FA Cup Third Round - Saturday 6th January 1996
Blundell Park was in the midst of Bonetti fever as the Mariners welcomed Division One rivals Luton Town for this FA Cup Third Round tie.
The mercurial Italian was wowing the fans with his silky wing play and stealing the headlines as Town found themselves firmly in the public eye.
Although not the plum draw that many were hoping for, the match against Luton was set to be a tough test for Brian Laws' men, particularly as the Hatters had drafted in former Ipswich man Bontcho Guentchev, who had scored a hat trick against Town in the same competition in 1993.
Laws' only injury doubt was that of centre half Mark Lever, who was replaced by former Hatter Graham Rodger. The Mariners had arguably their strongest side at their disposal; even without long term absentee Clive Mendonca.
The visitors had future Town boss Lennie Lawrence at the helm, and he also found himself with a strong squad to pick from. Another Blundell Park connection was the presence of Tony Thorpe on the Luton bench, the striker would enjoy a loan spell at Grimsby in 2006/07.
The Mariners usually saved their best for Luton, having registered 4-1 and 5-0 victories over the Hatters in previous seasons, and this game was no exception. Town raced out of the blocks and player/manager Laws was booked inside the opening minute. It took less than 15 minutes for the home side to open the scoring. Bonetti curled a delightful long ball forward to Jamie Forrester on the left hand side of the penalty area. The former Leeds man cut inside before lobbing 6'7" goalkeeper Ian Feuer with an exquisite finish.
It was almost two just minutes later when Paul Groves played in Bonetti, the Italian seeing his shot saved at the second attempt by Feuer. The Hatters responded well and were inches from an equaliser when Scott Oakes cut in from the left hand side and saw his shot whistle past the post with goalkeeper Paul Crichton beaten.
Town were not to be outdone and Steve Livingstone saw a stinging drive palmed away by Feuer on 22 minutes. The former Blackburn and Chelsea star did get on the scoresheet from the resulting corner. Gary Childs' set piece drifted beyond the far post to Forrester who fired in a low left foot cross that was diverted in by the outstretched foot of Livingstone to double the Mariners' advantage.
The hosts were fully on top now and both Forrester and Livingstone came close to adding to their lead before the third arrived on 32 minutes. Bonetti again had a part to play as he linked up with Gary Croft on the left wing. The former Juventus star saw his cross swept home by Forrester for his second of the afternoon.
Luton were in desperate need of something to get them back into the game and it came their way on 38 minutes. Guentchev's long cross into the Town box saw Dwight Marshall nip in between Croft and Crichton to reduce the arrears.
The Hatters threatened to storm back into the game, but it was the Mariners who restored their three-goal advantage before the break and fittingly it was Bonetti who got the goal. Forrester broke free on the right wing and his cross was missed by Feuer and Groves, allowing Bonetti to steal in at the far post for Town's fourth.
Laws' men were fully in control of the game and further underlined their superiority after the break. Bonetti was pulling the strings, ably assisted by Groves and Jim Dobbin in the centre, whilst the flourishing partnership of Forrester and Livingstone was causing the Hatters' defence all sorts of problems.
Bonetti, Dobbin and Childs all had chances to increase the lead before the fifth Town goal arrived on 72 minutes. Childs was the provider with a clever flick behind the defence and Livingstone turned smartly to smash the ball home from 18 yards.
With the match sewn up, manager Laws made a triple substitution on 77 minutes as Nicky Southall, Craig Shakespeare and Neil Woods replaced Childs, Dobbin and Livingstone - all three substitutes would have time to make their mark as the floodgates opened.
Southall's first touch saw the sixth Town goal fly in as the midfielder emphatically volleyed home Woods' cross. The roles were reversed with time ticking away as Woods netted the Mariners' seventh of the afternoon. Southall whipped in a cross and the current Grimsby Head of Youth saw his scuffed shot creep past Feuer to complete a miserable afternoon for the Hatters.
THE TEAMS: TOWN:Crichton, Laws, Croft, Rodger, Handyside, Childs (Shakespeare 77), Dobbin (Southall 77), Groves, Bonetti, Forrester, Livingstone (Woods 77).
LUTON:Feuer, Patterson, Thomas, Waddock, James, Johnson, Guentchev, Oakes, Oldfield, McLaren (Alexander 57), Marshall. Subs not used: Harvey, Thorpe.