Cod Almighty | Match Report
18 October 2017
Cheltenham Town 2 Grimsby Town 3
The last time I wrote a CA match report I was among 155 hardcore fans at Barrow in November 2015 watching a 3-1 win in gale force conditions. Walking into the away end at Whaddon Road on kick-off last night suggested similar numbers had made the journey.
Last season there was over double that. Things have moved on. Or down. At least the complex travel plans I suffer at the hands of my companions remains consistent.
Well, those who didn't venture to Cheltenham missed a first-half treat. Spread the word: this Mariners team can play football.
The first 15 minutes saw Town dominate a Cheltenham side determined to play their way forward on a lovely surface. With quick switch play and surging runs into the box Town were soon one up. Just before Dembele's neat finish a similar move forced their keeper to parry out for a corner. Dixon and Woolford were drawing players to switch it to the Renaissance Man Summerfield, who was feeding Siriki and causing panic. Woolford then pulled a smart save following a rasping shot across the goal.
You could hear the cries of "Yes. Football!" from all around me when Dembele scored.
Cheltenham stuck to their game plan and following a set piece the ball found its way back from the left to the far post for the pantomime villain Pell, who rose highest to head past the flailing McKeown for his obligatory goal and taunting celebration. We shouldn't indulge him with any response. We didn't need to by half time.
What came for the rest of the half was what the supporters have been crying out for since the arrival of Slade 2.0.
The players stood up to the pressure. They were strong in the tackle and, having had their first touch, played the ball to another player, rather than hoof a percentage ball into a channel. Interplay and movement. They were fighting fire with fire and overcoming their opponents. Summerfield and Dixon in particular stood out. The latter had Pell and their right-sided midfielder targeting him but he won his tackles and played out of defence well. Just before half time he ended up clattering into the hoardings when blocking a cross and was clearly struggling as a result.
Town won a corner late into the half and from the melée in the box Collins poked in. Scoring from set pieces has been a positive this season with the two centre-halves always a threat.
Soon after that good work from Jones on the left flank saw him win the ball twice and play a beautifully flighted ball to the surging Dembele, whose finish I've now seen on the iFollow highlights. It looks even better on replay.
Cue a half time of dread so typical of most fans. The desire to beat this team is something I hold myself where normally I'm not bothered about the opposition. That vibe got better when Pell didn't return for the second half.
Cheltenham have a plan B. When the football fails they go direct. But with purpose. Collins and Clarke put their heads into everything. The full-backs cleared their lines and the rest of the team closed down and made it difficult. They had to. There were plenty of shots from the Robins but they kept going past both uprights.
The game dragged on.
For us, Jones came close following good work down the right. As we entered the final 10 minutes Woolford had the perfect chance to seal it after great linking work with Vernon. His one-on-one was saved well by the legs of the keeper, and inevitably they pulled one back with a smart finish by Winchester from 20 yards which should have been closed down better by Mills. They even had time to hit the woodwork from a corner with McKeown getting a hand to it, but after six minutes of injury time (when four had been signalled) the team prevailed.
Slade did as he did at Chesterfield and doffed his cap to the jubilant 179 Mariners. The players looked worn out as they all had put a solid and professional performance in. Dixon and Summerfield shone.
Dembele is clearly being talked about by other teams and while there is a hint of hype, I for one admire his physical bravery and desire to have the ball. He's got an eye for a pass and is now scoring. He can drop the Raheem Sterling facepalm goal celebration though...