Saturday, 18 February 2017

Grimsby Town 3 v Mansfield Town 0 - EFL League 2

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Saturday 18th February 2017
SkyBet EFL League 2
at Blundell Park, Cleethorpes
Grimsby Town (1) 3
Chris Clements 40,
Callum Dyson 61, 73 pen
Mansfield Town (0) 0
Admission £18. Programme £3
Attendance 5,550 (inc. 1.246 Mansfield fans)
Photo gallery to follow
Blundell Park hasn't been a happy hunting ground for the Stags in recent times.
Since picking up a 3-2 away win in 1987, they haven't won in Cleethorpes in any of their eight subsequent visits, and today marked their fifth consecutive defeat all told against the Mariners.
My least favourite of those games was on New Years Day 2011, when the home side recorded a 7-2 win.
Omar Bogle (who recently left the Mariners for Championship side Wigan Athletic), scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot, when these two sides last met, back in September at Field Mill (the One Call Stadium).
Before the game, after securing a good parking spot near the ground, we took a stroll along the seafront into Cleethorpes.
Or, to be more precise, we tip toed very carefully along a dog poo strewn footpath, that runs between a railway line (that is in severe need of some tender, loving care) and the nearby Humber Estuary.
As irresponsible dog owners let their pesky pets run amok on the beach, distributing their mess all over the place, a golden retriever cocked it's leg and relieved itself against a signpost, that read: NO DOGS ALLOWED ON THE BEACH: BY ORDER. Anarchist existentialist symbolism is alive and kicking among the canine walking fraternity of North East Lincolnshire it would seem.
Having passed the numerous police vehicles tucked discreetly into the side streets around the railway station, we circled back up towards the ground, via the Grimsby Road, after doing the 'touristy' bit for a quarter of a hour or so (obviously, there isn't very much open down that way in February) and headed to the famous Mariners chippy, where the fish and chips are renowned for being mighty fine... and I could vouch for that on numerous previous visits.
At this point I must thank Mr Peter Wright and his family and friends, who were gathered outside the said establishment and warned us that the substandard dinner they were masticating (mainly because they had already paid for it) was of a very poor standard and that the overcooked fish they were chiseling the overcooked batter off of, wasn't up to much. So we walked back a hundred yards to the County Fish Bar where the freshly cooked fare was delicious. Away fans planning a trip to Blundell Park, take note!
Last weekend, Grimsby manager, Marcus Bignot, actually went across to the visiting supporters in the away end, after their game at Crewe, to apologise, face to face, to those who had travelled across to Cheshire to watch his side lose 5-0.
But he was far more optimistic and upbeat in midweek, after picking up a point from a goalless draw at bottom club Newport County.
Ten years ago, long before he became the Stags boss; Steve Evans, was escorted away from Blundell Park, by Humberside Police, for his own safety, after an unsavoury incident occurred while he was taking charge of a game here, in a managerial capacity, for Boston United.
Today, having been red carded for a comment he made to the fourth official, shortly before home side scored their third goal, the Mansfield manager had to watch the remainder of the game, from the old main stand, surrounded by 'welcoming' home fans.
He took the sensible approach however and abandoned his vantage point, before heading to the away team changing room, to avoid an obvious flash point instead.
According to an internet rumour he had to leave the stand following an altercation with GTFC security staff. That is untrue.
For the record: there were no security staff, stewards or police in the vicinity.
Don't believe the hype.
Apparently that nice Mr Evans isn't universally loved throughout the footballing world... who could ever imagine such a thing!?
In the build up to the game, a local newspaper, demonstrating a crass example of sensationalist irresponsibility and a distinct lack of class, dedicated a whole page to stoking up animosity towards Evans.
And then these low key, inferior publications, have the temerity to blame the accessibility and immediacy of the internet for their own dwindling circulation figures.
Of course, I'm not going to deny that Steve Evans and his assistant Paul Naylor, who was sent to the stands in midweek when the Stags drew with Accrington, aren't infamous for their verbal input from the bench wherever they go and 'possibly' contribute to their own downfall from time to time, by not exactlybeing shrinking violets.
But, certain sections of the media lazily play on that reputation, when they run out of anything else to say... and the Stags gaffer is an easy target.
Prior to Evans' appointment, today's visitors had only won one game out of eleven starts, under their former manager.
I like Adam 'Muzza' Murray (a lot), but the parting of the ways and the timing of a collective fresh start for everyone, was best for all concerned.
Ironically, Murray now occupies the hot seat at one of Evans' old clubs, Boston United.
