House of Payne. Match report: Bradford 1-0 Grimsby

If we were 13th and drifting aimlessly in the comfort of mid-table mediocrity, there might have been something about Stefan Payne’s head-buttery to laugh about.

As it is, we’re on the brink of relegation to non-league for the second time in a little over a decade, and just when you think our football club has discovered every conceivable way to disappoint its fans through incompetence, ineptitude or embarrassment, up steps a cannon looser than Gavin Gunning to drive that nail into our Football League coffin.

When we get relegated — and, let’s be honest, there’s no ‘if’ about it any more — it’ll be for reasons so multitudinous that no one blog post or even Cod Almighty feature could summarise succinctly enough for a non-Town fan to truly understand.

We won’t be relegated on Payne’s head-butt alone, but it was a moment of madness in a bizarre season that all of us, including manager Paul Hurst, want to see the back of.

Like the head-butt itself, nothing much has made sense. The total absence of pre-season; releasing our better players and replacing them with a raft of non-league signings; the infamous darts tournament that broke covid rules and incurred a fine that basically took a large chunk out of the money the fans raised when we had legitimate worries about the year ahead.

Ian Holloway’s increasingly erratic post-match interviews; John Fenty’s collusion with a known fraudster; the club statements published at midnight. Bilel Mohsni.

I could go on.

Another thing that just doesn’t make sense is that we’re far more competitive and hard to beat under Hurst than we ever were under Holloway, yet Holloway holds the upper hand in terms of points and victories.

It seems every game we play comes with a hard luck story. From the biased ref at Salford to the injury time goal at Carlisle, we have a mountain of cases in which we can confidently claim that we were the better side, we deserved the three points… but we only got one.

No referee is giving us a break and no team is gifting us silly goals (Barrow seem to be hogging that good fortune). We have to work extra hard for every break we can get, and then one lapse of concentration does for us.

I still have nightmares of that defeat at Newport. Played them off the park first half in which they had a man sent off. They sneak a goal early in the second and that was the game gone.

Today was one of the best performances I’ve seen us put in with 10 men, but it means nothing now. We lost a game we controlled for large spells and so we remain bottom of the league.

I’m no mathematician but I reckon we need to win at least four of our remaining six games to stand any chance of staying up. I’m also no psychic but, given we’ve only won two games in 2021, I don’t see it happening.

The good news right now is off the field, with the consortium’s takeover looking likely to happen following a general meeting in just over three weeks’ time.

Today, though, Bradford were just another team that didn’t have to be at their best or play particularly well to beat us.

We’re having a hard enough time scoring goals without our striker then nutting one of his teammates after the referee had blown for half-time.

With the game just about up, you can just see us benefiting from an outrageous piece of good fortune in a dead rubber, or the ref giving us a penalty for a shirt tug that never happened.

Payne’s head-butt on Filipe Morais probably signals the end of a career at GTFC in which his only achievement will be earning a place alongside Paul Linwood and Richard Brodie in the ‘Most Unliked GTFC Players XI’ that will inevitably be discussed on social media.

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