Barely conscious. Match report: Scunthorpe 3-0 Grimsby

This match was billed as one of Grimsby Town’s most important of recent times and we played like it was a kick-about at Sidney Park.

The players looked like they’d spent a day idling around at school and were just looking to mess about for a bit at home time until their parents called them in for their tea.

James McKeown asked whose ball it was, and then we played in the submissive way that people do when they seek parity but know they’re chronically inferior.

And it’s not as if Scunny are any good. At all.

Just under 11 months ago we went down the M180 and beat them with goals from a couple of their former players. They had a man sent off and Kevin van Veen was baited every time he touched the ball.

You actually felt sorry for them. They looked abysmal and offered nothing. Ian Holloway came onto the pitch at full time to applaud the fans, and we all went home happy with the result and felt positive about our future.

Of course, we weren’t to know that a global pandemic would finish the season — just like we weren’t to know that we’d release some of our best players and replace them with non-league punts because our board wasn’t willing to contribute a single penny of its combined wealth during a crisis that threatened our existence.

And yet, they insisted Shutes & Co prove they had the funds to get us through any potential hardship. Brazen. 

Scunny are no better now than they were on 7 March 2020. Our victory on that date proved to be another false dawn — a bit like the one we were given when JJ Hooper scored a hat-trick at the tree huggers and we could dream of not being in the bottom half of the fourth division.

Then, as now, we went backwards. Austerity (which is not his real name) tightened his purse strings, and his grip around the neck of the club, to leave us barely conscious. 

And that’s what we got on Saturday; a set of barely-conscious footballers going through the motions, ambling about as if there’s nothing left in their lives to inspire or motivate them. Not even a beer-fuelled darts tournament at a raucous Ally Pall could wake this lot up.

I’ve not really said anything about the players this season as the issues have clearly been at the top (three relegations, and a very possible fourth, tells you everything you need to know about the Fenty era).

Town’s penchant for giving away soft or needless free kicks, and being offside, remained a strong feature of our play — as did defending like donkeys.

Granted, the free kick that led to the opening goal wasn’t a free kick — and Eisa’s strike was special — but everyone knows there are always moments in football you can’t legislate for and yet we responded to this setback by reverting to type.

Heads dropped. A quick glance at each other. A shrug of the shoulders. No words. No galvanising. No leadership.

At one insane point, Matt Green got the wrong side of his marker to bear down on goal, albeit at an angle, but he delayed his strike and gave the defender enough time to get a block in.

We can’t do anything in the final third but as soon as we invite the opposition into our area it’s absolute chaos.

I’m not even sure how Scunthorpe’s second went in — I thought it was an own goal from our debutant loanee Rollin Menayese. But forget soft, it was positively soggy.

No one took charge and no one belted the ball clear when they had half a sniff.

We hoped we might have got a bit of new manager bounce under Hurst, but that didn’t happen. At the very least we thought we could keep us shape? No such football fortune.

This isn’t a dig at Hurst. His half-time triple substitution sort of made a difference, but then how could it not, given the bar had been set lower than Gavin Gunning.

The Iron’s third was probably — marginally — offside, but it says something about Town’s fans when, in a crucial local derby, none of us are even bothering to debate it given its futility. Scunny could’ve scored just once and they’d have been comfortable winners.

I watched the full 90 minutes on iFollow and the match report could be as succinct as this: Scunthorpe, without being at their best — and, let’s be honest, their best ain’t great — scored three goals.

Grimsby, on the other hand? Foul. Offside. Foul. Offside. Oh ffs. Foul. Offside. Come on, ref.

Given the situation, and given what was on the line, it was probably the poorest showing from a Town team in a long while. Well, since that tripe at Tranmere.

And yet Hurst’s post-match interview was probably one of the best. I found myself standing up and applauding him from my dining table at home when he tore into the players and questioned their desire.

When your whole career exists in such a competitive environment, your desire should be the last thing that gets questioned.

The league table doesn’t quite look as disastrous as it could have done, had Southend not lost in the week and then again on Saturday.

Stevenage lost also. And by virtue of not playing, Barrow improved their situation too. Scunthorpe have put distance between themselves and us on a day when we could have gone above them. I don’t believe Bradford are in any genuine danger of going down.

The next two games — away at Barrow and home to Stevenage — have quickly become must-win when a must-not-lose scenario had previously been the minimum requirement.

In terms of quality, this is one of the worst fourth divisions I’ve seen since we began playing in it in 2004. And we’re one of the worst teams in it.

Getting us back into the Football League was hard work. If Hurst keeps us in it from this position, it’ll rank as an even better achievement.