A little under a year ago I began the latest chapter in my life by going to University. Destination; Leeds. As a Derby fan I knew it was essential to break the ice by wearing the Ram crested shirt I adore dearly. The magic that unfolds when meeting new people for the first time is pretty impressive but when you wear a football shirt, so many more doors are opened to kick-start long lasting friendships (hopefully)
Two of the first people I met go by the names of Brad and Alex who both passionately watch football a lot like myself. I was greeted by a voice probably making some sarcastic joke about how bad Derby were but low and behold that was Brad. The ice was broken and we began sharing football tales of the past. These two fine young men, who have the pleasure of calling Grimsby ‘home’, were the butter to my bread during fresher’s week and so it turned out the whole of year one.
You may be wondering what relevance this is but when you make friends with football fans you gain an interest in their respective clubs. So when the draw for the FA Cup fourth round took place in January this year, I was hoping that Derby would get the glamorous big tie. So when Manchester United (Alex’s true love) were drawn to face Derby the script couldn’t have been written any better. Or could it?
Well fast forward July and the draw for the first round of the newly named EFL Cup, and after Grimsby Town’s promotion back to the Football League (where they undoubtedly belong) this was the tie that was top of my wish list. So would you believe me if I said this was the exact tie that came out the hat? Well it was!
The inevitable happened. Messages were thrown back and forth between us all and as necessary we planned to meet up before the game and exchange pleasantries after breaking up from Uni. We did, we had a laugh and then went our ways to find our seats just in time for kick-off
First round cup games are never the classiest of ties. The so called ‘smaller’ clubs are looking to upset bigger opposition, perfectly demonstrated by Cambridge’s 2-1 win over Championship Sheffield Wednesday. But other than that it has a very pre-season feel to it.
Having listened to the heartbreak of the Mariners over the past number of years, a little part of me was chuffed to see them finally return to fulfil fixtures much like that on Tuesday night.
An opening weekend win for the seaside club over Morecambe, meant spirits were high in Paul Hurst’s camp as the team, and not to forget well over 1500 travelling GTFC fans, made their way to the IPro.
For the opening 20 minutes of the game Grimsby controlled the ball. Not only that but the tempo of the game. As Derby lined up 4-4-2, much like they did on the opening day against Brighton, the Mariners looked to control the midfield allowing Will Hughes and Craig Bryson very little time to construct a pass. Messrs Summerfield and Berrett looked solid in the centre of the park whilst Bogle held play up well as support arrived.
The clear difference between the two sides was the cutting edge. Be it the final pass, the pinpoint delivery or the shot on goal, Derby looked the more threatening to score with the efforts they had on McKeown guarding the Grimsby goal. That being said, the two centre half’s especially Shawn Pearson looked determined to keep out former Premier League strike duo Chris Martin and Darren Bent, as he made timely interventions to break down the Rams forward momentum.
As the first half came to a close the highlight of the first 45 minutes was the deafening noise from the away corner. It was inevitable that the travelling Mariners would come in both superb numbers and voice but they sang their club proud throughout the whole game.
It took the Championship big boys 60 minutes to break down the Grimsby defensive wall but only for a lapse in concentration as nobody picked up the back post run of Richard Keogh who had time to nod home the only goal of the game.
As time wore on Grimsby began to press and the introduction of Rhys Browne brought an offensive spark to the away side. It wasn’t until the last five minutes that Derby stopper Scott Carson was called into action, but when he was the chances were well turned aside. A clearance off the line after a James McKeown header, as well as a double save from Carson left the League Two side feeling hard done by after their sterling effort at the first time of asking back in the EFL Cup.
A game that certainly wasn’t the most entertaining of spectacles but certainly acts as a platform for the Mariners to kick on and ensure a successful first year back in the Football League. It would take an awful lot to go wrong to see Grimsby fall back out of the league, and after this cup performance it wouldn’t surprise me if they were to finish well into the top half of the league.