Of course there are going to be some fans claiming that Grimsby Town’s goalless draw at home to Southport at Blundell Park on Saturday afternoon was the worst game of football they have ever seen. Our fans are experts at moaning when we put in an underwhelming performance when the bigger picture would actually tell you that things are going quite well. The Mariners were far from their fluent best against a pretty limited side, but on a patched-up pitch in blustery conditions that were bordering on silly, this game was never going to be a classic.
I don’t like using weather as an excuse, but let’s just get this bit out of the way. It was seriously windy. It might have seemed fine for us fans, sat huddled together under the cover of a stand, sheltered from the elements. But when I got through the turnstiles and walked along the front of the Pontoon stand to take my seat before kick-off, the wind nearly knocked me off my feet.
Passes and crosses were overhit; clearances were wayward; headers were misjudged time and time again as every player struggled to adapt to the conditions, while a bobbly surface did not assist quick, incisive passing.
To give Southport their credit, they occasionally looked interested in winning the game. In a completely dull and featureless first half, former Town striker Richard Brodie kept the fans luke warm with a few flicks and dinks – and a robust challenge on Scott Kerr than earned the red-cheeked forward a yellow card. When he failed to emerge for the second half, it actually felt like we had lost some of our entertainment – and then the realisation hit us that we’d now have to rely on the Mariners for entertainment instead.
Maybe that assessment is a bit of an exaggeration, but the first half was quite dreadful in terms of quality and goalmouth action. Southport had a couple of efforts – a header that looped over the bar and a 20-yard shot that fizzed just wide. Town, on the other hand, enjoyed a bit more possession in the final third, but for all the pressure (and excellent Kerr deliveries from set pieces) we failed to work the opposition keeper. Mind you, he nearly gifted us a goal when he completed misjudged a Clayton McDonald shot – which, to match the pattern of the game, was scuffed.
Town had about four good chances in the second half to win it. Ross Hannah drew a smart save from the keeper when he raced through from a McDonald header, before Lenell John-Lewis saw his low effort palmed away by Hurst. The Southport keeper then blocked substitute Oumare Tounkara’s shot when well placed and then Craig Disley missed a glorious chance to nod in at the far post from a looping Marcus Bignot cross.
At the other end, James McKeown was forced to make a routine save look difficult after the ball drifted slightly in the wind. With about 15 minutes to go, Southport threw on young striker Vinny Mukendi, who was a handful, but the only other moment of note came in injury time when a cross-shot flashed right across goal.
Individually there were a lot of under-performers in the Town side. John-Lewis didn’t have his shooting boots on, and while that isn’t always a problem given his excellent hold-up play, it was on this occasion as he struggled to anticipate anything in the air. The back line was decent, although Pearson got himself booked and will miss the next two games through suspension.
The game seemed to bypass midfield. As mentioned, Kerr’s delivery from set pieces was very good, while Disley was anonymous and Scott Neilson just didn’t get going at all. Alex Rodman was Town’s best creative outlet in the first half – and for some of the second, before he drifted out of the game. Hannah looks short of confidence – and it’s about this time last year that he lost his vim when competition arrived in the form of Brodie. This year it’s Tounkara.
Apart from one shanked clearance in the second half, McDonald was the pick of a very average bunch. He won his aerial battles and showed quality when distributing from the back. A mention for Colbeck here too, who did well when coming on as a sub. He made one excellent sliding block in the left back position only seconds after attacking a ball in the Southport box.
Town have now taken seven points from a possible 18 at home in the league. Maybe I’m being cynical, but it appeared today as though some players were attempting cruise control in a game against ‘weak’ opposition in the hope of getting a result and keeping themselves fresh for some important games in the not-too-distant future. Not that I can totally blame them.