Of course the team Town tonked 7-0 in October would come back to haunt us on their home patch. Of course we’d put in a car crash of a performance on the one occasion I’m actually able to attend an away match at Halifax. Of course we’d dick it up in front of a huge following, just at a time when the relationship between manager and fans had become a bit volatile. I’ve been following the Mariners for a good while now, and I can only describe Saturday’s showing as utterly weird.
Halifax will never have to work as little as they did to score four goals in one game ever again. The match began at a pace that would universally be described as average, and worryingly eight or nine players were off it. Robertson was nowhere to be seen in the build-up to Halifax’s opener, and in attempting to cover at left back Monkhouse proved that he can’t cover at left back. Someone prodded in, and Town players looked at each other. None of them knew who to blame – possibly because all of them were accountable in some form or other.
Now, I’d already declared within 60 seconds of the game starting that I didn’t like the look of this ref. Twice he failed to play advantage – once for each team – and he somehow concluded that, because a Halifax defender got hurt when blocking a goal-bound shot, play should stop a micro-second before Town put the ball in the net so the player could receive treatment, and then resume with a bounce-up in favour of the home side.
We tried to work that one out, but decided it was easier to just abuse him. Luckily for the ref, Town immediately got worse and the fans abused them instead. And later, the manager.
Some more shit defending meant Town found themselves 2-0 down a minute later, and before we were allowed to contemplate when it was the last time Town had found themselves 2-0 down in any game, it was 3-0 because Toto slid for a ball he was never going to get, and the ball was squared for someone – I don’t know who it was – to poke it home.
Through all the chaos and calamity, Town, bizarrely, had the best player on the park by a country mile – Nolan. He brought some determined running and purpose to centre midfield, and wasn’t afriad to carry the ball. He also lost it a couple of times, but he’s a little bit different to what we’ve had in there before.
The second half, in short, was boring. Town seemed to enjoy most of the possession, but shots were rare – and when they happened, they ballooned into the stand behind the goal. One shot may have gone out for a throw-in. All the while we looked incredibly likely to concede a fourth whenever Halifax ventured into our half. We were fragile against the counter, and it’s as bad as I’ve seen our defence play. Robertson didn’t look fit, Tait was nowhere for Halifax’s third, and Monkhouse looked like he was playing in a strip made entirely out of do-not-bend envelopes. Podge and Bogle looked anything but the divison’s most lethal strike partnership.
Podge did make it 26 for the season, though – and five against the Shaymen – with a simple finish from close in, and then Halifax made it 4-1 straight away with a perfect free kick. Just when you thought the game couldn’t get any sillier, Nolan stroked home a fine effort into the far corner to complete the scoring.
I’ve since read some silly things on Twitter – Hurst should be sacked and replaced with Wayne Burnett, because he was doing a great job of getting Dagenham relegated into the Conference; John McDermott would get us out of this tin pot league because he’s assistant manager at Harrogate and has never managed a football club before; and Chris Hargreaves because, you know, he played for us way back when, and has a relegation on his CV. Brilliant.
They’re all absolute punts; shots in the dark (which, ironically, mirrored our approach play in West Yorkshire). We’re 19 points behind the leaders, whether we have Hurst at the helm or not, so I don’t see how a change of manager now is suddenly going to turn us into title contenders. To the fans who claim they’re not stepping into Blundell Park again until Hurst is gone – grow a pair. We’re called supporters, not runawayers. If we were 11th and going nowhere, I could almost understand.
It was a really bad day at the office – and that’s before we get into what was allegedly said in the dressing room at half time, and what was allegedly said between one player and one fan at full time. It was a thoroughly toxic atmosphere and one I didn’t feel comfortable in. Any unity that the fans had with the players – and with each other – has long gone. We’ve become a deeply divided club, and Hurst – if he didn’t already know it – now faces the biggest challenge of his managerial career to date.
Good luck with that.