Firstly, a very warm welcome from Vital Grimsby to the readers of Ralph`s daily offerings in the Holker Street Newsletter.
Sadly, that`s the only warm thing about Barrow today. Whilst the majority of the country is basking in sunshine, Holker Street is overcast, dull and windy as kick off approaches.
Grimsby`s joint managers, Rob Scott and Paul Hurst, made just one change to the side that won 2-0 at Mansfield in midweek. Rob Duffy was chosen to partner Alan Connell up front, with Lee Peacock taking a place on the bench.
This meant a second start for youngsters Andi Thanoj and Charlie I`Anson, whose performances at Field Mill warranted them keeping their places in the team.
Connoisseurs of football should stop reading now. This was not a classic. Far from it, the football on show was awful, dire, devoid of flair or skill, and most notable for the complete lack of excitement.
The Bluebirds had the majority of the possession in the early stages of the game, but didn`t pose any serious threat to the Grimsby defence. Each side created just one goal scoring opportunity for themselves in the whole of the first period.
After half an hour, Michael Leary`s pass sent Micky Cummins away down the right wing for Grimsby. Although his low cross was missed by the outstretched Duffy, Connell was following up and shot from close range, but Barrow`s skipper, Phil Bolland, blocked the effort just in front of the goal line.
The Mariners` young back line were playing confidently, and coping easily with the little pressure that Barrow were exerting on them. So it was no surprise that Barrow`s only shot on target came from distance.
In the 37th minute, Danny Forrest struck the ball well enough from 25 yards out, but it went straight into the arms of Town keeper, Kenny Arthur.
Then the Bluebirds` Paul Rutherford was the first player to go into the referee`s notebook, following a clumsy challenge.
Half Time : Barrow 0 – Grimsby 0
Barrow made a change for the start of the second half, with Forrest being replaced by Andy Cook. Presumably Forrest had picked up a knock, as he had looked to be the home sides most effective player in the first half.
The second half was marginally more exciting than the first, but only because of a hatful of bookings, a spate of substitutions, and two goals for the Mariners – the first of which was worth the admission cost alone, and arguably made up for the other horrendous 89 minutes.
Grimsby`s I`Anson sliced a clearance against team mate Cummins. Keeper Arthur was quick to spot the danger, and dived to smother the loose ball under a challenge from Barrow`s Richie Baker.
This caused a totally needless melee involving players from both sides, and resulted in Baker and Town`s Bradley Wood receiving yellow cards. The caution for Baker was very harsh as he was entitled to challenge for the ball as he had done.
That incident, and the poor quality of their own performances, was leading to increasing frustration amongst the players. Indeed, Michael Coulson became Grimsby`s second name in the referee`s book for kicking the ball away after conceding a free kick.
The Mariners took the lead in the 55th minute through a piece of individual magic from leading scorer, Alan Connell.
Two yards outside the Barrow penalty area, he received the ball from Duffy`s headed flick. Spotting home keeper, Clark Masters, off his line, Connell chipped the ball perfectly over him and into the top corner for his 28th goal of the season.
With the game reverting back to being a scrappy spectacle, the Mariners saw two more players yellow carded, Thanoj for a third foul in a short space of time, and Leary for handling the ball.
In the remainder of the match Barrow had just one more goal bound effort of note. Former Grimsby winger, Marc Goodfellow, was part of a double substitution for the hosts in the 61st minute. It was Goodfellow who then struck a firm shot, again from distance, that brought a fine save from Arthur, who diverted the ball around the post for a corner.
Grimsby effectively wrapped up the three points when they doubled their lead in the 73rd minute.
This time Connell turned provider. His slick pass over the Barrow defence saw Peacock give chase and he won a corner, which Connell elected to take. His delivery was met at the far post by the head of Leary, and his downward header found the back of the net.
Full Time : Barrow 0 – Grimsby 2
Two wins in succession, two away wins in succession, two clean sheets in succession.
Two youngsters blooded successfully.
Two young managers to succeed.
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