It is that time in the season when owners, fans and indeed managers start to take stock of how they have started the new campaign. Sam Barrick, our Grimsby Town Correspondent, gives you his take on the start the Mariners have made in League Two…
Ugly, One-dimensional and depressing
Supporting Grimsby Town has become a chore of late, the football is very uninspiring, Slade hasn’t altered his hoof ball tactic from his last stint as Town manager and I can’t recall when we have played well for a prolonged period in a game. Our first 10 games of this season have yielded only 2 fewer points than last season but the overall feel of Blundell Park and the way we have secured those points has given me cause for concern.
John Fenty (the chairman) and Russell Slade himself said that we have a budget capable of getting into the top 7 and that that was our aim, so far we have shown absolutely no signs of getting even close to that position. After 3 managers, countless new players and the fact we were readapting to the football league meant that we were all reasonably content with a solid 14th place finish with the anticipation of a more exciting and interesting season to follow, so far the football has been very stale and we haven’t played any decent flowing football all season and the signings we’ve made who were “going to take us to the next level” have proved to be nothing more than inadequate replacements in the majority of cases.
I have written at length before about how Siriki Dembele is our main threat but he has looked utterly shot of confidence recently, teams are on him like sharks whenever he gets the ball and as a 20 year old lad he simply hasn’t got the nous to beat them and then deliver a good ball. His final ball has not been great all season but it has gradually got worse as the games have gone by. Added to that we are seemingly devoid of alternatives when going forward except we seem to have been instructed to lump the ball up to the lone striker and it invariably comes straight back to our defenders and the process is repeated.
It angers me that after 6 years of non-league misery JJ Hooper, Scott Vernon, Jamille Matt and Sam Jones are all good players but all of them would massively benefit from playing some genuine passing footballer. Vernon and Matt look comfortable with their back to goal and the ball at their feet whereas Hooper and Jones look good at getting the ball and running at defenders. Also Ben Davies, James Berrett, Siriki Dembele and Martyn Woolford all look far more comfortable playing football on the deck and moving it quickly rather than watching the ball sail over their heads endlessly which I’m sure must give them an awful crick in the neck. All in all, we must play better football, now.
We started off with an excellent 3-1 victory at Chesterfield; we looked cohesive, organised and threatening in equal measure, we scored from a set play, a breakaway goal and a penalty and defended the penalty area very well. Things looked very good, we looked like a side that could attack and defend with great success. Much like last season though, this was a false dawn. We then lost the next 3 games. 2-0 at home to Coventry, 3-1 at Stevenage and 3-2 at home to Wycombe. The most concerning of the 3 being the 3-1 loss at Stevenage where they looked almost as poor in possession as us but were able to score with no sustained pressure at all and we looked utterly devoid of ideas going in the opposite direction. We were rubbish. The Coventry defeat involved one of the most bizarre refereeing decisions I can remember, Nathan Clarke passed the ball back James McKeown to take a free kick that had been awarded and the striker steamed in, nicked the ball and scored. We were left baffled and the referee refused to disallow a blatantly illegal goal. Coventry deserved to win based on the balance of play but it might have been different bar that disastrous decision.
The 3-2 loss to Wycombe was more encouraging. We conceded two daft goals, a needless penalty for hand ball (although replays showed it was probably Akinfenwa’s arm) and left Adebayo Akinfenwa unmarked for the other but then showed some fight and determination to wrestle ourselves back to 2-2 with a great goal by JJ Hooper and a well taken penalty by Mitch Rose. However, we showed an inability to see the game out, which was caused partially by being down to 10 men for the 5th consecutive game and lost 3-2 to another Akinfenwa strike. We felt robbed because if it had been 11 v 11 we’d probably have won and one of Danny Collin’s yellow cards was for that dubious hand ball.
We then deservedly beat Crewe 1-0 where we played 4-4-2 and played some decent football at times and looked reasonably threatening. James McKeown had to make a couple of good saves but overall we thoroughly merited the 3 points. That filled us with optimism; we went to free spending Mansfield the following week and we thought we could win. How wrong can you be? We actually started quite brightly; we were the better side until we gave away a daft penalty and at 1-0 down we still harboured hope, we had a great chance early doors in the 2nd half when Scott Vernon should have just powered his headed chance rather than trying to control it. However, we conceded again and then we looked rudderless, everything was completely last ditch; there was no composure, no guile and no skill. We just rolled over and showed no fight. It was disheartening. Then on the Tuesday night we went to Accrington and deservedly won showing everything we lacked at Mansfield: unity, skill, determination and solidity.
The game was somewhat tarnished by reports of some unruly and insulting Town “fans” chanting “Fenty out, Fenty out” to Town majority shareholder John Fenty when he got into his car to go home. He allegedly responded “f*** off”. It was a totally unnecessary incident that is indicative of the way our fans behave under certain circumstances and was born purely out of the disappointment of the previous Saturday. We then followed that up with a ground out 2-1 win at home to Yeovil and things were looking rosy. However, enter Padraig Amond, scorer of 37 Town goals in our promotion season and we all knew what would happen next. A poor game ended 1-0 to Newport thanks to a typically opportunistic Amond strike. Then came the big one. The one the fans had been looking forward to since the fixtures were released. Home to Lincoln in the league. It was a packed house, nearly fully sold out as the Lincoln for the first time ever brought 1800 fans, the glory supporters have a massive bandwagon to jump on after all. It was a typical local derby, low on quality, high on energy and effort. The 0-0 score line reflected the game well.
Best player and most surprising player?
Overall there have been few consistent, stand out players as our team selection has been inconsistent but taking all things into consideration, this may be controversial with some Town fans, but James Berrett has been our best and also most surprising player. Given he was either played out wide or frozen out entirely by Hurst and Bignot last season and was lambasted whenever he played by Town fans he’s been very, very consistent and reliable this season. Slade has played him whenever he’s been available in his preferred central midfield role and he looks like a different player. He’s now looking like a technically gifted footballer who moves the ball with great speed and efficiency.
After the ups and downs of the first 11 games it shows we have basically picked up where we left last season. A mid-table side destined to have a season with interesting moments but never really gather any promotion challenging momentum. This season though, we are ugly, one-dimensional and depressing, an identity that has sadly, and will continue, to bring gates down at Blundell Park unless the results are consistently fantastic, which I doubt.