Lop-sided. Match report: Grimsby 1-2 Wycombe

On both occasions yesterday when Town kicked off following Wycombe’s goals, literally none of our players were stood on the left side of the pitch.

The kick-off taker (possibly Calum Dyson) was stood centrally, naturally, while Danny Andrew was also central, just in front of the D, with James McKeown just behind. Every other bugger in a black and white shirt was stood on the right side of the pitch, as if the Main Stand was breathing some terrible disease on them.

Was this tactical? If so, what the hell were we hoping to achieve from it?

Our deficiency on the left is now so well known that future opposition won’t have to bother sending a scout to watch us.

It’s on Google Earth. You could probably see it from the moon.

I guess you could say we have nothing left to give. But that’s not funny. And none of us left yesterday’s match laughing.

At a time when we’re not helping ourselves, the last thing we need is a referee who’s not willing to help us either. All he needed to do was apply the rules of association football fairly and correctly, and he couldn’t even do that.

We should’ve seen it coming. It’s somewhat ironic how the OS used this picture of referee Nick Kinseley to warn us of impending doom. His expression became mine by full time.

In midweek the whole world seemed to stop immediately when Fernando Torres was knocked unconscious.

Yesterday, Gavin Gunning got knocked unconscious and the ref let play continue long enough for Wycombe’s Plaster of Paris Cowan-Hall to ping the ball into the top corner for what turned out to be the winning goal.

The ref wasn’t even sure about giving a stonewall penalty on Tom Bolarinwa, and had to look to his assistant for help.

I’ve seen us lose a lot this season (seven in nine), but the manner in which we went down to the Chairboys was particularly galling.

True, our showing for the first 30 minutes was very encouraging, and we should’ve been at least two or three up by half time – but there were still plenty of holes in our performance.

Having said that, irrespective of our left-sided issues, our confusing formation, our indiscernible style of play and chronic lack of pace, Wycombe were pretty awful and we should’ve beaten them.

They looked every bit like a side that’d been struggling and sliding down the league in recent weeks. McKeown was able to keep his luminous orange outfit in pristine condition.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that if it weren’t for an uncharacteristically panicked swipe by Danny Collins and an abysmal piece of refereeing, we could’ve played until midnight and Wycombe wouldn’t have scored a ‘conventional’ goal.

But going in the other direction, second half especially, we were pretty toothless too. And we didn’t score any conventional goals ourselves simply by being rubbish at shooting.

It was bad enough falling behind at the hands of incompetent officials, but what made it worse was that we’d not shown much after the half-hour mark to suggest we were likely to find an equaliser from somewhere.

I’ve only seen us score five goals in nine games, so you’ll understand why I wasn’t holding out much hope.

But I’ll give us some credit. We had a go. It wasn’t brilliant, but it was more than I was expecting. Bignot made attacking substitutions and threw on Dominic Vose in an attempt to make something happen. And it nearly did.

Their keeper was surely their man of the match – helped, no doubt, by Sam Jones’ staggering ability to shoot straight at him from six yards.

Despite leaving Blundell Park feeling gutted and frustrated in equal measure, there was a tinge of hope in there too.

We showed some cohesive attacking play in the first half, which forced their keeper into making good saves. The players seemed to have a better grasp of where they were meant to be, and what they were meant to do – although that ebbed away towards half time and we reverted to typical Town nothingness in the second half. But then we showed a bit of fight and spirit at the end.

Some of the best sides have been built from the back. We seem to have a solid base – now Bignot needs to work on developing our attacking play.

He says he wants to play exciting, attacking football, but he’ll need width and pace. So I guess we won’t be seeing that this season. Also, I still feel the players don’t truly know how he wants us to attack.

I remember Bignot using all-encompassing words and phrases like ‘being positive on the ball’ and ‘always playing forward’ in an interview with Radio Humberside.

Sounds good, but I hope he’s more specific than that with the players on the training pitch, because at the moment they’re carrying out his vague plan with appropriate vagueness.

Occasionally it comes off, but most of the time it just looks like every player has been told they’ll get an absolute bollocking if they ever pass sideways or backwards.

So what happens is that we get a succession of fairly aimless clips and clearances that just go forward. If we could add a little direction too, then that’d be ace.