Look closely enough, a bit like when you used to watch 'Thunderbirds' on the telly, you can see the strings that attach everything together in football.
Team sheet usurped from Martin Shaw's Facebook
If he had waited just a short while longer to get back into management, he might have had a shot at taking over the reigns at a bigger Lincolnshire club this week, when Dominic Roma stepped down at Gainsborough Trinity, but good luck to him at York Street.
By the way, the former Lincoln United and Spalding United manager, Dave Frecklington, got the Trinity job this week, good luck to him too. The former Football League club are in dire need of points to edge themselves away from the National League (North) drop zone.
But moving swiftly back to this afternoon, Mansfield went into this game occupying seventh place in the table, AKA the last play off spot, six places and six points ahead of the host club Grimsby, while riding on the crest of a nine match unbeaten run in the league.
The Stags had scored four times in their last two outings, against Hartlepool United and Accrington Stanley respectively, but would have been hoping that their defensive capitulation on Tuesday night was merely a one off; after having built their surge up the table since November (where they have climbed from eighteenth to seventh), on the foundation of having a solid rearguard.
Alas, Grimsby Town had other ideas.
Upon entering the ground, the sun was finally trying to make an appearance, the PA announcer invited the away fans to purchase a half time draw ticket, with the cheery riposte:
"You could win £350 today folks, just think how much of a great night out in Cleethorpes you could have with that!"
Hmm, from what I'd just seen you could probably actually buy the place for such an amount...  while a friendly steward advised us:
"It's sit where you want to really. We'd appreciate it if you sat on the same seat that it says on your ticket, but if someone is already sat there, you'll have to find one somewhere else"
Having experienced the kind of 3PM chaos that such a loose cum non existent to organisation can often entail, especially when there is likely to be a large away following, I inquired what would happen if we did have to relocate and somebody turned up at five to three saying that I was in their allocated seat:
"Ah well, then you would either have to move or tell them to look for another seat".
Anybody arriving just before kick off, was told to walk across to the far side of the away end because there were loads of seats available there.
In the event, a large number of Stags fans were denied access to those seats until 3.25PM, causing an unpleasant start to the afternoon for a few hundred visiting supporters, who were either forced to stand in gangways, or had their view obstructed by those that were stood in front of them.
It was widely known roughly how many Mansfield fans would be travelling and Grimsby had already mentioned a figure on their website on Friday night, so why did they appear to be so badly prepared when it came to dealing with 1,200+ people?
Hmm... somebody obviously failed his geography 11 plus exam then.
Hopefully lessons will have been learned today.
I'm not out to badmouth Grimsby Town, I have been known to visit Blundell Park several times over the course of a season and I am glad that they are back in the Football League, but generally speaking, even when the Stags are in town, I usually sit upstairs in the Findus Stand, to avoid the dubious pleasantries of being treated to the full away fan experience.
While all of these sideshows and irritating distractions were going on, there was actually a game of football in progress a short distance away.
Arguably, Mansfield were the better side in the opening stages, using their width well to pin Grimsby back, but they really needed to get something on the end of some of the chances they were creating, if they were to impose themselves on the game and continue with their impressive run of results.
But... and I picked up on this on Tuesday night too against Acrrington too; although Alex MacDonald, is a powerhouse force to be reckoned with when he surges down the left channel in support of the Stags attack, when they lose possession and he is still in an advanced position, it leaves a gaping hole behind him for the opposition to exploit.
I suspect that Grimsby's scout had spotted this flaw in midweek too, because Bignot's side seemed to instinctively know to attack down the right when they broke from defence, where Mal Benning would be left out numbered. There were those who thought the Mansfield left back had a  poor game on Tuesday, but the truth is, he was being left exposed and over run, by having to cover the work of two men, while Stanley's Jordan Clark excelled in having the space and time to express himself.
One player who was enjoying the room to manouvre this afternoon was the former Stags player Chris Clements, who actually had a decent game today for his new(ish) club.
Sections of the away following loudly booed his every touch, but Clements was revelling in and even took the time out to dish out a few cheeky verbal responses.
There are two unwritten rules in football: 1) ex players, except the very select few, will get abused when they play against their former clubs. And 2) ex Mansfield players frequently uphold the tradition of scoring against the Stags.
Just like today's hate figure did in the fortieth minute.
