Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Pat Bell
20 September 2008
Morecambe 1 Grimsby Town 1
Remember the spring? Barnes, Till and Bolland had somehow stolen an advantage to ease the Mariners towards a Wembley final and when Bore tore Morecambe apart days later, grand vistas opened - we'd sweep to victory in the second leg, new-found and long-lost fans would provide the uplift for a promotion challenge and a team with no right to exist would be humbled. None of it ever quite happened and, although the glorious weather was doing its best to deny it, it was autumn. Old Father Time had gone, leaving Watkiss gesticulating wildly in the dug-out like a young Alan Buckley, and Tony Ford enigmatically taking notes among the seated away support.
Grimsby kicked off, trying to release Hegarty down the left but instead running the ball out for a throw-in, and the early flurries of activity were around the Town goal as O'Carroll got beyond the Town back three and forced Newey to head out for a corner. Bennett headed clear at the near post and Boshell finished the job, ushering Morecambe towards and beyond the goal-line.
And then Grimsby, as though it were spring, took control. Trotter lopes, covering ground deceptively quickly as he advances upto and beyond the halfway line, head up, flicking a pass 30 yards with the outside of his boot to Jarman, who buzzes, occasionally effectually. Hunt appears where Morecambe least want him, ahead of the back three or just inside the Grimsby half, breaking up a red attack and laying the ball wide, perhaps to Boshell, who ticks passes short to Hegarty or longer to Vidal, always picking the right ball. Above all, Till drops deep, facing the Town goal but taking balls in the tightest of positions, controlling and turning in a single movement to feed Hegarty or Trotter or Jarman, and run for the return.
Till's combination of speed, persistence and skill created Grimsby's first shot, winning and controlling a 30-70 ball to the left of the Morecambe penalty area and working the ball to Hunt, whose shot was blocked. After nine minutes he helped Town take up position in the Morecambe area - Jarman was almost fouled as he tried to find the route for a shot, then he was more or less fouled as he collected the rebound, and this time the referee pointed for a penalty. The eternal minute between the award and the execution was ended by Till gently placing low to the right as Roche in the Morecambe goal dived left.
For 20 minutes, Town exuded calm authority, their league position a chimera, cool and controlled in defence, then threateningly fast when the ball found Till or Trotter breaking into the Morecambe half, the ball seldom kicked forward aimlessly. All that was lacking were actual chances.
Then gaps began to appear. Trotter may be one of those players who looks forever knackered, but after 20 minutes... he looked knackered. Boshell was bypassed and Hunt became an auxilliary defender. Now and again, Boshell would nip the ball away from a bulkier opponent with his first touch, then set up an attack with his second; Hunt would imperiously wipe out a Morecambe attack; Trotter would intercept and break forward. Now and again, but not often enough. Morecambe began lobbing speculatively between midfield and defence and winning more than their share of the second balls. The back three coped, shepherding Morecambe players down blind alleys, but now Till and Jarman were reduced to losing aerial duels.
The sole moment of danger came on 43 minutes when Bennett was harshly penalised after a Hunt slip had let Morecambe through, and Drummond's free kick from 28 yards dipped over the bar, with Barnes well placed to prevent any real alarm, but the sense that Town were letting the game slip had taken hold as the players plodded off for half time.
For 15 minutes at the start of the second half, the match showed small signs of opening up - Jarman got on the end of a punt but shot feebly from wide down our left. Some jostling in the Town area ended with a wild turn and stab high over the bar. Vidal miskicked a clearance, letting in Howe down our left, but Barnes cut out the cross at the near post. Hegarty did what apparently he can't do, gliding infield past two challenges, but only forcing a corner.
Bennett - previously faultless in defence - was turned easily and two or three Morecambe players surged on to the Town area - twice Heywood blocked shots, and half cleared before a chip found Howe beyond the Town defence, lobbing onto the bar from an acute and, it transpired, offside position.
On the hour, Morecambe made two substitutions and Trotter was replaced by Llewellyn, who disappeared into midfield. By now, Town had lost all creative composure, visibly hanging on to their one-goal lead, wasting possession with unnecessarily early balls to no-one, Till becoming visibly irate as he saw less of the ball, remonstrating after Jarman failed to drop back to receive a short pass. Boshell shot harmlessly at some point, but the action now was in front of the Town defence. Vidal's replacement by Stockdale only underlined where the emphasis lay: Morecambe were in control - all that was lacking were actual chances.
On 73 minutes, Stockdale collided with Twiss, conceding a free kick by the right corner of the penalty area. Stanley drove head high into the goal area and the ball just flicked off the bald head of Curtis on its way to the bottom far corner of the net.
North replaced Jarman and scampered around, forcing a corner which went beyond the far post and fell chest-high for Heywood, who could only force the ball goalwards where it was cleared calmly off the line. With four minutes remaining, Hunt threaded a ball between defenders for Hegarty to run on to. For a moment it seemed like the easiest of chances but Hegarty strained to reach it and Roche came out well to block his sliding shot. Morecambe won two free kicks around the Town area - one whistling across goal - and induced a lapse from Barnes, who had to paw at a low shot he had seemed to have well covered, finally pushing it away for a corner, but it was Boshell who had the last half chance in a match that offered little more than quarter chances, shooting over the stand from 25 yards.
And that was that. Grimsby had shown promise but the match went on too long and we were left tantalisingly lame, clutching at the straw of a single point - our just deserts.