Armed with a loaded Tesco carrier bag (Scrumpy Jack) we left for the Capital from Barnetby on the 8:53, for what turned out to be an unforgettable away day. A good old east fixture to banish the nightmare of my last away day at Stevenage.
The door to optimism started to close before the game had even started. I was spooked on the train to Kings Cross by a time bandit. Well she was a vertically challenged lady of the Warwick Davies mould, to make things worst she left a floater in the toilet. Anyhow, the tune “don’t worry, be happy as every little thing will be alright” brought me back to reality as I was more than content with our position in the Football League. Somehow my balance wasn’t itself as we got off the train at Kings Cross. The sun was shining as the fishermen reached the big smoke and it wasn’t a day for yellow macs or woolly hats, instead the youth attire was ideal. Little did I know, the away end would resemble a scene from the Peaky Blinders with ubiquitous flat caps.
A lot had been said beforehand about the ‘O’s’ imminent winding up order by HMRC. As is the case with London, it’s a tale of two cities, but this was even more apparent with the tube stop prior to Leyton, Stratford the home to West Ham and their soulless Olympic stadium. However, I’m sure any football fan would want Brisbane Road on their wish list. How times had changed in 12 months, at Wembley last year we were ambushed by Out political activists but now on Leyton high street the gentry were out campaigning to Remain.
Not since my visit to Welling a few years ago had I walked into a boozer and felt so happy. The Coach and Horses was rammed with the Grimsby faithful and it wasn’t long before the flags were up and the vocal chords were being tested. The name should have been changed to the Garrison Arms as a coach load of Grimsby boys had commemorated the day by sporting flat caps for the day that ultimately contributed to this hedonistic away day. Rumour had it that our Belgium supporters club were also on their way.
Now for the football. After 5 minutes or so the word on the terrace was that we were still in the game. It was good to see Dom Voz and Dizza on the pitch, Voz arguably the most gifted footballer at the Club and Dizza the bravest Mariner since my late Grandad, he also had a cracking ginger beard. A great start, after 7 minutes Sam Jones leapt the highest and looped the ball into the net, I’m sure he’ll score many. This left the hymn books open for the rest of the day. Like many recent games we sit back after going one-up but kept ‘us’ shape as the former Yorkshire gaffer would have said. I’m just a fan, so what would I know but the first half suffered from this approach. However, the fans created an atmosphere off the pitch that was pure heaven. But on the pitch,what stood out was the poor distribution from our keeper who often gave the ball back to Orient or put defenders under pressure.
Half-time came and it wasn’t only Orient’s bank account that had dried up, down in the concourse – I do like that word, no beer was available as their account with the local brewery was on stop. The ground still retained some tradition as the loos were al fresco, this didn’t have an impact on the nearby catering, pies still went down the hatch. I’m sure I’d overdone the five-a-day as I was embracing acquaintances with hugs and goodwill. It got worst in the second half as I kissed a grown man after Vernon scored. Must have been the atmosphere.
As expected, Orient came at us in the second half but they struggled to test Macca with their east end blitz. In the second half we had the pleasure of being with the Belgium and Shelby boys. They were exceptional, and it was a pleasure to see the Grimsby fans warm to them as they carried their flag across the terrace. Before I left I shook as many of their hands as I could. The atmosphere was electric and a rendition of Wonderwall by Oasis fuelled the fans and players alike. The game changer for me was the introduction of Asante, he looked fitter than ever and set-up the second for Jones who unleashed a power shot on the goal that was deflected in the net like a pinball wizard. Confidence began to flow, some intricate touches and classy football. Even the fans assured Orient, everything was going to be all right. Then the best moment of the match, Dizza with his brave charge forward and weighted lob over their defence to Scott Vernon. He volleyed it across the keeper into the right hand corner, he doesn’t score many but when he does they are good. That was it, 3 nil and 3 points. Arguably the finest performance from Bignot’s boys and an away day that will be relived to the next generation of Grimsby fans.