A long way to go

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Barry Whittleton

3 October 2018

Carlisle United 0 Grimsby Town 1

With Town on a run of six defeats the goons at the Football League had decided it was a good idea to send GTFC on their longest trip north on a Tuesday night. The cynic in me thinks this was a deliberate act in order to increase the numbers paying £10 to watch the match on the Ifollow platform.

This will no doubt help to sell advertising and generate revenue for the next agreement. The fact it will help kill football as a live event will not matter to Harvey et al. They aren't 'football men'. Those old enough to remember Alan Hardaker's spell in charge of the Football League will know  got a lot wrong. One thing he didn't, though, was to make sure games kicked off at 3pm on Saturday or 7:30pm midweek, and you played your best players or suffered the points deduction. He would not have countenanced either the Chuckitout Trophy B teams or streaming every game live.

The result of the long journey and the live streaming was that the Town support looked a little down, with some usual faces missing among the 143 who did make it.

Town made several changes from Saturday's insipid rollover versus Morecambe. Cook and Welsh were injured; Hessenthaler and Woolford dropped to the bench. Clifton, Hooper, Hall-Johnson and Vernam came in as Town lined up 4-4-2.

First half

The opening exchanges were indecisive as both teams struggled to create much. Hendrie, overlapping, blazed high, wide and handsome and Thomas broke free but overran the ball, allowing the keeper to smother.

The home side, for their part, began to get a toehold but unrecognisable resolute defending by Town kept them at arm's length.

Town were gifted a gilt-edged chance to open the scoring. A long ball down the Town right in the general direction of Vernam should have been easily dealt with by the full-back. He contrived, however, to underhit his back-pass, and Vernam pounced, racing clear into the box. The distance between us and the far end made it impossible to see how hard he made the keeper work but, regardless, it should have been buried and not blocked.

The game now became end-to-end without ever reaching the excitement such a statement is usually accompanied by. Macca clawed away a deflected shot well and Thomas swivelled smartly in a crowded box but dragged his shot inches wide.

The midfield found themselves needed to play one more pass into the acres of space wide, only to find it unoccupied by anything other than the ghosts of Brace, Ford, Gilbert and Arnold

The home side was awarded a ridiculous free kick 25 yards out after the ball had clearly been won. Macca again saved well, pushing the effort away to safety.

Town then spurned another golden opportunity. Interplay between between Embleton and Hendrie down the left got the ball whipped in to Hooper, six yards out and the goal at his mercy. The resulting header, while powerful, flashed wide of the near post. The travelling fans collectively groaned. They didn't have long to wait.

More pass and move down the left saw Hendrie, free in space, find Vernam in equal amounts of space in the box. His shot was blocked but only into the path of Hendrie, who gleefully smashed it past the keeper from a seemingly tightish angle. Euphoria.

Town settled and comfortably held the hosts to half time as the faithful gave a 10-minute rendition of 'We Love You Grimsby'.

Second half

Pies, beers and disbeliefs shared, the second half commenced. Carlisle had clearly come out to raise their tempo but once again with a battling midfield and staunch defending of the box they created very little. As Town blocked, tackled and generally harried they found it difficult.

On our part, our forays forward floundered for a lack of width. A few times the midfield found themselves needed to play one more pass into the acres of space wide, only to find it unoccupied by anything other than the ghosts of Brace, Ford, Gilbert and Arnold.

Clifton lifted the spirits with a run deep at the heart of the home defence, only to be halted by a trip. Woolford – on for Embleton, who had looked industrious and not lacking in skill and vision – shot weakly from the subsequent free kick.

Time ticked towards 90 and the nerves jangled as a series of home corners were dealt with, not always with confidence, and every blocked shot was met with home fans screaming for a penalty. Finally, after 634 minutes without a win, the final whistle was blown and the 143 could celebrate a victory with the players. The journey home would be enjoyed not endured. Macclesfield seemed an awful long time ago.