LIKE the man waiting an age at the bus stop only to find two come along at once, Grimsby Town, 120 years old and with no prior Wembley experience, yesterday completed their second victory at the national stadium within five weeks to ensure their rapid return to the First Division.
The goals of dashing right winger Kevin Donovan have been instrumental in Grimsby's corruscating season and yesterday, despite a subsequent penalty miss, he was again Alan Buckley's match-winner.
So, following Arsenal and Chelsea, Grimsby can lay claim to becoming the third English club to win two trophies this spring; the Auto Windscreens Shield and the Second Division play-off final.
Grimsby, always the more creative side, deserved their victory in front of a record crowd for this fixture of 62,988, which was only 745 fewer than watched England hold Saudi Arabia 24 hours earlier.
"I feel for Northampton," said Buckley. "This must be the best place in the world to win, and the worst to lose."
Northampton themselves only made their Wembley debut 12 months ago when winning the Third Division play-offs. But Ian Atkins, having rebuilt a team who four years ago finished bottom of the Football League on a budget of pounds 210,000, will benefit from having another year at this to add craft to their graft. Their admirable spirit and organisation is not yet matched by sufficient variety when going forward.
In contrast, the ingenuity of Donovan, who last summer followed Buckley from West Bromwich Albion at a cost of pounds 300,000, has disturbed Second Division defences and better all season. And a long season it has been. Despite playing with an in-growing toe-nail Donovan only missed one Auto Windscreens game of Grimsby's 68-match marathon. They have responded to last season's relegation with renewed style - a throw-back to Buckley's first successful period in charge of the club - overcoming Leicester City and Sheffield Wednesday in the Coca-Cola Cup while sustaining their double run towards Wembley.
Having scored in both league games against Northampton this season perhaps it was inevitable Donovan would make the breakthrough yesterday. After 18 minutes Wayne Burnett, last month's Golden Goal winner in the Auto Windscreens defeat of Bournemouth, played a teasing ball towards striker Jack Lester which Colin Hill, attempting to intercept, completely missed.
The misjudgment proved terminal. Donovan rounded Andy Woodman in the Northampton goal to net his 21st goal of the season. "Kevin got his break and he just doesn't miss," said Buckley. Except for penalties - one was awarded when Ray Warburton tripped Lester 13 minutes from time - he was reminded. "We'll let him off that one," said the manager.
Eight minutes from time, after Woodman palmed away Lester's chip, Kingsley Black invited Paul Groves to conclude matters but the captain's drive rebounded from the underside of the crossbar. No need for a Russian linesman, however; Grimsby had already done enough.
Goal: Donovan (19) 1-0.
Grimsby Town (4-4-2): Davidson; McDermott, Handyside, Lever, Gallimore; Donovan, Burnett, Groves, Smith (Black, 67); Nogan (Livingstone, 61). Substitute not used: Jobling.
Northampton Town (5-3-2): Woodman; Clarkson, Sampson, Warburton, Hill (Gibb, 69), Frain; Peer, Hunt, Heggs; Freestone, Gayle (Seal, 58). Substitute not used: Dozzell.
Referee: T Heilbron (Co Durham).
Bookings: Grimsby: Gallimore. Northampton: Gayle, Frain, Hunt.
Man of the match: Burnett.
Attendance: 62,988.Reuse content