Question of the WeekHow important is data in League 2 football?
Horror at the Park
By: Andrew Doherty
AFTER the euphoria of the FA Cup, it's back to the reality of battling for points in the league. I've always had respect for today's opponents Colchester United since their FA Cup win over the then-mighty Leeds in 1971.
I realise this is not in the least relevant as the intervening 51 years have not been glittered with glory, rather it's been a struggle for them in the lower reaches of the league. I went to the reverse fixture in Essex earlier in the season. Town won 1 - 0. Colchester had opportunities but looked like a side without confidence. More recently they have signed some players, started to score goals and have lifted themselves off the bottom. So they're not a team to be taken lightly, but equally we should have nothing to fear. Quite apart from FA Cup heroics, Town's performance last week at Crewe was outstanding. A big bonus was the addition in particular of Lloyd and Emmanuel, who provided an extra dimension to our play. One thing to overcome, which can be a stumbling block, was the expectations of the Blundell Park crowd. In this respect I remember coming in 1977 with a friend, who had got his first job away from home and came to celebrate his new life and a Town victory. We lost 1 - 2. The opponents were Colchester. But we could be optimistic like the traders I saw today on Cleethorpes seafront, who had their wares out in the expectation of a rush of tourists wanting to buy ice cream and seaside products on this cold February day.
With alternating Saturday and midweek games for the foreseeable future in prospect, some squad rotation was predictable. Town's starting line-up today was as last Saturday at Crewe: Crocombe - Efete, Waterfall, Maher, Amos - Emmanuel, Hunt, Morris, Clifton - McAtee - Lloyd. A healthy crowd of 6,462 was here today, including 253 away supporters.
The game started at pace with McAtee and Clifton linking up but stopped after 4 minutes following an injury to Lloyd. Town won some throws but the initial intensity had gone, and Town struggled to control the bouncing ball. The game was scrappy with neither side retaining possession. Colchester won a corner on 12 minutes. It was cleared with ease. The visitors followed this up with a decent attack. Akinde squirmed his way through but the move ended with a foul. Amos then set up McAtee whose shot from range was well wide. On 21 minutes the game was stopped for an injury, prolonging the day of everyone watching this turgid fare. My mate Andy blamed the pitch. On 24 minutes Hunt was clattered, earning Town a free kick, before sending his cross over the top of everyone and straight out of play. Not much bobble to complain about there. Hunt's effort encapsulated the footballing atrocity. Amos and Clifton linked up but this ended when Amos lost possession and dived desperately as if somehow this made up for such a poor quality touch. Passes were going astray. The ball bounced. Balls do bounce - someone needed to tell the players about this. Fouls were committed. On 30 minutes Colchester won a free kick on the right after a foul. Wood floated the free-kick into the box. Kelleher rose and beat the defence, heading towards goal. Hopper was on hand to make it 1- 0 to Colchester. Town sought to respond, winning a free kick in an equivalent position to Colchester's goal scoring move. After his previous abysmal attempt, Hunt was relieved of free kick duties and made way for Amos. His delivery was good, with Town winning a corner. Hunt played a short one to Morris who crossed. Efete shot from inside the box - blocked - Lloyd struck - blocked - and Efete had a second chance but his scuffed shot went wide. Town survived a Colchester attack on 37 minutes. Other than the brief flurry a few minutes earlier, Town were asleep and Colchester were administering the sleeping pills. But Town were their own worst enemy, failing to put anything together. "There's no synchronisation in this game", commented Ian alongside me. "You mean it's crap?" I enquired, seeking clarification. On cue, Clifton was fouled, setting up an attack but Morris's cross was appalling, going straight to the keeper. Hunt and then Hall were booked for fouls. As Town passed the ball, the referee blew for half time. There had been nothing positive about Town's play. The half was characterised by 14 fouls and poor play, but also for the goal that gave Colchester the advantage. It had to get better.
Orsi replaced Hunt for the second half. After 5 minutes of abject nothingness, McAtee had a bursting run which brought the hitherto silent home support to life. Town had an attack on 55 minutes but the frustration was evident on and off the pitch. Such was the interest in the crowd that next to me Andy was showing pictures of washing machines to Ian. McAtee won a free-kick after being kicked in the face on 57 minutes. Morris sent the ball over to the left. Amos crossed but McAtee headed over and wasn't close. Amos and McAtee seemed to be the only ones trying to make anything happen, but Town as a whole had developed a disease where they were incapable of knowing where their teammates were. Colchester put together an attack on 62 minutes, getting round the defence to win a corner. Kelleher went close with a header. Colchester's style wasn't pleasant to watch but it was effective. Town won a corner after Orsi battled well. Morris's corner was mishit. The ball was cleared and Clifton got the ball tangled between his feet. It was inconceivable how bad Town's ball control was today. With 70 minutes gone, Emmanuel was forced to shake off Appiah to concede a corner, so finishing the ‘appier of the two. But although Town cleared the corner, there was nothing to be happy about today. Town had an appeal for a freekick outside Colchester's box when Lloyd appeared to be strangled. Colchester advanced down the other end and almost scored but Appiah was a bit slow, laying off to Chilvers who placed his shot wide. On 75 minutes Town made a quadruple substitution. On came Holohan, O'Neill, Warne and Dickson-Peters for Morris, Lloyd, Emmanuel and McAtee. Although it seemed to a positive measure, the doubt remained that by bringing on 4 players, the team would need to regroup with just 15 minutes left. It seemed an act of desperation. Colchester's goalkeeper O'Hara was booked for time-wasting. As suspected, even with the substitutions Town had no shape, being so far off an acceptable standard. Colchester were happy to fiddle around, tackle and waste time which Chilvers did admirably, collapsing in a heap after failing to break through Town's defence. Appiah had a shot on 86 minutes but Town simply weren't able to control or get through defenders. With such a lack of quality you have to question the preparation for this game and the mindset, which apart from the first three minutes and one frenzied effort in the first half made it look as if Town were collectively and incompetently going through the motions and underestimating the task. So the final score was: Grimsby Town 0, Colchester United 1. "This is what it's all about", was Andy's summary. Well if losing 0-1 abysmally at home to Colchester is what it's about, then the objective was well and truly achieved.
By the end I was drained just watching this awful spectacle and willing something to happen. Nothing did happen. No opportunity was missed to lose control or misplace a pass. I heard a number of excuses - the referee, negative opposition, the pitch. I didn't realise that the referee was responsible for motivating Town's players and getting them to pass the ball in a straight line and create opportunities. Colchester set up with 5 at the back and weren't pretty to watch, but had better chances than we did, which isn't saying much. As for the pitch, both teams played on the same one. We'd have been more productive if we'd dug it up, planted some potatoes and added some raised beds. So we lost to Colchester again. The Colchester Curse? Some would accuse me of confirmation bias. The fact is that Town were terrible, and this was an unmitigated horror show.
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