What if... Amond's penalty had been saved?

Cod Almighty | Article

by Ron Counte

3 May 2017

Sixteen minutes to play, Town a goal down in the tie, and the ref awards a penalty. Things could very easily have been very different...

A year on and we are still basking in the glory of those unforgettable scenes from the 2016 play-off final. But we were just 16 minutes away from being eliminated by Braintree at the semi-final stage.

Though we were dominating possession in the second leg of the semi, we didn't achieve the breakthrough until one of the Braintree defenders had an inexplicable rush of blood to the head and needlessly hauled down Josh Gowling directly in front of the referee. Questionable though the quality of some of the officials are in the Conference, in this instance the referee had absolutely no difficulty realising that this clumsy wrestling manoeuvre was a clear penalty.

Up stepped Pádraig Amond, a man on whom most us would cheerfully gamble our mortgages from the penalty spot. This time though he hit what, by his own admission, was probably the worst penalty kick of his career.

It bowled along gently, slightly to the right of the centre of the goal. It was such a badly scuffed shot that any keeper worth his salt would simply have had to bend down, as if plucking a daisy, and gleefully collect it. But on this occasion the keeper had already committed. He threw himself to his left hand side as if diving to avoid a runaway train, as Amond's pitiful daisy cutter meandered across the line with barely enough strength to reach the back of the net.

The rest is history. But what if the keeper had simply stood his ground and collected the anaemic effort? It is possible that we may have scored an equaliser in the remaining minutes. But had we not done so then a fourth consecutive play-off failure, this time in dismal circumstances against the part-timers of Braintree, must surely have meant the end of the road for Paul Hurst. His relations with the fans had already soured. It's hard to see how he would have survived.

With another year in the wilderness in prospect, there seems little doubt that Toto Nsiala, Amond, Jon Nolan, and Nathan Arnold would have walked away from the club as they did following promotion, ripping the heart out of the team. Several of the players we signed in the summer would probably have had to think long and hard about joining a Conference outfit, even if funds were available, and so recruiting replacements might have been difficult.

Assuming there had been a managerial vacancy, who would have filled it? If the board elected to go with Marcus Bignot at this juncture then we would have been witness to his particular brand of recruitment and experimentation for the early part of this season. In such circumstances it would be very questionable whether we would make it into the play-offs for a fifth time. Even if we did, the formidable obstacle of Tranmere Rovers would be standing in our way. All in all a less than rosy picture.

But what of Lincoln City? Forest Green Rovers would have been favourites to beat Braintree in the Wembley final and would now be cheerfully introducing veggie burgers to Football League audiences. But what if Braintree had pulled one more rabbit out of the hat? The Cowley brothers would surely not have abandoned a team headed for the League; it seems unlikely that Lincoln would now be celebrating the Conference championship.

So Amond's one kick may well have determined the immediate futures not only of Grimsby Town, but of Lincoln City too. For the Lincolnshire teams, it was the scuff of dreams.

Anyone else brave enough to imagine a world in which Town were not promoted last season?