Bristol Rovers v Grimsby: Conference play-off final – as it happened

17 May 2015 04:03
Lee Mansell was Bristol Rovers’ shoot-out hero as they won an absorbing, close-fought Conference play-off final 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw to return to the League at the first attempt 5.03pm BST It really was impossible to pick a winner from that. Two evenly matched, tenacious, well-drilled sides slugging it out in a match that gave us a thrilling first half, a slightly below par second and a surprisingly open last half-hour. Rovers deserve credit for recovering from a dismal start to gradually look the more purposeful team – just about – though Grimsby’s football might have been a tad more composed. Again, just about.And amid all that, it took until 120 minutes for anyone to send in a John-Lewis gag about the Mariners’ top scorer, and it came from Shaun Thompson in Munich: “One thing occurs - this is ideal shop-window for Grimsby’s John-Lewis to show his wares. If a club were to come in for him, I for one wouldn’t expect him to be knowingly under-sold etc etc.” Given that John Lewis shoppers are now deemed the only segment of the electorate that matters a crucial electoral demographic, I thought we might have had a few more than that. But you can’t have everything. What we did have was an absorbing football match. 4.52pm BST The Rovers end erupts, as ends tend to do in such circumstances, while the Grimsby players stare disconsolately at the floor. They’ve fallen just short again, and it’s a horrible feeling for them. Rovers match-winner Mansell tells the ever-intrusive Clem how he “felt sorry for the missus” watching that. 4.49pm BST Goal! Bristol Rovers 5-3 GrimsbyMansell steps up, and wins a place in the League for Rovers! 4.48pm BST Goal! Bristol Rovers 4-3 GrimsbyClay scores neatly into the top corner 4.48pm BST Goal! Bristol Rovers 4-2 GrimsbyBalanta finds the bottom left corner, great kick. Grimsby must score this one 4.47pm BST Miss! Bristol Rovers 3-2 GrimsbyPittman skies it, horribly. 4.46pm BST Goal! Bristol Rovers 3-2 GrimsbyBrown blasts into the net after the keeper dives the other way 4.46pm BST Goal! Bristol Rovers 2-2 GrimsbyJohn-Lewis steps up, and also scores via a keeper’s touch, into the roof of the net. 4.45pm BST Goal! Bristol Rovers 2-1 GrimsbyTaylor scores, via the keeper’s left hand 4.45pm BST Goal! Bristol Rovers 1-1 GrimsbyDisley, the former Rovers man, sends Mildenhall the wrong way 4.44pm BST Goal! Bristol Rovers 1-0 Grimsby Lines hits the first penalty into the corner of the net. Neatly done. 4.43pm BST Coin toss: The penalties will take place at the Grimsby end. Bristol Rovers to take first 4.42pm BST There are few more desolate feelings in football than losing a play-off final on penalties. Half of this record 47,000 crowd are about to experience it. I feel their pain. 4.40pm BST So the season ends like this for these two. 4.38pm BST 120 mins: Darrell Clarke’s doing a Van Gaal. The Rovers’ substitute goalkeeper, Steve Mildenhall, a former Grimsby keeper, is being brought on for the smaller-in-stature Puddy. If the ball goes out of play in time, which it does. The substitution is made. Mildenhall saved a penalty for Grimsby in the 2006 play-off final. There’s yer narrative. 4.36pm BST 118 mins: Rovers have a throw out on the right and, as per, Lockyer will propel it in, and it’s headed out for a corner. Lines’s ball in evades ever player though, many of whom are tussling and argy-bargying into each other in a fashion that’s more weary than aggressive. Danger is averted. 4.34pm BST 116 mins: Chance for Grimsby! Pittman gets clear down the left of the penalty area but his low ball across can’t find John-Lewis and is turned behind for a corner, which is bravely gathered by Puddy. 4.33pm BST Grimsby get a chance for some much-needed possession but it breaks down when Parslow’s cross into the box is cut out. They come again though, but again they can’t get into Rovers’ penalty area, John-Lewis not finding as productive a partnership with Pittman 4.30pm BST 113 mins: Another Rovers half-chance. A long-ball finds Monkhouse unmarked inside the area but his first touch lets him down. Blissett then wastes an even better opening by straying offside from Taylor’s break. It’s been lively since half-time of extra-time.