Pre-Season is once again properly upon us. Darlo, the annual trip to Hartlepool, and now Grimsby. As in Grim – when I hear Grimsby, I think of fish and docks, and when I hear Cleethorpes, I think cheap holiday camps and… well, I’ve been before. Between them, the two places boast every type of industrial building that this land has ever produced, barring pithead gear. Cleethorpes also has exactly the same druggies on bikes and zombies wandering about as back home and the same miniature fairground.
Anyhow, a forty (sorry, fotty) minute change at Doncaster meant I could revisit the Kylie Minogue bar on platform three. Obviously, that’s not its real name, but it’s small, perfectly formed, has some nice beer, and offers a cracking variety of pork pies, just like the Antipodean Princess of Pop. Cleethorpes still has the miniature funfair, the pub called the Swashbuckler (which I avoided – memories of a previous visit) and, thankfully, the No. 2 Refreshment Room, where I’d have happily stayed all evening, had there not been a Very Important Football Match to attend. There’s also a No. 1 pub, which does make you wonder about the lavatorial arrangements. The landlady of my digs turned out to be a Grimsby season ticket holder, and she advised me that they’d lost to Cleethorpes last week, which is presumably the equivalent of us losing to Sunderland RCA, and where to go for a pint. More importantly, she advised where not to go. We reminisced over previous meetings (Phillips, Clark, soft toys hoyed on the pitch, Aiden Davison, the temporary stand, that sort of nonsense), she moaned about £12 a ticket while revealing that their season tickets cost about the same as ours and agreed to meet up after the match for a pint and a fight. The fight was her idea, and not a serious one. I think.
Bag hoyed in room, quick cuppa and freshen up (it might be overcast but it was as muggy as the post-match showers, then a wander up the road to the match. The away end bar was a beaut – a bit like your mad auntie’s living room, but with more football scarves – and the sun shone straight into our faces, making it difficult to see what was going on.
Love Taylor Flanagan Hume
McManaman Honeyman © McGeouch Robson Gooch
Kicking away from the travelling support, the Lads had McGeouch sitting deep again – is that going to be his role all season? – and Maguire looking very much the seasoned pro up front on his own, with the wide men cutting in to support him. McManaman looked like he has something to prove (to be honest after last season, they all do) and ran at the full back from the off. Having hung up his Brazil shirt, Danny Collins – aye, that one – had his work cut out to organise the home defence to keep us out, and it might even have been him who charged down Gooch’s shot. Grimsby did manage an effort on goal, but it was a free kick and it was off target anyway. That was from Jordan Cooke - aye, that one. The Hetton Lad who was a goal machine for the reserves but never quite cracked it at our place and has been getting the odd goal for Carlisle, Luton, Walsall, Charlton, Yeovil, and Darlo ever since, but couldn’t get past Stryjek with that free, or a header soon after.
That second Grimsby effort seemed to vex the Lads, and we fired in a string of efforts that didn’t quite get past their keeper, with Robson’s probably the closest. Maguire seems to be growing into his role as the wise old head up front and is happy to do the carrying/hold-up work until the support arrives. McManaman put in a cracking cross from the right – well, obviously not that cracking, otherwise Gooch would have put it into the net rather than just failing to get his head to it, but it drew appreciative “oohs” from the crowd, and set us up for the next one, right on the half hour. This time it was Maguire who, having drifted out wide, put a lovely cross behind the home defence and Gooch flung himself at the ball to head down and beyond the keeper. Good goal, but aren’t they all?
Stryjek was playing with confidence and sensible positioning, making us wonder what on earth he did last season to be refused a game – he actually looks like a proper ‘keeper, and did what was necessary to keep Grimsby at bay for the rest of the first half. As it was, we came close to a second in the dying minutes when Maguire tried to curl one inside the far post but didn’t get enough bend on the ball. Nearly but not quite, and the half was over, with us deserving at least the lead we had, and we headed for the shade of Aunty Elsie’s living room. There might only have been 439 of us, but we seemed to get through more beverage than the friendly staff had anticipated, judging by the number of pumps with tea-towels over them. Forsaking the comfort of the couch, we headed back to see how many changes Cap’n Jack would make for the second half.
None, as it turned out – but this is a friendly, and injuries apart, you don’t do changes until the hour, when a busload arrive. I’m not sure what it is with the Honeyman as captain thing, as Flanagan is very much the man directing things and was once again seen to be carrying the ball out from the middle of defence. Stryjek had to be sharp coming out early in the second half to prevent an effort on goal and set up an attack with a quick throw. Maguire again showed that he can put in a decent cross, but Honeyman couldn’t get his header on target. Shame, as a second would have probably killed off Grimsby. What am I on about? It’s only a friendly, but you get my drift – it might have opened the game up for a few more goals.
When the hour arrived, Grimsby brought on eight subs, so we responded by bringing on Mumba for Robson, and he showed some nice touches despite the home side getting more into the game. Five minutes later, Ross brought on Ruiter and Matthews for Stryjek (of course) and Hume, and the latter showed a couple of those surging runs that had been one of the highlights of the Hartlepool game. Maja replaced McManaman with twenty to go, then Kimpioka came on for McGeouch as the formation went out of the window. We were expecting great things from young Ben, and he quickly showed that he wasn’t afraid to give it a go, going close with an effort that wasn’t that different to the one that gained us a draw at the weekend.
There you go, then. Jack Ross’s first win, and one that showed a bit more about the squad. Firstly, where was Stryjek last season? He looked a perfectly competent ‘keeper at Blundell Park, and could have saved us the points necessary to keep us up – but iff that had happened, we might never have got Stu and Charlie, and we might still have pink seats (31,000 going cheap – contact SAFC for details). Hume, Robson, and Taylor look perfectly capable of doing a job this season, and Kimpioka might be the surprise package we keep dreaming about.
Man of the Match? Maguire, I think, kept plugging away and pulling the string up front and could prove very important in the coming months. With news that Khazri has gone, we have a bit more cash to bring in experienced support for him. By the way, since last we met France won the world cup by beating Croatia 4-2, in case you hadn’t noticed. And the landlady cried off the post-match pint ‘cos her sister was angry with her for getting drunk before the game. Which she missed. Sounds like I got the better deal with a quiet couple of beers and a relatively early night.