Grimsby Town opinion: Cause for optimism despite slump
By Grimsby Telegraph columnist Geoff Ford
I'VE watched the games, seen the replays, listened to the manager, read the comments, and, while performances have not been great, I'm still unable accept that Town deserved to lose three games on the trot. Yes, Kidderminster were superior, but against high-flying Mansfield and mediocre Cambridge the Mariners were arguably the better side and should have won both games.
It would be easy to slate the team, hammer individuals, give up on promotion and Wembley and develop a mindset that the season will peter out in the most disappointing way. But soul searching will have to wait, recriminations put on hold.
We are where we are, we have what we have. Things have not gone well for Town recently. In fact fans may be feeling a bit paranoid. The fates seem to be against them. It appears that what can go wrong has gone wrong. Injuries to one key player after another.
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A wonder strike at Mansfield, an own goal against Cambridge. The side gets up, brushes itself down and is then floored by another punch it didn't see coming. I know Town are not playing with the fluency or confidence, or enjoying the fortune, of earlier in the season. I know there are easily identifiable weaknesses.
Two of our three wide men cannot cross the ball, we're looking vulnerable at set pieces, our two big strikers seem to play as individuals rather than complement each other as a unit. But the side still created enough openings to have won the last two games Mansfield keeper Marriott was man of the match, while against Cambridge some of the chances that fell to Naylor, Brodie, Marshall, Pearson and Devitt on another day would have been taken.
Football is a strange animal. You don't always get what you deserve. Refereeing decisions, deflections, wonder saves, can all influence the outcome of a game. You can be the best player on the park and in a split second you can cost your side the points. Take Tom Naylor. He ran the midfield, was strong, skilful and intelligent on the ball, and in the absence of Craig Disley was the leader on the field. Yet in attempting to head a dangerous free kick over his own bar succeeded only in deflecting it past McKeown.
Cambridge simply could not believe their luck. Then in the second half Naylor broke from midfield and, under challenge 35-yards out with the keeper advancing, lifted the ball over Pope and watched it bounce wide of the post. Naylor's misfortune about summed up Town's day. Their front line clearly lacks pace.
Playing two target men may have been the only choice, but they are not going to produce the sharp turns and whippet-like movement needed to unsettle defences. So Liam Hearn had a huge and perhaps unfair burden of expectation on his shoulders when he entered the fray to the biggest cheer of the afternoon.
He looked keen and lively in his cameo and Town stepped up a gear in response, but there is a chasm between fitness and match fitness and he and the team were unable to engineer a breakthrough.
As fans we pay our money and are entitled to our say. We've been pretty unswerving in our support for the Scott/Hurst project. Everything in the promotion garden seemed rosy when we had key partnerships in key areas. I'm thinking Pond/Pearson, Disley/Niven, Cook/Hannah.
Much may depend on how soon the injured players return, and how fit they really are.
But we have a decent-sized squad for just this reason and out of adversity heroes often emerge. Town are still well in the play-off picture, It's not where we thought we would be but there is still everything to play for. And Wembley beckons.
Compare that to the events of the last six seasons and we have reason to he pleased.