“Ian Holloway channelling Derek Smalls right there,” reckons Simon McMahon. “‘Do you have any artificial plates or limbs?’ ‘Not really, no.’” 4.28pm BST 111 mins: Big chance for Rovers! A free-kick from the right by Mansell finds Lines in space at the back post but he sends his header agonisingly over. 4.27pm BST 110 mins: A long welly upfield finds Taylor in space on the edge of the area, the striker checks back but Nsiala intercepts well, as he has done often this afternoon. Grimsby attack down the right through John-Lewis and his deflected ball in causes some mayhem, Mackreth snatching possession from underneath the keeper but he can’t turn and shoot quick enough and Rovers survive 4.23pm BST 106 mins: “Do you see a potential match-winner out there Ian,” Clem asks Holloway? “Not really…” replies the Bristolian. There’s neat interplay between Mackreth and Parslow down the right but the latter’s cross is easily cleared by Rovers. 4.20pm BST We’re a quarter of an hour from penalties. 4.19pm BST 105 mins: Rovers chance: Taylor has a yard of space 20 yards out, and takes one touch before half-volleying a swerving shot just wide. 4.18pm BST 104 mins: Grimsby attack through Parslow on the right but his cross is deflected back to the keeper Puddy, who gathers at his near post. 4.17pm BST 103 mins: Blissett, who’s been Rovers’ liveliest player since coming on if not always effective leads another break but the move peters out and Grimsby build, though they too get no further than the edge of the penalty area. Lines is also now suffering with cramp. 4.15pm BST 101 mins: Watching other teams’ penalty shoot-outs is a holiday in other people’s misery, but I can’t help feeling this is our destination now. Neither side can quite stitch a menacing move together at the moment. 4.13pm BST 99 mins: Grimsby substitution: Their final one, Craig Clay for Scott Brown. 4.12pm BST 98 mins: Monkhouse powers into the area for Rovers, but is crowded out, he goes down and appeals for a penalty more in hope than expectation. No dice. 4.12pm BST 97 mins: Now Rovers come, but Taylor is robbed on the edge of the area and Grimsby break, to no great avail. 4.09pm BST 96 mins: There are signs of a little more space opening up for passing game purposes, but both sides’ energy levels need to be raised to take advantage of it. To what extent do you stick or twist at this point? Grimsby have a long patient spell of possession, which ends with Brown’s cross from the right being gathered by Puddy. 4.06pm BST 93 mins: It’s the Grimsby end’s turn to raise the decibels as Mackreth twists, dribbles and drives down the right and wins a corner. Brown’s long deep corner is headed straight at Puddy – the corner being just a little overhit. 4.05pm BST 91 mins: Blissett nods a long ball back intelligently for Balanta, whose fierce rising drive is nonetheless straight at the keeper and well held. 4.04pm BST Well that was a short break, and off we go again. Grimsby kicking us off. 4.02pm BST So, we’re going the distance then: that second half was a little disappointing after the rumbustious entertainment of the first, though the managers will have been happier. Space was closed, costly errors were fewer, but both sides’ attackers struggled more. This will either recombust madly in extra-time, or drift grimly towards penalties. Impossible to pick a winner though. 4.00pm BST We’ve got an extra half-hour (at least) folks. Don’t go anywhere. 3.59pm BST 90+3 mins: Chance for Grimsby now. John-Lewis drives into the area and plays in Pittman but his ball across is smothered. 3.57pm BST 90+2 mins: Blissett, the Rovers sub, burrows into the area but is well tackled. Rovers are having the better of these final stages though and soon win a throw on the right. Lockyer, as usual, hurls it in but it’s cleared by Arnold. 3.55pm BST 90 mins: Chance for Rovers! A neat move on the left ends with the ball ricocheting out to Mansell, 20 yards out in space, but he spoons it too high. We’ll have four minutes extra. 