“Hello, is that Rich? You know how we’ve won six in a row, yeah, and we’ve played well, but you haven’t been able to make it to any of them? Well, we’re doing one of those things where we should make it seven in a row, because we’re against lowly opposition who have only won once on the road all season, but we’re actually going to put in a frustrating performance because we heard you were coming. Hope that’s ok.”
It’s difficult to know how to sum up Town’s 1-1 draw against Guiseley on Saturday. Fans around me at full time certainly didn’t seem to struggle to find the words – or word – but it was the sort of test we came up against all too frequently in our first season in this division – you know, the ones we were warned about by all the other ex-League clubs that had fallen on fallow times just before us. It’s what Tranmere are going though right now. And we fell for it. Again.
For Guiseley’s bus driver somehow managed to get his vehicle onto the pitch and parked it on the edge of their penalty area, before declaring to groundsman Mike Phillips that he’d accidentally dropped the keys down a drain outside McDonald’s.
There were no real surprises in Town’s starting XI. In a remarkable show of loyalty that’s so rare at this level it’s almost become extinct, Shaun Pearson continues to be rewarded with a place on the bench. Having said that, Toto and Gowling have been in terrific form recently, and it’s difficult to find a reason to leave either of them out. Even Toto seems to have eradicated that moment he always has in matches, around the 70-minute mark, when he manouevres in such a cumbersome way that he may as well just play a through ball for the man he’s meant to be marking.
The absence of Townsend, it was muttered, would be felt, but Gregor Robertson put in a more than competent display and put in the cross for Town’s overdue equaliser.
Once the pattern of play was established after 32 seconds, Town did what Town do. Bogle dragged a shot wide, Arnold had one charged down. Clay scooped over from distance. Everyone had a turn on the ball, for this is a team game after all, but the slight lack of urgency was felt by the crowd as the game edged closer to half time. We don’t have a motto written on our badge, but if we did it’d probably be Forward! For Fuck’s Sake, Town! And instead of three fish we’d have three angry-faced emojis.
Then it happened. The sucker punch. The goal that was so jammy you could’ve put it between two small rounds of shortbread and called it a biscuit. Speculative cross, Gowling heads clear, wallop. First-time half volley, he’ll-never-score-a-better-goal-than-that-John type strike, past McKeown, into the net, and Town – for all their possession – suddenly found themselves behind.
It was a tremendous hit, deserving of the round of applause some fans around me gave it. As much as I tried to blame someone in defence for it, I simply couldn’t make any accusation stick. It was just a great goal.
There were boos as the half time whistle blew. I appreciate the script was so obvious it was almost as if a politician had left it in a briefcase on a train on purpose, but I wasn’t entirely sure whether our performance merited such a reaction. We’d been unfortunate, not shit. But maybe it was because I could only remember us having one effort on target – an Arnold strike that had ‘comfortable’ written all over it in permanent marker – to show for our dominance.
Yeah, it was probably that.
No changes were made at half time, so the same pattern continued. The second half was dominated by a succession of bullshit crosses – clippy, clippy, clippy, dink, dink, dink. Does Hurst actually tell the players to cross like we have 5’2” strikers? Only two players put their laces through their crosses and pumped it high enough to threaten, and those were our full backs. Although to be fair, Tait only put one cross in – and that came in the 93rd minute.
Say what you like about this division – and I often do – but its conveyor belt of tubby immobile strikers never fails to disappoint. Saturday’s monstrosity was Liam Dickinson, a sort of softer version of Rhead who was, ironically, only fed scraps. He threw Toto to the ground and got booked, and then performed a sort of piroutte and fall that really needed a tutu and some sort of wand to complete the performance. It was difficult to see how that ex-Stockport ‘unit’ once commanded a fee of £750,000 from Derby. Looking at where Srockport are now, I’m guessing they pissed it into the River Mersey long ago.
The referee was a ticking time bomb. He booked no one for 65 minutes yet spent that entire time looking extremely capable of sending absolutely anyone off. He then lost his shit for about 10 minutes and booked anyone that moved. The main stand can count itself lucky that it didn’t find its way into his book.
Podge scored. At last! All it needed was a decent cross, and a Town player to stand in the six-yard box.
Hurst’s substitutions – Marshall for Monkhouse and Brown for Clay – probably worked. They both looked ‘busy’ in amongst a few amblers. Disley, as we all know, is a great player and continues to serve us well, but it wouldn’t hurt if, every once in a while, it looked like he gave a toss when he loses possession. Mind you, when he looks across to the fans, with the game finely poised at 1-1 with minutes to go, and sees two hundred of them heading for the exit to beat this conspiracy of ‘traffic’, he’s probably entitled to think, ‘If you lot can’t be arsed then why should I?’
Five extra injury time minutes were just enough for the 5,093 crowd to decide whether to boo or clap apathetically on the full time whistle. In the end, it was a classic mix of both.
Town fans will clearly feel frustrated at not walloping such a limited side. Guiseley got nowhere near McKeown before or after their goal. This was about as one-sided as a football match can be, yet I don’t remember us having a glut of chances either. We really need to find the formula that breaks down sides that show no ambition to even get out of their own half. Goals have tended to dry up as the season progresses – our biggest wins always come before Christmas – which makes me wonder whether we get ‘found out’ a bit too easily. What’s our Plan B when Plan A is left on the hard shoulder with the hazard lights flashing?
When someone asks you what it’s like to support Grimsby Town, remind them of the time we won six games in a row and actually managed to fall further off the title race. This was most certainly two points dropped, with Cheltenham not playing, so we’ll continue with the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ and base all future projections on the flimsy possibility that we’ll get three points at Whaddon Road in April.