😥 Former Mariners’ midfielder forced into early retirement

A former Grimsby Town midfielder has been forced to retire through injury at the age of 33.

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Grimsby’s Forgotten Upset – North Nods Middlesbrough Out at Ayresome

The FA Cup is renowned for its giant-killings and one of the tournament’s greatest ever upsets took place on 7th January 1989 when non-league Sutton defeated 1987 Cup Winners Coventry 2-1 at Ganders Green Lane.

And only that result could overshadow Fourth Division strugglers Grimsby travelling to top flight Middlesbrough and coming away with a 2-1 win thanks to a brace from Marc North. Whilst Sutton’s exploits are now part of FA Cup folklore, the Mariners’ goals are consigned to the archives and a short video clip on YouTube.

Here I take a look back at that famous win, one that deserves so much more credit than it receives. How tragic that both the Mariners’ heroes that day – North and Keith Alexander are regrettably no longer with us.

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Flashback | Grimsby Town 1 Halifax Town 1

Grimsby Town                  1        Halifax Town                   1
Football League Division Four | 28th October 1989 | Blundell Park | 4,021

The spoils were shared in this Division Four clash at Blundell Park as the Mariners and Shaymen drew one-apiece.

Injury problems for the home side meant that manager Alan Buckley was forced to hand an only start of the season to Steve Stoutt at left back and Paul Reece deputised for Steve Sherwood between the sticks.

Despite a good start to the season, the Mariners had been struggling to break teams down in recent weeks and they were not converting their superior possession into goals.

And that was the case as Halifax made the trip from West Yorkshire. Despite dominating the vast majority of the match, the Mariners had to settle for just the one goal through midfielder Shaun Cunnington.

It was particularly frustrating for manager Buckley, who had seen his troops pepper Lincoln City the week previous but only come away with a point thanks to Keith Alexander’s goal.

But for Halifax it was a point gained. At the time of the game they sat comfortably in mid-table but that would not last long and they dropped like a stone after New Year, only avoiding relegation to the Conference thanks to a disastrous season for Colchester United.

The Mariners moved in the other direction, stepping up several notches after New Year. Indeed, when the two teams met again at the Shay later in the season, Buckley’s side had one foot in Division Three.

They were eventually promoted with a game to spare, having thrashed Wrexham 5-1 at Blundell Park, thanks to a Garry Birtles’ hat trick.

Mariners: Reece; McDermott, Stoutt (Hargreaves), Tillson, Lever; Watson, Cunnington, Cockerill, Gilbert; Alexander (Willis), Birtles.