And, of course, it’d be really good if we had an option to use the left side of the pitch. Without it, through sympathy alone, Danny Andrew will continue to be everyone’s man of the match as soon as he steps out onto the pitch.

Wilted spinach. Match report: Crewe 5-0 Grimsby

Every time I go to watch Grimsby Town play a match of association football, we’re shit. Totally shit. Absolutely hopeless.

Now, I know this isn’t a very fair reflection of where we are right now. We’re not shit, totally shit or absolutely hopeless, generally. We’re actually just six points outside the League 2 play-offs.

We’re only shit, totally shit and absolutely hopeless, it seems, when I’m in the stands.

The trip to Gresty Road was my eighth match of the season – I’ve seen us win one (at home to Morecambe on the opening day), draw one (at home to Barnet in Marcus Bignot’s first game in charge) and lose the other six.

And all those six have been to nil. And totally shit, of course.

The home defeat to Cheltenham was bleak. The home defeat to Portsmouth was painful. Let’s not forget I paid over £80 to go to Stevenage a fortnight ago, where I was treated to a load of shit on a concrete canvas.

Oh, and I saw the home defeat to Crewe, too.

Last season – a season in which we were quite good and won promotion – I only made four away games, and we lost three of those. And I thought that defeat at Halifax was shit.

All this makes following the Mariners more difficult than it needs to be.

The thing about Gresty Road is that it’s one of the least intimidating grounds to play at. It has one huge and sparsely populated stand with no one making any noise, and Town’s contingent tucked away in a concrete replica of Blundell Park’s wooden Main Stand, making all the noise.

More than half our squad live just a few miles down the M6. I mean, for Christ’s sake, an away game at Crewe couldn’t have felt any more like a home game for our lot.

Added to this, Crewe couldn’t win for shit. And their manager, David Artell – who’s one Sainsbury’s carrier bag short of being Angelos Epithemou – even did our team talk for us, saying that Alex have got better players than us.

That comment clearly didn’t ignite the fire in any of our players’ bellies because we went there and flopped over pathetically like a slop of wilted spinach on a dieter’s dinner plate .

I’m not one for being unnecessarily critical to the point where you ruin someone’s self-confidence or career, but I should also point out that I’m very fond of the cruel-to-be-kind scenario. Which works out well for match reports like these.

The first half, other than telling me that Crewe were better at scoring than we were – to the tune of four – it also taught me that:

Yussuf couldn’t hold up a post office queue of old grannies with a sawed off shotgun, let alone our mixture of panicked clearances and aimless punts.

I’m not sure I can even call it ‘long ball’ tactics because long ball, by its very nature, implies some sort of method – usually hoofing the ball in the general direction of a player, ideally big enough and strong enough to hold it up.

Dyson looks like he might be a bit taller and stronger than Yussuf. Unfortunately he also looks a clumsier and less mobile version of Andy Cook. I didn’t see us win one aerial dual all half.

We were carved open down the wings. Davies and Andrew weren’t full backs, or wingers, or wing backs. They can’t have been – because if they were, Crewe wouldn’t have put 214 crosses into our box in 45 minutes.

Pearson seemed to play more like a right back, Collins a left back, and Gunning completely exposed in the middle.

And if someone could’ve told me which one of Clements, Comley and Osborne was meant to be in this very modern ‘holding position’, then they’d have been lying because no one occupied that space at all.

We just let Crewe’s roaming forward line run at us, and run at us, and drive into huge, sweeping spaces between the centre circle and the edge of our box.

As for conceding from direct free kicks, it’s getting silly now. Portsmouth, Donny, Stevenage and now Crewe. It’s happening too frequently for it to just be ‘bad luck’. Clearly we’re doing something fundamentally wrong.

The fourth goal was probably offside, but we’d just wasted a load of money and a load of breath supporting a team that couldn’t defend against the fourth worst side in the entire Football League, so we weren’t about to waste more valuable oxygen on the officials too.

If it wasn’t for McKeown, it could’ve been six or seven by half time. I’m sure he made an incredible save low down at some point, but what with all those goals flying in it’s difficult to remember at what stage he made it.

