Cheltenham Town 2-1 Grimsby Town Player Ratings: Flinders the hero

Ryan Broom celebrates the opener – @CTFCOfficial

Conor Thomas’ injury-time penalty gave Cheltenham Town a valuable 2-1 victory over Grimsby Town, who will feel unfortunate not to have taken all three points themselves. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

Cheltenham Town

Scott Flinders – after a November during which Flinders was not called into action too much due to Cheltenham’s organization, we saw a return to early season themes here as the former Hartlepool stopper twice denied Pringle one-on-one, saved from Thomas in the second half and kept Cheltenham level single-handedly. If there was to be one semi-criticism, it might be that his distribution was impacted slightly by the wind, with some of his goal-kicks finding the relatively diminutive Maddox, rather than the intended target of Barnett. 8

Johnny Mullins – with Jordon Forster suspended, Mullins made his return from injury but did not quite provide the aggression required to snuff out attacks down Cheltenham’s right-flank, especially in the first half. The ex-Oxford man was brought in to provide leadership in Cheltenham’s defence – understandable perhaps given last year’s issues – but he needs to prove that he can offer more than that. 5
Ben Tozer – a midfielder by trade, Tozer is now playing arguably some of the best football of his career in a back-three. Aside from one first half error which saw him allow Pringle through on goal, Tozer was solid and almost held the defence together during Grimsby’s 20-minute spell of prominence. 7
Will Boyle – at 23, the former Huddersfield defender remains one of the main assets Cheltenham possess on a permanent basis. His height enabled him to dominate in the air and threaten in the opposing box, even if he was not always comfortable with early balls played in behind. 6

Ryan Broom – there had been one or two question marks recently about the wide man’s fitness and, although he scored the opener here via a deflection, it may be fair to say that he has produced better individual performances. Grimsby identified the athletic Bristol Rovers academy graduate as Cheltenham’s main outlet in terms of pace and thus crowded him out; maybe Michael Duff needs to look at finding ways of incorporating other players who can stretch play to reduce the burden on Broom. 5
Nigel Atangana – the Frenchman has been one of the most underrated midfielders in League Two for some time; his sheer tenacity enabled him to be first to loose balls on so many occasions in that first hour. When Atangana came off, Cheltenham lost that grip on the central areas. 7
Chris Clements – when Clements faced Mansfield six weeks ago, he appeared to have augmented his undoubted technical ability with a degree of organizational and even leadership qualities. Against another former employer, he did not quite hold onto his positional bearings as much and was guilty of not tracking his runners on occasions, especially after his midfield partner came off. 5
Chris Hussey – the former Bury man can defend shrewdly when fully focused on that side of the game; similarly, he is also capable of the odd decent delivery and forced a good save from McKeown. However, he does not have the pace and adaptability to switch between attacking and defensive remits, which became hugely problematic for Cheltenham – especially during that 20-minute period of unrelenting Grimsby breakaways.

Jacob Maddox – the Chelsea loanee, deemed fit enough to start here, can be a key creative outlet and displayed flashes of what he can do here; he showed his usual neat feet in tight areas as well as forcing a stop from McKeown. The precision of Maddox’s passing and link-play was not quite at the level that it can be, but events immediately after he came off showed one would always rather have him in one’s League Two team than not. 6

Luke Varney – the industrious front-man, who has played in the Premier League with Blackpool, willingly engaged in aerial duels despite only being 5’11” and pressed the opposition back valiantly in the first hour. At 36 though, it was understandable that Varney tired in the final half hour and the difficulty he has in maintaining efficiency for 90 minutes means the striking department is an area for Duff to evaluate. 6
Tyrone Barnett – the Port Vale loanee will never be the ideal striker at this level; he offers neither the pace in behind, nor the quality of first touch to bring others into play consistently. And yet, one cannot help but admire Barnett’s persistence and willingness to battle for every ball that comes his way, as we saw in the build-up to Cheltenham’s winner, when he stretched superbly to keep Broom’s overhit cross in play. Whether or not the 32-year-old played well, he certainly wasn’t quiet. 5

