Gimme Five (or more)

Cod Almighty | Article

by Richard Lord

30 August 2023

Wrexham might be fans of shipping five goals at home, but for the Mariners it remains a rare thing. Rich Lord looks at Town’s history of conceding (and scoring) five goals or more over the last 40 years.

When I started following football in the early 1990s, scores that featured a '5' in them were extra special because they seemed so rare.

I remember watching results blibbing in, on the Grandstand vidiprinter on a Saturday afternoon, and waiting so keenly for a '5' to pop up that my peripheral vision and hearing would shut down.

As we all know, the leap from four goals to five is far greater than the leap from three goals to four. It's a quirk of maths that only exists in football.

To lose 4-0 is just a heavy defeat, or a disappointment. It's a bad day at the office. But to lose 5-0 is, well, an abomination. It's not just a defeat; it's an embarrassment. A line has been crossed.

A game of fives

My earliest memory of the Mariners scoring five was against Wrexham. No, not that one — the Garry Birtles hat-trick one. When the vidiprinter blibbed that one out, it would've impressed the whole country — for a brief moment, anyway.

Just to add to this nonsensical view of football scores, I'd consider losing 5-2 worse than losing 4-0. Because, you know, five.

During this formative time in my life, I was given an FA Cup-themed board game for Christmas, called Wembley. It included six coloured dice, each six-sided but with varying values on them.

The red one, as I remember, had no nil; instead, it was filled with twos, threes, and fours. That was reserved for the top sides only, playing at home. The orange one was almost as good and was reserved for top sides playing away.

The green one was for second division sides playing at home; yellow for when they were away. Mostly ones, twos, and threes, but also a couple of zeros.

And then there were the blue and white ones. These were for the generic lower league sides, and they were filled with ones and zeros… but one side featured a five. This provided teams like Newport County and York City a passage beyond the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal.

Rolling a five on behalf of the small team, to knock out the big team, brought a real sense of achievement with it. I'd often not play the board game itself but instead write out a list of cup ties on the blank side of a cut-up cereal box and use the dice to run through a season's FA Cup fixtures.

Arsenal 3 Halifax 5. Imagine that! It used to get my adrenaline pumping to such a degree that I had to play the game out in the garden, with commentary running through my head.

Home is where the five is (sometimes)

As a fan of five in football, I was delighted with the 5-5 draw between Wrexham and Swindon on Saturday 19th August 2023. Two teams scoring five in a game? Now that is rare.

Remarkably, it's not the first time Wrexham have conceded five at home this season, after they let in five against Bastard Franchise Scum FC on the opening day.

Of course, there was that time when the Mariners stuck five past Wrexham at the Racecourse (like any of us are going to forget). Just a couple of months earlier, they'd conceded five at home to bottom club Dover but still emerged victorious after hitting an equalising fifth and winning sixth goal deep into injury time.

Sandwiched in the middle of that madness was a chaotic 7-5 win over Barnet, achieved on 8th October 2022.

Despite the Hollywood razzmatazz, and all the money and attention that's come with it, Wrexham have now conceded five goals at home on five separate occasions in just 16 months and 24 days.

The equivalent for the Mariners is 52 years.

There can be no doubt that we've endured some lean times since the turn of the millennium. Yet, despite multiple relegations and some shambolic home performances, shipping five at Blundell Park has remained a rare thing indeed.

Hammer it home

The most recent of the last five transgressions came against Donny towards the end of the 2016-17 season, when Bignot Bingo was in full swing. Partnering Gavin Gunning with Dan Jones at the back wasn't one of Bignot's finest decisions, especially as a pitiful 5-0 defeat at Crewe — in which Bignot personally addressed the travelling fans post-match — was so fresh in our minds.

Incidentally, that Donny game was centre-back Dan Jones's first league start for the Mariners after a summer move from Hartlepool. And somewhat unsurprisingly, it also became his last. A week later Bignot was sacked, despite us winning 3-1 at Blackpool. Russell Slade was called down from the top of a mountain and offered the job, and the Mariners went back to such basics as losing 3-0 at Yeovil and Crawley.

Remember 'Fright Night' at Blundell Park on Tuesday 29th October 2002? Who could forget. Burnley came to Cleethorpes and scored five, but the Mariners — in the poorest of goalscoring form — scored six.

