FA Cup history makers – Is this Grimsby Town’s most famous victory?

St Mary's Stadium following Grimsby Town's 2-1 away victory at Southampton in the FA Cup | Credit: Jordan Richards.
Grimsby Town's players and supporters celebrate together following the club's 2-1 victory over Premier League Southampton in the FA Cup | Credit: Jordan Richards.

On Wednesday March 1 2023, over 4,000 travelling Grimsby Town supporters packed into Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium ahead of an FA Cup last 16 meeting against the Premier League side. 

Having gained promotion back to the EFL in 2022, the Mariners, who play their football in League Two, were coming into the game having entered the FA Cup at round one, knocking out teams in a higher division in every round.

Victories against Plymouth Argyle, Cambridge United, Burton Albion and Luton Town meant Paul Hurst’s men set up a meeting away at Southampton, a Premier League side, in round five.

In a match in which the Saints were heavy favourites against their League Two counterparts, they would eventually fall to a 2-1 defeat to the Mariners, with Grimsby reaching the last eight of the FA Cup for the first time since 1939 as a result.

Two well-taken penalties either side of half-time from Irish midfielder Gavan Holohan gave Paul Hurst’s men a shock 2-0 lead at the then Premier League strugglers, with the first decision coming against a handball from Brazilian defender Lyanco, with the other courtesy of a Duje Caleta-Car foul on Town striker Danilo Orsi.

Croatian defender Caleta-Car pulled a goal back for Southampton on 65 minutes to get them back in the contest, with the hosts having a Theo Walcott equaliser ruled out ten minutes from time by VAR for offside.

However, the League Two outfit would hold on for a famous victory at St Mary’s Stadium, igniting wild scenes from players and supporters alike at the full-time whistle, with plenty of inflatable Harry Haddocks in sight from the travelling fans.

The victory for Grimsby meant they became the first team in FA Cup history to knock five teams out of the competition that play in a higher division from the first round onwards.

Grimsby Town fans gather in the concourse at St Mary's Stadium ahead of their FA Cup tie at Southampton | Credit: Jordan Richards.
Grimsby Town fans gather in the concourse at St Mary’s Stadium ahead of their FA Cup tie at Southampton | Credit: Jordan Richards.

Being in attendance at Southampton that night, Sam Barrick, who is a contributor to the DN35 Grimsby Town Podcast, described the whole day of the fixture as one of his favourites.

“It was fantastic. Unbelievable in fact,” said Barrick.

“To go and beat five sides against teams in divisions above us is something that will likely never be beaten and it’s exactly what dreams are made of.

“The FA Cup is the best cup competition in the world and it means so much to teams like us (Grimsby), but that night was just so special in so many ways. Words cannot describe it.”

In recent times, the FA has come under scrutiny from clubs in the EFL and below due to changes being made to the competition going forward, including the scrapping of replays from the first round onwards.

Grimsby fan Cameron Backrath, who was also in attendance at Southampton, described how much of a big deal it is that lower league clubs play Premier League sides if drawn and stresses how much of a game-changer, financially and commercially, it could be for teams like Grimsby.

Backrath added: “it’s huge to lower league clubs, the chance to play teams much above your level and cause an upset, there’s no other cup like it.

“For players, it’s a chance to put themselves in the shop window for clubs at a higher level, which can change their careers, and the financial help it gives by getting a big tie on TV can change the way clubs are run.

“Lincoln City kicked on due to the financial position they had due to their cup run, so it just proves how big of a deal it actually is.”

As a result of their victory, Grimsby were drawn away again at another Premier League side, this time to European contenders Brighton and Hove Albion.

Unfortunately, Brighton proved to be a step too far for the Mariners, as Roberto De Zerbi’s men ran out comfortable 5-0 winners at the AMEX Stadium.

Despite that, Grimsby had made cup history. The run has put Town on the map for future generations.

Much like beating Liverpool in 2001 or Spurs in 2005, that night at Southampton and securing a place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup is sure to be ingrained in the memory of Grimsby Town fans for many years to come.