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|Them were the days|
The Naughty Nineties - Part 3
By: Chris Smith
A FREE spending Blackburn team were next to BP and raced into a 3 0 lead in front of 10,000 fans. A certain Clive Mendonca, on loan, and Shaun Cunnington pulled two back but couldn't quite equalise in an excellent game. Rovers would win the Premier League three years later.
A 1-1 draw at Millwall was notable for our late arrival, not bad for someone who lived about ten miles away. The problem was the excellent Market Porter at London Bridge, the bar on the platform and the odd pub on the way to the ground. That would have been the Old Den. I think the lads who used to stand on the hillock overlooking the ground with bags full of tinnies had the right area. I think I saw Tony Rees score very early on as I got in only for Millwall to equalise very late. I wondered how I was sussed as a Town fan on the way out by a home fan who said " unlucky Grimsby" (referring to the result rather than my imminent death) until I realised my donkey jacket had ceased to be de rigueur in London about a generation previously.
Four home points ensued against Southend and Swindon before a trip to Bristol City, another favoured London Mariner awayday. No trip to Drizzle was complete without a trip to the Castle on the Green which did good alcohol to suit all as well as top nosh if you like curry/chilli and generally blokish stuff. Hilton, a previously Stevenage based Mariner but working in Reading, had a mate at Bristol University who knew all the best boozers in Bristol. Hilton still goes to Town games and was at Rushden a few weeks ago. That’s loyalty for someone with absolutely no connections to Grimsby and who picked us as a team to follow by sticking a pin in the Division 2 table in the 1980s.
Ironically, eight years later, I was sharing a taxi to an NA meeting at Bristol Royal Infirmary and as we went near the river, I'd be undiplomatically pointing out each pub and saying "been there, know that one, been there, great place.." Not the best thing to be saying when half of us had just got over the DTs or were rattling with drug withdrawal. Chris doesn't like remembering this (thumb down). By the way, I hope you are all taking notes about these pubs for our return to the League.
A midweek game at Upton Park saw us score three against Charlton in about five minutes to go 3 0 up before winning 3 1. The Charlton goalkeeper had a strange routine before taking kicks which led to the "you do the shake ‘n’ vac to get the freshness back" chant in homage to a s*** advert of the time. Smith, Rees and an own goal for the record. This left us around 17th in the table and looking nervously over our shoulders.
When Town played games around here, we'd normally go to Rob Moss’ local in Forest Gate and sing on the bus on the way there and back. I don't think continuing the advert theme every time we passed a Pizza Hut or similar went down well as every other building there is a fast botulism outlet.
Three consecutive 1 0 home defeats followed, including a rearranged game against Leicester. We did draw against Newcastle, themselves in a relegation scrap, but Kevin Sheedy cancelled out Cunnington’s goal. I was to miss several games as I was working on ships for two weeks. We lost 3 1 at Southend as I sailed to St Malo drinking gratis French beer but had a big 2 1 win at Plymouth, who were to go down, before we lost at home to Bristol Rovers and Derby.
The worst performance of the season was at Portsmouth where we didn't muster an attack all game in a 2 0 defeat where AB had employed a diamond formation. I've written elsewhere about how good a day out Portsmouth was (except for results) The way they are going, we'll at least be going back soon.
A vital home win over Sunderland preceded a midweek visit to champions-elect Ipswich. An impressive Town following celebrated their team’s impressive rearguard action with chants of "we've come to spoil your party" throughout. We nearly didn't make the game as someone had boxed Rob’s car in whilst he was at work and I seriously considered trashing it to get it out of our way. I was nice like that.
We missed a good opportunity to make things safe (sound familiar) at home to Watford, a game I missed thankfully due to a family wedding. I listened to the results on the radio in horror as I realised that not only could we go down, but Sheffield Wednesday could still win the First Division title. The following Tuesday, we lost at Middlesbrough and our survival depended on our result at Port Vale, themselves in the mire.
On the final day, the standings with points and goal difference were:
Grimsby 50 -16
Newcastle 49 -19
Plymouth 48 -20
Oxford 47 -8
Brighton 47 -19
Port Vale 45 -16
Tommy Watson scored early for Town at Port Vale which put us in pole position, much to the delight of our impressive travelling support. Brighton thankfully lost to champions Ipswich. Newcastle won at fourth placed Leicester and Oxford won at Tranmere. However, Plymouth had a home game against Blackburn who rediscovered their form to make the play offs, having lost six on the trot a month earlier. Plymouth were easily beaten and the importance of our win there a few weeks earlier became even clearer. Town finished five points clear of relegation and in 19th place. Had we lost and either Plymouth or Brighton won, we'd have gone down.
Just to round off a good day, I heard that Brentford had won 1 0 at Peterborough to win the Division Three championship and set up a game three miles from where I lived next season. I'd seen some good games there (between Grimsby’s travails) with just a 4 3 home defeat to Bradford to tarnish matters.
The Port Vale fans ran over to congratulate us and even threw some money at us to buy ourselves drinks though the 2p coin that hit my forehead wouldn't have gone far. I actually thought someone had clouted me but at least I saw stars for the first time at a Town game.
Unfortunately, we'd parked a fair way from the ground and didn't like our odds in the fighting outside so went back in the ground and went out through the home end whilst their fans were busy congratulating their failures on a lap of honour. Apart from having to back up against a few walls to avoid the attention of home hooligans looking for trouble outside, we made it back without any problems.
We'd survived on and off the pitch! Good season? You bet!
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