He also made an outstanding save in the second half, but almost got caught out from a spectacular lob from way out (which he managed to push over the bar), before having a rush goalie moment and getting away with it.

Ah yes, the second half. After making all three subs at the break, Bignot shuffled his pack into a more familiar 4-4-2 formation and we immediately looked more comfortable.

Or Crewe took their foot off the gas quite considerably. It was one or the other – but most probably a classic mix of both.

Davies and Collins were full backs, with Pearson and Gunning as centre backs. Bolarinwa was on the right wing, Osborne was definitely central, while Comley and Clements appeared to take it in shifts on the left. Sam Jones and Asante were our new strike pair.

It’s difficult to know how to feel about that second half because the game had gone and the whole thing felt like a training match. We weren’t as much as a shambles – in fact we controlled large periods – but we still managed to lose the half 1-0 and blaze the only genuine clear-cut chance we created all game high and wide from six yards.

Their fifth. Yeah. Converted by a totally unmarked and unseen Crewe player running in on the edge of our box.

There was just enough time for Gunning to absolutely poleaxe one of Crewe’s tricky midfielders, who was weaving and sliding his way through the spine of our team like an Olympic bobsleigher until Gunning decided to give up on any thought of playing football and shoulder-barge the flash bastard to the ground.

He was kind of lucky not to be sent off for that, given that we know this ref sends players off for less.

At the full time whistle, only Pearson truly applauded the fans (before Bignot instructed the rest of the team to do the same after their huddled de-brief on the pitch).

It was a strange post-match situation, and not one I’ve experienced before. The majority of the fans wanted to let the players know that the performance was not acceptable, so they booed – but they weren’t really into the booing because, after all, this is a relatively new squad, with young players, and most of us are still on speaking terms with Bignot.

So it was ‘boo Town, you’re rubbish, boooo’ but then also clap, clap, clap, fair enough, you’ve not gone running down the tunnel. But still. ‘Boo, rubbish, sort it Bignots’. Then more clapping.

Then Bignot came over and spoke with the fans. There was some sort of apology. There was also something said that he took personally, but I didn’t find out what that was.

Bignot has built his side now. The January transfer window closed, and the squad is locked in. We’ve made our bed, and now we’ve got to lie in it.

But yesterday we defecated all over the sheets.

Being economical with the truth

For the first time ever, I think, Grimsby Town’s transfer activity on deadline day stopped me from going to bed at a sensible hour. I actually went to sleep believing that Omar Bogle was still our player, but woke up this morning to find he is not.

No one knows how much Wigan paid for him, or what kind of deal we negotiated, or how well Solihull did out of the whole thing. I’m sure this will all become clear once the Fishy has speculated to such a degree that it either drives one of the shareholders to put the issue to bed with a badly written club statement, or Wigan relax and let us know from their end.

Anyway, good luck Omar – you did us proud. That winner you got at Braintree in the play-off semi final second leg was a moment I’ll never forget, and those two goals in the play-off final at Wembley still give me goosebumps, as well as a glimpse into what football heaven is really like.

I can live with his departure. We always knew he would go for a fee, and him going now means we probably got more money than we’d have got if we held onto him until the summer.

The cash will surely be used to cover the transfer fees and wages of our eight new additions – Adi Yussuf, Gavin Gunning, Jamey Osborne, Chris Clements, Akwasi Asante, Luke Maxwell, Sam Jones and Calum Dyson.

So, eight in, one out – although I expect more than just Bogle will be heading out of ‘the BP’ in the next week or two as the shunned squad players contemplate the prospect of not even warming the bench but sitting on a standard plastic seat in the stands like the rest of us. Or staying at home.

I fully supported the appointment of Marcus Bignot and I still believe things will come good. He hasn’t made that bad a start as Mariners boss, on a points-per-game basis, although it is worrying to see the standard of our performances dropping when really they should’ve started badly and gradually improved as the players got to grips with his new style and system.

He’s made radical changes after initially saying everyone at the club would get a chance to prove themselves with a run in the team. I don’t think he’s delivered on that promise.

He also said Bogle wasn’t for sale, and sold him, and said he wants to keep Disley when he clearly doesn’t intend on using him. Bignot says Disley can leave on his terms, like he’s doing him a favour, and being respectful. Maybe Disley just doesn’t want to go?

