THE MARINERS 1
DATE: 13.05.98 | COMPETITION: Nationwide Division Two Play Off Semi Final Second Leg
The Mariners and Brewers met in Grimsby’s last Football League encounter to-date but Burton manager Paul Peschisolido has less-fond memories of Blundell Park. One such occasion when the former Canadian striker played in Cleethorpes was a great night for the Mariners but a torrid occasion for the man himself.
A star-studded Fulham side travelled north to Blundell Park for the second leg of the Division Two Play Offs in May 1998. The two sides had drawn 1-1 at Craven Cottage the previous Saturday, yet the bookmakers still made Kevin Keegan’s men favourites.
They had good reason; even after losing the talents of Paul Moody and Peter Beardsley up front (to suspension and injury); the Cottagers could call on nearly eight-million pounds worth of talent, as the fledgling days of Mohammed Al-Fayed’s takeover looked to bring instant success.
It was a balmy spring night on the East Coast. Mariners’ fans packed all four corners of Blundell Park, with the visitors only taking up a small portion behind the Osmond End goal; nearly 9,000 had crammed their way into the old stadium and they were in for a nail-biting night.
It was a tense opening from both sides with no one wanting to give an inch. Chances were few and far between as the two sides battled for midfield dominance but the game would swing Town’s way on the half hour mark.
The Mariners won a free kick in their own penalty area for a push by future Town star Tony Thorpe on John McDermott. Aidan Davison rolled the free kick out to Peter Handyside around 30 yards from his own goal. The big Scot launched the ball forward and was then floored with an almighty thud after a late challenge from Peschisolido.
Referee Clive Wilkes had no hesitation in sending the frontman off, much to the chagrin of his teammates. The ball was now very much in the Mariners’ court.
Fulham were not to be discounted though; they had comprehensively outplayed the Mariners in the league outing between the clubs at Blundell Park in the January, Town scraping a 1-1 draw.
With this in mind, the Cottagers limited Alan Buckley’s (above right) side to just one clear-cut chance in the half. Lee Nogan wriggling free from his marker and bearing down on goal, only to see Northern Irish International Maik Taylor smother his effort just before the break.
Town continued to probe just after the interval. Jack Lester was beginning to find his groove and he found space in the area but couldn’t squeeze his shot into the goal. Lester then turned provider for the onrushing Kevin Donovan but the Mariners’ top scorer couldn’t beat Taylor.
The visitors were not to be outdone though and veteran Paul Bracewell stung the palms of Davison from long distance. The onus was on Town though, but the Fulham defence was proving to be a formidable obstacle.
Enter Buckley with a tactical master switch. There were just 16 minutes remaining when the physical presence of Steve Livingstone was thrown into the equation for Tony Gallimore. The Mariners went 4-3-3 – Dave Smith reverting to left back, Livingstone taking up a position between Lester and Nogan. The big frontman would play a massive part in the goal.
Wayne Burnett picked the ball up in midfield and worked himself some space. Looking up for the killer ball, the former Huddersfield man clipped the pass into Livingstone who dummied cleverly, taking a defender with him. The ball ran perfectly for Donovan (left), who had ghosted from right to left, to run onto and slot past the previously impregnable Taylor.
Blundell Park came unglued and was shook to the rafters as Donovan slid in front of the acclaiming Main Stand fans. The Mariners had booked their second trip to Wembley in five weeks. Promotion would be secured with victory over Northampton in the Play Off Final.
TOWN: Davison, McDermott, Gallimore (Livingstone), Handyside, Lever, Burnett, Donovan, Smith, Nogan (Black), Lester, Groves. Sub not used: Jobling
FULHAM: Taylor, Lawrence, Brevett, Trollope, Coleman, Morgan, Hayward, Bracewell, Peschisolido, Thorpe, Collins (Brooker). Subs not used: Blake, Smith