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Question of the Week

Where will Grimsby be next season?

Dour struggle
Dour struggle

Moving on from D-Day

By: Andrew Doherty
Date: 09/03/2024

THREE matches in the last two seasons against today's opponents Sutton United have resulted in three close games. There's no reason to think that today would be different.

Unless they've changed their playing style, Sutton seem to thrive on physicality, and although they sit at the bottom of the table, they are draw specialists and defeats have generally been narrow ones.

My thought was that so long as we know what we're dealing with, we'll be ok. Last week's valuable home win and battling draw at Wimbledon show that we are capable of competing. It was almost reassuring to see Wimbledon haplessly playing the ball out from the back, serving as a reminder of how we ourselves were tripping ourselves up before common sense was restored. We now seem to be moving on from D-Day: the 1 - 5 defeat at home to Doncaster but as we know, we mustn't take anything for granted.

Sutton's Gander Green Lane ground is what we don't want to be visiting. A couple of seasons ago I enjoyed visiting places like Boreham Wood, Maidenhead and Dagenham, and today's visit to this old ground in London suburbia has a similarly inescapable whiff of non-leagueness. We don't want to be going back there to play football but all I encountered was friendliness from the staff at the ground. Today gives us a great opportunity to move further towards safety. With five games in two weeks, line-up changes were inevitable. Today's starting XI was: Cartwright - Mullarkey, Tharme, Rodgers, Hume - Thompson - Clifton, Holohan, Green - Rose, Obikwu. Town wore red today. Sutton meanwhile had the player described in the GTFC preview as the “ever helpful Aiden O'Brien”. It's good to know there's someone around who's willing to do the elderly neighbour's shopping or fix a light switch. My mate Jerry could have done with a lift after all his trains were messed up. I'm sure Mr Helpful could have obliged if we'd asked. And he would have been available as he wasn't in Sutton's starting side.

673 Town fans were here today in the crowd of 3,346. The atmosphere was quiet as the fans came in. The weather was clouding over, spring-like and ok for football. The pitch, which was covered in sand, might have something to say about the quality of football. After 6 minutes of acclimatisation and hardball exchange, a decent run by Clifton on the left was punched away Arnold. A minute later Obikwu trickery and pace earned a free kick on the left as he burst through a gap in the defence. Town went close when Sutton keeper Arnold fumbled a Hume cross. Rose returned to ball to Obikwu whose header was cleared off the line by Eastmond. On 14 minutes Holohan was fouled. Clifton's cross was headed out for a corner. Holohan supplied Rose who headed over. Sutton won a corner on 20 minutes, having done nothing so far, but Hart headed over. Obikwu was again fouled outside the box after good work by Thompson but Holohan's curled free kick sailed over the bar. On 28 minutes a nice sweeping move involving Green, Obikwu and a Rose dummy led to a shot by the advancing Clifton, which Arnold had to dive low to save. Hume was booked for tripping an advancing Sutton player. In a rare moment of excitement, dissent erupted between the referee and linesman after the latter flagged a foul on Obikwu, resulting in the referee feeling the need to demonstrably assert his authority. Taylor's pass then got stuck in the sand. Town broke. Arnold gathered from Clifton's cross with Obikwu lurking. Town won a free kick around midfield after a foul by Clay, a decision which the former Mariner was none too impressed with. Town had a further free kick but the attempted training ground move didn't work. On 42 minutes Obikwu's alertness led to Town gaining possession at the Sutton end. Clifton crossed. Obikwu shot but only the gallant effort of Duke-McKenna to scramble the the ball away prevented a goal. The ball was delivered from the corner. Clifton headed the ball down to Obikwu who reacted quickly to flick the ball home. Sutton 0, Town 1 was the halftime score. Town looked comfortable.

After an early Sutton attack, Obikwu earned a corner for Town as the second half started. Holohan sent the ball straight to the keeper. Green and Hume then worked up the left. Tharme's throw was cleared. A long ball from

Mullarkey on 50 minutes found Obikwu who ran through and fired in a shot which was blocked. A Clifton cross following a poor clearance found Obikwu but this move ended with a foul. Thompson did well to wriggle clear at the Town end but gave the ball away and was then booked when trying to retrieve the ball. For Sutton Lakin then found Sanderson whose snap shot went wide. A Holohan dig from range on 57 minutes led to a low save by Arnold. Nice skill from Mullarkey saw the ball with Obikwu whose fierce shot was straight at the keeper. This was Obikwu's last act. Wilson replaced him on 61 minutes. Tharme committed a foul on Smith 25 yards out but the opportunity was wasted. Town worked the ball up the left, Hume finding Rose who was tripped but nothing came of it. Sutton broke out. Sanderson crossed. Tharme hooked the ball clear. Town themselves broke. Wilson turned and pushed the ball forward but Rose was unable to reach it. Rose then had a shot which went wide. Green got a good connection on a shot. Arnold saved low. On 73 minutes Town won a corner from which Holohan found Rodgers's head but the header skimmed off the top of the crossbar. Sutton attacked. Rodgers tracked Coley before fouling Jackson on the right. Amid a mass of bodies, Smith got a shot in, kicking Green in the head after Green laid himself out to make the block. Cartwright tipped over Lakin's subsequent corner. Rose was booked on 79 minutes for kicking the ball away. Twice Rodgers did well, first to cut out a cross by Moore and then shrugging off the physically inclined Smith. Rodgers was then booked for dragging down Sanderson. Larkin floated the free kick in. Cartwright fumbled but retrieved the ball at the second attempt. Sanderson was then fouled on the right. Sutton were putting the pressure on. Eastmond had a shot which was deflected for a corner and 86 minutes had gone. The box was packed. The ball came over. Rose fell to the ground, resulting in him cradling the ball. The game continued for a few seconds before the referee noticed that the linesman's flag was raised. The referee went over to consult with the linesman and awarded a penalty, having presumably decided that Rose wasn't pushed although it's hard to see how he fell over otherwise. Smith stepped up and to his frustration was relieved of penalty-taking duties by Larkin. After all the wait Lakin stepped up and fired a crisp left-footed shot to Cartwright's left. Sutton 1, Town 1.What drama on an afternoon when there hadn't been any. 6 minutes were added. Tharme had a good shot but Holohan was unable to follow up. Hume then screwed a shot wide. The draw was inevitable. After a mostly quiet game, it ended fractiously after the controversial penalty. So it ended: Sutton United 1, Grimsby Town 1.

In the end the result was disappointing. Town played brightly in the first half but allowed themselves to come under pressure in the second period by a side who weren't playing with much urgency in spite of their league position and with a disinterested support. In spite of the pressure a Sutton equaliser wasn't inevitable as Town's defence stood firm. Just down the road from Carshalton Beech was today's pitch which resembled Sutton beach, and so this was never going to be a feast of silky football. Town did put some decent moves together at times and it's good that we have speed as well as determination in the side. But the important thing was the point we earned. With Forest Green winning we still have work to do but encouragingly over the last four games we have shown signs of moving on from the D-Day fiasco.

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