GRIMSBY Town returned to winning ways as an outstanding team performance earned them a home success against league leaders Barnet in front of the live television cameras.
The Mariners initially seemed to be caught out by the lunchtime start as their visitors took the lead with their first attack when John Akinde scored from the penalty spot after being brought down by Toto Nsiala.
But Town soon grew into what was an entertaining game for fans inside Blundell Park and viewers watching at home, and they were level on 11 minutes through Oliver Palmer.
The fast start to the game continued when Grimsby completed their turnaround on 15 minutes, as Lenell John-Lewis converted the game’s second penalty after he was pushed inside the box.
Town had to soak up periods of Barnet pressure at the end of the first half and the start of the second but they held firm and went on to extend their advantage when Jack Mackreth made it 3-1.
And after defeats in their previous two home league games, both the performance and result could work wonders to restore confidence among the Grimsby players and fans.
One change was made to the Town side from the goalless draw with Gateshead last time out, as Mackreth came back into the XI on the right wing.
James McKeown started in goal, with Daniel Parslow, Nsiala, Shaun Pearson and Carl Magnay in defence.
Mackreth slotted in on the right of a four-man midfield that also included Craig Disley, Scott Brown and Nathan Arnold, while Palmer continued alongside John-Lewis in attack.
Craig Clay dropped to the bench to make way for Mackreth, with Paul Bignot, Ross Hannah, Jon-Paul Pittman and Paddy McLaughlin also starting as substitutes.
Barnet travelled north looking to maintain their healthy lead at the top of the Vanarama Conference, with the division’s top scorer John Akinde set to be the most obvious threat to the Town defence.
Town started brightly and they won a free kick in a promising position when John-Lewis was fouled on three minutes. Arnold’s ball to the far post was punched clear by visiting keeper Grahame Stack.
Arnold was then fouled seconds later in a similar position but this time, his delivery was poor and right-back David Hunt cleared.
Barnet’s first attack came on five minutes and saw them given a golden chance to take the lead when Akinde beat Nsiala down the left and cut inside before the centre-back brought him down inside the box. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot and after Nsiala was booked, AKINDE got up to send McKeown the wrong way and make it 1-0.
A foul by Brown on Andy Yiadom gave the away side a free kick on the halfway line on eight minutes but this time, McKeown was able to gather the ball after the delivery was headed on by Bondz N’Gala.
The Mariners had been on the back foot since the goal but John-Lewis managed to create some space to get a low shot away from inside the box on 10 minutes, which Stack got down to stop.
That was a sign that things might be about to improve for the hosts and so it proved, when they levelled the scores a minute later. Barnet failed to clear the ball on the edge of their own box after a pass from Arnold fell short and when it came to PALMER, he steered a first-time shot beyond Stack and into the top corner of the net.
Town’s tails were now up and they had a chance to complete the turnaround on the quarter-hour when John-Lewis was pushed by defender Dave Stephens inside the penalty area and went down. Again, the referee pointed to the spot and JOHN-LEWIS confidently dispatched the ball into the net from 12 yards.
The Mariners then had an opportunity to extend their advantage on 20 minutes as the exciting opening to the game continued. An excellent cross from Brown on the left found the head of Palmer at the far post but Stack stretched to catch the ball under his crossbar.
At the other end, a Barnet corner led to N’Gala sliding a low shot wide of the mark from 10 yards.
Another foul by Brown inside his own half gave the visitors a free kick but it was headed clear by Mackreth after Hunt had chipped the ball to the 18-yard line.
The long throw of Hunt was being used as a weapon by Martin Allen’s side and it led to another corner on 29 minutes. Lee Cook’s ball to the near post was headed behind by John-Lewis for another flag-kick, which was cleared by Brown.
Hunt was shown the yellow card for bringing Arnold down as he looked to launch an attack just before the half-hour.
Another long throw from Hunt caused problems for the Town defence and when the ball came back to the right-back, he found Cook, whose cross landed on the roof of McKeown’s net.
Palmer was almost presented with a chance when the away side delayed in clearing the ball from their own penalty area soon afterwards but Mauro Vichete showed coolness under pressure to beat the Mansfield loanee and bring it away from danger.