3.54pm BST 89 mins: John-Lewis, quieter in this half, forays down the right and lays it back to Mackreth but he too is dispossessed, but Grimsby keep attacking and another move down the right started by Mackreth culminates in Parslow’s teasing ball across the box just eluding everyone when the slightest touch would have brought a goal. 3.53pm BST 87 mins: Lines drives forward after dispossessing Brown, lays it off to his right and wins a throw, which is headed behind from a too-tight angle by Blissett. Brown is booked for a foul earlier in the move. 3.50pm BST 85 mins: Blissett’s first involvement is a lay-off on the edge of the Grimsby area, which is easily intercepted but Rovers come again and this time Blissett lays it off effectively to Taylor, whose shot on the right-hand side of the area is deflected for a corner. Up go the noise levels. Lines’s outswinging corner though is only headed wide by Parkes, who was just a tad in front of it to be able to get power and accuracy on it. 3.49pm BST 84 mins: Magnay tries a deep cross from the left that the keeper catches and straight away initiates a Rovers break and within a blink of an eye they’re probing down the left, but Disley wins it back and averts the danger. 3.47pm BST 82 mins: This game needs some fresh legs and fresh zest now, the last thing it deserves is to peter out into penalties. But I’ve seen plenty of play-off finals drift in this way. The attendance, by the way, is a thumping 47,000, the second highest anywhere in England this weekend. 3.45pm BST 80 mins: Rovers substitution: Players are struggling on the infamously draining Wembley turf, with Harrison down with cramp. Bristol Rovers could do without the loss of their scorer, and he hobbles off looking deeply disconsolate. Blissett replaces him.More from our international fan-base, via Tim Marshall:I’m laying in bed in Bondi trying to hide the light from my phone so it doesn’t wake the missus. She’s from Huddersfield, so cares little for the Mighty Mariners.Anyways, as I’m upside-down here in Sydney, it’s ‘down the Mariners’ from me. Because that’s your up. I think. Isn’t it? 3.42pm BST 77 mins: Rovers press down the right, and Balanta gets his first action down that side. Lockyer wins a throw, which he takes himself, but Arnold this time is back to clear. Back Rovers come and Balanta wins the ball well, beats his man and plays it out to Brown but his ball in is expertly chested back to the keeper by Magnay. 3.40pm BST 75 mins: Rovers substitution; Gosling, who had a lively first half, is replaced by Balanta. “Goodnight Irene” is being sung with such compelling gusto by the Bristol Rovers fans that I’m tempted to join in myself, and to hell with what everyone else in the office thinks. 3.39pm BST 73 mins: Grimsby substitution: sure enough, Robertson’s role in this game is ended and Parslow replaces him. 3.38pm BST 72 mins: The Grimsby end shouts for handball in unison as John-Lewis’s shot cannons into Parkes’s arm, but no players join in. Rovers swiftly break but that move breaks down on the edge of the area too. Robertson, meanwhile, who we thought was going to miss this one with a knee problem, is now wincing on the turf as if said knee is in bother. 3.35pm BST 70 mins: Substitution for Grimsby, Pittman on for Palmer 3.33pm BST 68 mins: Now Rovers attack down the left and win a throw near the corner flag. They keep pressing and though Taylor has an unsuccessful appeal for a foul he soon has the ball again on the left of the area but can only curl a rather too hopeful shot wide and high past the opposite post. 3.32pm BST 67 mins: After receiving treatment, Nsiala is back on. The post-interval pattern continues, with space and crisp passing less in evidence than they were in the first half. But Disley wins a corner after a neat give-and-go down the right that prompts Mansell to turn it behind amid a physical tussle. Brown takes it, and another corner ensues as the deep ball in is nodded behind. Arnold’s delivery from the other side isn’t as good and Puddy gathers well. 3.28pm BST 62 mins: This is the nearest this match has had to a lull so far, which has enabled both sets of fans to bellow their hearts out/heads off. The atmosphere is pulsating. Nsiala goes down in discomfort, clutching his left calf after falling awkwardly in an aerial challenge.Further demonstration of this match’s global audience is supplied by Philip Tozer, in Tenerife:I am currently sitting somewhere hot and sunny. The pool is available, as are beautiful views, walks, food and drink. And yet I have chosen to sit inside my hotel room to follow your updates. Please can we have less goalmouth incident in the second half? Up the Mariners! 