The Diary

Cod Almighty | Diary

Moments that last for ever

16 June 2017

Middle-Aged Diary writes: Watching, or re-watching, a match in its entirety after you already know the result is a very different experience from viewing it live.

For instance, when I named Aidan Davison in the Wembley XI, I mentioned the panic when he suddenly lost his bearings on the crosses which had been Northampton's main threat in the 1998 play-off final. That's how it felt at the time, watching from 100 yards away. But watch it back on DVD and actually, yes there was the odd late cross he might have dealt with better, but there was never cause for concern even, still less that moment of terror when an entire match, an entire season seems to hang in the balance.

Your see other dimensions when you are able to review a game coolly. You think Pádraig Amond had a quiet game against Forest Green? True, there wasn't much for the highlights reel, but he did a lot of running, stretching their defence, and his willingness to keep a ball alive set up our second goal. Similarly, the chance might not have opened up quite so obligingly for Kevin Donovan had Lee Nogan not spent so much of the game keeping the Northampton defence guessing; seldom can a player have touched the ball so little but played so well. More of Donovan in a moment.

The Wembley XI, let me remind you, is our attempt to compile the best individual performances in each position from the Mariners' seven Wembley appearances. We started with John McDermott, for his part in the 1998 Auto Windscreen Shield final, as well as Davison. Since then, Wicklow Diary has written in Aristote Nsiala for his performance against Bristol Rovers in the 2015 play-off final.

We've had a few suggestions on twitter and Exiled Mariner has written in with an entire XI. He makes an interesting case for Andy Cook in the FA Trophy final defeat by Wrexham: "For what the goal meant for him, and his efforts". That was a goal set up by Joe Colbeck. For two months, and two months only, he'd bullock his way up and down the right wing spreading fear and havoc in the hearts of Conference defenders, a latter-day Viking. More of right wingers in a moment.

Exiled Mariner's other striker suggestion is unignorable. As he says, in five minutes just before half-time. Omar Bogle came of age. It is not that either goal was especially good; one was arguably an own goal, but that it went in at all was down to Omar's sheer presence. The goals marked an end. Omar was the most high-profile recruit arising from Operation Promotion: from then on no one could doubt it had been money and effort well spent. They also marked a beginning. From that moment until he left in January, we knew that, if Omar was on the pitch, we always had a chance.

There has been much discussion of the right wing slot, focused on two strangely similar goals: a player, despite his starting position, cutting in from the left to take the ball around the goalkeeper and put it into an empty net. For both goals there is an unanswerable case.

Kevin Donovan's goal against Northampton decided the match, making it perhaps the most important single goal in Grimsby's history. If he did later miss a penalty, what of it? It was one of those Jack Lester "he had every right to go down" penalties that would have left a bad taste in the mouth had it been converted. And if Town had taken the cushion of a two-goal lead, perhaps that ferocious concentration we maintained would have relaxed and let Northampton back into the game.

Nathan Arnold's goal against Forest Green is an iconic moment. There is a whole generation of fans who, when they shut their eyes, see before anything else Arnold tapping the ball into the net then striding, chest out to the corner flag. It might not have settled the match; another thing you realise when you re-watch that game is how quickly Town reasserted control of proceedings after Forest Green's goal. But it settled our nerves, and allowed us the moment - the moment lasting a lifetime - of ecstasy we had enjoyed after Wayne Burnett's winner but not after Donovan's goal.

Earlier, we asked you to make the decision, taking the wise precaution of not putting Joe Colbeck on the ballot paper. The result: 65 per cent for Kevin Donovan; 35 per cent for Arnold.

That leaves us with five completed positions in the Wembley XI. Write in with your thoughts on how we can fill the other six.

The Grimsby Town Wembley XI (so far)

Goalkeeper: Aidan Davison (v Northampton, 1998)
Right back: John McDermott (v Bournemouth, 1998)
Left back:
Central defender: Aristote Nsiala (v Bristol Rovers, 2015)
Central defender:
Right wing: Kevin Donovan (v Northampton, 1998)
Left wing:
Striker: Omar Bogle (v Forest Green, 2016)