So, this is FA Trophy semi final second leg eve. No one knows what’s about to happen. That’s the thing about sport – and life in general. We can’t be certain what’s around the corner, so in an effort to make sense of what’s likely to come, we turn to the past.
Grimsby Town are on the brink of making their fifth appearance at Wembley – and their sixth major final in recent times. Which got me thinking… have we ever had to overturn a first leg deficit from all those previous semi-final occasions? Let’s take a look.
1997/98: Football League Trophy Area Final v Burnley (won 3-1 on aggregate)
The Mariners were held to a 1-1 draw at Blundell Park in the first leg (att: 6,064) before winning 2-0 at Turf Moor.
1997/98: Second Division play-off semi-final v Fulham (won 2-1 on aggregate)
After a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage, Town managed to win the return leg 1-0 (att: 8,689) through a late strike from Kevin Donovan.
2005/06: League 2 play-off semi-final v Lincoln City (won 3-1 on aggregate)
A Gary Jones strike at Sincil Bank gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead going into the home leg, which they won 2-1 (att: 8,062).
2007/08: Football League Trophy Area Final v Morecambe (won 1-0 on aggregate)
A 1-0 win at Christie Park was followed up with a goalless draw at Blundell Park (att: 7,417)
2012/13: FA Trophy semi-final v Dartford (won 3-0 on aggregate)
Town did the deed in the first leg at home when they won 3-0 (att: 3,573). The second leg finished 0-0 down in Kent.
2012/13: Conference play-off semi-final v Newport County (lost 2-0 on aggregate)
Town fell to a late goal at home in the first leg (att: 5,414) before underperforming in the away leg to lose that 1-0 also.
So what does all the above tell us? Firstly, it tells us that when Town get as far as the semi-finals or area finals of a competition, they tend to go on and make the final. However, the one time we had to overturn a deficit from the first leg – as is the case with Cambridge this weekend – we failed to progress.
Will the Mariners do what they’ve never done before and overturn a first leg deficit to make a Wembley final? Forgot about the fact that none of our strikers are scoring enough goals; forget the fact that we haven’t started a game well since 2012. This is a one-off game and the players need the type of support we gave them at Cambridge when the fans stayed positive right until the final whistle.
And if we don’t make Wembley, well… we’ll all save some money (and we’ll get to go to Nuneaton instead! Wow).