Mariners’ fighting spirit sinks Notts County


Notts County’s playoff form continued to haunt them on Monday evening, as they crashed out of the National League playoff race at the first hurdle to Grimsby Town.

The Mariners came back from a one goal deficit to force extra time before substitute Mani Dieseruvwe stunned the Meadow Lane home crowd with a wining goal in the dying minutes with penalties on the horizon.

Notts could only have themselves to blame having gifted Grimsby a last gasp opportunity in the 95th minute of normal time after Nottingham Forest loanee Jayden Richardson’s needless foul on the edge of his own penalty area that offered Paul Hurst’s men a last lifeline.

With goalkeeper Max Crocombe sent up in desperation, the homes side failed to deal with the far post delivery. A scramble ensued as Luke Waterfall managed to head back across goal as Gavan Holohan applied the finishing touch which was no more than the visitors deserved.

After a spirited showing over the 90 minutes, Grimsby had taken the initiative to Notts in the opening exchanges and were unlucky not to have open the scoring through Erico Sousa, but the midfielder could only head wide of Sam Slocombe’s goal following a superb delivery from Danny Amos’ cross.

After a slow start, Notts began to exert greater influence on the game which coincided with the disappointment of losing Callum Roberts to injury. His replacement Eli Sam, a giant of a striker, offered the hosts a new dimension up top that caused the Grimsby defence some concern with his hold up play and willing running.

Notts came closest to breaking the deadlock before the interval. Some excellent work by Richardson saw him cut inside onto his left foot having stretched the Grimsby backline with strong running from deep. His in-swinging cross deserved better as Ruben Rodrigues, with the goal that his mercy, could only direct his diving header wide of goal.

Sam continued to pose questions in the second period and only a superb last ditch challenge from Waterfall prevented him from getting on the score sheet. Following a neat one-two move with strike partner Kyle Wootton, the big striker bore down on goal only to be denied at the crucial moment by the covering Mariners skipper.

Rodrigues continued to ask questions of the Grimsby defence and it was the attacking midfielder’s ability to carve an opportunity out of nothing which brought the opener. Ghosting into the Grimsby box, his shot at goal was adjudged to have been handled by Jordan Cropper, leaving referee Sonny Gill in no doubt but toward a penalty. Rodrigues dispatched the spot kick, sending Crocombe the wrong way.

From that point on, the Meadow Lane crowd got right behind their side but Notts struggled to manage the game out as more unforced errors plagued their evening. Notts had been guilty throughout proceedings of sloppy play and they continued to invite pressure, giving away needless throw-ins, possession and free kicks.

The naivety of Richardson’s push in the final minute summed up Notts evening as they struggled to see the game out when Grimsby appeared to be running out of steam with top scorer John McAtee already substituted. They turned out to be inspired changes, particularly through the arrival of Dieseruvwe.

With 2000 travelling fans sent into dreamland with their last gasp equaliser, they had the momentum as the game went into extra time. With the game destined to go to penalties, Notts once again conceded a needless free kick and having failed to heed the warning of the first goal, Dieseruvwe pounced for an almost carbon copy to send the away fans into raptures.

Given the recent flurry of pitch invasions, the Grimsby fans remained in their allocated area to enjoy the winner and the full time celebrations which followed.

Paul Hurst was delighted with his sides performance as they now look ahead to their semi final against Wrexham on Saturday.

“It’s a huge task, there is no going away from that. They (Wrexham) have got a prolific strike-force, they’ll be keen to get over the disappointment of Sunday (losing to Bromley in the FA Trophy) and the big goal for them is to get promotion. We’ll go there as big underdogs, bigger underdogs than tonight, but we’ll give it our all.”

Notts manager Ian Burchnall, reflecting on the defeat, was disappointed in the manner in which his side had handed the impetus back to Grimsby but remained optimistic that they can continue to build despite the setback.

“We really wanted to get out of this league this season, it wasn’t to be, so now we have to put the foundations in place for the future.

“We were seconds away. I was a bit unsure where he got six minutes from, but still we have to defend for the six minutes and we gave a needless free-kick away in a dangerous area and they put everybody forward, it was chaos, and we couldn’t quite see it out.”

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