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Danger lurks
Danger lurks

Red for Danger

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 29/12/2022

EXACTLY 21 years ago today Town beat Portsmouth 3 - 1 in an evening game at Blundell Park. I remember the game well because it was so cold that Portsmouth's Japanese international goalkeeper kept dropping the ball.

In earlier years I used to go with my friend Chris to the Number 2 Refreshment Room and sit and drink on the platform bench, otherwise known as the lounge, such was and is the size of the Number Two. That evening it was too cold a pint, even with gloves on. This evening's opponents Salford City were in existence then, but competing in the North West Counties league alongside the likes of Prescot Cables. Having become the plaything of Gary Neville and his mates in 2014, they now find themselves in the EFL, but have not yet made the leap up the divisions as might have been expected. They currently lurk outside the play-off group, having had a good December following poor results in November.

It was less of a case of the Red Army coming to town than a Red Trickle, as 102 dedicated away supporters made their way to Blundell Park this evening in a crowd of 6,178. Town made three changes from the previous game at Harrogate. The starting line-up was: Crocombe - Efete, Waterfall, Smith, Glennon - Green - Clifton, Holohan, Khan - McAtee - Orsi. The most interesting change was the introduction of Orsi up front, releasing McAtee to play behind and hopefully with more freedom than he has had as the lone striker.

Unusually Town attacked the Pontoon end for the first half after Salford won the toss. Town kicked off and Clifton lost possession immediately. Salford passed the ball around. Efete was slow to challenge as Salford entered the box. The ball was played to the left. Touray crossed and Smith smashed the ball low with a left-footed volley into the left corner. 54 seconds had gone and Town were 0 - 1 down. Town proceeded to struggle with the wind and the bounce, and were having possession issues. The crowd were unhappy with this diet of awfulness. Town did have a better move on 11 minutes when Orsi picked up the ball in midfield, and found McAtee who sent Khan away. McAtee's header from Khan's cross was pushed away by King for a corner. An Orsi interception on 16 minutes led to a Khan run and free-kick. Glennon's cross was missed by goalkeeper King but the defender headed clear. A nice move starting with Waterfall ended with a cross from McAtee and Clifton ballooning the ball over. Town had started to apply pressure, and on 20 minutes won the ball on the right. Orsi's neat back flick found McAtee who rather than going alone picked out Khan on the left. Khan cut outside and hit the ball into space past King and into the right-hand corner 1 - 1. The game had livened up and Town looked to press on. Holohan had a shot blocked after an Efete cross. Town were lucky in the 28th minute when a poor cross field pass from Smith to Efete resulted in a rushed clearance from Crocombe. McAleny picked the ball up in the middle and was clear but offside was given. The lesson wasn't learned. Moments later after a back pass from Smith, Crocombe played a ball up the middle to Holohan, who lost possession after a terrible touch. All Salford's Smith had to do was fire past Crocombe to make it 2 - 1 to the visitors, which he did. Town looked vulnerable and nervous at the back, and this goal seemed inevitable. Town had handed both goals to Salford on a plate. In the 33rd minute Watson played a long ball from the left to Smith's outside Town's box. Town's Smith was shielding the goal, but while slipping Salford's Smith managed to loop the ball over Town's Smith and Crocombe to make it 3 - 1 to Salford. On 37 minutes Smith threatened to run clear again after a misjudgement by Waterfall but Town's Smith was on hand to stop the attack. Town won a free-kick near the right corner a minute later. Glennon's cross met with the back of Nartey's head but the keeper was able to gather the ball. As Town reeled still from earlier errors, another mistake led to a Salford attack on the right. Khan slipped, allowing Watt the space to cross. Efete lost Smith who had the simplest of headers to mark his hat-trick and make it 4 - 1 to Salford. Holohan was fouled on 41 minutes but Efete missed his shot and the opportunity was lost. Salford responded with an attack. Bolton crossed from the right, but Crocombe was able to take the cross. A Khan run earned a corner on the left, but Green's back header was too strong. Town had attacking moments but were undone by poor play at the back with the defence all at sea and by too many mistakes in the centre.

After the first half disaster Town made three substitutions. Maher, Kiernan and Morris replaced Smith, Clifton and Holohan, who along with Efete had been the worst offenders. Town had an opportunity on 47 minutes when Green won the ball in midfield and played the ball up to Khan. In spite of Bolton and King coming to a complete misunderstanding, the ball ran away from Khan, Town's best player today. On 49 minutes a terrible touch by Efete led to the same player committing a foul in Town's half. Town showed intent and urgency for a while. Kiernan battled after Green lost possession. Glennon crossed. Orsi pushed the ball bac nicely to Efete who was guilty of the mother of all slices. On 62 minutes an Efete tackle started a move. Khan made a good run, running between two defenders and supplying Green, who passed to Morris for a shot. The shot went well over. McAtee got a decent shot in following a Green cross field pass and Glennon cross, then an Orsi cross was muscled away by the Salford defence with Kiernan squeezed out. But Town weren't making inroads and chances were speculative, while Salford continued to play neatly. On 72 minutes Maher got in the way of a shot by Bailey. It was now a formality and had been for some time as large numbers of home fans left a shellshocked Blundell Park. On 77 minutes Pepple and Scannell replaced Orsi and McAtee. But all life had gone out of this game. As Salford played brightly, from Town's perspective it was a dismal struggle and the final whistle was welcome. Everyone could now go home and do something constructive. Grimsby Town 1, Salford City 4 was the final score.

The wind was taken out of this game after 40 minutes. Town's defence were hesitant and the team was punished for this along with frequent mistakes. Salford didn't even have to resort to time-wasting tactics as teams sometimes do. After winning 4 points out of a possible 21 and as we drop down the table with a mistake-riddled team, we are heading into dangerous territory. Tonight the reds of Salford came and exploited our ineptitude.

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