Date: Sunday 8 February 2004 | Competition: Nationwide League Division Two | Venue: Boundary Park | Att: 13,007
Paul Groves’ reign as Grimsby Town manager had gotten off to a flying start in December 2001, with a rousing 3-1 victory over Portsmouth at Blundell Park.
Despite looking doomed at one point, Groves’ side rallied and finished the 2001/02 season in fine form, surviving against the odds in Division One.
The ITV Digital collapse meant the writing was on the wall for the Mariners in 2002/03, and it was no surprise when the club were relegated after an Easter Monday 2003 home defeat to Walsall.
But Mariners’ fans did expect their side to mount a serious bid for a return to the second tier in 2003/04, especially with a largely new-look squad assembled at Blundell Park.
That push never materialised and the 03/04 campaign was one of abject humiliation. Hammerings at Hartlepool, Port Vale and Wycombe meant that Groves was under massive pressure to hold onto his job. He needed a big result from a Sunday afternoon trip to Oldham.
Town’s visit to Boundary Park could not have come at a worse time. The Lactics had been taken over by new owners and to celebrate, they invited everyone to the ground for free! So, it was a sell-out crowd that greeted the Mariners on a bitterly cold day in Greater Manchester.
It was a party atmosphere inside Boundary Park and the Mariners were in a giving mood. Just nine minutes were on the clock when the hosts profited with their first of the afternoon.
Future Mariner Scott Vernon found space and time on the edge of the area, before curling an expertly-placed shot beyond Aidan Davison in the visiting goal.
Within seven minutes, Vernon had his second. Another future Mariner, Danny Boshell, strode through a static Town defence and laid off for the big striker to finish.
As the game approached the half-hour mark, Oldham added their third. A long throw was met by an acrobatic effort from full-back Adam Griffin, for the defender’s first senior goal.
Another seven minutes elapsed before number four arrived. The pace of Jermaine Johnson was too much for the Mariners’ defence to handle, and he strode away to stroke home past a despondent Davison.
Things got even worse for Groves’ men just one minute before the break. Johnson again outstripped the ailing Town defence, with Mike Edwards hauling the midfielder back as he burst through on goal – the resulting red card was insult to injury.
That there was still time for Vernon to complete his hat-trick from a Paul Murray cross was bordering on comedy. Not that the Town faithful took any humour from their side’s capitulation – indeed there were angry scenes in the away end at half-time as the Mariners’ fans attempted to make a hasty retreat.
Thankfully for them, Oldham eased up in the second half, not adding their sixth until five minutes from time when substitute Calvin Zola scored.
For Groves, it was the end of the line – one drubbing too many. For the Mariners, it was a sign of things to come, despite a late resurgence, they eventually endured a second successive relegation.
Groves was soon relieved of his duties as Grimsby Town manager, but bizarrely retained as a player. He was sent to Scunthorpe on loan, where former Mariners’ boss Brian Laws largely credited the midfielder with preserving the Iron’s Football League status.
Latics: Pogliacomi; Haining (Hall), Holden, Owen, Griffin; Murray, Sheridan (Eyres), Boshell, Johnson; Vernon (Zola), Eyre. Subs not used: Westwood, Cooksey
Mariners: Davison; Crowe, Edwards, Crane, Barnard; Campbell, Groves (Ford), Daws, Jevons (Anderson); Thorpe, Boulding. Subs not used: Hamilton, Onuora, Rowan.