Conor Thomas (on 61) – the former Swindon midfielder will remember this game having scored the crucial injury-time penalty, but in open play, he struggled to keep a lid on the midfield in the same way that Atangana did. 6
Alex Addai (on 62) – seen as one of the quickest players in the Isthmian League during a productive spell at Merstham, Addai has used his raw pace to good effect in League Two. Here though, he often found himself towards the right channel, which was already crowded out due to Grimsby’s wariness of Broom’s threat. Might have made more of an impact closer to the left channel, where there was more space for runners in behind. 5
Sam Jones (on 89) – fitness concerns surrounding Maddox means there could be a window for an attacking midfielder to step up to the plate and Jones certainly did himself no harm in this cameo appearance; the Shrewsbury loanee changed the momentum of the contest and won the injury-time penalty after being tripped by Davis. 7

Grimsby Town

James McKeown – having spent the last seven years at Grimsby, the 29-year-old is a influential figure and an honest character; he has been in good form this season and continued that here, making key stops from Hussey and Maddox. Could not be faulted too much for either goal. 7

Luke Hendrie – in the absence of Reece Hall-Johnson, the versatile Hendrie has been deployed at right-back, where he continues to act as a jack-of-all trades. Without necessarily showcasing one obvious quality above all others, the Shrewsbury loanee appears at least competent in all areas of his game. 7
Harry Davis – having represented Crewe Alexandra at senior level for eight years, Davis looked well-versed in Michael Jolley’s philosophy of playing out from the back. Handled the strikers well in the first half but was guilty of giving away that crucial penalty in injury-time for a trip on Jones. 6
Danny Collins – the veteran does not appear quite as comfortable as Davis in terms of distribution but at least the types of errors he has been guilty of in recent weeks. Defended his penalty area well. 6
Andrew Fox – the former Peterborough man has struggled with injury this year, but his return to the side has definitely boosted Grimsby, who need full-backs to comfortable moving forward in a possession system. Supported attacks well in the first half, before sitting back more after the break as the Mariners performance became more about counter-attacking. 7

Harry Clifton – Mariners fans have certainly taken to Clifton, who came through the club’s youth academy. Although an adaptable performer, the 20-year-old has recently nailed down a place in central midfield, where he had a grip on proceedings for spells, carried out the simple tasks well and used the ball neatly. 7
Jake Hessenthaler – the former Gillingham man is a very selfless midfielder; although not the greatest technician in the world, he is always willing to help his teammates with supporting runs in different phases of play. Hessenthaler might not have broken into the final third too often, but his work was crucial to the balance of the side. 7

Elliot Embleton – the Sunderland loanee has starred for England Under-20s this year and continues to show why he is seen as one of the most exciting young prospects outside the Championship. His movement into dangerous areas was excellent and he showed he can produce moments of real quality, tapping home from close-range shortly after the hour mark. 8

Charles Vernam – the versatile forward tried to pick up the pockets of space that Thomas vacated and his link-up play looked reasonable in patches. Michael Jolley has been criticized in some quarters for his decision to take Vernam off at a time when his side were dominating; in the manager’s defence, the 22-year-old had not necessarily provided the final touches of quality which Grimsby needed and the change was like-for-like. 6
Wes Thomas – the former Birmingham striker makes a lot of selfless runs into wide areas, which vacates space for teammates to break into. In that sense, Thomas massively helped the fluidity of Grimsby’s play without grabbing the headlines in an individualistic sense; although, he was denied one-on-one by Flinders in the second half. 7
Ben Pringle – the former Rotherham man started on the right of a front three but, initially, he found it difficult to get the ball onto his favoured right foot in a suitable situation. As space opened up though, he broke forward with increasing ease and forced two saves one-on-one either side of half-time in what soon became a technically accomplished display. When given the opportunity to deliver, he consistently achieved pin-point accuracy from long distances. 8

Jordan Cook (on 72) – the versatile, enigmatic forward is capable of moments of magic cutting in from the left onto his right-foot, but did not quite have the impact he might have been hoping for here. 5
Mitch Rose (on 90) – the energetic midfielder scored crucial penalties for Grimsby at the back-end of last season, but has found himself out of the side more recently due to the form of Clifton, Hessenthaler and Embleton. 5
Harry Cardwell (on 90+3)- the young forward has been in good form in recent weeks and might consider himself unlucky to be out of the side, due to the competition up top which was in evidence again here. 5