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Where will Grimsby be next season?

A new season dawns...
A new season dawns...

The Delight of Nothing

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 05/08/2023 (Last updated: 06/08/2023)

MIRROR mirror on the wall .... just as the old season ended with a home game against Wimbledon three months ago, so the new season starts with one. The teams came out to customary applause and excitement as is normal at the beginning when optimism reigns and hope is in the air.

Things have been known to go wrong, notably when we lost 1 - 4 at home to Forest Green Rovers in the equivalent fixture five years ago, but the signs are that Mr Hurst has brought in some decent players to strengthen the squad, and has had a pre-season campaign to try things out. Whether this will be enough to overcome Wrexham, Notts County, Bradford and Stockport over the season remains to be seen, but on the face of it, we have reason to be optimistic. It is cause for concern that a number of players have been injured but on the face of it we have strength in depth. Today's opponents Wimbledon had a bad run at the end of last season, but will have had the opportunity to address that in the off-season. Let's see.

I took my place in the Main Stand in today's crowd of 7,214. Having worked out that it cost me £42.50 per home match last year, I couldn't justify renewing my season ticket, and am pleased that the club has launched a "Release Your Seat" initiative incentivising those season ticket holders who can't go to a game to give up their seat for re-sale. I did release my seat on occasions last year without the incentive but it's much better now there is one. There was no problem getting a ticket to be here today and was delighted to be so on this imitation of a summer's day. I'm not sure my wife was so delighted but she fancied the day out. Town's line-up, tasked with turning delight or variations of it into something greater, this afternoon was: Eastwood - Mullarkey, Rodgers, Maher, Glennon - Eisa, Hunt, Clifton, Conteh, Vernam - Rose. To misquote the film of Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, who needs the Women's World Cup when there's Town? Or any World Cup for that matter. As we know, Town transcends all else and is why we go round boring everyone to death about it.

It was a grey and rainy day, and train cancellations were in the air but it didn't seem to have put off the masses bound for the Costa del Cleethorpes. Away from the pleasure seekers, our focus was now on the match. The much-vaunted new toilet experience was underwhelming. Hopefully it wouldn't be the same on the pitch. The sun threatened to appear. Blundell Park was bathed in sunless brightness as the game began. Town won a corner within a minute. Hunt crossed. Glennon volleyed wide. Town played with intent. The pace and passing were good. Glennon, hitching up his shorts in the manner of a man named Ronaldo, delivered an truly terrible free kick early on, then Mullarkey had a decent shot. Town had a bit of luck on 10 minutes when former Mariner Tilley crossed for the hirsute Davison to miss the header on goal. Town responded well, working the ball upfield. Clifton headed down. Elisa swerved but curled his shot wide. Eisa then found Glennon who surged forward but struck a weak low shot at Wimbledon keeper Bass. 20 minutes had passed. The crowd and play went quiet after the initial adrenaline rush. A nice cut back from Vernam, who was looking lively, brought the crowd to life. Great physicality from Conteh led to possession and a pass to Vernam but there was no-one to meet the low cross. A bad mistake by Tilley then let Rose in but the ensuing shot was dragged wide. Conteh was fighting and winning balls in midfield. Eisa looked a good investment too as he spread the ball about. Both combined before Hunt put in a cross, Rose fell over and play continued. 30 minutes had now gone. Town had had 71% of possession but had not challenged Bass in the Wimbledon goal. Wimbledon had the best chance when Davison slid the ball through to Neufville but Rodger's saw the danger and expertly nipped in to stop the threat. From the corner by Tilley, Johnson had a powerful header which went just wide. A mistake by Pearce led to a Clifton cross and a corner, but Hunt's delivery led to nothing. With 5 minutes left before halftime, the game was losing any semblance of quality as the teams euphemistically traded possession. On the sidelines Town's assistant manager Chris Doig did what he does best and shouted at people. To be fair I too felt like shouting at Town's players who had descended into torpor. This prompted a swift passing move, which ended when Vernam was unable to locate the ball between his feet. Tilley then matched him in the ineptitude department when cutting inside and falling over himself as he attempted to shoot. The grey and the rain returned. 0 - 0 at halftime.

The brightness returned. Neufville had a good chance for Wimbledon but headed downwards and over the bar it flew. On 48 minutes Clifton was hauled over by Pearce on the right. Hunt took the free-kick. Clifton received the ball outside the box and sent in a super volley which just missed the target. Rodger's followed up with a 30 yard cracker which Bass acrobatically pushed wide. Another Clifton shot earned a corner but Hunt was offside and the move ended. Al-Hamada was then put clean through for Wimbledon. His shot shaved the post, at which point the linesman's flag went up for offside. Town followed up with two corners. 57 minutes had passed. From the second corner Wimbledon broke quickly. Little slipped the ball through the middle to Al-Hamadi. Mullarkey challenged for the ball. Both players fell over. The referee awarded a penalty. Al-Hamadi stepped and shot to Eastwood's left - saved! The crowd went wild. On 62 minutes a terrific run and turn by Eisa led to a fingertip save. Again the delivery of the corner was a disappointment. Three minutes later a quality cross pass from Clifton to Conteh resulted in a shot that Bass pushed away for a corner. But the corner was poor and another opportunity was wasted. Conteh was booked for a trip on 68 minutes, giving Wimbledon a free kick 35 yards out. This was dealt with easily, and good control and passing from the assured Mullarkey found Vernam as Town went on the attack again. On 73 minutes Eastwood followed the tradition of terrible clearances by Town's keeper, and provided Little with a chance but the shot was equally inept. Hunt then dribbled himself into trouble but Omar Bugiel, not to be mixed up with the other Omar, decided to fall over. The game was losing its edge. Time for substitutions. New signing Gnahoua replaced Vernam on 75 minutes, impressively having a shirt with his name on in the shirt time he was been with us. Boos erupted: enter Wimbledon's Pantomime Villain, Gamesmanship Inc Harry Pell. Wisely, Green was brought on for the tiring and lightweight Hunt to combat the threat of Mr Nasty. Even the sky went dark. It clouded over and the rain returned. But there was a game to be won still. Pearce made an error on 84 minutes. Mullarkey did well but Town failed to make use of the throw deep in Wimbledon territory. On 87 minutes Mr Nasty slotted in a neat through pass to Bugiel who was offside and received due feedback from the Pell Monster for his trouble. Town's defence was well marshalled today so this was not just luck. Unbelievably, 9 minutes were added. It was the survival of the fittest now. Pike replaced Clifton. Great work by Conteh stopped a Wimbledon break, before Eisa was fouled on the left edge of the box. Glennon's cross this time found Pyke but Town's striker couldn't gain control and take advantage. Pyke was then booked for an exuberant challenge on Johnson as the game headed to its finish. A lot of scrapping went on but it all resulted in the inevitable: Town 0, Wimbledon 0.

Not much happened in spite of a lot of effort by both teams. Town played well in patches and had most of the possession, while Wimbledon had the clearer chances to score. Town resorted to shots from distance. Dare I say we need someone, probably Rose, who can play in the McAtee role and look out for options ahead. This said, Conteh and Elisa played particularly well in midfield. We need to improve our dead ball play. It was woeful and we failed to take advantage of dead ball situations. It's too early to make meaningful predictions but it struck me that this was a clash between two mid-table sides.

I always remember seeing on the back of sweet wrappers and the like the statement "if you are not delighted with this product, please return it for a refund". I don't know how that would work for football. I won't be claiming a refund for today. All roads led to nothing and therein lay the delight, along with just being back amongst good people at Blundell Park.

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