What Does It Take To Win A Playoff Place

Motown making an appearance at this late stage in the season as I mangle the classic Jr Walker & The All Stars song.

It’s the final league game of the season, and we are at home for a change. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster season as we limp into the final game after two losses and two draws in the last four matches. Results which have seen us slip out of that final playoff place and into eighth in the table after midweek games saw Doncaster extend their winning run to ten games and jump above us in the table.

It is no longer in our own hands. There are many scenarios. In simple terms.

If we lose then we miss the playoffs, and depending on other results we could end up as low as tenth in the table.

If we draw then we need a whole host of other things to happen – Barrow have to lose by two goals, Bradford City have to not win, and Walsall must not win by four goals or more. That set of results would lift us to seventh.

If we win then it would need Barrow to lose or draw, OR Crewe Alexandra to lose, OR Doncaster Rovers to lose. If any of that happens then we are in the playoffs. For each of the three above that happens if we also win, we go up a place in the league, so if all three were to lose (or Barrow draw) then we would finish fifth.

So, it means that there will be a lot of people with at least half an eye on phones etc. to see what is happening elsewhere as our game takes place. In an ideal world the scoreboard would show the live scores during the game. But under league regulations they aren’t allowed to. Not for the fans or the players / managers etc, but because the match officials aren’t allowed to know what is happening elsewhere. Several officials were suspended / demoted a couple of seasons ago after having mobiles with them during the final games of the season.

It’s unlikely that the televised Sky game will help. Crewe need a point to guarantee being in the playoffs and their opponents Colchester need a point to guarantee survival, so that game has West Germany vs Austria from the 1982 World Cup written all over it.

Anyway, today’s opponents are Grimsby Town, who managed to secure safety from relegation last Saturday, and hopefully will come and not be bothered, with having nothing to play for. But we all know it rarely works like that. The away fixture was back in September, when after being 2-0 down, Danilo Orsi scored a ninety-sixth minute winner in a 3-2 result (that was after Klaidi Lolos had done the same the week before at home to Tranmere Rovers). And we did think – however briefly – that Orsi had done the same last week against Sutton United, only for the flag to go up (somewhat dubiously) and dash our hopes.

The game is another sell out (from a home tickets perspective), so let us all hope that it goes better than the other sellout or near sellout games this season at home, as we have lost all four of them. We have one additional person in tow for this game, with one of our neighbours – Clare – joining us as she knows the Grimsby Town No 30, as she sits next to his dad and uncle in her season ticket seats at Tottenham and has seen him grow up from a baby.

It has been what seems like a hell of a long four days since the Tuesday night results came in. There are nerves in play, a touch of anticipation, some hope required, a bit of dread, and no doubt for those who believe in such things, some prayers as well.

Grant, who sits behind us had got permission from the club to do some drone filming of the stadium, and the players warm up pre-game, and he’ll be cutting that and letting the club have it, so looking forward to that.

Grimsby are in their traditional black and white vertical stripes shirts, black shorts, and white socks. It isn’t the most coherent of starts, and eight minutes in Grimsby have their first attack, the ball is played across the six-yard box from the left and at the back of the box their attacked is there with a free hit, which is high over the bar and over the Eden Utilities Stand for the only ball loss of the day.

We are having a lot of possession, but the final ball isn’t quite there again. Adam Campbell picks the ball up about forty yards out and heads towards goal, gets into the box before shooting, but the shot is wide. Ade Adeyemo’s pace and trickery is used to good effect down the right wing, but his cross is overhit and goes across the box and out for a throw on the other side.

It takes sixteen minutes for the first corner of the game, and it goes to Grimsby, but amounts to nothing. There is a bit of a buzz from the phone watchers, there is a goal elsewhere. Mansfield Town have taken the lead against Barrow. We get a corner of our own, but it is easily cleared and Grimsby break and get another corner of their own. It goes all the way over to the back post and from a tight angel two yards out the header comes back across the face of the goal and out for a goal kick. Grimsby are creating more chances and get another shot away which goes wide.

On twenty-three minutes Adeyemo plays a ball across the park to the left wing to Jeremy Kelly and his cross is taken down by Danilo Orsi, who slots the ball into the net, and we lead 1-0, and as things stand, we are in the playoffs.

A couple of minutes later there is a free kick twenty-five yards out, just left of centre. Will Wright stands over it and his shot is heading for the top corner but is well saved, the follow up is put out for a corner, but that goes out for a goal kick. We are having more of the ball and creating more now. A ball is worked across to Adeyemo from the left wing and his long shot along the ground is easily saved by the Grimsby keeper.