Roll back nearly three years further and you'll land on a rare Friday night of football in the 90s, under the BP lights. On 12th November 1999, Charlton (and Clive Mendonca) came to Town. The inevitable happened, of course, when Clive scored on 62 minutes to put the Addicks 3-2 up, and they went on to score two more before romping to the title and earning an immediate return to the top flight.

The 1980-81 season under George Kerr seems the unlikeliest of times to talk about conceding five at Blundell Park. Town's defence was rock solid in Cleethorpes; we'd only conceded four goals in our 18 league games going into the match against eventual champions West Ham.

And then the Hammers outscored 18 teams in one afternoon, hitting us for five. David Cross scored four of them.

Our journey for this particularly niche area of Town's history ends in 1970-71. It was 13th March, just a couple of months before the arrival of Lawrie McMenemy. Town, under the management of Bobby Kennedy, were meandering in the fourth division for a third consecutive year.

The Mariners had been put out of the League Cup by local rivals Lincoln, and they'd also shipped five at Chester and Darlington earlier in the season. There had also been heavy defeats at Exeter and York.

Then Brentford strode into Cleethorpes and put five past us. The Mariners won five of their last six games of the season but, even so, this only lifted us to 19th in the fourth division — which remained our lowest finishing position until the Mike Newell era of 2008-09.

Punishing travels

We're no strangers to shipping five (or more) on the road. We did it twice last season, at Swindon and Brighton. It happened at Tranmere in 2020-21, Crewe in 2016-17, Braintree in 2011-12 and Lincoln in 2005-06.

The 2003-04 season was a particularly bad one for defensive leakage. First up, Hartlepool hit us for eight, then we seeped five at Port Vale and six at Oldham.

And were you at Palace in 2001-02 when we lost 5-0? Perhaps you made the trip to Bolton in 1996-97, when we conceded six, or to Hillsborough, when we conceded seven?

We were 5-0 down at half time at Palace in 1995-96, and later that season lost 6-3 at relegated Watford. Did you see us lose 5-3 at Forest on the opening day of the 1993-94 season? Maybe you can remember us being thumped by Orient in 1988-89.

The year 1987 remains our worst in terms of conceding five goals or more. If you were following the Mariners up and down the country back then, you may have never forgotten the sight of us conceding six at Stoke in the cup, or five in the league match that followed later. We also shipped five at Plymouth and then, early the following season, another five at Fulham.

But here's where we flip the negative because, for all those defensive calamities down the years, Town have actually hit five goals or more almost twice as often as we’ve conceded them.

High five

If we take the last 40 seasons as our timeframe, starting and including 1984-85, the Mariners have scored five goals or more on 47 occasions, with an aggregate score of 256-51 (+205 goal difference, which is, on average, a winning margin of 4.36 goals). Our most prolific season was 2011-12, when we scored 5+ goals on six occasions.

The number of games in which we conceded five or more goals stands at just 24, with an aggregate score of 21-133 (-112 goal difference, which is, on average, a losing margin of 4.67 goals). Our worst season is a three-way tie between 2016-17, 2003-04 and 1986-87, when we conceded 5+ goals on three occasions.

What's remarkable is that, in those 40 years, we have lost more games than we've won, with an overall negative goal difference, and we’re also two divisions in the negative, with five promotions to seven relegations.

Only one team features three times on our list of victims. We did 'the double' over Alfreton in 2011-12, beating them 5-2 both home and away. Two years later, we stuck seven past them.

Did you know, for example, that when we won 5-2 at Alfreton in 2012, it was the first time we'd scored exactly five goals away from home since winning 5-1 at Middlesbrough in 1984? In between then, we'd scored six on the road twice, at Boston then Histon.

We've stuffed Stockport, pummelled Palace, clubbed Carlisle, lashed Luton, hammered Halifax, ravaged Rotherham, routed Wrexham and wiped the floor with Woking, Wimbledon, West Brom and Wolves. We've blown Bath, Barrow, Bromsgrove, Boston, Barnet, Bury, Bournemouth and Blackburn away. We've heaped misery on Middlesbrough and given Donny a good donking. From Ashington to Altrincham, and all the Alfretons in between, we've had fun scoring five (31) six (11) and seven (5).

