United boss Nas Bashir will have had plenty to think about on the journey home as his side’s travel sickness extended to a fourth away defeat out of four so far this season. However, unlike the games at Fleetwood and Cambridge, and even the first hour at Newport, there was little positive to reflect on as the team went down 0-3 at Blundell Park.
With Jamie Hand having departed to Luton, Mark Bentley took the skipper’s armband and Ryan Crockford returned to the midfield. Sam Argent returned to the right-back slot with Harrison Bayley dropping back to the bench while Tom Collins made his United bow in place of Pierre Joseph-Dubois.
Despite an early half chance falling to Richard Pacquette, whose tame shot was comfortably gathered by James McKeown in the Grimsby goal, the home side were soon into their stride. Serge Makofo lived up to his name with a run down the left hand side to force the game’s first corner from which Darren Kempson headed wide. Liam Hearn would cause similar problems on Grimsby’s right all afternoon, his first cross sending a ball across the edge of the penalty box from which Frankie Artus shot wide.
A lovely pinpoint ball out of defence by Tom Cadmore found Louie Soares in space on the United right wing on seven minutes, but despite a neat exchange of passes with Luke Williams nothing constructive came of the move. Shaun Pearson then shot wide four minutes later after another Grimsby corner, with the United defence having failed to settle down in the opening period.
Another run by Makofo provided the chance for Jamie Green to cross, but Rob Duffy’s header was weak enough for Steve Arnold to gather with little difficulty. Within a minute Makofo had fired another shot wide as the home side looked for the opening goal. Green found Hearn as we reached the midway point of the half, but his low half-volley from the edge of the box presented Arnold with another comfortable save.
As United looked to get some sort of foothold in the game, Kempson provided it with a loose challenge on Williams which gave United a free kick around thirty yards out and a clear shooting opportunity. Ryan Crockford’s well aimed effort to the corner was met by an equally competent save by McKeown.
Back at the other end, Arnold denied Michael Coulson at the expense of another corner to the home side, and Pearson’s header from the resulting kick was blocked on the line. A ball out of the United defence as we reached the half hour was just a little too long for Pacquette to capitalize on.
The seemingly inevitable breakthrough for Grimsby was not far away though. A ball into the box evaded Town and United players alike until the unchallenged Duffy stuck it into the net to give the Mariners a 32nd minute lead. It could have been instantly doubled, as the home side quickly regained possession from the restart. United managed to block Hearn’s initial effort, but the ball ran kindly for Artus, and Arnold was on hand to turn his long range effort away for another corner. Our only corner of the game came on thirty five minutes, with McKeown comfortably punching Crockford’s kick clear.
As the clock ticked towards the break, Curtis Ujah turned on the Blundell Park turf and stayed there. It was clearly “a bad one” as he slapped the ground in frustration before having his right leg splinted and being carefully lifted on to a stretcher, the Grimsby medical staff also helping to treat the injured defender. Hector Mackie replaced him, with Mark Bentley dropping back to partner Cadmore in central defence.
United were somewhat fortunate to be just a goal adrift at the break, but the home side wasted no time in putting the game out of our reach from the restart. Coulson fed Hearn down the Grimsby right, but Duffy failed to convert his cross. He made no mistake seconds later though, as the United defence switched off – the same players again setting up the striker who comfortably headed Town into a 2-0 lead.
United briefly threatened eight minutes into the half, a Soares drive was deflected by Pearson, and McKeown had to quickly re-adjust to gather the effort. A long clearance by Grimsby again caught out the United defence, and Arnold received the benefit of the doubt after coming to the edge of the box to clear while catching Hearn’s shoulder with a high challenge. Arnold again blocked Hearn at close range soon after, Makofo the provider as these two players continued to torment the United defence. Hearn thought he had scored on sixty four minutes, but an offside flag kept the margin at two goals.
Mackie’s shot went well wide as the game entered the final twenty minutes.
The home side were still sniffing more goals though, substitute Robert Eagle shooting wide with his first touch of the game having been set up by Coulson before another substitute Anthony Church picked out Hearn, but once again Arnold blocked. Eagle and Hearn again went close as Town forced more corners from the shaky United defence.
The goal which summed up United’s display arrived in the final five minutes. Bradley Wood was fouled on the Grimsby right, midway into the United half, and the same player launched a speculative punt towards the United goal from the resulting free-kick. Arnold looked to have comfortably caught it just under the crossbar, but unfortunately he hadn’t and the ball spilled behind him to complete the scoring.
In short it was an afternoon where the defence didn’t defend, the attackers didn’t attack, too many attempted passes from blue shirts found striped ones and United could have been on the end of a far more embarrassing defeat had the home side been more ruthless in front of goal.
Report by Lee Hermitage.
Photos by Ray Peploe.
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