Just after the half hour mark there is a ball in the air down the right wing, Campbell and Orsi get headers on, and the ball falls to Klaidi Lolos, he cuts outside to the right, beats a player and gets a shot off across the keeper and it nestles in the bottom left hand corner of the net and we lead 2-0.

There are scores elsewhere, Colchester have taken the lead against Crewe, I’m not sure that was really in either team’s script. And somewhat unsurprisingly, Doncaster are two up against Gillingham. As it stands, we are up to sixth.

We are on the attack again and Adeyemo’s shot is blocked. It goes for a throw and Wright lobs a missile in, but it is cleared. Grimsby attack, and they have a curling shot from just outside the box on the left-hand side which Corey Addai just tips around the post for a corner. There are two added minutes at the end of the half, and the half ends with us leading 2-0.

Elsewhere the half times are Barrow 0 – Mansfield 1, Colchester 1 – Crewe 0, and Gillingham 0 – Doncaster 2, and as it stands, we are sixth and will be playing the on a roll Doncaster.

The second half sees Grimsby start the quicker, and they get a corner, and on another attack a shot on goal before Crawley start to settle into the half. Adeyemo gets down the right wing and his cross is blocked for a corner, which is cleared, put back in and cleared again.

About quarter of an hour into the half and Barrow have equalised in their game, which doesn’t affect our place in the playoffs. Lolos has another attempt to twinkle-toes his way into the box, but the ball runs away from him to the keeper before he can get a shot off. Substitutions are made. Grimsby get another corner which Addai catches.

Gillingham are suddenly level in their game against Doncaster, and Doncaster are down to ten men, so that’s getting interesting.

There is a bit of nervy passing around the back, it is not as comfortable as the scoreline should make it. Grimsby get another corner, but it is cleared, and we break, and it ends with another Lolos shot straight at the keeper. Jeremy Kelly is having fun against the Grimsby right back; he turns him inside out near the halfway line. The look of disgust / resignation on the right back’s face is a picture to behold.

We are keeping possession down the left; we win a corner and just try to keep it there. No board has gone up to indicate how many added minutes there are at the end of the half, but there ends up being four added minutes played before the final whistle goes and it is confirmed as a 2-0 win.

There is a pitch invasion, and red smoke flares are involved, but the final results are through from everywhere else yet. Doncaster comes first, they finish with a 2-2 draw and secure their place in the playoffs, Crewe come next, they get a ninety-second minute equaliser to grab their point to guarantee their playoff spot. And we wait for the Barrow score to be finalised. The final whistle goes there, and they have only drawn, and therefore it is now official. Crawley have qualified for the playoffs. Barrow drop out of the playoff places on the last day of the season having been in them since October.

The season continues. Tomorrow night is the club’s award ceremony at Lingfield racecourse, which we are going to, and then the playoff games start. We are playing the MK Dons, with the home game being on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, and the away game on the Thursday night of that week. Just need to see when the tickets go on sale for them, and sort transport and possibly hotels for the away game.

How good is this season?

Come on you reds.

Not As Grim-sby As It Could Have Been

Back once again. The third home game in eight days is another Tuesday night affair. We are on a bit of a role with three wins and a draw in our last four games, we are four point clear of the relegation places, but another win tonight would take us up two places in the league as well, so all to play for.

The opposition are Grimsby Town, and it is a case of third time lucky for this fixture. It was originally due to be played at the start of January, but Grimsby were still in the FA Cup, where they made a run to the quarter finals. Then it was due to be played at the end of January when we were in America, but that was postponed due to a frozen pitch. And so, it was rearranged for tonight.

Going into the game, Grimsby are the only side to have played less games than us in the league. They sit seven places above us in fifteenth and are eleven points ahead of us, with two wins and three draws in their last five league games.

The away game in October resulted in a 3-0 loss. I had considered going to that game and had scoped out travel times for trains and hotels for overnight stays as there wasn’t much to do with Helen being away, and probably being the only person who wants to go and take photos of Cleethorpes. But I decided against it, which was a wise decision, as it was a poor result saw us ending up as the strongest team in the football league – bottom – holding all the other teams up. And it saw Kevin Betsy being sacked. Something for which a lot of people had wanted. If we survive, I might take the opportunity to go and take photos next season.

