Grimsby Town . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
WEST HAM closed the gap at the top of the First Division to four points at Upton Park last night. Newcastle's closest pursuers showed plenty of power, and some moments of poetry, but they must be uneasy at having been pushed all the way by a side they had totally dominated in the first half.
After a 1-0 defeat at Peterborough on Saturday, the Grimsby manager, Alan Buckley, had made seven changes to his side - one suspension, three drops, three injured - and early on he must have wondered whether this was wise. Within 12 minutes his team were two goals down, both scored by Julian Dicks. 'We just didn't flipping defend for the first quarter of an hour,' Buckley said.
The first, after seven minutes, came courtesy of an emphatic header from a Kevin Keen corner. Grimsby hardly had time to get used to the disappointment when Dicks rattled in another, following up when his first shot had been blocked, again at a Keen corner.
Dicks could well have had a hat-trick. In the second half he struck a free-kick from 30 yards which left the post shivering so badly it could have been suffering frostbite. As Billy Bonds, the West Ham manager, said: 'Dicks was outstanding, the difference between the two sides.'
Yet any illusions West Ham might have had about overwhelming opponents battling for a play- off place seemed about to be punctured just before half-time, when Grimsby were awarded a penalty after the ubiquitous Dicks handled Tony Ford's cross. However, Dave Gilbert cracked the spot- kick against the bar.
The Hammers continued in their dreamlike way, seemingly content to take a breather after their early flourish. After 61 minutes they were woken up by a delightful Grimsby goal. Tony Rees crossed into the penalty area and Paul Groves flicked the ball up, bouncing it twice on his forehead before volleying into the corner of the net. Soon afterwards Grimsby might have equalised, but Ludek Miklosko blocked Clive Mendonca's drive with his feet.
West Ham can feel satisfied with the way they repelled Grimsby's final assault, especially since they must cope for the rest of the season without their central defender and club captain, Alvin Martin, who has a ruptured Achilles tendon. Yet the way they allowed their opponents back into the game, even a side as determined as Grimsby, suggests they still have a lot to learn before they graduate, as they surely will, to the Premier League.
West Ham United: Miklosko; Brown, Dicks, Potts, Gale, M Allen, Robson, Butler, Morley, Small (Bishop, 65), Keen. Substitute not used: Foster.
Grimsby Town: Wilmot; McDermott, Croft, Futcher, Lever, Jobling, Ford, Gilbert (Agnew, 82), Groves, Rees, Woods (Mendonca, 7).
Referee: A Gunn (Sussex).
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