide. Matete tidied up after Cheltenham's first attack on 22 minutes. Town then started playing loosely. Hendrie twice played the ball to no-one, and the general performance became ragged. Cheltenham took encouragement and set up a wave of attacks. Good work by Waterfall and Menayese kept Cheltenham out, and McKeown made an excellent save from a Hussey shot. Cheltenham won a throw deep in Town's half on 33 minutes. Tozer's long through was met by Boyle who leapt above a packed defence and headed home. 1 - 1. Cheltenham now dominated play. Boyle looked to have headed home again from a cross off the right but was adjudged to have fouled Hanson. Town had a couple of chance towards the end of the half as Habergham had two shots but both were blocked. Cheltenham had a good chance when a great ball from midfield was slipped to Smith, who escaped Menayese. McKeown made another great save. So it was 1 - 1 at half-time. It was a decent half, but Town allowed Cheltenham back in the game. Cheltenham showed their greater quality but Town were still in it.

Within a minute of the second half starting McKeown had to make another great save from a Boyle header after a Tozer long throw was flicked on by Smith. Cheltenham then won a free-kick on the left. McKeown pushed Sercombe's curled free-kick onto the bar. Another long throw was clear. Town tried to respond but were putting themselves in trouble with loose play. On 53 minutes a Menayese sliced clearance gave Cheltenham another long throw opportunity. From the throw Meyanese headed over with McKeown behind him being blinded by the sun. Hussey's subsequent corner was pushed away. Town weren't helping themselves. Matete gave the ball away. Payne committed a clumsy foul as Town tried to set up an attack. Hendrie kicked May instead of the ball after reacting too slowly. This was the familiar pattern. Smith had a golden opportunity for Cheltenham on 56 minutes after a cross from the left, but his header went straight to McKeown. Menayese then committed a foul on the right after a tussle. Hussey crossed and won a throw. Tozer time again. Matete cleared. Cheltenham were in charge. Town had a faint chance on 60 minutes after a poor clearance, but Payne's pass was poor. Two great chances came along, one for each side. Hewitt missed a long ball, allowing Smith in. McKeown came out quickly and smothered Smith's attempt with his face. Town launched an attack, when Payne laid the ball off from midfield to Hanson who was advancing on the left. Hanson didn't have the pace but should have done better. His shot was disappointing and hit the side netting. It was as if he was taken by surprise and didn't expect to score like Habergham earlier on in the game. Town won a corner after Hendrie's cross struck a defender. Habergham's corner found Payne who glanced header went wide. Cheltenham came back. Blocks by Menayese and Waterfall kept them out. Town still weren't tight enough and continued to give the ball away. Town had another escape on 71 minutes when Lloyd was sent clear, escaping Waterfall and with just McKeown to beat. Lloyd's shot was wide. Hanson headed another Tozer throw clear. Town stumbled. Clifton tried to set up a move but passed to no-one. Matete tried to make something happen on 75 minutes, but Payne was shepherded out after John-Lewis's pass. On 77 minutes Hendrie conceded a throw, which brought Tozer into play once more. In a near mirror image of Cheltenham's goal, Tozer's throw found the leaping Long but the header went over. Coke replaced John-Lewis on 78 minutes in a long-overdue substitution. With Town unable to control the ball up front and needing to score, it was surprising that a defensive midfielder such as Coke came on instead of the more creative Williams, Jackson, Lamy or even Spokes. By this stage Town had resorted to a familiar pattern: long punted balls and misplaced passes. Town were lucky on 84 minutes when a long ball over to the right evaded the defence and found Williams whose volley came crashing off the inside of the post with McKeown unable to get near it. Town then won a free kick after Hanson was fouled on half way but in familiar fashion Clifton committed a needless foul. Green replaced Payne on 85 minutes. Tozer continued to wreak havoc with his throw-ins and on 86 minutes beat 10 players in Town's box before McKeown finally gathered. Town had a shout for a penalty following a Habergham cross which was laid off by Matete to Coke but although the shot hit the defender's arm, the ball was going at pace and the defender could hardly avoid it. Town won a corner which was cleared easily. Three minutes were added. A long Hewitt ball found Clifton who passed to Habergham, except that Habergham will only be aware of this fact from watching the replay. Town were reduced to rubble. But as full-time beckoned, Cheltenham's keeper Grifffiths slipped as he took a goal kick. Hanson headed back to Green who advanced on goal. Griffiths came out and Green took aim. But as Hanson and Habergham before him, the whole idea of being clear on goal and expecting to score seemed to take Green completely by surprise and his shot was aimed miserably into Griffiths's arms. Game over: Town 1, Cheltenham 1.

We can moan about the formation and the lack of an earlier substitution, but ultimately Town as a team lacked quality and composure again. We were second best and looked like we expected to be for most of the game. We were resilient in defence but the result and the performance weren't good enough. Cheltenham attacked and looked like scoring every time they attacked. Town attacked, looked like giving the ball away and usually did. The understanding between the midfield and the attacking trio was poor. They did their best, but this performance is why we are where we are. There was no Eptitude Factor today and there very rarely is with this team.

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