And then there’s been that disagreement between him and our loyal first choice keeper. McKeown said the boss made it very clear he wouldn’t play again this season, and Bignot says otherwise. I don’t know who to believe – the person who has been at the club for six years and been as honest as the day is long, or someone who’s been at the club two minutes and already lied about a number of things.

I say ‘lied’. I’m not sure it’s quite that bad. Let’s just say Bignot is economical with the truth, and knows what the fans want to hear. It’s strange, because our last manager had no idea what the fans wanted to hear, and he was often hammered for it.

The manager claims we don’t have any width in midfield. He didn’t include the only two players capable of offering width, Bolarinwa or Chambers, in his latest squad of 18, then tells Chambers he’s free to leave.

Then he signs four central midfielders when we already have six on our books, three strikers and a centre back – and no wingers.

It’s just odd. I don’t know what to make of it all.

This was meant to be a season of celebration and stability. We’d have all been happy to see the team that got us promoted stay together and continue battling for each other to finish 12th in League 2. I know I would’ve.

But Hurst broke it up more severely than I could’ve expected, and the team he left us with has been broken up severely again just a couple of months on. Those few players who survived the Hurst cull, and the ones we connected with the most – McKeown, Disley, Gowling – are no longer in the side. It seems a shame.

In fact, I just looked at the XI who beat Forest Green on that marvellous day in May and not one of them will start our next match at home to Luton:

McKeown – out of the side and looking to leave
Tait – left for Motherwell
Robertson – released and retired
Gowling – out of the side and told he can leave
Nsiala – left for Hartlepool
Arnold – released and joined Lincoln
Nolan – left for Chesterfield
Clay – released and joined Motherwell
Disley – out of the side and told he can leave
Bogle – sold to Wigan
Amond – left for Hartlepool

Today’s sole survivor is Shaun Pearson, who was only on the bench for the play-off final and came on as an injury time sub:

Pearson – in the side
East – released and joined Guiseley
Marshall – released and joined Boston United
Pittman – released and joined Harrogate Town
Hoban – released and joined Mansfield

I’m not one for living in the past, as the last 15 years haven’t been particularly kind to us. Football moves on, and so should we, but the success of last season was the result of a manager who was given time to build a squad and create a style of play that gave us the best chance possible of winning promotion.

The same has to apply here. Things are messy now, but I’m sure that once everything settles down – and that still might not happen just yet, what with about eight players looking for new clubs – we’ll perhaps begin to see what Bignot is trying to build.

I’m sure he’s a good manager, but it’s difficult to believe anything we’re told right now. If he builds an exciting and attacking squad that gets us scoring plenty of goals and pushing for the play-offs, then there won’t be many complaints.

Match report: Tactics from the Steven Age

Stevenage 2-0 Grimsby
League 2, Broadhall Way
Saturday 28 January 2017

Skies over Broadhall Way, Stevenage v Grimsby

I’m embarrassed to think I spent more than one minute of last week looking forward to that utter shambles of a performance at Stevenage.

It was a performance completely fitting of our dreary and uninspiring third kit, which is as grey and as bland as what I saw of Stevenage between its train station and the football ground.

If concrete and cycle lanes are your thing, then get yourself to Stevenage. I’ve never seen so many cycle lanes in my life – and so few cyclists using them.

Sadly I have more positive things to say about cycle lanes than I do about the match. It was that bad.

Yes, there’s always an overreaction to defeats. You always get some fans saying it was the worst game they’ve seen, and they’ve been supporting the Mariners since 1878.

I’ve seen some heavy defeats on the road, and they’ve all been pathetic in their own way. This was just a different sort of pathetic.

Paul Hurst was accused of having no Plan B. After Saturday’s display, I’m not sure Marcus Bignot has a Plan A. If he has, then I certainly can’t see the bugger.

After adding a 13th player capable of playing in central midfield to ‘the group’ on Friday – and that’s no exaggeration, by the way – we then appeared to deploy a tactic that completely bypassed that exact area of the pitch.

‘The group’ lacks left footers and natural wingers, so we’ve used January to recruit central midfielders and strikers. The only two players in our frankly huge squad capable of providing any genuine width in midfield – Tom Bolarinwa and Ashley Chambers – didn’t even make the bench.

