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Remember, Remember The 16th Of February!

By: Richard Lord
Date: 15/04/2002

IT might just have been a normal 1-0 win at the time, but the victory over Sheffield United at Blundell Park on February 16 sparked off Grimsby's 'great escape' run of just two defeats in 12 games.

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Amassing 22 points along the way it saw Paul Groves' men secure First Division football next season with a game to spare. The 36 year old took over as manager of Grimsby Town when we had 22 points from 26 games.

After an initial win over Portsmouth in his first game in charge, it kept the Mariners within touching distance of safety. Draws against Barnsley and West Brom in the New Year kept Town in the bottom three.

Then three poor results in a four-game spell left Grimsby six points adrift of 21st place. The Mariners had the second poorest goal difference in the entire league. A home defeat to Bradford and an away defeat at Watford left Town staring relegation in the face.

Then something amazing happened.

A week on after the dejected 2-0 defeat on regional television, Stuart Campbell scored a far post header to give Grimsby three points. Despite moving on to 31 points after the victory, it still left Town six points short because of other results.

A week of speculation finally ended with the news that Charlton pair Andy Todd and Martin Pringle were signed on loan for a month. They both made their debuts in the 0-0 draw at Forest when the Mariners reduced the six-point gap to five.

Three days on saw the visit of Stockport County, and despite the injury to Pringle, Town went on to record a 3-1 win. Signs of a dramatic escape were there to see more than ever after a 5-2 demolition of Crystal Palace the following weekend.

A 2-1 defeat at Gillingham in midweek was a hard pill to swallow after Town had narrowed the gap to just one point, and they had the perfect chance to emerge from the bottom three at home to Walsall.

But that wasn't to be as the struggling midlands club came from two goals down to snatch two points away from the Mariners. However, Grimsby were still within touching distance of safety, but they were no clearer from the Saddlers, which opened up the relegation run in now with more teams than ever competing to stay in the division.

Perhaps the most impressive result of them all was what came next. After keeping Wolves quiet in the first half, Town grabbed a late winner through Andy Todd to take back three points from Molineux.

For the first time since before Christmas, Grimsby were out of the bottom three. They were able to build on this with a 6-2 win over the form team of the division Wimbledon.

17 points had been taken from just eight games and this successful sequence had clawed back the six-point deficit to leave the Mariners five points clear of relegation.

Town's good form was briefly interrupted with a 4-0 defeat by Birmingham, but a 0-0 home draw against fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday on April Fools Day kept Grimsby well and truly in the scrap for survival.

And after four minutes at Norwich City Town were 1-0 down. All their hard work against Wolves, Palace, Stockport and Wimbledon was threatening to be undone. However, Terry Cooke scored a priceless equaliser late on to earn a point.

That point meant Town realistically needed just a win from their last two games to survive and a first half goal blitz from Boulding and Allen secured a 3-1 win over Burnley to give the Mariners 50 points for the season.

Now Grimsby go into the last game of the season at Millwall already assured of Division One football for next season. The run stemming from February 16 is attributable for that.

It's hard to say which result out of the past 12 games was most important. The 1-0 win over Wolves was the most impressive, and the high-scoring wins over Palace and Wimbledon were notable, but for me the 1-0 win over Sheffield United was the one.

It was from that game that the Mariners built up a succession of excellent results, both home and away, to guarantee safety with time to spare. It could be argued that we have had a helping hand along the way - but we are in this division next season on merit.

Thank you Stuart Campbell for getting the ball rolling.

That's not to say that the rest of the team haven't contributed, because they have. It would be unfair to single any one player out from the rest, but for obvious reasons Paul Groves has worked his socks off both on and off the field to get us where we are now.

To the management team, players and staff, we salute you!

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