Andy Smith has spoken on his jubilation after helping Grimsby Town win promotion back to the EFL.
The Banbury-born defender joined the Mariners on loan in January following his recall from Salford City and made 20 appearances for Paul Hurst’s side as they won promotion via the play-offs.
Finishing sixth in the National League, Grimsby travelled to Notts County in the quarter-finals before facing Wrexham in the semis and then Solihull Moors in the final.
In all three games, the Mariners conceded first before prevailing in extra-time to seal their return to League Two after one season away.
“Promotion felt unbelievable; it wasn’t something I was really expecting when I first joined,” said Smith.
“However, as soon as I went in, the gaffer said he thought the play-offs were a real possibility and it was something we all really pushed for.
“We had to do things the hard way. I would have much rather won 5-0 every game in normal time, but it summed us up in the season in the sense that we had to dig in deep when the time came.
“Getting promoted via the play-offs is the best way to get promoted and thankfully we have been able to do it. It was a really, really good experience and one that I will never really forget.”
Last-minute goals from ex-Hull City academy graduate Gavan Holohan and forward Emmanuel Dieseruvwe saw Grimsby dispatch Notts County, before a 119th-minute winner by Luke Waterfall took the Mariners to the final after edging a nine-goal thriller against Wrexham.
“Honestly, the Notts County game was the most mental game I have ever played in,” Smith admitted.
“It was literally one extreme to the other, thinking you’re out of it with the last kick of the game and then the ball flies into the back of the net and then it’s anyone’s game heading into extra-time.
“Then all of sudden you’re thinking, ‘Where am I going to put my penalty?’, and then ‘Manny’ pops up with the goal late on and it’s just jubilation.
“Wrexham was a really weird game, but again that’s a credit to all the boys there that we never gave in. We could have easily folded when we went 3-2 down thinking it’s not our day, but that’s not what the squad of boys was like and we fought to the very last minute.”
The 20-year-old played the full play-off final at the London Stadium, providing the assist for John McAtee’s second-half equaliser before Jordan Maguire-Drew’s extra-time promotion clincher.
“When Jordan’s goal went in in extra-time, there was more of a sense of relief than anything; it felt like a massive weight off my shoulders,” he added.
“It was an unbelievable experience for me. I came in and I was playing out of position which is something I haven’t really done before, but I enjoyed it.
“Then I found myself out of the team for a couple of weeks and I felt it was important for me to keep my head down and show a good attitude.
“I kept working hard and my chance came and I’d like to think that I took it and proved what I can do.”
Photos: Grimsby Town