Omar Bogle is supposed to be Mayfair with a hotel on it. Against Stevenage he played like Old Kent Road.

When you compare the buzz and energy he showed in that home game against Barnet – when he completely owned the Bees’ back line – to the sulky little brat that sauntered around the pitch on Saturday, you can knock a zero off his price tag (whatever Town have decided that is).

He played like a billy big bollocks who, in the week, was possibly told he’d be playing League 2 football for another six months.

We’re a club in transition, and it seems Bignot has made up his mind about ‘the group’ he inherited. He’s decided it’s shit, and certainly not good enough to maintain the position it was in when he took the reins.

He’s had more than a dozen games to impart his style on the squad, and right now I’m still none the wiser as to what that style is. Listen, we’re not technically good enough to go to ‘the next level’, but we’re technically good enough to beat Plymouth and Carlisle on their own patches.

If his style is for our centre backs to clip balls into the channels a good 20 yards ahead of Scott Vernon – who, for all his best efforts, runs so slow that he leaves a slimy trail behind him and has a turning circle of a train – then he’s got the players purring.

But I’m guessing that’s not the plan.

The first half was an absolute write-off. Don’t bother reading any other reports. Like the bloke who picks a fight with a wind-up merchant outside Wetherspoons after a night of Jagerbombs, it’s not worth it.

Clip, bounce, shin, Stevenage throw-in. Repeat. I didn’t see us string two passes together. At the first opportunity the ball was launched 60 yards to absolutely no one.

Vernon seemed to spend a lot of the match slipping and sliding on what was admittedly a crumbly pitch, and Bogle… well, we’ve already covered him.

I’m still of the opinion that most of our players actually forgot that we conceded a goal after four minutes, such was the lack of urgency in their play.

The fans, to their credit, kept the atmosphere going – but once the catastrophe of that second goal went in, the stand fell silent. And who could blame us.

I think what worries us most is that we don’t look comfortable in possession. The ball is played around (and I use that term lightly) like it’s a ticking time bomb. No one wants it.

Stevenage, while looking the archetypal lower mid-table League 2 team that they are, could easily hold possession in our half and worked openings down the wings.

They had a busy midfield that did simple things, and that’s all they needed to do to be better than us. Comley saw a bit of the ball but didn’t always use it well; Osbourne showed glimpses of why we signed him but was, for the most part, anonymous; and Clements must have been having a snooze on the team bus. Did he even touch the ball?

Bignot was praised for using subs earlier than Hurst ever would. But even with four strikers on the pitch we continued to somehow clip balls forward into spaces where there weren’t any.

You’re not guaranteed anything in sport – that’s what makes it so exciting – but my train ticket and match ticket combined came to £87. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have bothered.

I can deal with defeats – after all, we’ve seen plenty – and I can just about accept a clueless performance when the manager has only had a few days or weeks to put across his philosophy to the players.

I think we were all hoping that we’d be able to identify the Bignot way by now, though. The absence of any game plan for a match against one of the league’s out-of-form teams was most worrying.

Bignot will get it right, but the squad is really messed up at the moment. For once we’re in a position where we can accept a disappointing result if we just saw a commanding performance from a bunch of undoubtedly talented players that look like they know what they’re meant to do.

You’re so confused, bro. Match report: Grimsby 0-1 Portsmouth

What had the Mariners been working on during their two weeks off? If it was passing the ball two yards behind their teammates, or drilling it into their feet at literally 60 mph so they’re forced to revive the Lee Ashcroft first touch that we all thought was banished to GTFC history, then the players had clearly been working very hard indeed.

This was the same starting XI that won 3-0 at leaders Plymouth a few weeks back, and if that day was the ying then this performance against Pompey was most definitely the yang.

In Devon our players were praised for their high pressing game – an approach that every ruddy club seemingly has to apply these days – yet here they were the ones being pressed, rigorously.

I mean, on the few occasions when we did find a fellow Mariner with a pass, it was made to look short of pace and a sloppy pass – such was Pompey’s keenness to get in our faces.

