Mariners 2-0 Accrington Att: 5782 (108 away)
After a tough period for the Mariners with no win in 3, a return home for the Boxing Day fixture to face relegation threatened Accrington Stanley must have looked like a golden opportunity to get back on track.
The big change in the home line-up was a first league start for on loan ‘keeper Dean Henderson, finally afforded a chance to show his skill in the sticks. Ben Davies returned at right back, replacing the injured Zak Mills, with Collins, Pearson and Andrew rounding out a back 4. Tom Bolarinwa continued on the right, with Ashley Chambers returning on the left. Summerfield and Comley were back on duty in the midfield, with Vernon and fit again Omar Bogle up front.
For me, a start for Henderson is long overdue. Having seen him warming up here and at Doncaster last time out, he looks that little bit sharper and assured in goal than McKeown currently, although Macca is certainly more than capable himself.
Stanley themselves were winless in 9 league games before this clash, and had first choice keeper Chapman back from injury and former Mariner Scott Brown in the line-up. He received a polite round of applause from most on his return to Blundell Park.
From the off, it looked like Town set up in more of a 4-1-3-2 formation, with Comley sitting deeper, just in front of the back 4, and Vernon playing slightly off Bogle up front.
Accrington started the brighter, forcing body blocks from Davies and Andrew and relatively easy saves from Henderson at times within the first 20 mins. When town did get the ball, the plan seemed to be to play the long ball into Bolarinwa on the right, who would use his pace to either get a cross in, or cut inside and have a go himself.
However, Town’s passing was found lacking frequently in this game, with those long balls from the back always finding an opponent throughout the match.
Then just after the half hour mark, the Mariners took the lead. Summerfield chipped the ball to Tom Bolarinwa around the halfway line who beat his man to it, ran through the middle of the park and took advantage of a slip by Stanley defender Beckles to slot coolly beyond the keeper into the bottom right hand corner.
Bolarinwa’s 2nd goal of the season seemed to kick the Town support into life, who before that point were largely quiet today and often out sung by the 108 travelling supporters.
There was an incident in the tunnel at half time, although from my viewpoint I didn’t see much of it. Apparently, Stanley’s Coneely was showing marks left on him by Danny Andrew off a late challenge, but referee Ross Joyce was not moved by it. This then caused an argument between the managers and a small scuffle between some of the players. Sounded like handbags and nothing more.
After the break, Stanley again came out the brighter and played some very attractive football with good, quick passing through the middle, but found the Town defence capable to deal with anything they had. Henderson was impressive when called into action, although he again didn’t have a huge amount to do.
Omar Bogle had a tough day out there on his return form injury, with constant pressure and attention from the Stanley defence, often to the point of being blatantly manhandled by Birtles often ignored by referee Joyce. To his credit, he didn’t give up even after his booking for dissent early in the second half and always seemed dangerous.
Danny Collins had a standout performance, who was always in the right places to stop dangerous chances from the visitors. He’s well deserving of his contract extension with the club until the end of this season and I’m sure most fans would be happy to see him with us for longer than that.
Town put the game out of Stanley’s reach in the 88th when substitute Craig Disley found Bogle at around halfway, who played a perfect lofted through ball for Ashley Chambers to run onto and score through the legs of keeper Chapman.
The game petered out after the second goal and the full time whistle was greeted with a good cheer and hearty applause from the Town faithful, particularly for Henderson who was greeted by chants of ‘Sign him up!’ from the Pontoon, which he was only too happy to hear.
Man of the Match for me was Tom Bolarinwa. He was always working hard, even after his goal, and was always looking to create chances getting forward on the counter.
In truth, this was far from a great performance by the Mariners, but it got the job done and that is all that this will be remembered for. Town sit 12th in the league after this match, 5 points off the playoffs, and 8 clear of relegation.
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