Four managers (including interims) later and we are on our best run of form of the season. We have additional people with us tonight, as one of our neighbours has some link to one of the Grimsby players. I wasn’t listening carefully enough to find out anymore information on the subject, apart from the fact they weren’t even in the squad for the game. No programme to pick up this evening as it was included in the double header issue from the weekend.

With the clocks going forward and a respite in it trying to rain it was still light as we made our way to the ground. Said hello to Al on the way in, he was prowling our stand again tonight, but without the blonde female steward working this evening he wasn’t stopping to have a five minute char every time he walked by. There is scaffolding and gantries up, not because we are being televised of course, but they are already preparing for Brighton Ladies playing Manchester United at the weekend with that being on TV.

There was one away fans coach in the car park, but plenty more than that in the way of fans. The tarpaulin had been removed and there was no overspill of home fans for this game. There did appear to be two ostracised Grimsby fans in the far corner sat on the steps of the terrace twenty yards away from where the away support behind the goal stopped. Grimsby are in an all blue away kit and it is all red versus all blue again.

It took seven minutes for ball one to disappear out over the east marquee from a Crawley clearance. Grimsby settled into the game better, and are first to the ball most of the time and are creating chances and seem to outpace Crawley all over the pitch.

Fourteen minutes in before we get a corner, and from it Aramide Oteh gets a shot on target from outside the area. Ten minutes later ball two disappears over the east marquee, this time from a Grimsby clearance. The only thing stopping Grimsby from getting a lead at this point is a poor final ball. Something they put right on forty-two minutes. A strong run from midfield isn’t dealt with, no tackles really, just waved through and a pass into the box where there is even less tackling and the Grimsby striker gets a shot off, straight at Corey Addai, but it goes straight through him and off into the net and we are behind 0-1.

From the restart we attack and a shot is tipped around the post for a corner, quickly followed by another corner, but the pressure comes to an end with a cheap foul given away in the Grimsby box. Two added minutes are shown and I’m surprised it’s only that as the referee is as pedantic as can be.

Half time, the usual playlist, and the usual shenanigans of Crawley coming out a couple of minutes after the visitors. And it only takes a couple of minutes for Grimsby to run past a very sluggish defence. Their number nine runs by Joel Lynch as if he’s a statue, and his curling shot comes back off the inside of the post and is hacked away to safety.

We have an attack and a shot is saved, and straight away Grimsby come down the other end and have a better chance that is well saved by Addai. Ball three disappears over the southwest corner of the home terrace from a Crawley block.

More chances for Grimsby and there is another good save by Addai as the Grimsby number nine skins Lynch again and puts across a great ball to an unmarked player, who should probably have done better, but we’ll claim it as a fine save. Grimsby are pressing really well, they just seem fitter and faster all over the place, and Crawley are making far too many sideways and backwards passes just like the days of Betsy

With less than five minutes of normal time left there is a challenge in the Grimsby penalty area and a Crawley player goes down as the ball goes out. The referee points to the penalty spot. It looks a bit dubious, but I’m not going to complain considering some of the piss poor decisions that have gone against us in other games. Various players have the ball in their hands as if they are going to take it, but it falls to usual penalty taker Dom Telford, which doesn’t inspire confidence after his last spooned effort three weeks ago against Tranmere. And it is a shit penalty, close to the keeper, who gets both hands on it and his body behind it, but it spins off of him and into the corner of the net. It is 1-1 and Telford is a lucky bastard.

Straight from the restart Grimsby attack and get a free kick right on the edge of the Crawley penalty area, another couple of steps and it would have been a penalty the other way. We haven’t defended these well all season, so there is a big sigh of relief when the free kick is put over the bar.

Four minutes of added time are indicated and it announced that the crowd is 3,668 with 329 away fans, a record for us on a weeknight in the league this season. The match sponsors name Joel Lynch as their man of the match, which would suggest they spent most of the game in hospitality rather than watching the game and seeing him get skinned for pace at every opportunity. Added time is scrappy and the ref blows for full time and it ends 1-1.

There really is no need to play ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ when we draw, especially after a game like this where the draw is definitely a case of a point stolen rather than any lost.

The point takes us five clear of the relegation places, and that is all our games in hand used up now. It also puts us on the same amount of points as Colchester, but we stay behind them on goal difference. It is now five unbeaten, easily the best run of the season, and we are away this coming weekend with a trip up to playoff place chasing Mansfield Town on Saturday. Anything out of that game would definitely be a bonus.

Come on you reds.