Most of the first half action was played in Town’s half, but while the visitors frequently took possession into our final third they didn’t really open us up – although I think it’s fair to say that there were a few heart-in-mouth moments, like when McKeown and Gowling let Pompey pounce on possession in our final third as one of them – we’re not sure who – felt it was a perfect time to experiment with telepathy, while the other preferred a more traditional form of communication.

Summerfield is the new shop you love to hate. From the moment we signed him, he was the boo-boys’ target in-waiting. Cumbersome and clunky, he represents Hurst’s last clumsy York-inspired signing. On this occasion I have to agree with the boo-boys, who are gradually being granted their wish.

Summerfield’s the big lad who used to demand the ball at all times during lunchtime games of football at school because he insisted he was the best player out there – despite not really being good enough – but no one was brave enough to tell him the truth because a) it was his ball, and b) he was shaving by the age of 13, doing handbrake turns in his double-exhaust Ford Escort on the promenade by 15, and rumoured to be nailing red hot Danielle from two years above.

And whether you thought Berrett’s performance was shit or really shit, you have to admire his ability to create midfield roles that I never knew existed before. He seems to have all the attributes for a central midfielder, and appears to occupy the general area of central midfield, yet never actually plays in a bog standard, bona fide midfield position.

So we had McKeown in goal. That’s his position. As is right back for Zak Mills, left back for Danny Andrew and centre back for Josh Gowling and Danny Collins. Omar Bogle is a centre forward and plays as such. That much is clear.

But everything in between was anyone’s guess. It was just a splodge of greyness, shifting, shuffling, stuttering and basically trying their best to remind us what it was like to have Micky Cummins and Mark Hudson in the engine room.

I like the look of Brendon Comley but I really don’t know what his role was meant to be. As for Kayden Jackson, he might say he’s happy to do a job out wide if that’s what the manager wants him to do, but the lines are so wide that you could read between them from two miles away wearing glasses with lenses as thick as milk bottle bases. He doesn’t want to be hugging the left touchline. He wants to be running the channels, scaring the shit out of opposing centre backs with pace they can’t match, distracting them to create a bit of room for Bogle, and hey – maybe even create a chance or two for himself.

And he has zero understanding with Danny Andrew. It was the left back who twice put the ball straight into touch just as Jackson made an inside run, but both have to take responsibility for that sort of shit.

I’m growing ever more certain that Scott Vernon will have his contract paid up in May and leave us without scoring a goal, and we’ll only ever mention his name again when Cod Almighty do one of their Special XI features where the topic is ‘Players who scored more goals against us in one game than he scored for us the entire time he was on our books’. It’s a niche category but he can take his place alongside Simon Ramsden.

I can’t think of many matches where I’ve been looking at the scoreboard in the first half so regularly, hoping that we could make it to half time at 0-0. That we managed to do this sort of felt like the time I accidentally left Tesco with an extra bottle of cordial that I hadn’t scanned at the self-service till. It was a bit naughty, and I didn’t deserve it – but there was a tiny part of me that felt proud.

No changes at half time, which was massively surprising. Bignot says he’s not scared to make changes, but if ever there was a game that needed changes, this was it. To give him credit, he managed to get something different from the same group of players during the second half – plus Tom Bolarinwa. He’s not the headless chicken that Serge Makofo was, but he’s infuriating because of this. He was the only Town player for the entire game who was brave enough to carry the ball and drive into space, and nearly got his reward from a low, 30-yard side pass towards the bottom corner of the goal, which was flicked wide by the keeper at the very last moment.

Earlier, Ashley Chambers looped an effort towards the top corner, which the keeper palmed to safety. In truth, these two chances were as close as we came to scoring all afternoon – and you’ll note that Bogle hasn’t been mentioned. If he’s not scoring then we’re not scoring.

Portsmouth’s winner may have been cruel in how late it came, but it was what they deserved. I haven’t seen the free kick from any other angle than the one I had from the Pontoon, but as soon as it beat a fairly disinterested wall it looked good for a goal. My initial feeling was that maybe McKeown could’ve done a little more, but we may have still been dwelling in negative emotions after we witnessed him spill a cross just minutes earlier.

