Lee Mansell scored the vital penalty in front of 47,000 people, which sent The Gas back to League 2 on their first attempt, but it wasn’t as easy as it sounds for Darrell Clarke’s men.
Rovers found themselves 1-0 down with just two minutes of play on the clock after The Mariners star player, Nathan Arnold set up fans favourite,
Lenell John-Lewis who nodded the rebound of his shot past Rovers keeper, Will Puddy. Eight minutes later Welsh international, Ellis Harrison turned neatly away from his marker and hit a disapointing, weak shot from 25-yards. Puddy found himself in the Ref’s book after rushing out of his box to handle the ball whilst challenging Ollie Palmer. After winning a corner from the previous free kick, Arnold proved that Grimsby were by far the more dangerous side as his shot just curled past the keeper’s left post.
At the 25 minute mark, Palmer provided another promising move for Town as his shot was guided just left of the post. 29 minutes into the first half Bristol managed to build up the attack which lead to a corner which Grimsby couldn’t deal with properly, this lead to Harrison hitting a powerful shot past respected Grimsby keeper, James McKeown, making the scores level at Wembley. Matty Taylor seemed to have been tripped by McKeown, but the referee saw simulation and booked the Pirates’ striker.
Former Rovers’ player, Disley received the ball from John-Lewis but he horribly over hit his cross resulting in a waste of play for Town.
An eventful first half came to an end with the score level at 1-1 and it all to be played for. Both managers decided not to make a change at half time and start the second half with the same side as the first. Harrison was the stand out man for Rovers as they started the second half with two chances created within the opening minutes.
Throughout the whole game both fans backed their teams and created a brilliant atmosphere, but this didn’t play much of a part as the second half was a below par standard in comparison to the first. The first change came from Grimsby’s bench in the 70th minute as Pittman came on as Palmer departed. Two minutes later a call for handball came from the Mariners faithful but nothing came from it.
A second change for Town followed with injured Gregor Robertson coming off for Danny Parslow. A third change came but from Rovers this time with Jake Gosling seeing former QPR winger, Angelo Balanta take his place. Balanta got his first piece of action straight away winning a throw in which was eventually cleared by Arnold.
The second change for Rovers came three minutes later as a cramp stricken Harrison was replaced by Nathan Blissett. In the 89th minute a quieter John-Lewis played down the right and laid the ball back to Jack Mackreth who started an attack which lead to Parslow playing a teasing ball across the box needing the slightest of touches to make a difference in the score. This was followed by a Rovers’ chance in the 90th minute but Mansell’s shot was spooned way over the Grimsby goal.
Full time and the score was still level at 1-1, this lead to another 30 minutes of football to be played. 10 minutes into the first half of extra time and the final destination for the 2015 Play-off final looked as if we were going to witness a penalty shoot-out. Craig Clay came on for Scott Brown in Town’s final substitution. Rovers got a chance just before the 105 minute mark as Taylor hit a half volley which swerved just wide.
The second half of extra time saw Bristol win a free-kick which was taken by Mansell and swept into the back post where Lines sent the ball agonisingly over with his head. Grimsby gained some much needed possession 5 minutes from time when Parslow’s cross was eventually cut out. John-Lewis and Pittman didn’t hit off as expected with their strike partnership since the US-Born striker came on to strengthen the Town’s attack.
The Final Rovers’ substitute saw a change of goalkeeper with Steve Mildenhall, a former Grimsby player, being brought on in replacement of Puddy. Mildenhall had previously saved a penalty for Grimsby in the 2006 play-off final. This was the final piece of action for extra time with the score still level at 1-1.
As the players lined up on the halfway line for penalties, Chris Lines stepped up to take the first penalty for Bristol and successfully scored in front of the Grimsby fans. The following four penalties were successfully converted by Disley (GTFC), Taylor (BRFC), John-Lewis (GTFC), and Brown (BRFC). Then up stepped Pittman for Grimsby who skied his shot horribly over giving Rovers the advantage and making them one step closer to League 2 football. Balanta went onto score for Bristol as Clay also neatly slotted home for Grimsby. Lee Mansell had the worlds’ weight on his shoulders in the deciding penalty. He calmly stepped up and sent The Gas straight back into the Football League.
This game provided a brilliant first half with a slightly below average second but it all came down to keeping calm during the penalty shoot-out to make the decision of who will be playing in League Two next season.
Bristol Rovers 25 Puddy Booked (Mildenhall – 121′ ) 04 Lockyer 05 McChrystal 06 Parkes 03 Brown 11 Gosling (Balanta – 75′ ) 14 Lines 07 Mansell 23 Monkhouse 17 Harrison (Blissett – 80′ ) 10 Taylor Booked
Substitutes 01 Mildenhall 02 Leadbitter 08 Clarke 27 Blissett 29 Balanta
Grimsby Town 01 McKeown 06 Magnay Booked 22 Nsiala 05 Pearson 35 Robertson (Parslow – 74′ ) 07 Mackreth 08 Disley 04 Brown Booked (Clay – 99′ ) 20 Arnold 33 Palmer (Pittman – 70′ ) 14 John-Lewis
Substitutes 10 Hannah 16 Clay 18 Pittman 19 Parslow 34 Jolley