Grimsby Town beat Solihull Moors 2-1 in the National League play-off final and earned their right to play in the EFL next season. It took an extra-time goal from substitute Jordan Maguire-Drew to put the Mariners into League Two after just one season in the fifth tier of English football.
Grimsby went into the game on the front foot. They controlled much of the first half and could have easily gone ahead had either one of two strong penalty appeals gone their way. In particular, a reckless challenge by Solihull’s Kyle Storer on John McAtee would have easily won a spot kick had VAR technology been in use.
All of which meant that Grimsby’s jubilant travelling army of fans were stopped in their tracks when Solihull Moors took the lead in the 45th minute. Solihull’s Joe Sbarra clipped in a lofty ball into the box that was simply headed home by their towering striker Kyle Hudlin.
However, Grimsby showed no lack of nerve after the half-time break and their efforts were suitably rewarded when their leading goalscorer, McAtee, coolly slotted home his 16th of the season following a stunning through-ball by Andy Smith.
From here, it was a gruelling search for a winner that eventually took the predictable route though extra-time. This was familiar territory for Grimsby who got the goal in the 111th minute. Jordan Cropper had a long throw-in into the Solihull box and when Andrew Dallas couldn’t clear it properly, the substitute, Maguire-Drew, got it over the line at the back post. While Solihull gave it their all in the final few minutes, Grimsby held firm and sealed their promotion.
Grimsby Town certainly didn’t make it easy on themselves in their bid to get back into the EFL. It took no less than three extra-time wins to make it through each one of their play-off matches.
The game in the quarter-finals saw Gavan Holohan scoring an equaliser in the 96th minute away at Notts County, before Mani Dieseruvwe scored the winner in the 119th minute.
But the true drama came in the semi-final against Wrexham. This was the game of the season at the Racecourse that the Mariners somehow won 5-4 despite the lead changing hands eight times. It had looked like it was going to penalties before Luke Waterfall gave Grimsby a stunning victory with his goal in the 119th minute.
It’s the spirit of the Mariners that took the team over the finish line. To come back and win against Notts County, Wrexham and Solihull was no mean feat, and it’s a testament to the manager, Paul Hurst, that they won promotion after just one season outside the EFL. Plus the fact that bitter rivals Scunthorpe United will replace them in the National League will make that victory so much sweeter.
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