Brighton prove FA Cup credentials by sinking boisterous Grimsby to reach semi-finals

Irish Mirror   19/03/2023 19:44

Dust down Jimmy Melia's white dancing shoes, close your eyes and, 40 years on, Gordon Smith still must score... and he doesn't.

Brighton are 90 minutes from only their second FA Cup final after living up to Eric Cantona's famous twaddle about Seagulls following the Mariners' trawler because they expect easy pickings. King Eric knew his sardines from his mackerel and, as expected, Roberto De Zerbi's stylish, swashbuckling Albion were simply too good for Grimsby, the first team from League Two to reach the quarter-finals since Cambridge in 1990.

Let's hear it for Paul Hurst's brave, blustering Mariners, who entered the cup as minnows and leave it as whales. The dream of Grimsby playing in Europe, and landing an exotic tie with their Croatian 'sister' club Haddock Split, will have to wait for another day.

We shall remember the way they knocked the Hatters of Luton into a cocked hat, and the pneumatic orgy of their 4,600 fans armed with inflatable toys on the south coast. Grimsby's cup run has been worth more than £1million in unbudgeted income and brought a shaft of joy to a fishing stronghold double-crossed by Brexit's false prospectus.

But after beating five teams from a higher division on their slalom to the last eight – a record – their trawler was holed below the waterline almost before it had left harbour this time. Grimsby keeper Max Crocombe had already made a sharp save to thwart Evan Ferguson in the opening 60 seconds before Deniz Undav broke through five minutes later.

Moises Caicedo's fierce low drive from 25 yards was too hot for Crocombe to hold and the German forward mopped up his third goal of the season like a kid devouring his fish fingers for tea. As the chances came and went, Kaoru Mitoma - stretching to reach a Pascal Gross cross - volleyed lazily wide of an open goal and Undav blazed wastefully over the top when Solly March's defelcted cross rebounded off a post.

Grimsby's travelling fans made their presence felt at the Amex Stadium

And although the Mariners carried minimal threat up front, Albion did their best to shoot themselves in the foot. Seagulls keeper Robert Sanchez looked very fortunate to escape a red card for handling outside his box with Danilo Orsi closing in.

Even in the absence of a conclusive replay, VAR Michael Salisbury's decision to give Sanchez the benefit of the doubt looked more charitable than Red Nose Day. “Part of being a better manager higher up the leagues must be having much better eyesight,” smiled Grimsby boss Hurst.

“I've seen a still photo and it was outside the box. I'm an advocate of VAR, but we needed something like that to go our way to stand a chance here.”

Will Brighton win the FA Cup? Have your say in the comments!

Evan Ferguson scored twice as Brighton reached the FA Cup semi-finals

Six minutes after the break, Grimsby's hearts were broken beyond repair, Ferguson gathering World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister's chip expertly and the 18-year-old Irish striker rolling his sixth goal of the season into the corner. When Ferguson drilled his second inside Crocombe's near post, the Mariners were in the realms of damage limitation and the last 20 minutes must have felt like a lifetime for Hurst.

Brighton knocked the ball around like croupiers distributing cards in a casino, Solly March made it four with a fine diving header and Mitoma smuggled his shot inside the post off Luke Waterfall's deflection. Fittingly, a real flock of seagulls took time off from nicking tourists' chips on the promenade to venture inland to drop in on the Amex for a better view.

Even the most amateur twitcher can forecast an even bigger flock descending on Wembley next month. Brighton for the cup? Why not?

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