GRIMSBY Town recorded their first home win of the season at the second attempt with a comfortable success against Alfreton Town.
First half goals from Liam Hearn and Joe Colbeck were added to by Patrick McLaughlin’s first for the club after the break, before Nick Fenton pulled one back for the visitors in added time.
After a lively opening, Alfreton rarely threatened for the majority of the game before Fenton’s late reply, meaning Town had the three points and the perfect start to their bank holiday weekend programme of fixtures.
Three changes were made to the Grimsby side that lost at Welling last time out, with Hearn and Shaun Pearson both returning after illness and Andi Thanoj replacing Scott Kerr in midfield.
James McKeown started in goal, behind a back four of Paul Bignot, Pearson, Clayton McDonald and Aswad Thomas.
Thanoj began in the centre of the middle trio, with Craig Disley and McLaughlin on either side of him.
Hearn was joined in attack by Colbeck and Lenell John-Lewis, with Sam Hatton, Chris Doig, Andy Cook, Dayle Southwell and Alex Rodman all named on the Town bench.
Former Mariner Bradley Wood made his first return to Blundell Park in the colours of Alfreton since making the switch to Derbyshire in the summer.
He was joined in Nicky Law’s starting line-up by another ex-Town defender in the shape of Fenton, while fellow former Mariner Darran Kempson was on the Reds’ bench.
An early free kick for a foul on John-Lewis gave Town their first chance to attack the Alfreton goal but McLaughlin’s 25-yard shot went straight into the away side’s defensive wall.
Good hold-up play by John-Lewis on the halfway line started a move which led to the first corner of the game on 12 minutes.
From it, the Mariners took the lead when McDonald’s header was not cleared and the ball fell for HEARN at the far post, who prodded past keeper Ross Atkins to open the scoring against his former club.
Alfreton could have been level almost instantly when they attacked from the restart and striker Paul Clayton appeared to be pulled down by Bignot inside the Town box. Referee Anthony Backhouse waved the penalty claims away though as McKeown gathered the loose ball.
Another chance for the visitors came when a cross from winger Dan Bradley almost fell for John Akinde but McDonald was there to sweep up the danger.
Colbeck failed to connect with a McLaughlin cross on the volley at the other end, before Clayton was adjudged to be offside as he volleyed over the bar for Alfreton.
Akinde held the ball up well for Tom Shaw as the away side created another shooting chance on 20 minutes but the midfielder’s 20-yard effort was too high to trouble McKeown.
Alfreton’s two strikers combined again soon afterwards, as Clayton chested the ball down for Akinde, whose shot was blocked.
McDonald had to be substituted after picking up an injury, with Doig taking his place in the Town defence on 25 minutes.
Bignot came out on top in a duel with Clayton to get a cross in for the Mariners that was headed behind for a corner. The ball in was met by Pearson but his header lacked the power needed to beat Atkins, who got down to make the stop.
The hosts were beginning to get on top and they could have had a second goal when Colbeck set off on a run down the right before playing a low cross to John-Lewis but he was blocked at the near post.
Pearson was hurt when he landed awkwardly after a challenge with Akinde inside the Grimsby penalty area as both players looked to get to an Alfreton cross first. The centre-back was passed fit to continue after receiving treatment.
Town doubled their lead six minutes before the break, when John-Lewis took the ball on the edge of the Alfreton box, looked up and picked out COLBECK, who drove a low shot into the far corner of the net from the right side of the area.
Akinde connected with a cross from Wood on the Alfreton right on 44 minutes but his header was no threat, bouncing wide of McKeown’s goal.
One added minute was played at the end of the half and after Clayton failed to connect with an ambitious overhead volley attempt, the Mariners retained their two-goal advantage at the halfway point.
No changes were made before the restart and John-Lewis went close to making it 3-0 within a minute but his shot on the turn went just wide of Atkins’ far post.
At the other end, a Clayton shot did not trouble McKeown as it drifted wide.
Another chance for John-Lewis came when he got on the end of a good cross from Thomas on the left but again, the ball went wide of the mark.
A low ball into the box from Josh Law found Bradley but he could not reduce the deficit with his first-time shot, which sailed just over the bar.
A foul on Hearn gave Town a free kick on the right side, close to the edge of the Alfreton box on 54 minutes and it almost led to a third goal, as McLaughlin’s shot was deflected through and Atkins got his hands to it but could only scoop the ball over his head. The keeper would have been relieved to see it drop onto the roof of the net.
Soon afterwards though, it was 3-0, as a superb through-ball from Disley was chased down by Colbeck and he pulled it back from the by-line for McLAUGHLIN to turn it into the net from close range.
Pearson was shown the first yellow card of the game for a foul on the Alfreton left but the resulting free kick was chipped straight through to McKeown.
Law forced the Town keeper into action with a 20-yard shot that caused him to dive and push the ball out for a corner.
Daniel Meadows replaced Bradley for the visitors on 64 minutes but the Mariners were still dominating, although Disley was booked as the referee ruled he dived in an attempt to win a free kick near the edge of the Alfreton box.
The away team’s second substitution saw Daniel Wishart replace Clayton up front and his strike partner Akinde looked to do some damage with a run into the Town box on 73 minutes, although he could not beat McKeown.
Hearn won a Grimsby corner two minutes later and McLaughlin’s curled delivery was retrieved by Doig on the left. It was eventually worked back to the defender, whose cross was headed wide by John-Lewis.
Rodman was sent on in place of Hearn with eight minutes to go and his first touch came with a header from a Bignot cross but the offside flag went up as he nodded it wide.
The last Town change saw Hatton come on for Bignot at right-back.
Three added minutes were signalled and in the first of them, Alfreton had a goal back when a shot from Wood fell into the path of FENTON, who headed past McKeown for 3-1.
Town are next in action on Monday, when they travel to Hyde for a televised clash.