Waiting for the day

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Mike Worden

5 August 2019

Morecambe 0 Grimsby Town 2

Town fans arrived in Morecambe in numbers, in fine voice and with optimism. New signings, new captain, Elliott Whitehouse back, good pre-season games and facing opponents who finished below the Mariners last season. All cause for smiles and confidence. The newly-laid pitch looked excellent in the Lancashire sun. The Shrimps had wanted to protect it for the opening day of the season; so much so that they played their pre-season games away from the ground.

Grimsby fans packed the covered terrace behind the goal and a section of seating along the side. The stand behind the goal has a ridiculously narrow area behind it that it almost needed a traffic light system to ensure a safe flow of Grimbarians to the tea bar. A strange ground with a decent main stand, two small covered terraces and a low open side terrace. It is located in the part of the town where the houses meet caravan parks. A bit like Town having a ground next to the Beachcomber. Let's not give anyone any ideas.

In black and white shirts but with black socks, Town would defend the goal in front of our fans. McKeown took his gloves off to perform his new captaincy duties, as did veteran keeper Barry Roche, the captain for the home side.

Town lined up with a back four of Hewitt, Öhman, Davis and Hendrie, and a midfield of Clifton, Hessenthaler and Whitehouse. In front of them were Green on the right, Rose on the left and Hanson as a central striker. Both teams formed huddles and then 2019-20 arrived.

First half

The home side, in red, kicked off and it was clear from their positioning that the ball would be played long to their left. It was indeed and the long ball was easily seen out of play by Hewitt for a Town throw. Sometimes used but still a baffling tactic, it is choreographed and rarely works as an attacking move, other than to gain territory but lose possession.

In the opening period, the game was fairly even. Both teams gave away possession too easily. Grimsby were clearly looking for Hanson's head to meet balls pumped into the box, but the central area was very crowded. Town won a number of corners. They came to nothing but seemed to unnerve the home defence which looked rather shaky at times. Öhman and Oates clashed heads in the Town box with the home player on the ground for some time as the Swede got up, shook his head and walked away. Dave Moore hung around to offer assistance but Oates was eventually able to get up and continue.

Ahkeem Rose was causing problems down the left. His strength and pace were a real threat. He had a penalty claim turned down. At the other end, the home side were caught off side. Alessandra, released from Notts County at the end of last season, looked the most lively of the home players although he showed signs of frustration with his new team-mates.

Getting used to new styles of play seemed to be a factor for both sides. The first half was marked by balls being put into areas where there was noone within reach. A perfect example was a lovely cross field ball from Green on the right to nobody on the left. With more game time together these rough edges will be smoothed out and indeed the second half was much better in that regard, certainly from the Mariners.

The teams took a water break on the half hour. Town had just shaded the balance of play and this pattern continued until the half-time break. Only two minutes of added time were played despite the water break and injuries to Hessenthaler and Oates. No one complained, it hadn't exactly been riveting.

Second half

In the second half Town looked much better than they had in the first 45 minutes. Hanson is a clear target player, an experienced line-leading striker. He kept giving advice out to Rose who was still a real threat down the left.

Green was booked for a challenge on Roche, probably as a result of the actions of Kenyon who went to push Green solely with the intention of getting him booked. The afternoon was too hot for that kind of fighting stuff. As the ref signalled the restart, and Roche prepared to take the kick, the ref was called over to speak to his assistant. Some Town fans thought it could be a red for Green but the assistant had clearly advised that Kenyon should be booked for his aggressive response to Green. Soon after this a lovely run and cross by Green was just missed by Rose as Roche collected.

With few decent shots in the game, it wasn't a surprise that the stalemate was broken by a set piece. Bizarre and somewhat flukey it may have been, but it was fundamentally poor defending and poor defensive organisation from Morecambe.

Town won a free kick on the right when Clifton was fouled. The players lined up in and on the edge of the box. Then in a scene reminiscent of a Scottish country dance where the dancers face each other and then move forward in the direction they are facing, the red shirts moved out en masse as the black and white shirts moved in the opposite direction towards the goal. Morecambe got the timing completely wrong, and with only Roche left between a number of Grimsby players and the goal, he was helpless when Öhman controlled Hessenthaler’s free kick and passed to Whitehouse. He almost had time to go down on his knees and head it over the line in school football fashion as the Morecambe players watched in disbelief that their offside trap had been well and truly beaten. Less Dosey Does and more Dosey Shrimps. Cue wild celebrations in front of the Town fans. What a delight it was for Whitehouse to score the opening goal of the new season given his injury horror of the last campaign.

Wright replaced Rose who received a well-deserved ovation from the Town fans. Roche slipped on the watered turf much to the amusement of the Town fans and soon after a bizarre spinning ball caught him out between the goal and the corner flag in a complete mix up in the home defence. Fortunately for Morecambe their defenders managed to clear the ball away before Green could get to it.

Öhman had a great chance to double the score when meeting a cross, but finished up with the ball tucked under his arm and a free kick was given against him. Green was replaced by Pollock. As Morecambe pushed for the equaliser both Wright and the tiring Clifton had chances to break from midfield but couldn’t make them effective.

As the extra time clock ticked away, Morecambe won a corner. Roche decided to go up for it. Once the decision is made, goalkeepers will head for the box assertively. However, it's always the decision when to go back which is more difficult. With the ball still in and around the penalty box, Roche decided he liked it up there, in a Mike Lyons sort of fashion. He stayed, Town won the ball and Wright and Hessenthaler broke. Drawing the last defender to him Wright decided not to pass to his team mate in space but to shoot for the open goal. He executed it perfectly. Game over. Embarrassment for Morecambe.

The absolute joy on Wright's face in scoring his first league goal was a picture. Both goals scored by players who for different reasons were waiting for this day, having both been unable to contribute to the Town cause last season, apart from a few late appearances by Wright. Both players determined to show what they are capable of, and they didn’t disappoint.

And that was it. The players and coaching staff celebrated in front of the visiting fans. The happiness of the players was palpable. Truly wonderful to see. The pre-match optimism had been justified. Not the best game of football but it was Town who were more clinical, more organised, more determined and who grew as a team more during the 90 mins. There will be far more harder games than this in the coming weeks, but this was undoubtably a good start to the season.