By Mark Walker, PA
Grimsby boss Paul Hurst is praying for another miracle in Sunday’s FA Cup tie at Premier League high-flyers Brighton.
The Mariners became the first club in FA Cup history to knock out five clubs from a higher division when securing a stunning upset at Southampton in the previous round.
The Sky Bet League Two club’s 2-1 win at St Mary’s Stadium saw them become just the sixth team from the fourth tier or lower to reach the quarter-finals since 1959.
🏆 Two days to go…#GTFC | #EmiratesFACup pic.twitter.com/xweePOcKoc
— Grimsby Town F.C. (@officialgtfc) March 17, 2023
Hurst said: “I used the word miracle before the last game and we’re praying for another one.
“It’s a bit surreal, but at the same time I don’t think it has sunk in.
“It will only be the end of the season or in another 10 years when you look back and you look at other quarter-finals perhaps and you think ‘we were there’.”
Hurst’s side have become knock-out tournament specialists. They beat Plymouth, Cambridge, Burton and Luton before their shock fifth-round win at Southampton.
Last season, they bounced straight back to the English Football League following relegation with wins against Notts County, Wrexham and Solihull in the National League play-offs, all after extra time.
While Hurst admitted his side’s incredible journey has not yet sunk in, he said Sunday’s challenge against Brighton was “a different level again”.
Roberto De Zerbi’s side have been one of the Premier League’s stand-out performers this season, climbing to seventh in the table after one defeat in their last nine league games and, in the eyes of Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, playing “wonderful football”.
“It’s a little bit frightening in truth, having watched them,” Hurst said. “We’ve done a lot of work on them and you start to wonder how you set up against them.
“We’ve got an idea, but the reality is a lot of Premier League teams have and they’ve been second best on most occasions.
“Only this week it came out what Guardiola has been saying about their manager and their style of football.
“They might not have the worldwide name of a Man City, Man Utd or Liverpool, but watching them they’re unbelievable.
“It’s been a really interesting watch, maybe a bit scary now that we’re having to try and go up against that.”
Hurst joked he had warned his players before showing them video footage of De Zerbi’s side earlier in the week.
“I’m not trying to scare them, but we went through some of the footage and I warned them it was an 18 certificate,” he added. “It was one of the scariest things they’ll watch!
“We’re trying to find that balance where nothing’s a surprise on Sunday but at the same time, trying to be a bit light-hearted about it. It’s my job to get the balance right.”