Earlier today Cod Almighty asked the question: what is your favourite match of grand larceny? I’ve seen many backs-to-the-wall performances from the Mariners, and while most ended in disappointment there were a few that saw us hold out for vital victories. And the one that stands out most for me involves, rather predictably, one of Grimsby’s best goalkeepers of recent times.
A separate reason for it standing out is because it was also the first time I’d travelled on the supporters’ coach to an away match. It got hit by a taxi at Shepherd’s Bush after it sneaked through a red light. No one was hurt, but I was assured that this sort of thing didn’t happen all the time.
If you haven’t already pieced the clues together, I’m talking about the time we robbed QPR of all three points back in March 2001 at Loftus Road.
Danny Coyne played out of his skin to make six or seven outstanding saves, while his opposite number, Lee Harper, did nothing other than pick the ball out of his own net after Paul Groves’ tame header was deflected in.
It was a cold, cold day – it had been raining, sleeting and snowing all the way down to London. Coyne was flying around in goal, tipping, punching and smothering everything and anything that came near him. Dwarfed by a gangly 20-year old Peter Crouch in the distance, all I could remember was waiting for the net to ripple on every occasion the ball headed towards goal, only for a hand to appear from nowhere to deflect it away – time and time again.
“That goalkeeper!” exclaimed QPR’s match commentator on the end of season video. “Where did he come from?!”
The occasion – and the magnitude of Coyne’s performance – needs putting in context. In 2000/01, Town were battling against relegation from the second division (today’s Championship) under the management of Lennie Lawrence. QPR were in the scrap too; it was a proper six-pointer. The Mariners came into the game having picked up just three points from their last 18 (and just two wins in their last 15 in all competitions).
Our starting line-up included Chinese international Zhang Enhua, while Bradley Allen and Luke Cornwall started up front. Allen was replaced at half time by Michael Jeffrey, who was left to plough a lone furrow up front.
Wave after wave of attacks, down the left, then down the right. QPR kept coming. Crouch seemed like he was actually in the goal himself when he got his head to the crosses, such was our position in the lower tier behind the opposite goal. And yet each time Coyne would bound across and scoop the ball to safety. Crouch spent the entire second half with his hands on his head in disbelief.
Then with 10 minutes to go, Kevin Donovan won a free kick out wide on the right and lofted it into the box. Groves headed it back across the goal into the six-yard area and an outstretched blue and white hooped sock deflected it in. The players ran to the fans behind the goal and I got a nice bruise on my shin from the seat in front as everyone poured forward.
At the time the teams were on a similar points tally for the season. The Mariners went on to win four of their last nine games to finish with 52 points while QPR won just once more and were relegated with just 40 points. I think that was the game that broke their season.