Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Mike Worden
5 December 2022
It’s 33 years since the away end at Plough Lane was transformed into a sea of haddocks. Since then the Mariners have been up, down, up, down, turned upside down, round and round, shaken and stirred. As for the Wimbles, well we know that story. Kidnapped by Franchise FC and moved with a new identity to a shiny new town many miles away. But the good people of South West London started it up again and now, after rising from non-League and being tenants of other grounds (most recently at Kingston), the club has finally got a new place, yards away from its spiritual home at the old Plough Lane ground.
Built on the site of the old Wimbledon dog track, it is small and set between new blocks of flats and an industrial estate. It's built for expansion to 20,000 capacity and part of it has a temporary feel. Finished in blue, it is surrounded by buff and lots of it. The blocks of flats on the south and eastern sides dominate the ground, with the southern block presenting a huge plain brick wall which rises starkly above the home end. Wales have the red wall behind them, AFC Wimbledon have the buff wall. The flats behind the east side are also finished in buff but at least have windows and balconies overlooking the ground. Just one cold soul decided to watch the game from a balcony, and he soon gave up.
On the pitch the Mariners looked to bring their cup form into the league. With no recognised left-back available, Evan Khouri came into the defence alongside Maher, Waterfall and Efete. Green anchored the midfield with Clifton and Holohan playing ahead of him centrally. Khan played on the left, Kiernan on the right and McAtee played as the number 9. Wimbledon included two former Town loanees: the wonderfully tanned Ryley Towler, and the most annoying Harry Pell. More of him later.
A bright start from Town kept much of the play in the Wimbledon half early on. Holohan shot over after a knock down, the midfielder unable to adjust his feet to properly get it on target.
The best move of the whole game came early in the first half when the Mariners counter-attacked following a poor Wimbledon cross from their right. Effete picked up the ball in the six-yard box and, under pressure, played it to Holohan who then played a one two with Keirnan. The Irishman then fed a ball right though the middle of the Wimbledon centre-backs to McAtee who rounded the keeper and put the ball in the net. This was top drawer stuff from the Mariners but McAtee was judged to be offside by a whisker.
Although Town kept the pressure up, the kind of free-flowing passing in that move didn't really surface much again. Instead, too many balls were given away, too many passes went astray. Kiernan had a crisp shot saved after a good move. Another chance came from a corner when Maher attempted an overhead kick which went wide.
The first half was mostly all Town and they would later rue the chances missed when on top. As the half headed towards the break, the home side began to look more dangerous and a fantastic close range save from Crocombe kept them from going ahead following poor defending from Town.
Right at the end of the half Efete's challenge for the ball resulted in a very awkward fall and the physios of both clubs ran on immediately. As the players found some balls to kick around to keep warm, the prone Efete was treated by medical staff for what seemed like an eternity before being stretchered off to warm applause from the whole ground. A sickening sight and one which seemed to affect the Town players for the rest of the game. Smith came on and Maher moved to right-back with Town keeping their same shape.
In the second half Grimsby were less dominant and it was the home side who were far more threatening especially when the tricky Assal had the ball. The goal came from a long throw on the left which was flicked on to Chislett who ran into the box ahead of his marker Kiernan and slotted the ball past Crocombe from close range. Grimsby's chances in the second period were few and far between. Maher went flying in the box from a tackle, but clearly not a penalty. If he had been more decisive and shot first time when receiving the ball he would have had a better outcome.
Not helped by the stop-start referreeing display of Mr Handley, the game got niggly and had nothing like the relative quality of the first half. Pell fell like he'd been punched by Tyson Fury after a soft challenge from Crocombe collecting the ball. Mr Handley wasn't buying it, despite the noise coming from the home fans just behind, baying for the Town number one to be sent off. Pell was booked when he eventually got up.
Simmonds and then Pepple were brought on but they failed to inject any momentum or quality. McAtee dropped deeper but this just highlighted the lack of quality up front. One or two reasonably good chances, but there just wasn't the killer instinct or desire. What the watching subs of Hunt, Orsi, and Maguire-Drew made of it, we can only guess.
The home side brought on ex-Solihull Moors striker Kyle Hudlin whose main job seemed to be to hold the ball up and eat up the final minutes.
So the side in form in the league continued their good run, whilst Town once again came away with no points. The back-to-back wins in October seem a long time ago. Margins are tight, but if you don't take your chances when on top as Town were here in the early part of the first half, don't expect to end that poor run. The 1,000 plus town fans headed into the South London grey afternoon, directed to leave via the back entrance of the industrial estate. A dismal end to a dismal game.