The FA Cup giveth and taketh away. At half-time at Arbour Park on Sunday afternoon, your correspondent spotted firstly a teenage lad and subsequently an elderly gentlemen both sporting rather smart ‘Grimsby Town FA Cup Quarter Finalists 2022/23’ hoodies.
Neither would have been alive when the Ancient Mariners last reached the last eight of the competition back in 1939. Neither would have been entirely confident of Grimsby’s run – having played some seven FA Cup ties in 2022/23 – lasting beyond one game at that moment in time.
The Rebels of Slough Town currently sit in the Vanarama National League South relegation zone, but on the basis of their display against the EFL side there would seem more chance of Slough reaching the Cup quarter-finals themselves than of relegation to Step 3. Even when under considerable pressure in the second half, Scott Davies side were brave and fought hard. None more so than their inspirational player-manager, named as Man of the Match by the sponsors.
The Lincolnshire professionals looked slicker in the opening exchanges in the first half sunshine but there was an early clue as to how Davies side would get under the skin of the visitors in front of a ground record 2,205 crowd. Hard-working Bromley loanee George Alexander – son of free-scoring Orient, Millwall and Brentford striker Gary – charged down an early hesitant defensive clearance and the bounce of the ball 3G fell kindly for Mariners Harvey Cartwright to make a desperate clearance.
Slough Town – having suffered just one defeat in their last twelve League and Cup games going in to this tie against the League Two strugglers – grew in confidence as a first half that they dominated wore on. Former Bracknell Town man Dan Bayliss hit a goal bound bullet of a shot which was blocked by Danny Amos for the away side and Alexander saw a header tipped over by Cartwright. At the other end Grimsby captain Danny Rose headed over when well placed but a goal looked more likely to be coming at the other end. And just before the half hour mark Davies sent the Rebels into raptures.
Munashe Sundire was fouled some twenty-five yards from goal. Davies used manager’s prerogative to have a go at the dead-ball opportunity [anyone watching Football in Berkshire’s monthly Goal of the Month competition will know he’s pretty good at these – Ed] and he beat Cartwright all ends up with an absolute rocket. It should have been two at the break. Sundire’s cross from the left was met brilliantly by a stooping header by Alexander. Cartwright was beaten, but the far post wasn’t. The ball rebounded off the upright and away. It felt like a turning point five minutes before the break and so it turned out to be.
Slough Town have a punchers chance of making club history over the next month as they once again summon up the spirit of 1982 and 2004
Visiting supporters at half time seemed sombre and the gloomy mood of supporting a team which had just lost five matches in a row and had just sacked their manager was only lifted by a kick around behind the stand with a stray match ball. The Mariners fans began to find their vocal mojo as their side worked their way back into the tie, but before the inevitable equalizer came the most animated they got was over being asked by stewards to vacate a hatched-area designed to afford some sort of view to disabled fellow fans of their own team.
That equalizer when it came was a deserved one. Harry Clifton had gone close for Grimsby but dragged his shot wide, leaning back. Donovan Wilson shot wide and former Maidenhead United defender Temi Eweka headed a delicious in swinging cross from Kieran Green away from danger as the EFL side fought back to protect their pride and their place in the competition. Jamie Andrews was a fraction less deadly than Scott Davies, his free-kick from range hitting post and bar. Left-back Tyrese Dyce had to clear from his own goal line after Niall Maher had flicked on a dangerous cross from the Grimsby left.
A cross from long-serving Johnny Goddard was headed towards goal by Alexander but was deflected to safety by a Grimsby defender but any thoughts that Slough had weathered the storm were to be summarily dismissed within a minute as Rose swept home a cross from the dangerous Michee Efete inside the six-yard box with fifteen minutes left. Wilson flashed a header agonizingly wide for Grimsby in the first of eight minutes of injury time as referee Mr Atkinson had to make regular use of his yellow card in those tetchy final stages.
In the final analysis though, Slough Town will taketh an away replay at Grimsby Town on Tuesday week. Their name went into the hat for the Second Round draw. An away tie at high-flying EFL League One side Oxford United would be the next obstacle standing between the Rebels and a place in Round 3. No club has reached Round 2 on more occasions but failed to ever make it through to Round 3. Slough Town have a punchers chance of making club history over the next month as they once again summon up the spirit of 1982 and 2004.