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VAR Helps Grimsby Make History
By: Rob Sedgwick
Date: 01/03/2023 (Last updated: 02/03/2023)
IN a year of extraordinary highs and sensational games, Town possibly topped the lot with a 2-1 away win at Southampton in the FA Cup 5th Round. The Mariners, who have beaten higher league opposition in all 5 rounds, reached the quarters for the first time in 84 years.
Grimsby were, of course, a top-flight side in the 1930s so their FA Cup exploits were not on a par with today's achievements where Town have reached the last four from League Two where they had to enter at Round 1.
The Mariners rode their luck on occasions tonight and had VAR decisions at both ends of the pitch go their way. But their never say die attitude and indefatigable team spirit saw them get over the line cheered on by 4500 supporters, in contrast to Southampton fans who couldn't be bothered to turn up despite the low ticket prices.
Southampton rested several first-team players, mindful of the priority of the weekend's game against Leicester, but still fielded a side which should be comfortably able to take on opposition from 3 leagues below. Paul Hurst made just one change, replacing cup-tied George Llloyd with Danilo Orsi, who did so well in the Blundell Park match with Luton. John McAtee was unable to play against Luton, but started the game in this round, playing just behind Orsi.
Town started quite nervously and survived a few early exchanges. Waterfall made an early mistake, but Crocombe made a save from Mara to keep Town in it. The Mariners gradually found their feet though and the game settled into a pattern of long spells of defending with the occasional Grimsby attack.
Mara looked to have given Southampton the lead but his goal was ruled offside by the linesman, although it was more of a defensive lapse that Grimsby got away with than gaining an advantage by being offside.
Town had created very little in the way of chances but a rare break down the right saw Emmanuel get a ball into the box. It struck Lyanco's hand which was not spotted by the officials but was spotted by VAR while Town were lining up for a corner. After a long delay and a TV consultation by the referee, the decision was a penalty and Holohan (plan C from the spot) stepped up to score in front of a half-empty home stand.
Halftime came and the Grimsby relay team won the interval competition in what proved to be a metaphor for the whole match. The Mighty Mariner stormed into a 1st leg lead before Southampton came back and looked to have won it by the final runner, who had to score a goal to complete the relay. The last Southampton runner dribbled the ball slowly to the goal and struck a soft shot that was heading goalwards, only to be overtaken by the Grimsby ball which had been shot harder from a greater distance and landed first in the net in front of the joyful Grimsby supporters.
Although they lead 1-0 with Southampton having the firepower they did on the bench, it looked like a very long 45 minutes to hang on to a 1 goal margin. Town were in dreamland straight after the break though when they got a second penalty when Caleta-Car struck out at Orsi. Holohan stepped up and scored again to give Grimsby a 2-0 lead, something more defendable, especially with no replay.
The match settled into a pattern of Southampton pressure, lots of defending, blocks, challenges and missed chances, especially from Mara who could have had a hat trick on another night.
Caleta-Car finally scored from one of Southampton's chances, unmarked at a corner to make it a more respectable 2-1 scoreline, and a second goal looked only a matter of time.
Town had struggled to get their forward players into the game, but McAtee started to feature more with the Saints committing players forward and had a couple of half chances to put Grimsby 3-1 up. However it was Southampton who were next to "score" when sub Theo Walcott struck with a brilliant finish from a quickly taken free kick, but it was disallowed late again through VAR, with the players lined up in the centre circle to restart the game.
The second VAR decision seemed an omen that it might be Town's night after all, and so it proved. The Saints peppered Town with shots but the Mariners hung on for a famous victory.
There was certainly an element of fortune in the win, but that's what makes football such a fascinating game. There is no way that Grimsby "should" have won this game but they did. It was partly down to heroic defending, with Crocombe not having that many saves to make, shots off target and a helping hand from VAR.
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