3.25pm BST 59 mins: John-Lewis wins a corner after being neatly played in on the edge of the penalty area before seeing his shot blocked. Nothing happens from the corner, other than a foul from which Rovers win a free-kick.Pretty much the only thing this game has lacked so far is an email from Simon McMahon, but wait. What’s this…Afternoon Tom. What did we used to do before play-offs? Being a deluded Dundee United fan I have no emotional investment in either of these clubs, but still. Forget the magic of the cup, the play-offs have deeper magic from before the dawn of time. 3.22pm BST 56 mins: John-Lewis and Arnold almost play a very smart one-two into the area before the latter just stumbles over the ball and it bobbles out for a goalkick. 3.21pm BST 55 mins: There’s been a lot more pressing and crowding-out in this half, with defenders winning the marginal battles, as Nsiala just does as I type, smothering out a breakaway from Taylor. 3.20pm BST 54 mins: The cameras home in on inflatable haddock in the Grimsby end, possibly last seen in 1989. On the field, Rovers look to build again but are forced back to the keeper Puddy. Another attack ensues, as Harrison drives into the penalty area but tries to beat a man too many and Nsiala ushers him out of play. 3.17pm BST 51 mins: Chance for Rovers. Gosling shows some lovely intricate skills on the edge of the area before thumping it against a defender, it deflects out to the right-hand side of the area but the resultant shot is high and wide. 3.15pm BST 49 mins: Grimsby win their first corner of the half when Robertson’s long probing free-kick is hacked behind inelegantly by McChrystal, but Rovers clear. Grimsby come again though, but can’t get beyond Rovers’ back line, which looks a little more composed than it did in the opening stages. 3.12pm BST 47 mins: Harrison, who’s really grown into the match, wins the ball from Nsalia and sets up another Rovers foray, which earns them a throw. Which is wasted. 3.11pm BST 46 mins: Harrison wriggles past a couple of defenders on the edge of the Grimsby box, but his shot is blocked and cleared. 3.10pm BST And we’re underway again. No changes from either side at half-time. Rovers kick off. 3.08pm BST Half-time instruction: 2.59pm BST Half-time thoughts: This is a terrific game – full-blooded and competitive, and mostly nerveless. Grimsby were much the slicker, sharper side initially but Rovers have looked slightly the more dangerous side since equalising. There have been contentious incidents aplenty too; a different referee could easily have sent both goalkeepers off. Our man on the spot pretty much concurs: 2.56pm BST The last attack of the half is Grimsby’s, but their pressing comes to nothing as John-Lewis just overhits a pass to his left and it zings out for a goalkick. And that’s the end of the first half. Rollicking entertainment, that, except I’d imagine for the fans of both teams, for whom the experience must be a very nerve-demolishing definition of hell. 2.51pm BST 44 mins: Rovers’ Harrison is brought down and wins a free-kick after an extended tussle with Magnay out on the left. But Lines’ free-kick is comfortably plucked out of the air by the keeper McKeown. 2.50pm BST 43 mins: It’s hard to keep up at the moment, I’ll level with you, as Grimsby swarm forward and a similar chance presents itself to John-Lewis before it’s smothered and cleared. 2.49pm BST 42 mins: Taylor is now being the thorn in defenders’ side he’s been throughout the season. He wins a free-kick inside Grimsby’s half after being brought down by Magnay, who’s booked for the offence. Lines’s free-kick is headed away. Then Grimsby break through Disley, but he over-runs it and is tackled for a throw. Lines then has a big chance inside the area, knocks it wide to Monkhouse on the edge of the six-yard box but his shot is blocked 2.45pm BST 39 mins: Nsiala knocks it forward for John-Lewis to win and set up another Grimsby attack but Disley, a former Rovers man, overhits his cross horribly and the ball is cleared. 