The former Stag had said earlier in the week, that when he was at the club they were a long ball and direct team and that he preferred to play with the ball on the deck these days now he had joined a footballing side. Might I suggest that Adam Murray bypassed the midfield to avoid having to give the ball to Clements ;-)
Joking aside, it was inevitable that when the deadlock was broken, it was Clements who got the final touch, while the free kick it came from was conceded by an overstretched defence just outside the left hand side of their area. Jamey Osborne's delivery was met by Sam Jones, his shot deflected to Tom Bolarinwa whose diving header ran across the face of the goal, to where Clements forced it over the line, before celebrating enthusiastically in front of his formerly adoring fans.
Which provoked a fairly hostile reaction, but nowhere near as much of a kerfuffle as when a group of a dozen or so Mariners fans burst out of McMenemy's bar in the bowels of the Findus Stand and taunted the away fans, beckoning them to come and have a go.... and there were plenty of takers.
The police and stewards and some makeshift fencing prevented a fairly large number of people from the away end from reaching the Grimsby fans before they were ushered up the stairs, where they continued to goad the angry mob from on a balcony.
But the tipping point for what was already becoming an afternoon that will be remembered more for the open aggression and hostility on show, than for the actual football had been reached and the blue touch paper lit, for anything that may or may not have happened out on the streets after the game. Personally I heard a lot of shouting and sirens, but saw nothing untoward happening myself and I completely forgot to take any pictures of the verbal exchanges inside the ground too.
But enough of those frivolities...
Early in the second half, Rhys Bennett came to the Stags rescue, making a last ditch clearance, after Clements (who else), had put Jones through one on one with Jake Kean and the attacking midfielder nudged the ball past the Stags keeper.
Meanwhile at the other end, Shaq Coulthirst tested McKeown with a stinging shot that he kept out at full stretch.
Calum Dyson, who is at Blundell Park on loan from Everton, picked up the ball on the right wing from Bolarinwa's forward knocked and sped towards the Stags goal, picking up pace through a gap that Mansfield still hadn't plugged, before weaving past two challenges and driving an angled shot past Kean and into the far side of the goal.
Then came the Evan's red card incident, which was probably greeted by even more celebrating from the Mariners fans than any of their goals.
My friend who runs the Cleethorpes branch of the Evans and Raynor fan club, told me that t-shirt sales were down this week, but was still hopeful that he will be able to shift a shed load outside Wembley Stadium in May.
With just over fifteen minutes to go, Benning tripped Bolarinwa inside the Stags penalty area and was Hayden White was subsequently sent off for a second yellow card offence, when he remonstrated with the referee.... and the visitors miserable afternoon was compounded when Dyson emphatically thumped the resulting spot kick past Kean, to seal the win for Grimsby.
Adi Yussuf, who also recently left the Stags to join Grimsby recently as well, came on late in the game, but I didn't hear a murmur of dissent or a single person booing when he entered the fray.
It was all over bar the shouting (but there was plenty of that) and to be honest, although the match statistics show that it was a fairly even game, with Mansfield having more efforts on target than their victorious hosts, I don't think that the visitors could really complain too much that they had got nothing out of the game.
I personally think ultimately, Dyson was the main difference between the two sides and that Mansfield paid for not finding the net before the break, when Grimsby upped their game in the second half and just about merited their win, even if a three goal margin was probably a bit flattering.
Despite today's result, Mansfield still occupied seventh place in the table at the end of the game, but are now eleven points off of automatic promotion, while there are eight teams within six points of them lower down the table, several of who have games in hand.
Grimsby are now twelvth, three points behind today's opponents.
Pleasure Island at Cleethorpes wasn't open, it may even have shut down altogether for all I know, but 2017 is proving to be one big roller-coaster ride for Stags fans already.
Well blow me down. If Grimsby Town had made a right pigs ear of getting all the away fans into the ground, they excelled themselves at full time, with disorganised stewards telling you to leave via one exit and then another, which were being open and then locked again (and again) at wearingly frequent intervals. 
Eventually they let a handful of us through one of the gates and we meandered back to the car, knowing that there was no need to rush, because one of our travelling party had been forced to leave via the far corner of the ground and make a circuitous route march to where we were parked, two minutes walk from Blundell Park.
I must stress that the stewards at Grimsby were all very friendly and tried to be helpful and accommodating, but the people in charge of them weren't very good at their jobs and were creating more problems than they were ever likely to solve.
Away days, it's a way of life innit!
They even have replica Craig Disley's in the GTFC shop
The Stags next game is at home against Newport County on Saturday, while Grimsby travel to take part in the rundown seaside resort 'derby' against Morecambe the same afternoon.