John-Lewis got his head to a high, looping cross from Palmer but could only send it wide of Stack’s goal as Town continued to shade the game with nine minutes to go before half-time.
Barnet had not generally posed a great threat to McKeown in the Grimsby goal but they showed signs of promise when striker Charlie McDonald did well to work the space for a cross from the left. His ball found Akinde but the former Alfreton man was flagged offside as he headed wide.
A dangerous-looking cross from Cook beat everybody and went out for a Town throw-in on the opposite side of the pitch, before Vicente won a corner on the left as the away side continued to step up their pressure.
Another corner followed for the league leaders but this time, the referee blew for a foul on McKeown as he punched Cook’s delivery clear.
Two added minutes were signalled to be played at the end of the half and a further stoppage came when Barnet’s Curtis Weston went down injured.
A foul by John-Lewis on Akinde appeared to have given the away side the last chance to attack before the interval but Cook’s ball into the box was headed away by Magnay.
There was then time for the Mariners to mount another attack which saw a low cross from Mackreth cut out before Palmer sent a 20-yard effort over the bar.
That was the last meaningful action of an entertaining half which had seen Town recover from their early setback to ensure they had the advantage at the break.
Keanu Marsh-Brown replaced Weston before the restart and the visitors made the better start to the second half, with McDonald flashing a ball across the six-yard line before a corner from Cook was dealt with.
A shot by Yiadom was deflected wide for a corner by Parslow as the Barnet pressure continued but again, Cook’s ball was cleared at the near post.
The Mariners were struggling to get out of their own half and good trickery from Marsh-Brown led to another corner on the visitors’ left, which failed to trouble McKeown.
The first Grimsby opening of the half saw Arnold go through but slip as he shaped to shoot.
A foul on Palmer then gave Town a free kick in a central position, 30 yards out. Magnay looked to place a shot from it but could only hit the Barnet wall.
Town were beginning to come into the game again and after surviving the early pressure, they doubled their advantage on 53 minutes when Magnay’s left-wing cross was headed on by Palmer and MACKRETH was in the right place at the far post to force the ball past Stack.
Palmer tried his luck with a low shot from distance that Stack held, then a low cross from Mackreth was cut out as Town began to show the dominance which the scoreline would indicate.
Barnet boss Allen responded by sending substitute Michael Gash on in place of McDonald up front with 57 minutes on the clock.
The visitors worked an opportunity to reduce their deficit when Cook found Marsh-Brown and he helped the ball on to Vichete, who twisted and turned in the box but could only send a weak shot through to McKeown. At the other end, Arnold slid the ball through to Palmer inside the box but the striker let the ball go too wide for his shot to cause a threat to Stack.
Palmer was involved again soon afterwards, getting the ball inside the box but shooting wide.
Barnet’s third and final substitution saw Luisma Villa replace Hunt with a little over 25 minutes to go.
Akinde was lucky to escape with a booking for a poor challenge on Pearson that left the Town defender needing lengthy treatment from physio Dave Moore before being passed fit to continue.
The Mariners were now the side creating all of the chances and a chip from Disley found John-Lewis, whose first-time shot was well saved by Stack.
John-Lewis was involved again on 78 minutes, drilling a cross-shot that just eluded the run of Palmer at the far post.
Clay was introduced as part of Town’s first substitution as he replaced Brown, who received a deserved ovation from the home supporters after a hardworking display.
Pittman was then sent on for Palmer, who had also impressed in his first league game in the black and white stripes.
An Arnold cross was headed out for a corner before it could reach John-Lewis but the ball from the flag was cleared.
Pittman had a chance to make it 4-1 with three minutes to go after getting the ball from Arnold but his shot cleared the bar.
Three added minutes were signalled to be played at the end of the game and Gash fired a wild shot well over the bar as Barnet continued to struggle to make an impression.
Town, by contrast, had been superb and they played the rest of the match out to secure a morale-boosting win and a vital three points in their quest for promotion.
The Mariners now return to FA Trophy action with their second round replay at Gateshead on Monday night.
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