2.44pm BST 38 mins: Gosling wriggles into the area on the right but his low shot is cleared by Palmer. Rovers, playing a more direct game, now look energised. 2.42pm BST 35 mins: Massive Talking Point! Taylor is booked for simulation after latching onto a loose ball, advancing into the area and taking it past McKeown, and seeming to be tripped. No penalty, and a booking for the striker, though the keeper did clip him. The exaggerated dive may have cost Taylor there. I’ve seen them given, as the rather unhelpful cliche goes. 2.40pm BST 34 mins: Grimsby come back, wining a corner when Mackreth’s low ball in is diverted behind with John-Lewis closing in. Brown’s corner is well gathered by Puddy, who belts it straight downfield for Taylor who wins the ball on the left, barrels past his man and has a half-shout for a penalty when he’s finally dispossessed by the six-yard box, with Harrison in space to his right and not seemingly spotted. It’s breathless stuff at the moment. 2.38pm BST 32 mins: This has changed everything. Now Rovers win a free-kick, 40 yards or so out, on the left. Lines’s delivery is headed back to Mansell, who opts to have a go but thumps it way over the top. 2.35pm BST Well wouldn’t you know. Palmer and John-Lewis interplay again but this time Rovers dispossess the scorer and get a chacne to build an attack. It’s worked out to the right for Gosling who knocks it back to Lines whose menacing ball into the box is nodded across and sliced out for a corner, from which. Rovers equalise. The corner isn’t dealt with properly, Harrison muscles onto it quickest and belts a fierce shot past the keeper into the mid-corner of the net. 2.34pm BST 28 mins: Grimsby just look more spritely at the moment, as embodied by a scamper down the right from Mackreth. He beats a couple of men before being muscled out of possession, but his side just have more zest and confidence. Mackreth is again involved when he tries to slide a ball forward into the right side of the area for John-Lewis but overhits it. 2.32pm BST 25 mins: More Grimsby menace: Brown does very well to win the ball just past halfway and knocks it towards Palmer, whose firm drive from 25 yards out skids just wide of the left-hand post. 2.30pm BST 24 mins: Rovers win their first corner down by the right after a long throw. It’s headed away by Magnay, and now Grimsby break through the tricky Arnold again but this time he’s cut off. 2.28pm BST 22 mins: Rovers win a free-kick 25 yards out after a foul on Lockyer by Arnold. Lines takes it but his in-swinging ball into the penalty area is nodded clear and Grimsby win a throw after it’s worked away. Replays of the Puddy booking incident suggest Grimsby have a pretty fair case for his dismissal, given the clear scoring opportunity denied. 2.26pm BST 19 mins: Grimsby win a corner from the free-kick, which is worked out back to Arnold whose 25-yard curling shot is just wide of the keeper’s left-hand post. They look comfortably the more dangerous side going forward at the moment. 2.25pm BST 18 mins: Booking: Puddy (Bristol Rovers). Talking point! Puddy, the Rovers keeper, dashes out of his area to challenge Palmer and handles the ball. Amid shouts for his dismissal, the referee opts for the compromise of a yellow card. 2.24pm BST 17 mins: Grimsby break dangerously again from Parkes down the right, his fine low cross in is met by the danger man John-Lewis but McChrystal intercepts well to concede the corner. From it, Nsiala sends a thumping header over the bar. 2.22pm BST 15 mins: From said free-kick, Grimsby win another throw, which they take their time taking, From it a cross in from the right from Mackreth briefly troubles Rovers’ penalty area before being cleared. 