It’s difficult to see what Bignot’s style is. We’re certainly playing a more open game of football, which means we concede a bit more possession and put our defence under a bit more strain, but other than Bogle’s pre-game instructions being ‘do what you like, mate’, I’m not really seeing us ‘being braver’ or ‘making the right decisions’ that Bignot is so fond of saying in his post-match interviews. They’re a bit woolly for me.

Still, it’s early days. If you ignore that silly cup game against Sheffield United, he’s had five league games to impart his philosophy on a group of players signed by someone else, under some other ambitions, with other styles and tactics in mind, against teams above us in the table.

One day we’re going to win at home, and I’ll know what the Bignot style is. At the moment, he’s teaching a naturally cautious bunch to be more cavalier, and they’re caught between a rock and Blundell Park. Their indecision is there for all to see. Maybe the penny will drop overnight – just like it did for me when revising for my geography A-level – and we’ll give Donny a right good tonking next Saturday.

Who tampered with the script? Match report: Grimsby 2-2 Barnet

Nightmare’s over – I’m back!

What? You haven’t missed me? Well that’s a bit rude. You’d think, after gaining record hits on my last article, that I’d write more regularly (especially now that we’re back in the Football League).

But no.

I’m complicated, like tax returns. Life isn’t straightforward, and neither is supporting Grimsby.

Grimsby aren’t straightforward. If we were, we’d have won today’s match against Barnet. Bogle would’ve scored that penalty and we’d have all walked home, admiring each breath we saw before us in the cold air as we declared, in unison, that the script had been written.

Sadly, the editor-in-chief decided to tamper with the script and added a ballsack of a twist at the end.

The back five appears to pick itself at the moment. I couldn’t quite work out what was going on in midfield, but somewhere among Comley, Summerfield, Chambers and Berrett we had two occupying wide-ish positions. One was Chambers, but god knows who the other was.

Bogle had Jackson alongside him up front.

I’ve yet to see a Barnet team turn up at Blundell Park and play anything other than a brand of football that’s perfectly capable of sending a teenager high on energy drinks to sleep.

I really don’t remember much about what happened before Blur’s Bogle opened the scoring with a steely run down the left and a competent finish with his right.

Neither side had looked particularly good, but we took it alright.

Ah yes, I do remember something – Bogle had a free kick tipped over the bar. But we’re talking about what happened when we were 1-0 up now. We’ve moved on.

A little dink down the line from Andrew was miscontrolled by one of their huge defenders, and that gave Bogle just enough time to take it on and finish powerfully into the bottom corner to double Town’s advantage.

Ah, welcome the Barnet of old! The one that collapses like an England batting line-up in Bangladesh.

We afforded them too much possession before the break, but they had yet to seriously threaten McKeown in goal. They won a series of free kicks for being a bit floppy 40 yards out, but none caused any genuine danger.

What do you say to a team that’s 2-0 up at half time to keep them focused?

In complete contrast to the first, the second half got interesting within eight seconds when Comley had sight of goal from 14 yards but dragged his effort wide.

Then the penalties happened.

Gowling lost the shoulder-barge contest with Akinde down the left, and in an attempt to recover the situation he put in a very Gowling-like challenge in a very Gowling-like area, just the wrong side of the 18-yard line.

Turf, say hello to Akinde. Akinde, say hello to – oh, you know each other. Hang on, say again?! How many times???

Akinde ambled forward and stroked the ball into the left corner, possibly with his eyes closed.

His next one had a little more purpose – after Collins had hooked his legs around someone trying to cut back inside – and it was just enough to evade capture from Jimmy Mac.

I bet someone in the Soccer Saturday studio said it was a Desmond. They love a 2-2.

Right, let’s stop being silly now. Let’s not throw this away.

Barnet had a great chance to take the lead, but someone stood in a very dangerous position and looking worryingly unmarked got over-excited at the thought of scoring and scooped his effort over the bar.

That seemed to wake the Mariners up. We now had Bolarinwa on for Chambers, and he soon got booked for having the temerity to get fouled by Barnet’s left back. The referee, whose name I didn’t bother to learn, clearly thought that giving the away team two penalties hadn’t yet put him centre of attention (because both penalties were probably correct) so he started being weird.

We also had Disley on for Berrett, but sadly he wasn’t able to affect the game much.

With time running out, Vernon was introduced for Jackson and a more direct approach seemed to be creating a couple of half chances – but shots were a bit wild and few seemed to work the keeper.

