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The View From The Pontoon: Part Two Contd

By: Alex Ramsden
Date: 30/03/2015 (Last updated: 31/01/2018)

AS the crucial Easter double-header approached, the club was still mired in the battle for the drop. A huge win over Accrington Stanley on the 5th of April saw the club keep pushing Barnet all the way.

2-0 down, things look bleak but a stunning second-half comeback, inspired by a brilliant free-kick from Michael Coulson changed the mentality of the entire team and Stanley simply fell apart.

Jamie Devitt and Ashley Chambers scored the other two goals as Woods' nous in the loan market was seen to be rather good. All three goalscoring heroes were temping at Blundell Park and, in the case of Devitt, he looked a real find since arriving on loan from rivals Hull City.

This was followed by a tense 1-0 win in Hereford thanks to another goal from the tricky Devitt. These two wins were encouraging and showed that the team did have fight left. This was a team that represented a town of stubborn old folks and had spent years fighting oppression and decay. We would not go down without a fight. The home game with Chesterfield followed, a great chance to earn nine point out of nine in a glorious Easter period.

Nearly 6,000 people crammed in to see the Mariners play some excellent football and thanks to a first goal for the club from striker Tommy Wright then another from the ever improving Akpa Akpro, we were in dreamland. 2-0 up and looking comfortable. This was my first-ever night game and the atmosphere was so much different. The intensity of the singing, the beautiful spectacle of fine rain coming down at that unique seafront angle sparkling in the late night floodlights. It was a sight to behold as the brothers and sisters of the Black and White Army were in arms, cheering their team on to greater glories.

Then, we showed our true colours. The very reason we were in this desperate situation in the first place as we allowed former Town icon and all-round goal getter, Jack Lester, to score two quick-fire goals on his old stomping ground to draw 2-2. This was a match we should have won, we were the better team but two mistakes had cost us dear.

Was this the first nail in our relegation coffin?

With only four more matches to go and two at home we knew that we needed to win them all to be certain of safety or else have to rely on teams around us. A real glimmer of hope was that we had to play fellow strugglers Torquay, already-relegated Darlington and then our old foes, the only side we could realistically catch- Barnet in the final home tie of the season. It was to be tense, nail-biting, anxious and frustrating all in equal measure.

I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

The 17th of April 2010 is a date that will be forever ingrained in my mind. The day we effectively lost our proud league status. The hard work that had gone into our decent Easter showing was torn up and stamped on by the Gulls from the English Riviera. It's a long trip from Torquay to Cleethorpes but their fans came in good numbers for this make-or-break clash. Like us, they had been in this battle for a lot of the season but a good run of recent form meant that a win here would ensure Football League survival for another season. We'd beaten them 2-0 on their own ground earlier in the season but that win proved to be an unlucky omen as we then embarked on our 25 match winless run. Once again the omens were not looking good. I am a religious man. I worship the Gods of Football. For whatever reason they refused to beam down their black and white rays of light onto my particular church. I lost all faith in the Gods of Football on this day.

So, I straight away joined in the clapping, singing and jeering as the teams lined up for the pre-match handshake. A dire first forty-five showed the two clubs to be the struggling sides that they were. With gorgeous renditions of 'You Fill Up My Senses' and 'Neil Woods' Black and White Army' we were underway with the second-half.

This goes down as the worst performance I have seen in my near two decade-long association with my beloved club.

Listless, gutless, talentless, the list is endless.

This team let the fans down- big time. A 3-0 defeat more or less condemned us to life outside of the Football League for the first time in a century. Credit to the opposition, they were safe. They had shown heart and pride to win the game and were deserving of their place in the elite 92. Only a miracle (and three wins out of three with Barnet dropping all of their points) could keep us up.

A 2-0 win over bottom club Darlington in their empty, massive stadium was the perfect tonic to the Torquay debacle. It looked like, in Akpa Akpro, we had our own versatile, stylish striker that was capable of the sublime one-minute and the stupid the next. His goal coming after on loan defender Olly Lancashire had opened the scoring.

Next up, Barnet in the biggest game in Grimsby Town FC's long, distinguished history as a league club. They had a game in hand on us, so only a win would keep us in the league until the final day. In front of over 7,000 people and the Sky Sports News commentary team, we needed to put in a good performance and win the game at any cost. To this day, I regret missing out. I couldn't get a ticket and bunking was out of the question due to the capacity of the ground meaning I would never have found a seat. I watched from my Nana's front room as we were glued to the screen, regular updates from Soccer Saturday analyst Bryn Law were all good. A wonder goal from Rob Atkinson put us in front in the first-half.

The close proximity of my Nana's house (Brereton Avenue way on) to the ground meant that if you stood outside, you could hear the almighty machismo of the home crowd. The surrounding streets erupted with cheers of delirium after Atko had delivered the goods. Now we had to hold on and see the game out.

Mark Hudson raced clear of the Barnet defence and drilled the ball calmly into the corner. The most relaxed man in Cleethorpes ran into the onrushing crowd that had spilled out onto the pitch. Hudson was lifted up and paraded around the turf as a hero. 2-0. We were still in it. We were still up for it. We still had the biggest week of our lives to go. I remember neither me or my Granddad saying anything when we heard the news of the second goal, we merely laughed, cheered and probably even cried. This football lark does crazy things to emotions. People talk about love and how it makes people do stupid things, you haven't seen your team restore the shattered pride on a day when nothing else mattered. Everywhere in the region, men's hearts bled with joy. Women were swung into the air and kids slid on their knees in celebration. What a day! This feeling of pure elation was prickled slightly by the sudden realisation that I had missed out on witnessing history.

Ah, never mind.

So, we had survived the first obstacle. There were only two more two go. Two of the highest, hardest and toughest obstacles on the Football League gauntlet. Firstly, we needed Barnet to lose their game in hand, a Tuesday night encounter with Accrington, then we needed to go to Burton Albion and win all the while hoping Barnet lost to Rochdale. It sounds simple when you put it like that.

The Crown Ground in Accrington was half-filled with the Mariners travelling army and everybody in the town became honorary Accies. I remember seeing the coverage on Sky Sports and hearing the Grimbarians chanting and singing along all game as Stanley did us a massive favour by winning 1-0. That was the second hurdle jumped.

Those that were not travelling to Staffordshire sat at home or in the pub listening out for the two key results, Barnet-Rochdale and our debut at the Pirelli Stadium, Burton-upon-Trent.

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