Question of the WeekHow important is data in League 2 football?
|The Escape Vehicle|
The Escape Model
By: Andrew Doherty
AS some people don't like Mondays, I don't like Stevenage. The town seems to have been assembled like a Meccano kit. I've encountered random unpleasantness at the railway station and in the street, where my crime was to walk along it, and then there's the football club.
The low point was in 2017, the year of the so-called "Bragate". I remember waiting outside and being shouted at by a steward who simply wanted me to move to allow a car to pass, then was queried by another one for having a pen. It wasn't as fatuous a question, I should add, as "what are these for?" at Cambridge United where an eagle-eyed steward spotted my house keys. And the Pointless Answer is? The dubious act of having a pen at Stevenage involved an earnest discussion with a supervisor who decided that it was ok. The hostilities continued inside the ground, which was akin to being inside a prison courtyard, and then the treatment of women and children became national news. Stevenage's ground is at Broadhall. Broadmoor would have been closer to the mark. Whilst I'm not trying to claim that people in Grimsby go round happily and innocently gambolling through the street like spring lambs, folk are by and large open and friendly. I boycotted Stevenage the following year, but did go back the year after, having been told it was better. This time the stewards glowered at the fans, and the spectators in the front rows couldn't see, which caused avoidable tension, but in Stevenage terms it constituted an improvement. I did think about not coming this year. Quite apart from the reception, endorsed by the club chairman, it's not my favourite ground, but it's a game of football, Town are playing and it happens to be the nearest to where I live. So off I went to the Dark Side for my tenth away game of the season. At least I got two quid off entry as a concession, so that wasn't a bad start.
Avoiding the replacement bus, I arrived early. People picnicked next to the inner ring road. I found a bench. It overlooked a busy roundabout. The bench was knee-high in litter. I decided not to sit on it and walked on. It was a warm day. Blue sky and fluffy clouds contrasted with the dystopian awfulness of the place. I approached the ground. The welcome committee was waiting. I greeted the steward cheerily. He seemed surprised but loosened up. The entry process passed cordially, correctly and without incident. Credit where it's due. So far, so good. Time for football and today's game.
I've found that Stevenage as a team have always played decent football. I didn't know if that's the case this year as I missed the game at Blundell Park, but the appointment of Steve Evans as manager suggests they have sacrificed finesse for aggression. It's worked for them, as they stand in 3rd place, with a win today being enough for automatic promotion. So there was no shortage of motivation on their part. 6,533 spectators were in attendance.
The norm of late has been a changed line-up for Town as we head towards the end of the season, with at least the possibility of finishing in the top half to aim for. Today's team was: Crocombe - Efete, Smith, Waterfall, Maher, Glennon - Green - Holohan, Clifton - Lloyd, Taylor. The pitch looked in good shape as Town, in blue today, lined up in the red and white Lamex stadium. The game almost got off to a sensational start, muscling the ball upfield for Rose to bundle the ball home from close range within 30 seconds of the start. Fortunately Rose was offside. Town had four corners in the first 8 minutes, one after a nice Taylor layoff, but Glennon's delivery wasn't great. Clifton saved the day for Town at the other end, shrugging off Rose as the Stevenage striker advanced on goal. It was an eventful start. The game was stopped following a clash of heads between Piergianni and Bostwick, who had to be replaced. After another wasted Town corner following good work from Lloyd and Holohan, Stevenage went on the offensive. Glennon fouled Reid. Reeves delivered, Efete shook off Piergianni before Gilbey fired over. Smith then put in a high cross, and Reid went close. Town were struggling. The main attribute of Green in my eyes has always been fouling people, but today he took it to a new level by tackling his teammate Holohan. Holohan hobbled but carried on. Good work by Taylor on 25 minutes after an interception led to a layoff to Efete, but Efete's cross was too long, bringing back nightmarish visions of Sousa. Stevenage looked sharper. On 28 minutes following a quick move upfield Reid found space and forced a good save from Crocombe with his legs. From the corner, Piergianni headed the ball across, and only determined defending kept Rose out. From the corner, Piergianni got another great header in, for Sweeney to nod on but Crocombe was in position and gathered the header. Crocombe then had to make another low save. Stevenage were piling on the pressure. Town were hanging on. Maher then pulled Rose down outside the Town box. A corner was conceded. This time Waterfall was in place and headed clear, being fouled in the process. Great work by Clifton set up an attack which ended with a poor pass from Glennon. Lloyd was fouled in the corner, but Glennon sent in another poor cross. A nice Clifton snap shot on half time just missed, but overall Stevenage posed the most threat, and Town needed to step up the quality of their play to compete with the home side.
Amos replaced Glennon for the second half. Town attacked. Amos's cross earned a throw. Maher's throw was headed out for a corner. Efete and Taylor combined to earn a throw but goal scoring chances were absent. Opportunities were exchanged as Rose went close, and then Amos's cross to the advancing Lloyd lacked accuracy. 56 minutes had gone. Stevenage put together a controlled attack. Roberts picked the ball up on the right, sent in a curling cross with his left foot for the unmarked Reid to flick it on with his head beyond Crocombe's outstretched right hand. Stevenage 1, Town 0. Further calamity almost followed shortly afterwards when Crocombe dithered over a back pass and found himself unable to extricate the ball from his feet. Rose took advantage and shot on target from close range. Waterfall had shown great awareness and was in place to clear the ball off the line and spare Crocombe's blushes. On 62 minutes Orsi and Khan replaced Smith and Lloyd. Town were becoming increasingly overrun but on 65 minutes some nice work by Holohan led to Clifton stealing the ball off his teammate and shooting wide. Two minutes later Holohan tried to work the ball out from the middle deep in Town's area, but was caught by Reid who took possession and laid off to Wildin. Wildin's deft curled shot from outside the box beat Crocombe easily. Stevenage 2, Town 0. Khouri replaced Holohan on 67 minutes. Town had a moment when Taylor laid off to Clifton but Clifton's low shot lacked power. Amos then was beaten by the ball's bounce, recalling a horror moment in the Hartlepool game. The impressive Rose took the ball and forced a save from Crocombe. Rose had another shot from the corner. Piergianni sent in a header which Efete cleared to Gilbey who fired over. On 80 minutes, with Town a poor second Waterfall conceded a free kick by bodychecking Roberts. Forster-Caskey sent in the free-kick from the left where Piergianni was on hand to meet it with an unstoppable header. Fortunately, the header went wide. Waterfall showed he was not giving up at least, cutting out Rose who threatened to run clear. Amos then cut out another threat, as Town fought a rearguard action against a confident Stevenage side on the verge of promotion. Four minutes were added. Rose was fouled. Khan fiddled around on the left but it was indisputably Stevenage's day. It was a relief when the final whistle blew: Stevenage 2, Grimsby Town 0. The home manager, coaches, substitutes and supporters ran onto the pitch in jubilation.
Stevenage impressed me: the football team that is, not the town. Grimsby were outplayed today in all departments. Stevenage were more alert, more confident on the ball, more accurate in their passing, stronger, less mistake-prone, and quicker in their thinking and play than we were. We were punished for our mistakes and could easily have conceded more. Stevenage thoroughly deserved their victory. If we want to plan our escape upwards out of this division, theirs is a model to follow. As the Stevenage supporters wildly celebrated their promotion, my mind turned to escaping quickly out of here and back to a world of gambolling lambs.
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