Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Alex Gerlis
24 September 2018
Stevenage 1 Grimsby Town 0
To Stevenage to see Grimsby Town, and the best that can be said was that at least the first game of our second 140 years did not end quite as badly as the first one in 1878.
The journey itself was not undertaken without a degree of trepidation, one not confined to anticipating the continuation of Town's dreadful run of form. It was also due to the official website's handy cut-out-and-keep Travelling To Stevenage? Read This Before You Set Off page and specifically the section headed 'Celebrity Watch'. "In the 1730s," it warned us, "the stretch of road between Woolmer Green and Knebworth was a haunt of Dick Turpin the infamous highway robber."
I kept that in mind in case Town were robbed by a dodgy penalty decision, confident I could use up at least a whole paragraph on the highway robbery metaphor in the event of us losing to a dodgy refereeing decision, of which there have been a number over the past 140 years.
There were no highway robbers on the A1 (unless that's how you describe speed cameras) and nor did I catch a glimpse of the other celebrity the official website suggested we watch out for: "The singing sensation Marty Wilde of the late 1950s and early 60s", who was born in Stevenage. No sign of Marty, I'm afraid. He wasn't busking outside Wickes or Burger King, or wandering along the bleak dual carriageway outside the ground. I can't wait until we play LA Galaxy; Celebrity Watch won't be scraping the barrel then.
The stewards were studiedly polite: "Can I frisk you sir? Enjoy the game sir." Suffice it to say, I didn't
Despite there being no signs showing away fans where to go (a fact I gave as 'feedback' to a police inspector in a yellow jacket, who looked at me as if I was being sarcastic), I made it to the right gate, where it became apparent they must have hired a new group of stewards. After last year's brief flurry of national publicity, this time they were studiedly polite: "Can I frisk you sir? Enjoy the game sir."
Suffice it to say, I didn't enjoy the game.
Town wore that weird purple strip and played a formation that was probably meant to be 4-5-1 and certainly entailed poor Wes Thomas having to cope all on his own up front. Thanks to the conditions and handily positioned goalposts we somehow went in 0-0 at half time.
The second half, or more accurately, 30 minutes of it, were much better. Town looked more confident, played some reasonable football and were more direct in their attacks, which in the first half had involved getting bogged down the left wing, strangely reluctant to cross the ball.
Had we scored during that period I may have allowed myself to refer to it as a purple patch. We created precious little in the way of real chances but it still looked like we may come away with an unlikely point until Stevenage found the script and on 83 they duly scored. Mr Jolley decided now was the time to give Wes some company up front, but even Hooper and Vernam couldn't make a difference and it was, as the cliché goes, too little, too late.
And there we are. Stevenage not that good. Town not bad for half an hour, but still lost. It's only September though, and I'm not sure getting rid of the manager now would solve things. As a friend of mine said the other week – he supports a struggling team in another division – "Just make sure there are two teams worse than you."
And that reference to our second 140 years starting better than the first? Despite being formed in the September of 1878 Grimsby had to wait until 2 November for their first game. This was away against Britannia and Brigg, which according to The Grimsby Town Story by Dave Wherry (2008) "was possibly a combination of two teams". There we are: our first game and already there's a conspiracy against us.
It didn't end there: the game was played apparently according to Sheffield rules, which allowed for 12 players per team (probably explains some of Mr Hurst's selections). Naturally, we only turned up with 10 players but managed to field 11 thanks to the brother of one of our players.
And we lost, of course. It was 2-0, so I guess 1-0 at Stevenage is a significant improvement. The future is bright and I'm clutching at straws.