GRIMSBY Town strengthened their play-off claims with a crucial victory over Macclesfield Town at the Moss Rose.
After beating Stockport County last time out, the Mariners made it two wins out of two in Cheshire to boost their promotion bid and perhaps end the Silkmen’s own play-off hopes.
Town took the lead through Andy Cook on 13 minutes but were pegged back by an equaliser from Macclesfield captain Pablo Mills midway through the first half.
Grimsby reclaimed their lead before half-time when Shaun Pearson headed home from a corner and the points were sealed by the recalled Frankie Artus, who registered the third goal with 20 minutes remaining.
Three changes were made to the Mariners side that won at Stockport on Easter Monday, with Aswad Thomas, Cleveland Taylor and Artus replacing Bradley Wood, Joe Colbeck and Marcus Marshall.
James McKeown started in goal, with Sam Hatton, Pearson, Ian Miller and Thomas forming the defence.
Taylor, Craig Disley, Tom Naylor and Artus were the midfielders, with Cook and Ross Hannah the unchanged strike partnership.
Liam Hearn was given a place on the bench as his comeback from injury continued, with Colbeck, Wood, Andi Thanoj and Lennell John-Lewis also named as substitutes.
Macclesfield named former Town loanee Peter Winn in their starting XI, although top scorer Matthew Barnes-Homer was ruled out through injury.
The home side won the first corner of the game on four minutes and Winn’s delivery proved dangerous, hitting Disley and going out for another corner, which was claimed by McKeown at the second attempt.
Midfielder John Paul Kissock hit a shot past the post for the home side and a corner was given, only for the referee to spot an infringement and blow for a Grimsby free kick as Winn sent the ball into the box from the flag.
The Mariners took the lead on 13 minutes after a cross from Taylor on the right was met by COOK, who headed the ball back across home goalkeeper Rhys Taylor and watched it cross the line despite a deserate attempt to clear.
The visitors attacked in an attempt to double their lead and a Thomas cross proved too far for Cook, who then had an effort blocked when Hatton sent the ball back into the box.
Macclesfield went close on 17 minutes when striker Waide Fairhurst hit a shot that hit McKeown and went away for a corner after coming back off the post.
The home side were proving dangerous from corners and it was a flag-kick which led to their equaliser on 25 minutes. Winn sent the ball in and a header from Amari Morgan-Smith was blocked before MILLS forced the loose ball into the net.
Macclesfield continued to cause problems for the Mariners defence, particularly from corners.
They had a chance to take the lead when a shot from Fairhurst from 18 yards was blocked by Miller for a corner. Again, Winn’s delivery was good and a shot from Enes Fermino forced McKeown into action.
But when the third goal came, it was the Mariners who reclaimed their advantage against the run of play.
After being forced to defend a string of corners, the away side won one of their own on 37 minutes and the kick from Artus was met by PEARSON, whose header crossed the line despite the efforts of keeper Taylor to keep it out.
Morgan-Smith was forced off with an injury and was replaced up front for the hosts by Dean McDonald with two minutes to go before the break.
Three added minutes were played at the end of the half and Cook was penalised for a handball after a cross from Hatton on the Grimsby right.
Another Macclesfield corner came in the third of those added minutes but Winn’s delivery was headed away by Cook.
That was the last meaningful action of the half, meaning Town kept their advantage going into the dressing rooms.
No changes were made before the restart and Naylor was booked for a foul on Sam Wedgbury three minutes in.
Hannah was then caught offside as Town looked to attack, before a cross from Kissock was put behind for a Macclesfield corner.
Winn got forward after winning the ball from Disley on 55 minutes but he could not turn the break into a goalscoring opportunity as he ran it out for a goal kick.
Kissock then looked to create an opening soon afterwards but Disley got the ball away for a corner, which led to Fermino dragging a shot wide.
A foul by Mills on Cook gave Town a free kick but Hatton could not make the most of it and find a team-mate from the set piece.
Thomas hit a cross behind for a goal kick just after the hour, before Kissock failed to connect with a cross-shot from McDonald.
Colbeck came on in place of Hannah as Town made their first substitution of the game on 63 minutes.
That meant a switch to a 4-5-1 formation, as Colbeck slotted in on the left of midfield and Artus moved into the centre alongside Disley and Naylor.
A good chance for the Mariners came on 65 minutes when Cook found Taylor on the right and his cross fell for Colbeck but the substitute’s diving header went wide of the target.
Fairhurst was booked for the home side shortly before Guy Madjo was sent on for Fermino.
Grimsby scored a third goal with 19 minutes of the game to go, after a run down the left from Colbeck. Cook then took it on and slid the ball past keeper Taylor and ARTUS was there to provide the vital touch that sent it into the net.
Artus was booked for a handball as the clock ticked towards the 80-minute mark, before John-Lewis replaced Cook for the final stages of the game.
Thanoj was then sent on in place of Artus with six minutes to go and Winn hit a shot well off-target three minutes later as the home side looked for a way back into the game.
Four minutes of stoppage time were played at the end of the game and Town were able to see them out as the offside flag went up against the hosts after Kissock chipped a ball through.
Town kept possession for the remainder of the additional time and were able to celebrate what could be a huge three points in the battle to get back into the Football League.
The Mariners are next in action on Saturday, when Southport are the visitors to Blundell Park.
Catch the highlights on Mariners Player on Thursday