Town pay the penalty
Grimsby’s League Two survival hopes were left hanging by a thread after they let a two goal lead slip at home to against play-off chasing Chesterfield at Blundell Park.
On an evening where fellow strugglers Torquay upset the odds to win at 4th placed Aldershot, the 2-2 draw will be seen as two points lost rather than a point gained.
The Mariners started with the same team that won 1-0 at Hereford on Saturday, with Chesterfield replacing former Town striker Barry Conlon with Jordan Bowery. A young and energetic looking home side kicked off towards the Osmond End where around 400 Chesterfield fans huddled in the upper reaches of the away stand, looking to share body heat on a chilly evening.
Town began well and a Jamie Devitt free kick from 30 yards struck the outside of Tommy Lee’s goalpost after eight minutes, and some slick passing moves added to the home supporters’ buoyancy after two successive away wins.
Ten minutes later and Barnsley loanee Coulson cut inside the Spirites left back and thundered a shot towards the top corner, but at the last moments it curled wide of the post.
Town were playing some good football, with Sinclair and Hudson bossing the middle of the park and wide men Coulson and Devitt looking to run at the defenders at every opportunity.
The Spirites saw little of the ball in the early part of the half, with midfielder Mark Allott spooning wide from the edge of the area under pressure from Sinclair.
The Mariners had been the better side though, and showed their superiority on 27 minutes with the opening goal. The move began way back with goalkeeper Nick Colgan, with the veteran doing well to keep the ball in play before releasing Sinclair. The midfielder raced through the middle of the park and slipped the ball to Tommy Wright, the Town frontman took a touch before expertly lifting the ball over the onrushing Tommy Lee and into the far corner. It was no more than the home side deserved, and the atmosphere at Blundell Park visibly grew.
Devitt and Niven then exchanged shots from distance but neither threatened the goalkeepers, and moments later former Town striker Jack Lester spun his marker before sending a shot which looked to be heading for Colgan’s top corner before the Irishman somehow tipped it wide. It was a wonderful save from a man whose confidence is growing with each match.
Referee Kevin Wright then called time on a busy first half for the Mariners, they looked fairly comfortable with the lead but Chesterfield looked capable of scoring through the clever Lester.
Town came out after the break looking intent on adding to their lead. Akpa Akpro found himself with space in the box and with his back to goal; the Ivorian went for an ambitious overhead kick which sailed high into the Pontoon End. But the home side’s attacking plan was clear to see.
Then, on 57 minutes, the Mariners doubled their lead. Hudson found Hull loanee Devitt who cut inside his full back and fired the ball into the goalmouth, Akpro turned, and turned again, before rifling the ball high into Lee’s net before sprinting to the bouncing Pontoon End to celebrate with his endearing fans.
Chesterfield were reeling, and Town were full of beans. It looked like it could be 3 or 4 by the end of the game, the Mariners were bossing things all over the pitch and the Spirites were lost in a sea of black and white supremacy.
Away boss John Sheridan responded with a double change, two former Town players Danny Boshell and Martin Gritton were thrust into the action. Neil Woods stood motionless.
Boshell had the chance to make an immediate impact when the ball fell to him 20 yards out, but the midfielder skied his shot towards the scoreboard. But seconds later the goal came, winger Demontagnac beat Bore before sending in an inviting cross which Lester was only too happy to glance past Colgan.
The away supporters sensed a comeback, the Town players looked on edge and the home fans became anxious. They were right to be anxious, as Lester had another chance straight after the re-start, but his shot was blocked by the impressive Widdowson and fell to Colgan.
The game then became scrappy, with Town unable to get a foot on the ball and Chesterfield began to throw men forward. With 75 minutes on the clock, the inevitable equaliser came after the home defence fell deeper and deeper into the 18 yard box. Town failed to clear a free kick and the ball bobbled to Lester, who took a touch before firing past Colgan and into the far corner.
The equaliser seemed to rally Town, who finally got a foot on the ball after Peacock had replaced the tiring Wright upfront. Akpro raced onto a through ball and the visitors defence stood still, waiting for an offside flag which didn’t come. Akpro saw the oncoming Lee and took the ball around the keeper, but the angle was tight and the striker could only fire the ball into the side netting.
On 81 minutes, the game defining decision came. Mariner’s winger Coulson beat the offside trap and looked for all the world to be one on one with the keeper, but a tangle of legs saw him fall agonisingly to the floor. Referee Wright waved play on, the home fans vented their unhappiness. From the Upper Smiths it looked a nailed on penalty, and once again Town had been denied a spotkick on home turf.
The game then seemed to blur, little happened before Boshell flew in feet first on Devitt, again Wright was determined not to make the big decision and gave the former Town man a yellow.
At the death, Peacock forced a fine low save from Lee and a flurry of Town pressure could not bring the winning goal they craved. The final whistle blew and Devitt was booked for showing referee Wright what he thought of his decision making. The players trudged off the field dejected, but were roundly applauded for their efforts.
In the end Town threw away the lead, and with Torquay winning away things look bleak. But nothing’s finished yet, Barnet are the team to watch and a win on Saturday could alter things dramatically. Keep the faith.
Man of the match – Joe Widdowson
The Town full back kept his head when all around were losing theirs with a succession of fine last ditch tackles and blocks. He supported Devitt well and got Atkinson out of jail on more than one occasion, an assured performance.