A polite tap to the balls. Match report: Grimsby 0-1 Mansfield

In the words of Unlucky Alf… oh bugger.

If supporting your club was about selecting the games in which you’re most likely to see a victory, then I’d have probably avoided our New Year’s Day match against Mansfield Town.

Given that we went into the game on the back of four consecutive victories – not to mention the five wins from six at Blundell Park – it may seem an odd thing to say.

But I accepted a little while ago that I’m an odd fellow.

I sort of sensed that we were totally shagged out at the end of the Exeter game – which was a long bugger of a trip in the first place – and then there was the centre back conundrum… in that we had none fit to take to the field of play against a side that hadn’t lost on the road all season.

The omens weren’t good. And all good things must come to an end. We can’t win them all.

Anyway, picking and choosing your matches based on the likelihood of witnessing wins is how part-time, fair-weather turds behave.

There aren’t many of them at Grimsby, to be fair, because how else do you explain that over 5,000 of them heading to the capital on Saturday to watch an almost-certain defeat?

Anyway, the match.

Town’s back four consisted of three full backs and a central midfielder. And, to give them great credit – which almost all of the 5,100 home fans in the ground did – they put in a decent show.

In other circumstances – like those earlier in the season when we looked crap at the back and even crapper up front – this could easily have been a 3-0 or 4-0 job.

But to their credit, the whole team kept plugging away.

I mean, it never truly looked like we’d actually score, but we stayed in the game and continued to force half chances.

Two shots early in the second half from Embleton was the only time we really tested their ring piece of a keeper, which was frustrating.

But I, and many others in the Pontoon, were convinced that we should’ve had a penalty right at the end when Vernam nicked the ball away from their defender (who was doing that bullshit ‘shepherding’ business near the bye-line) and got hauled down just inside the box.

It was more of a penalty than the one that was awarded to us at Exeter just three days previously but, you know, referees. They’re shit. All of them.

This one could’ve quite easily sent off Neal Bishop in the first half when he appeared to grab Embleton by the neck and throw him to the floor on the edge of the penalty area.

Sounds bad, doesn’t it? We didn’t get anything for it, so the referee must not have seen it. Except he did. And he chose not to do anything about it.

Later, in the second half, Mitch Rose got booked for literally kicking fresh air. I’ve seen the video back and it’s the sort of shit you’d expect of Carl Boyeson. Except he’d send Rose off and then somehow find a way to award a penalty, even though the incident occurred right in front of the dugouts.

There’s definitely a case to say that Mansfield had had an easier Christmas period in terms of their requirement to travel a whopping 83 miles following two home games, opposed to the 840 miles the Mariners had to trek during the same period.

But let’s not make any excuses. On the whole, Mansfield deserved to win the game. They looked sharp on the break and incredibly organised at the back.

You can see why they’ve squeezed the life out of just about every game they’ve played in this season, and only one team (ironically Exeter) have got the better of them.

If I’m being picky, which I’m going to be, then I felt Cardwell and Pringle were never in the game. McKeown made at least two vital saves, which are as standard these days, while the four in front of him did an admirable job.

Wes Thomas really struggled to hold the ball up but, as our top scorer, I’ll cut him some slack. He put in a real shift – as they all did – but it was ‘Our Harry’ and Hess in the heart of midfield that helped out at the back and shifted up the pitch with a bit of passing and movement.

It was just one of those games in which, for whatever reason, it felt like we were playing with 10 men.

Our form recently has been better than the form we showed at the end of last season to stay up. We’re now well clear of relegation and have a free shot of causing a cup upset this weekend at Palace.

The bones were looking bare before we got six points from Port Vale and Exeter, so this wasn’t so much as a hefty, full-blooded kick to the balls.

Rather, a polite tap. No harm done, really. No long-term damage.

Just a shame that, out of all the previous home games I could’ve chosen to go to, I picked this one out. Our first home defeat since the end of September.

Ah well. You win some, you lose some. And I’m there for the losses.

The good news is that I won’t be there at Selhurst Park, so that’ll be a shot in the arm for the travelling masses.

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