Stop believing and start accepting. Match report: Grimsby 1-2 Forest Green

There are 45 points to play for, and tonight Grimsby Town sit just five points adrift of safety. But let’s face it, shall we? We’re down.

This team loses when it deserves to lose, and it loses when it deserves a draw.

I don’t think we’ve actually played well enough in any of our 31 league games this season to claim we’ve deserved all three points. Maybe Cheltenham away, but that’s it.

Our downward trajectory has been so severe that it can’t simply be dismissed as naive, penny-pinching mismanagement. It’s beyond such terms.

I’m only left to assume that those responsible for running our football club since 2004 have had some perverse, deep-rooted and potentially subconscious desire to inflict pain on anyone who has ever felt anything for Grimsby Town.

It’s been that bad.

That day at Wembley in 2016 was all in vain. All of Amond’s 37 goals. Disley’s tears at Braintree. What did they give us, really? Five unspectacular seasons back in the Football League, where we’ve struggled to average a goal a game.

And what’s been our greatest achievement in that time? How many players have we signed? Crucially, how many of them would you want bring back, or wish we’d never let go?

Although it was an improved performance from Town today, against a side in the automatic promotion spots, it was a familiar story.

Bright patches interspersed with ill-discipline. Some measure of control 40 yards out but nothing beyond.

And then, of course, we concede. A whistle-happy ref is given an opportunity to penalise Town, and he does. It’s soft enough to make me angry on any other day, but today I was so resigned I just accepted it.

Town equalising before half time wasn’t in the script. A bit of good fortune, and bad defending, allowed Hanson to score his first league goal for us in over a year. It was the type of goal we usually concede. Maybe our football fortune was changing?

Don’t be silly. Order was restored in boringly predictable fashion midway through the second half.

Unless a charitable Forest Greener was going to whack the ball in his own net, the Mariners weren’t going to get anything from this game.

The full-time stats tell the story: Grimsby had one shot on target all game, and the visitors gift-wrapped it for us.

It was the same story in Tuesday night’s 1-0 home defeat to Leyton Orient. Just one shot on target in 90 minutes, only the visitors on that occasion weren’t so charitable.

Only two shots on target at Harrogate last weekend. Only two against Crawley, albeit we made both of those count.

The more players we use, the worse we get. At no point this season have we been a team; just a collection of individuals thrown together with no time to understand each other, or the club.

They’re just going through the motions. No passion, no pride, no fight.

And who can blame them, really? What have they got to inspire them? Who have they got to motivate them? Grimsby Town will get relegated to non-league for the second time in May and barely any of these players will be around to deal with that consequence.

As I jumped around, breathless, when Arnold scored that third goal at Wembley, I felt a second’s sympathy for the very few genuine Forest Green fans that day. Imagine being forced to play another season in that god-forbidden hell-hole of a league.

Five years on, it looks like we’ll be returning to it, while the vegans look set to climb into League 1.

There may very well be 45 points to play for. But this lot have only managed to pick up eight points from the previous 45, scoring an average of 0.6 goals a game.

That’s why that five-point gap is looking not just improbable, but impossible.

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

In 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. Continue reading

Play-offs: why it’s Grimsby’s time

Town have limped into the play-offs. Typical of the way we go about things, we did it by losing at home to a lower mid-table team. I was going to do my blood-pumping, finger-pointing Kevin Keegan-style ‘love it’ speech about denying Tranmere a place alongside us in the top five next weekend, but who am I kidding? We won’t win on the Wirral. Continue reading

Grimsby Town would win the division if all their games were away from home

Grimsby Town fans in the stand behind the goal at KidderminsterFor a lot of Grimsby Town fans, the concession of Saturday’s late equaliser at Kidderminster wasn’t entirely unpredictable – if not for the fact that we did it at inconvenient times last season, then for the fact that we’ve established a strong pattern of drawing many of our season’s openers (a sequence that fellow GTFC blogger Too Good To Go Down brought to our attention last week).

I spend a lot of time looking for things. If it’s not my car keys, or the sunglasses that are already on my head, then it’s sequences in football. Statistics, innit. Football, and sport in general, go mental for them these days. Former England cricket coach Peter Moores was infatuated with them. One of my favourite statistics of all time is this one, from The Naked Gun:

“Doctors say that Nordberg has a 50/50 chance of living. And there’s only a 10% chance of that.”

It sort of captures a sense of the absurdity of living in a world where only statistics exist. You become so fixated with the numbers that you stop looking at humans on an emotional level – the very thing that has a direct impact on performance.

But that’s probably an argument for another day, because I’m now going to completely undermine myself and say that there’s something deeply satisfying about scrutinising data and lifting something from it that others haven’t seen. And then professing, in your most know-it-all tone, ‘Did you know…’

Well (know-it-all face initiated) did you know just how remarkable the Mariners’ away form is? I didn’t, until I had a sudden urge to check.

We’ve lost just one of our last 22 away games.

Let me just clarify that this includes the play-off semi-final victory at Eastleigh, and the play-off final at Wembley, which, for the purposes of this analysis, I have claimed as a draw.

Since the 3-2 defeat at Lincoln City on Tuesday 9th September 2014, Grimsby have only lost once away in the league. That was on Saturday 7th February 2015 at Forest Green, when that steward acted like a complete dick to one of our fans and managed to avoid punishment.

The sequence looks like this:

D W D W W W D D W W W L W W D W W W D W D D

That’s 13 wins, eight draws, one defeat, 34 goals scored and 18 conceded.

Now, I grew up at a time when Town were absolute dogger on their travels. We’d get beaten 3-0 at Barnsley, 4-0 at Charlton and then magic up a bizarre 1-0 win at somewhere like Fulham – just enough to complement the decent home form that used to keep us in the first division, or whatever you want to call it.

I think it’s fair to say that you travelled to watch the Mariners more in hope than expectation back then. Now it’s the other way round. We’ve fallen a fair way through the leagues, granted, but it’s actually a pleasure to follow the Mariners around the country these days.

I think that’s why our army of followers has swelled in the past year or so. I think it’s why we took just shy of 1,700 to Kidderminster a few days ago. They will follow a team that is successful – and we’re now pretty successful in our away games.

Those 22 games fall just one short of a full season of away matches. And at 47 points it’s enough to win you the title if you can muster a similar record at home. For almost a year now we’ve been playing like champions across the country; now we need to play like champions at Blundell Park.

Tonight’s match at Barrow would be an excellent start.