GTFC OPINION: A TALE OF TWO TOWNS
By columnist Geoff Ford
THERE were two Grimsby Towns on show at a freezing Blundell Park on Tuesday night.
For the first 60 minutes we witnessed the hoof it anywhere, give the ball away and frustrate the crowd Mariners.
For the last half hour we saw a passing and moving side with a cutting edge.
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The transformation came when Andy Cook and Andi Thanoj joined the fray. Town then looked like a top of the table team and the hitherto subdued crowd responded, roaring them on to a victory that took them back to the summit of the Conference.
Thanoj got the ball down and sprayed passes to his team-mates as the Mariners started to control the game rather than chase lost causes. And Cook won balls, turned opponents and ultimately grabbed two invaluable goals.
Inspired substitutions or the wrong initial selection? Hindsight's a wonderful judge.
But to many Town fans the dropping of Cook has been just as great a mystery as the axing of Nigel Adkins to Southampton supporters.
His partnership with Ross Hannah had fired the Mariners to the top of the table in the first half of the season. After a slow start he had hit top form and grown into a centre forward that defences just could not handle. Yet when Hannah's signature was secured and the partnership could resume, Cook was banished to the bench at Welling. And he was again warming the woodwork for the Hyde clash.
New signing Richard Brodie has started the last three games. He came with a big reputation and the management no doubt want to give him a chance to bed himself into the side. But how long can you wait? Despite showing some good touches I'm not sure he's yet on the same wavelength as the rest of them. It was the right decision to replace him after 59 minutes.
Talking of decisions, what should be done about midfield? Do Town play a ball-winner in Derek Niven, or a creator in Thanoj?
When it's a scrap you need Niven, with his 100 per cent commitment, to win tackles and then hand over to the creative players. In recent games he's been doing the first part but falling down on the second, maybe through over-ambition.
But to get the flowing football going you need Thanoj. He'll retain possession and bring players like Jamie Devitt into the game, but he won't win tackles.
Niven? Thanoy? Or a three-man central midfield to accommodate both?
Just a word about the crowd. The attendance of 2,700 may have seemed smaller than usual, but given the conditions it was a good turnout and compared favourably with League games at Hartlepool (2,502) and Aldershot (1,192).
The hardy 11 Hyde fans should be commended for making the trip over the Pennines but they looked lost in the expanses of the Osmond Stand. May as well have given them an executive box and saved on stewarding.
Bradford's League Cup success at Villa Park reminded me of that great night back in '91 when Dave Gilbert's penalty saw off the Villains and gave Alan Buckley's side a home tie with the mighty Spurs.
Though Gary Linker's superstars won through, Town fans saw what I rated as the purest football I'd seen by a side in black and white stripes. Childs, Gilbert, Rees, Woods and McDermott ran riot with one touch, pass and move combinations that thrilled the 17,000 crowd. Cockerill, Cunnington and Futcher were also stars in that legendary side (as well as Lever, Jobling and Sherwood of course). We'll never see the likes again.