So, I'll sign off with the matches in which Grimsby Town proudly scored and embarrassingly conceded five goals or more. How many of them do you remember, and how many of them did you attend? If you have stories from any of these games, please share them with us!

Grimsby Town's 5+ goals scored:
(h) Plymouth 5-1 (FA Cup) in 2022-23
(a) Wrexham 5-4 in 2021-22
(a) Bromsgrove (FA Cup) 5-0 in 2021-22
(h) Dover 6-0 in 2021-22
(h) Port Vale 5-2 in 2019-20
(h) Tranmere 5-2 in 2018-19
(h) Stevenage 5-2 in 2016-17
(h) Altrincham 5-0 in 2015-16
(h) St Albans 5-1 (FA Cup) in 2015-16
(h) Halifax 7-0 in 2015-16
(h) Alfreton 7-0 in 2014-15
(a) Gateshead 6-1 in 2014-15
(h) Dartford 5-2 in 2013-14
(h) Woking 5-1 in 2012-13
(h) Bath 6-0 in 2011-12
(a) Alfreton 5-2 in 2011-12
(h) Stockport 7-0 in 2011-12
(h) Ashington 5-0 (FA Cup) in 2011-12
(h) Barrow 5-2 in 2011-12
(h) Alfreton 5-2 in 2011-12
(h) Histon 6-1 in 2010-11 (a)
(h) Mansfield 7-2 in 2010-11
(h) Lincoln 5-1 in 2008-09
(h) Barnet 5-0 in 2006-07
(a) Boston 6-0 in 2006-07
(h) Bury 5-1 in 2004-05
(h) Barnsley 6-1 in 2003-04
(h) Burnley 6-5 in 2002-03
(h) Wimbledon 6-2 in 2001-02
(h) Palace 5-2 in 2001-02
(h) Carlisle 6-0 (League Cup) in 1999-00
(h) West Brom 5-1 in 1998-99
(h) Oldham 5-0 (League Cup) in 1997-98
(h) Southend 5-1 in 1996-97
(h) Luton 7-1 (FA Cup) in 1995-96
(h) Luton 5-0 in 1994-95
(h) Bournemouth 5-0 in 1990-91
(h) Wrexham 5-1 in 1989-90
(h) Doncaster 5-0 in 1988-89
(h) York 5-1 in 1987-88
(h) Blackburn 5-2 in 1985-86
(h) Millwall 5-1 in 1985-86
(h) Cardiff 6-3 in 1984-85
(h) Huddersfield 5-1 in 1984-85
(h) Wolves 5-1 in 1984-85
(h) Rotherham 6-1 in 1984-85
(a) Middlesbrough 5-1 in 1984-85

Grimsby Town's 5+ goals conceded:
(a) Brighton (FA Cup) 0-5 in 2022-23
(a) Swindon 0-5 in 2022-23
(a) Tranmere 0-5 in 2020-21
(a) Chelsea 1-7 in 2019-20
(h) Doncaster 1-5 in 2016-17
(a) Crewe 0-5 in 2016-17
(a) Braintree 0-5 in 2011-12
(a) Lincoln 0-5 in 2005-06
(a) Oldham 0-5 in 2003-04
(a) Port Vale 1-5 in 2003-04
(a) Hartlepool 1-8 in 2003-04
(h) Burnley 6-5 in 2002-03
(a) Palace 0-5 in 2001-02
(h) Charlton 2-5 in 1999-00
(a) Sheff Wed (FA Cup) 1-7 in 1996-97
(a) Bolton 1-6 in 1996-97
(a) Watford 3-6 in 1995-96
(a) Palace 0-5 in 1995-96
(a) Forest 3-5 in 1993-94
(a) Leyton Orient 0-5 in 1988-89
(a) Fulham 0-5 in 1987-88
(a) Stoke 1-5 in 1986-87
(a) Plymouth 0-5 in 1986-87
(a) Stoke (FA Cup) 0-6 in 1986-87

Footnote: We also lost 5-2 at Walsall in 2016-17 but we have omitted this result from our figures because it was recorded in the obsolete pizza paint pot energy drink trophy.