2.20pm BST 14 mins: Rovers pass it around neatly in their own half before a rather more agricultural long-ball forward wins them a throw. This prompts a bout of penalty area pinball, which Grimsby eventually clear and then forage forward, winning a free-kick just inside Rovers’ half. 2.18pm BST 11 mins: Chance for Rovers as Taylor gets free on the left of the area after a headed flick from a goal kick, attempts to go round McKeown but the keeper smothers it well. 2.16pm BST 10 mins: Rovers’ striker Harrison turns neatly away from his man 25 yards out but his shot is low, weak and wide. 2.15pm BST 8 mins: Bristol Rovers are struggling to find space to string passes together here, but Gosling does well to twist and turn down the right and get a cross in which is nodded back for Taylor, who goes in assertively on the keeper McKeown, who goes down having copped a boot in the face, and there’s a brief stramash. It earns Grimsby’s Pearson a talking-to.Apologies by the way for falling into the book of non-league cliches by alluding to Arnold’s other job as if it was the quaintest, most fascinating thing of all time. 2.12pm BST 6 mins: Grimsby, tails up, win a corner when Parkes’ clumsy back-header goes straight out. Rovers bring nine men back for it. They concede another one when McChrystal heads a dangerous Brown ball in back out. The danger is averted this time when the referee blows for a foul. 2.10pm BST 4 mins: That was the part-time hairdresser Nathan Arnold’s goal, that, his driving upfield run from right to left, creating the attack and the space, Rovers having had the bulk of the early possession. 2.09pm BST What a start. Nathan Arnold’s run sets up John-Lewis, whose shot rebounds off the keeper straight back to the striker who nods it back past him into the net. 2.06pm BST And we’re off. There’s a superb atmosphere at kick-off, real hairs-on-back-of-neck stuff. Grimsby kick-off attacking the end to the left, as the cameras look at it, where the Rovers fans are gathered. 1.59pm BST The players are out. The crowd roars lustily, the PA system booms even more lustily. Here’s a thing: this year’s Wembley play-offs – in tiers two, three, four and five – are all contested by the two highest-placed teams in them. Is this a first? 1.55pm BST “As you can hear, it’s building to fever pitch here,” says the perpetually perky Clem on BT Sport as Wembley’s most characteristic feature – the PA system drowning out all human interaction – inflicts The Kaiser Chiefs’ Ruby on the entire population of north-west London. 1.45pm BST Never mind yer Premier Leagues this, too, is an event with a global audience. Here’s Richard Woods in Sudan:I’m 4 500 miles away from Wembley, but there in spirit for the biggest match since - er - Mansfield. Up the Gas. 1.40pm BST Ian Holloway, unsurprisingly, is on media duties for BT Sport this afternoon and with trademark ebullience tells Rovers manager Darrell Clarke: “You’ve given us back our football club, son”. No pressure then. Clarke’s Grimsby counterpart Paul Hurst, meanwhile, has brought his son along for his pre-match interview. “The football bit’s the easy bit,” he says of all the Wembley fanfare. We’ll see. Both sides are set out in a 4-4-2, with heavy reliance on goal scoring target men such as Matty Taylor, Rovers’ 20-goal forward, and Grimsby’s Lenell John-Lewis (17 goals). 1.32pm BST They line up like this:Bristol Rovers: Puddy; Lockyer, Parkes, McChrystal, Brown; Monkhouse, Mansell, Lines, Gosling; Taylor, Harrison. Subs: Mildenhall, Leadbitter, Clarke, Blissett, Balanta. 12.03pm BST Good afternoon, and welcome to the first of this year’s Wembley play-off finals. A place in the Football League is at stake and one of these sides will later this afternoon be celebrating the reversal of some years of gloom. The other will, of course, be staring blankly into the middle-distance struggling to retain a sense of perspective about anything in life. We’ve all been there. For Bristol Rovers, whose relegation from League Two last year put the tin lid on a good decade and a half’s mismanagement and wasted potential, a swift return to the fourth tier will be some tonic, and reward for a fine season under Darrell Clarke that started ominously badly. Grimsby also have almost a decade’s worth of heartache to reverse, not least in finals. From their League Two last-day promotion near-miss in 2006 and subsequent play-off final loss to Cheltenham through Wembley losses in the finals of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 2008 and the FA Trophy in 2013, big one-off games have not been kind to them in recent times. Continue reading. . read full article

Source: TheGuardian