In the aftermath of the Wembley ‘defeat’, I thought I’d package all my negativity and speculation, frustration and anti-referee sentiment, and package it in a nice little blog, to make you all want to kick your cat/puppy/missus/television/kicking receptacle of choice one more time (not that the Trust advocates violence), before moving onto a joyful summer holiday, possibly laughing at Hull City getting relegated, and regrouping for a thrilling 2015-16 season where GTFC win the Vanarama/however-labelled Conference, make new stadium progress and we all live happily ever after.

So, let’s start with the anti-Wembley, anti-Conference points:

1a.  The Ticket Farce

When you pay £36 or similar plus £4 booking fee, you expect a ticket the names your team on it SOMEWHERE, even as a belated afterthought.

The JPT ticket in 2008, after all the seat details, stated ‘Grimsby Town.’  I looked in the same place this time around….. it says….. No prizes for guessing the wording in the exact position that should say Grimsby Town.  You would not make this up; it says… ‘Subject to Booking Fee’.     The FA Trophy ticket from 2013 went proper insane and named both sides on the ticket. Fantastic, old-school ticketing.  This year’s ticket doesn’t even have the GTFC emblem on it, or indeed that of ANY conference side. If they were worried about timescales for printing , how difficult would it have been to print multiple sets of tickets with combinations of GTFC v BRFC, GTFC v FGR, etc… on, and only put for sale those of the 2 finalists?

1b. Wembley

Really, does it HAVE to be at Wembley every year? As great as the atmosphere was on the day and in the vicinity, imagine how great it could have been to have had a sell-out Villa Park, Elland Road, maybe Old Trafford even? Sick of Wembley. Every defeat there makes 1998 seem so distant. (It is – Ed.)


2. The referee

Ah, the refereeing decision is going to bug me for weeks. I know this because of the Scott Neilson incident last year. Perhaps it will bug me less if I write about it now. Maybe.  It was a red card offence committed by Rovers goalkeeper Puddy. At the time, those either side of me commented that they hoped it wouldn’t affect the result. But it did. How it did.

The selection of Ross Joyce for the Conference Final indicates that he was the best available referee in the Conference. Ha!  It was that bad a decision that he made that I don’t think they were allowed to show it in the half-time highlights/recap. As soon as the flag was raised by the linesman, everyone turned to each other; he’s given handball, it will be a red-card.  And it wasn’t. Why Ross? Why?

Looking at the reports online beyond thisisgrimsby or thefishy, or codalmighty, or bristol websites, and they all have a similar view of the incident.; ‘lucky not to be sent off’, the decision ‘kept the game alive as a contest’

Guardian: ‘Joyce generously produced a yellow card’ resorted to a guess; ‘the only reason can be that the incident happened on the corner of the edge of the area rather than straighter towards goal.’ It was outside of the area, denying a shot on goal, end of debate.

The thoughts of Ollie Palmer and of Paul Hurst have been well-documented too, while the Bristol Rovers boss says the football gods were smiling on them (so that obnoxious Eastleigh boss needs to eat his words about Grimsby getting all the big decisions). They certainly were; it should have been a red-card. Simple.  Denial of goal-scoring opportunity, plus deliberate handball outside the box.  So, red; if it had been, it would have been 1-0, against 10 men, and we have a record of seeing out close victories all season. Plus, the opposition would have brought on ‘keeper Steve Mildenhall 100 mins earlier, quite possibly for a striker, and hopefully the obnoxious play-acting Matty Taylor, who swung fists in the McKeown incident, but must have hit himself as he rolled around clutching his own face?

And although it’s unhelpful, even unhealthy to think this way, who knows what happens then?

Let’s do some guessing: firstly, we might have won in normal time.   Perhaps by scoring a second, perhaps by outnumbering at set pieces, or on the counter attack.  The point of a red card for that offence is to restore some balance to the loss of the goalscoring opportunity. If you deny the goal, you must leave the pitch, thus giving some compensation of sorts to your opposition. Puddy’s yellow card was meaningless, unless he raced out of goal and did it again.  Given the behaviour of the referee towards the aforementioned Taylor, who kicked, punched, dived and fouled and ended up with a yellow and a talking to, perhaps the ‘keeper could have played sweeper all day before seeing a second yellow……   Or another way around, if he DIDN’T handle the ball, it was goalward bound which would have been 2-0.

Secondly, if we win, EVERYTHING changes.  Those scenes at the game end. The penalty shoot out, the anguish on players’ and staff members’ faces. Well, there need not have been a shoot out Mr Joyce. Pittman walking back to halfway. McKeown on the floor. That Toto hug picture used by the Telegraph. The coach journey home is different. The next 12 months is different.  The last few days is different as even the retained list for GTFC is different.

But nevermind eh, because Ross Joyce didn’t want to ruin the game.  You ruined more than the game you cretin, you marred the day out, took the shine off the weekend, the season even.  Next time you have a red card decision to make Joyce, show the red card. Its really simple. Or maybe explain why you made the decision – I’ve not seen that explanation anywhere.

Anyway, that’s my ranting over; to be balanced, we didn’t win, we didn’t score enough goals, we didn’t defend one corner well enough, and they scored more penalties than we did. But we absolutely came closer this year than any year yet, and next season, it HAS to be our season, because we support the best team in this division, the best squad, the best fans, the best club.