Question of the WeekHow important is data in League 2 football?
By: Andrew Doherty
AFTER Blundell Park, Swindon's County Ground is my most visited league ground by virtue of where I used to live. Because of work and just taking the easy option, I'd go to Swindon and watch the likes of Danny Invincible and Frank Talia rather than make a round trip of over 400 miles.
Talia was the goalkeeper whose skill was to race out to the half way line where he would realise that he wasn't guarding his goal. It was rubbish, and the atmosphere wasn't very nice at that time so I gave up and went back to driving over 400 miles to North East Lincolnshire to watch rubbish that at least I was interested in.
Of the teams I've seen in our league this season, Swindon were the most impressive opponents, especially in the first half of our game with them at Blundell Park. This week they've had a change after their manager left for lowly Crawley - bet that's fun when they next play each other. In his place as interim managers are two ex-Mariners: psychopath Gavin Gunning and the less controversial Steve Mildenhall. Goalkeeper Mildenhall actually made more appearances for Grimsby than for his home town club Swindon, and has the distinction of making his Swindon debut as a centre forward, coming on as a substitute at Tranmere - not completely unprecedented because I remember Town's keeper John Macey coming on as an outfield player at Lincoln in the 1969/70 season. With Gunning at the helm, you'd imagine that Swindon would be up for some aggression, but Town should be entering this game without fear after battling wins on heavy pitches against Stockport and Burton. Today's team was: Crocombe - Efete, Maher, Smith - Green - Clifton, Holohan, O'Neill, Khan - McAtee. Town wore blue today in front of an impressive crowd of 11,053, with 565 Mariners supporters here today.
Within a minute a nice ball from new boy O'Neill set up a move on the left. The ball was passed to Holohan whose sharp volley was tipped over for a corner. Swindon responded when their version of Khan swivelled and turned in and out before hitting a low shot which rebounded off the inside of the post. On 8 minutes a neat move through the middle saw O'Neill find Khan but the receiving McAtee couldn't get power or leverage. Efete won a corner after a sliced clearance but Green's header was straight at the keeper. Town then launched an attack after combative work from McAtee. The move ended when Holohan's poor touch conceded possession. The Swindon defender opted for an agricultural clearance smack into the face of the referee who was poleaxe. The game stopped for 10 minutes upon which the referee was stretchered off and replaced. Hopefullly he's ok. On the restart, Swindon applied pressure but Town broke after a good interception from Clifton. The chance was lost when Green made a poor pass to the left instead of taking the option to shoot. 25 minutes had gone, less 10 for the stoppage. Swindon attacked up the right. Hutton had plenty of space. He crossed. Swindon returnee Austin, also in space, met the perfect cross with a powerful header from close range to make it 1 - 0 to Swindon. It was too easy. Town allowed Swindon too much space. A crunching tackle from Green helped Town to launch an immediate response. Amos crossed but McAtee delayed his shot and was closed down. A Brennan header for Swindon lacked power, letting Town off the hook, then Green saved the day after a poor Crocombe clearance. Town seemed to be instigating their own downfall. As if to prove the point, a suicidal back pass from the right saw Wakeling in on goal. Amos moved in from the left but was the wrong side of the player, bringing Wakelibg down and earning himself a red card. As Swindon prepared for the free kick on the edge of the box, Khan was sacrificed for Glennon who came on as left back for the departed Amos. The free kick was poor but Town were up against it. Two minutes later Hutton was allowed space and crossed into the box. Smith went for the ball and kneed it goalbound, forcing a brilliant save from Crocombe to prevent an own goal. Town were all at sea. A little move between Hepburn-Murphy and Wakeling came to nothing, and then patient work by Efete on the right led to a switch to the left. Glennon hit a first time cross saw McAtee competing with Brennan 5 yards out. McAtee's effort drifted just wide. 9 minutes were added. Green was penalised for a foul on the half way line. Once again Hutton beat the defence and crossed. Town struggled to clear the ball. Clifton then won the ball in midfield. O'Neill ran up the middle and found McAtee whose strike was poor. Smith found himself shaking off Austin after another Hutton cross which Town were unable to deal with. Swindon won a corner. Hepburn-Murphy passed to Austin whose chip went wide. Swindon 1, Town 0. It had been an eventful first half. Town were guilty of giving Swindon too much space, especially on the left where Hutton was causing havoc, and it didn't seem to have occurred to Town's players that they are allowed to shoot. The level of reaction was poor. On top of this Town were down to 10 men as Swindon were starting to look fluid in their play.
The second half started with a terrible clearance from Crocombe to Wakeling. Town dealt with it uncomfortably as Crocombe stretched and flapped. Hepburn-Murphy then teed up Austin who, closing in from the right, fired a ferocious shot against the crossbar. Town won a throw, which Maher took. Green headed back but the attack fizzled out like a damp firework. Swindon were passing the ball about patiently. A carefully placed pass found Hepburn-Murphy who missed to the right and should have done better. Town's best chance was going to be on the break as Swindon continued to apply pressure. Hutton was still causing problems on the right as Swindon passed and probed, peppering shots on goal. On 62 minutes the inevitable happened when another Hutton cross was met by Lavinier whose volley crashed against the post and in. Swindon 2, Town 0. O'Neill's hustling then earned Town a throw but Green's Law applied where Town's midfielder commits a foul as Town launched an attack. Swindon swept up the other end. Lavinier burst forward, passing to the onrushing Williams who took advantage to slot home easily. Swindon 3, Town 0. Town had no shape at all. Town won a corner on 68 minutes but an exceedingly poor cross ended the move. O'Neill broke for Town on 71 minutes, and was fouled by Khan after he had misplaced a pass to McAtee. Poor play was becoming an infectious disease among Town's players. This was the definition of a lost cause now. On 76 minutes Morris and Hunt came on for Green and McAtee, who today lacked sharpness. These changes made no difference as a minute later Shade sliced through the defence like butter, passing through to Darcy who slotted home to make it 4 - 0 to the home side. In the most pointless gesture of all time Orso replaced O'Neill on 85 minutes. The game was all but over. But it wasn't as to cap it all off, Smith lost possession in Town's box, allowing Khan to slip in and score. Swindon Town 5, Grimsby Town 0 was the final score as Town hung on for the 5 added minutes. Time to go home “Get me out of here”, I heard a Town fan cry as we left.
Like the weather and the trains, this was a washout. We can have no complaints. Swindon were more slick, quicker, found spaces even before the sending-off and played the ball around with purpose. Barring one or two interceptions in the first half, Town were too slow and hesitant, with Swindon alert and closing us down when we did get opportunities. In the end, Swindon were rampant as 10 man Town became demoralised and ragged. Losing to Swindon was not unexpected but the poor quality of play and the manner of the performance both before and after Amos's dismissal was disappointing. Both quality and shape were missing.
Yet spite of the result this was a good day. Before the game I met with my old colleague and friend Norman who supports Swindon and told me about Mildenhall's unlikely debut, and during and after the game had the company of Town fans. In the pub as I sat having a nice conversation with a smashing group of Swindon fans and Histon Mariner sat at the adjacent table, I heard the tale of Janet Mouland from Grimsby who consolidated the football family inbreeding by marrying David, a Swindon Town supporter. We're all in it together. Such a collective day out is what makes it good. Of course in any event we can claim credit for victory today on the back of the Mildenhall-Gunning connection.
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