THE past three weeks could not have been more contrasting for FC Halifax Town and tomorrow’s opponents Grimsby Town.
As the Shaymen have been digesting the ramifications of relegation during their considerable gap without a fixture due to the National League season ending on April 30, the Mariners have been busy securing a Football League return.
A dramatic two-legged win over Braintree was followed by last Sunday’s 3-1 play-off final victory over Forest Green Rovers at Wembley, a result that means Grimsby will return to the national stadium in party mode as they look to sign off in non-League football after six years, with a notable double.
FC Halifax, however, are determined to ruin that planned party by lifting the trophy in front of an expected 10,000 strong travelling army of fans from West Yorkshire.
“It has been strange to have such a gap,” said goalkeeper Sam Johnson, who has spent the past six months on loan from League One Port Vale. “We had a week off after the last game but have been training as normal since then. We also had a friendly to keep us match sharp.
“But we are all looking forward to what we hope will be a great occasion. We want to put a good performance in and get the right result.
“Grimsby have had a great three weeks and will be on a high. But we are ready to put in a shift and get a good result.”
Johnson’s arrival in late November helped shore up what had been a horrendously porous Halifax backline.
His assured handling and organisational skills soon made an impact and it was no coincidence that what had looked a desperate situation at the foot of the table soon turned round.
Ultimately, however, Town were destined for the drop and Johnson admits relegation was hard to take.
“We did so well to get even close,” said the 6ft 6in loanee. “I think a lot of people wrote us off at one stage so to get so close made it even more frustrating.
“We knew just how hard we had battled and how close we were. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get over the line.
“Now, though, we have Wembley to look forward to. I haven’t been before, even as a fan. The best ground I have played at is probably MK Dons.
“But this will be a big step up from that. I am just looking forward to walking out of the tunnel and seeing what everyone says is a magnificent stadium.”