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Oh What A Night

By: Phillip Norton
Date: 03/05/2002

UNTIL the day I start to push up the daisies, I will always remember one date - October 9th 2001.

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This was the day that some fans have said saw the Mariners finest hour. It took place at that small, unknown and undaunting stadium called Anfield.

Well, okay, the last part of that statement was perhaps a little wrong, but I fully agree that the night in Liverpool was definitely one of the best in Town's history.

As a student based in Southampton, I don't get to see as many Town matches as I would like. However, despite the distance, this was one match I was determined not to miss. My Dad wasn't too sure, like many other fans, due to the poor run we were having and the fact that we lost 3-0 at that very stadium just a few seasons ago. It was that match which saw Michael Owen score his first pro hat-trick for the club.

"You'll get stuffed," said many of my southern, mostly Man Utd supporting (who else do they support down here?) friends. The difference was that the boy Owen was injured. I had a sneaky feeling about this match.

And so my family were persuaded. The tickets were bought and I planned my journey. I stood at Southampton Central Station waiting for the 9.50am train north not realising what the rest of the day had in store.

It had gone 3pm by the time I arrived at Leeds to be met by my family and to continue the journey à la M62 with the rest of the black and white army who were once again on the march. Memories of the trips down the A1 to Wembley surfaced as we had the occasional wave and toot from other hopeful fans.

The stadium was as magnificent as ever. To see the Mariners play at such a world stage fills every fan with pride. To see and be among 6,000 Grimsby fans facing the Kop and equalling their wall of noise is breathtaking.

I had told myself before the game, to avoid any disappointment like I have experienced before, to just be happy if we managed to get a goal. After all, it was almost a full-strength Liverpool team we were playing. That was all I wanted. If we lost, it would be a shame. Understandable perhaps, but still a shame. However, if we just got one goal, I would be happy.

Most of the game is a bit of a blur to me. I remember getting down to those sore bits on my nails through nerves quite soon. The only bits I see in my head usually involves Danny Coyne making another dive to keep the ball out of the net. I don't know how it didn't go in. Whether the Reds were nervous too I don't know. All I can say is that the person who wrapped their goal in industrial strength cling film did an excellent job!

By half time it was still 0-0. Things were surprisingly good. At least we were still level anyway and we were all having a good night.

Then we kicked off again. More of a blur exists until about the 75th minute when it was still 0-0 and I started preparing myself for the last minute Liverpool goal to really spoil the night. I have seen similar things happen many times before. Perhaps it was to be one of those nights.

The clock ticked on. 77,78,79,80,81... still no goals. In fact, Town were playing well. They had a few chances but I only remember one really threatening us. Besides, we were having a couple of chances of our own.

By now the ends of my fingers were really sore. I waited for that awful roar as half of Merseyside celebrates a goal. But it didn't come. And the whistle went. We had done it. Half of North East Lincolnshire roared as the realisation of holding Liverpool to a goal-less hit home. The roar was followed by an almost stunned hush. We now had extra-time to contend with. When it kicked off, I don't think I had been as nervous since the awful Wembley golden goal experience. All this at a time when there are no more nails to bite and you know that your fingers are already horribly sore for the next few days.

The blur then clears into the shape of Gary McAllister looming over the penalty spot in front of the Town fans. This was it. We were out of the cup. Our dream of beating Liverpool was shattered. Try as we might to distract him, he never misses. And he didn't. That was it. Goodnight Vienna, finished, out.

Oh well, it had been an experience and a great night I though to myself. Silly me, I should have known!

Up stepped Marlon Broomes after the half-time turnaround to put us level again. Up went the roof of the away fans stand as 6,000 black and white clad fans erupted. What an amazing time to score. Liverpool looked defeated. Town looked victorious.

Whatever happened now was fine. I had seen what I wanted to see. I had cheered like I wanted to cheer. If we made it to penalties, even better. But surely, we couldn't win this. Could we?

I should have read more Roy of the Rovers when I was younger. If I had, it may not have come as such a shock to me when I saw little Phil Jevons lining up a shot from miles out in the last minute.

Up the ball went into the air. That was it I thought, the ball seemingly flying over the bar in front of me. But then the net moved. The ball had hit the top corner of it - inside the goal!

A nanosecond of stunned silence was followed by a roar which probably sickened the life out of scousers everywhere. I will never forget the faces in the crowd as I cheered and cheered until my throat was sore. We had done the impossible. We had beaten Liverpool.

As the whistle went just a few moments later, Town fans serenaded the departing scousers with You'll Never Walk Alone. Considering some Town fans had booed the Kop when they sang it before the game, Liverpool fans were seen to stand and clap in admiration of the Black and White army who for one night were allowed to adopt their anthem. This was one night to remember so we made the most of it.

On the way back to the car, many Liverpool fans shook our hands and congratulated us. Some little scumbag gave myself and my Dad a punch near the car, but even that failed to spoil our night. Besides, it didn't hurt that much. Either that or the adrenaline which was running through myself and every Town fan prevented me from feeling anything!

On the M62 we stopped at one of the services. Just as we were about to leave, the player's coach pulled in. Every supporter in the car park got out of their car and gave a standing ovation to the team which was acknowledged by the players.

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