A Barnet player got sent off for what looked to be a lunge. I’ll be honest; I missed that one.

Then, with injury time announced as five minutes, Gowling received a good old fashioned shove from his marker as a Zak Mills punt floated into the Barnet area, and the referee pointed to the spot.

Omar’s totally got this. His confidence is sky high. Hat-trick in his first game under his new, old boss.

There is literally no way this isn’t hitting the back of the net.

Someone in row M caught the ball and threw it back down for a goal kick.

And that was that. We’d scored two goals from open play in a league match since 1974, so that was good, but the absence of calm heads from our two centre halves cost us two points more than Omar’s miss did.

It’s early days of course, but already this team looks like it’s been given a bit more freedom in the final third. Omar seemed to have a licence to do what he liked, and it was mostly good. He was an absolute nuisance for their back line.

Elsewhere, Mills put in another accomplished performance, and Comley looks a well balanced footballer, capable of playing much higher than League 2. He and Summerfield took good care of possession, and while I’m a fan of Berrett I’m not sure he’s being played in the position that suits him most.

It should’ve been three points, it wasn’t… but Marcus’s regime started with an entertaining game, a few goals, a decent crowd, a good atmosphere, plenty of talking points – and he clapped when we sang his name.

Nice.

An outpouring of emotion: what Grimsby Town’s return to the Football League really means

Grimsby players celebrate on the pitchIn April 2003 I watched my beloved Grimsby Town surrender meekly at home to Walsall and drop out of the second division with two games still to play.

The following season, after an 8-1 defeat at Hartlepool, a 6-0 defeat at Oldham and a 5-1 defeat at Port Vale, I stood on the terrace at Tranmere, staring into the abyss, as news of a 90th minute goal elsewhere relegated us from the third division.

Two seasons later, in the fourth division, I was at Blundell Park when Northampton Town and Leyton Orient combined to deny us an automatic promotion spot we’d held all season in the very last minute of the season.

Two weeks later we lost the fourth division play-off final to Cheltenham – a team we’d beaten home and away in the regular season, and finished above in the table.

In March 2008 I was sat in the east end of Wembley as I witnessed us lose the Football League Trophy final 2-0 to the worst kind of club.

Then, the unthinkable happened. In May 2010 I watched the Mariners plummet out of the Football League on the final day of the season in a 3-0 defeat at Burton – at the expense of perennial fourth division strugglers Barnet.

Grimsby Town were a non-league club. Neither my dad, my grandad or his dad before him had seen the like. It was an all-time low.

In January 2011 we lost an FA Trophy tie 2-1 to Chasetown. In August 2011 Grimsby Town lost 5-0 at Braintree Town in our second league fixture of the season, and the football world felt like it was collapsing in on us.

Then in March 2013, when we got our first whiff of relative success, it was snatched away from us on penalties at Wembley when we lost the FA Trophy final to Wrexham.

A few weeks later we lost 1-0 home and away to Newport County in the Conference play-offs. Exactly one year later I saw our second successive play-off venture end in the semi-final stage, this time at Gateshead.

One year on, we endured the heartache of making the Conference play-off final but losing to Bristol Rovers on penalties.

Two cup final defeats. Three relegations. Four play-off defeats. Last-minute relegations. Last-minute promotion denials. Penalty defeats and all-time lows.

Fourteen years of pain. Any glimmer of success was snatched from us in the cruellest of fashions.

So what does winning promotion to the Football League mean to us Mariners?

It means this:

It means this:

It means this:

It means this:

It means this:

It means this:

It means this:

It means this:

It means this:

We might have already been 2-1 up when Nathan Arnold scored our third in injury time, but all those years of pain had given every single one of us such an anxiety complex that it made the final half an hour feel like an eternity – and Arnold’s goal feel like a decisive winner.

In that moment there was an outpouring of emotion; six years of promise and pain – and the end of 18 years without a thing to celebrate. I couldn’t hear words; just screams. There were hugs. There were tears. There was disbelief. A whole generation of Town fans had grown up not knowing what it was like to see their club win promotion.

But despite the torment, the lows and the near misses, we finally had our day in the sun.

And what a day it was.