FA Trophy Final
Wembley Stadium, London
Admission: £25.00 (Combined ticket with FA Trophy Final)
Attendance: 46,781 (total combined with FA Trophy Final)
Match Rating: 2
Following the FA Vase final, and a roughly two hour break during which spectators were forced to stay inside the stadium and make the most of entertainment sporadically placed on concourses and overpriced and narrow range of refreshments on offer, the FA Trophy took place with a 4.15 kick off.
Just as there were clear favourites in the FA Vase final, so there would be in this FA Trophy game. Intriguingly, it pitched together two teams competing in the National League this season, but who will be separated by two divisions next season. Grimsby Town will return to the Football League next season after a six year absence, having won the Play-Off final last Sunday, also at Wembley Stadium. They finished the regular season in fourth place, with 22 wins and 14 draws of their 46 league games. Needing a win to ensure survival on the final day of the season, FC Halifax Town could only draw, resulting in relegation to the National League North, finishing fourth bottom, with 12 wins and 12 draws from their 46 games. In the league meetings, Grimsby won 7-0 at home in October, whilst Halifax won their home game 4-2 in February.
The game was crying out for a goal to liven things up, and a quite wonderful goal did come just a couple of minutes after the break. Richard Peniket got to the byline and crossed the ball into the six yard box, the keeper got a faint touch to push it out, and a couple of Grimsby defenders couldn't properly clear the ball, and Scott McManus ran onto the ball to curly it first time from outside of the area into the top right hand corner. That certainly sparked Grimsby into life, although Halifax still looked quite comfortable, and it was not until the final few minutes that Grimsby really threatened to score. A powerful close-range header from a corner went straight into the keeper's arms, and right at the end of added on time, with the keeper up for a corner, a shot on the turn was cleared on the line. Halifax had a couple of good chances of their own in the closing minutes, but one goal was enough to send their 10,000 fans into jubilation at the final whistle. The underdogs certainly deserved their victory, which was a small consolation to savour after the bitter disappointment of relegation.
Reflecting on the day, I think combining the two finals was a success, with the total attendance being testament to that. The format probably ensures that the FA Vase final has a future at Wembley Stadium. However, it should be noted that the attendance figure was skewed by the very large Hereford support, which probably accounted for around 10,000 fans more than most other FA Vase finalists would hope to bring along. And while the format of two finals in one day is very appealing to neutral groundhoppers, fans of the participating clubs did not stick around for the other fixture of the day. It was also disappointing that spectators were not allowed to leave and re-enter the stadium during the day, meaning that they were trapped inside a stadium with not that much to do and were exposed to a high priced and narrow range of refreshments.