The Mariners were made to run around after a bag of wind, in the wind, up in Barrow on Tuesday night, which forced them to adjust their tactics – something they did well, especially in the absence of a recognised striker alongside top scorer and all round good egg Padraig Amond. Against Welling on Saturday, the cold November rain seemed to grease the typically lush Blundell Park pitch sufficiently to aid the sharp, crisp passing that opened up the opposition at will, particularly in the first half.
Grimsby won 3-1, as if you didn’t know, and it’s a scoreline that probably reflects the order of the game. After a bright opening five minutes the Mariners fell behind to a well worked Welling goal. Their response to this, rather refreshingly, was to forget it ever happened, and they continued to work the channels, turn defenders and keep the non-league welly to a premium.
I watched the Barrow highlights earlier in the week, and I was impressed with certain passages of play. There was some slick movement on show, and I’m glad to say it popped up in this match too.
Welling’s keeper, Tom King, copped it from the Pontoon fans after he celebrated his side’s early goal rather rigorously. When the equaliser went in – a clean volley from Nathan Arnold, following up Amond’s spooned effort – he was taunted by the Town fans. And after Conor Townsend’s intelligent and perfectly executed free kick put the Mariners in front, he got both barrels. Eight-year old boys made him come and collect the ball from their gang for goal kicks, which he didn’t enjoy one bit.
Bullied, by unofficial ball boys.
There was a certain zip about Town’s play. Arnold flashed a shot wide, Clay weaved away and saw his shot blocked, while Townsend – sensing King’s bad day – tried an audacious 40-yard lob direct from a free kick, which drifted a few feet over the bar.
Town pressed from the front. Alex Jones, making his first start on loan from Birmingham, looked lively, twisting and turning and slicing his one half chance wildly wide. Monkhouse flicked, Arnold tricked and Amond made a nuisance of himself. But at the break we all said it:
Town should be more than 2-1 up. I hope it doesn’t come back to bite us.
We played the second half like a team that didn’t know what to do when 2-1 up. Do we keep it going, do we calm it down, or do we sit on it for a bit? Do we see what Welling do? Well, Welling did bits and pieces, occasionally threatening without offloading. Their best spell of possession ended when George Porter blasted wide from 25 yards, having given up hope of ever getting into the Town box.
With a bit more belief, they could’ve got their equaliser. It was a travesty that they remained just one goal away from stealing two points off us, but then we’d hardly done much in the second half to warrant an extended lead.
We hoped for a third goal before we entered the final 10 minutes, but it didn’t arrive. Amond saw a header tipped over the bar, and from the resulting corner substitute Marcus Marshall swivelled eight yards out and shot straight into King’s midriff.
At the other end, Gowling gobbled up loose balls and Nsiala did some occasional sweeping, easing out any threats. Townsend was immaculate, Tait similarly so. Mackreth came on and did his drifting-to-the-corner-flag thing. A cross flashed wide, and on the one occasion he cut back in on his left, the door opened and his shot got blocked (and his follow-up was deflected wide).
After two of the three injury time minutes had elapsed, a strong block from Toto spun away to the left. Monkouse picked out the storming run of Clay, whose cushioned header fell into the path of the surging Amond. His poke slid past the onrushing keeper, and little Jack was on hand to help it over the line to complete the scoring.
Welling kicked off, and the referee called time. He was a decent ref, you know. Kept his cards in his pocket and let the game flow. Like Townsend, his intelligence would be more fitting higher up the leagues (on Saturday’s showing at least).
Welling weren’t great, but we’ve seen worse. They should have enough about them to stay up, comfortably – a squad of 47 players (including six goalkeepers) must help. They lacked a cutting edge in their forward line, but the table suggests they’re not bad at the back – which makes our first half performance all the more impressive.
Town don’t keep as many clean sheets as they used to, but we’re seeing far more goals at the other end. Another three today – and not one of them was from 16-goal Amond.
Our great run towards the end of last season began after we lost 1-0 at home to one of the most organised teams in the division, in Bristol Rovers. This season we’ve won three out of three since that dreary 1-0 defeat to Cheltenham.
Having beaten Eastleigh four times last season, we should be confident about our chances. But last season we had John-Lewis and Ollie Palmer, whose physicality up front played a huge part in the play-off wins. We beat them at their own game. I don’t think we have that physicality available to us this season, certainly not right now, so let’s keep it on the deck, let’s keep moving, and let’s see if that’s enough to maintain this winning sequence.