GRIMSBY Town moved into the second round of the FA Cup with a win over St Albans City at Blundell Park.
After getting used to the windy conditions, the Mariners grew into the game and took the lead on the half-hour through a superb Conor Townsend free kick.
Substitute Padraig Amond then doubled the hosts’ lead in first-half stoppage time to give them a commanding advantage.
But St Albans came into the game after the break and after striker Louie Theophanous reduced the deficit to one goal, they gave Grimsby a scare until Jon-Paul Pittman put the result beyond doubt with a third goal.
Another substitute, Marcus Marshall, made it 4-1 with six minutes to go, before Amond added extra gloss to the scoreline in added time with his second of the game and Town’s fifth.
Mariners boss Paul Hurst made four changes to the team that lost at home to Cheltenham last time out.
Captain Craig Disley missed out through suspension, while Toto Nsiala, Danny East and Amond were all named on the bench.
Their places were taken by Scott Brown, Josh Gowling, Andy Monkhouse and Pittman as Hurst kept his promise to name a strong side.
James McKeown started in goal, with Richard Tait, Shaun Pearson, Gowling and Townsend forming the defence.
Nathan Arnold began on the right side of midfield, with Brown partnered by Craig Clay in the middle and Monkhouse operating on the left.
Omar Bogle was named alongside Pittman in attack, while Amond, Nsiala and East were joined by Gregor Robertson, Jack Mackreth, Marcus Marshall and Andy Warrington on the seven-man substitutes list allowed under competition rules.
St Albans made the journey north looking to cause an upset despite a run of form that saw them sit in the National League South relegation zone.
They had beaten Deal Town, Petersfield Town and Weston-Super-Mare in the qualifying rounds to set up the meeting with the Mariners and would be looking to lone striker Theophanous to get the goals that would make the cup headlines.
A foul on Bogle gave Town an early opportunity to put the ball into the penalty area and Arnold’s ball was headed out for the first corner by defender Ben Martin. Townsend’s delivery from the left was cleared.
Billy Gibson had St Albans’ first shot from around 25 yards on three minutes but it didn’t trouble McKeown, who watched it fly over his bar.
Another free kick for a foul on Bogle came on eight minutes but the visitors eventually got it away as far as Tait, who hammered a shot over the bar from 35 yards.
The Mariners almost had a chance on 12 minutes when Townsend and Monkhouse linked up down the left for the Hull City loanee to get into the box and pull the ball back, where it was put out for a corner. Townsend’s ball from the flag was met by Pittman but his header was pushed out for another corner by visiting keeper Joe Welch.
Brown drove a shot wide from 25 yards as the hosts continued to attack in search of an opening goal, with St Albans yet to make any real impression at the quarter-hour.
That almost changed soon afterwards as Pearson was called into action to thwart an away attack, before a foul by Clay gave St Albans a free kick in a dangerous position but Lee Chappell could only hit the Grimsby wall with his shot.
Another chance looked to have come when a long ball was headed on by Bogle for Pittman down the left. He looked to return it to his strike-partner in front of goal but Bogle could not get on the end of the cross.
Bogle had another good opening when he got in behind the St Albans defence after a flick from Pittman but after he took the ball forward, defender James Comley got back to challenge as the striker looked to shoot.
A foul by Pearson on Kevin Krans on 25 minutes gave the visitors a free kick which was taken quickly but dealt with by Gowling.
Bogle did well to hold the ball up and cut inside two minutes later before picking out Arnold inside the box. The winger rushed his shot though, slicing it wide of the far post.
A push by Comley on Bogle gave the Mariners a free kick in a central position just before the half-hour and from it, they finally broke the deadlock. TOWNSEND stepped up and curled a brilliant shot beyond Welch and into the net.
St Albans’ reply saw them win a corner but it was cleared and Town broke through Tait. The right-back created a promising position for Bogle but after the striker gave him the ball back inside the visitors’ penalty area, the offside flag went up and although Tait put the ball into the net, the goal was ruled out.
Bogle curled a shot wide of the far post from the right side of the box as the hosts kept looking for a second goal.
Town had another corner when a cross from Arnold on the right was cut out on 38 minutes but Townsend’s delivery was headed clear. Town kept possession though and a cross from the right was pushed out for another corner by Welch. This time, the keeper missed Townsend’s ball but Pearson headed over the bar.
The next chance was not long in coming as the ball came in from the right again but Brown’s header was blocked.
At the other end, St Albans had shown little attacking threat but Krans sent a shot just over the bar on 42 minutes, although the offside flag had gone up against him.
Bogle went down with an injury soon afterwards and had to be replaced, with Amond sent on as Town made the first substitution of the game.
Two added minutes were signalled at the end of the half and in the first of them, the Mariners doubled their lead. A mix-up in the St Albans defence was punished by AMOND, who pounced on the loose ball and put it into the net from close range.
No further chances came before the referee’s half-time whistle, meaning the hosts took a commanding lead into the dressing rooms with them at the interval.
No changes were made before the restart and Pittman had Town’s first chance of the second half, hitting a low, 20-yard effort that Welch got down to stop.
It probably should have been 3-0 to the Mariners on 51 minutes when unselfish play from Amond saw him slip the ball through for Pittman inside the box but he could only drag his shot wide of the far post.
Townsend then hit a low shot wide of the far post from the left side of the penalty area as the home side kept looking for the third goal which would surely seal their place in round two.
Striker Harry Crawford replaced Graeme Montgomery for St Albans as their management team of Jimmy Gray and Graham Golds looked to change things around in a bid to get back onto the game.
A foul on Comley gave the away side a free kick in a promising position on 56 minutes but Chappell wasted the opportunity, scooping the ball over the bar.
Another free kick came soon afterwards, this time for a foul on Krans out on the right. Pittman headed the ball clear, before Brown put it out for a throw-in.
And St Albans were awarded another free kick on 60 minutes on the edge of the Town box but again, it was dealt with by the home defence.
The visitors were having their best spell of the game and they made it count on 63 minutes, grabbing a goal that put them right back in the contest. Striker THEOPHANOUS picked the ball up on the edge of the box and crashed a shot past McKeown and into the net off the bar.
Suddenly, St Albans were full of confidence and Theophanous had another chance a minute later, although this time, he shot high and wide.
At the other end, a cross from Tait was headed down by Monkhouse but he could not generate the power needed to beat Welch in the visitors’ goal.
The Mariners had been given a scare but they restored their two-goal lead with 20 minutes to go. A mistake by centre-back Ben Martin saw the ball picked up by Amond, who gave it to Arnold on the right. The winger then sent a low cross over for PITTMAN to finish at the far post.
Pittman picked up an injury in the act of scoring the goal and it meant he had to be replaced soon afterwards, with Marshall sent on.
Townsend was yellow-carded for diving in the penalty area as the home fans in the Pontoon Stand shouted for a spot-kick.
At the other end, Town were still having to do plenty of defending as St Albans refused to give up on the game.
Their next substitution saw Jack Green come on for Sam Corcoran in midfield with 14 minutes left to play.
Robertson replaced Monkhouse in Town’s final change two minutes later, with Townsend taking up a more advanced position.
The Mariners went looking for a fourth goal when Townsend found Amond inside the box but after he looked to pull it back across goal from a narrow angle, the ball was cut out for a corner.
The hosts were unable to profit from the flag-kick but they did taken another opportunity six minutes from time to extend their lead. MARSHALL got in behind the St Albans defence and after keeping the ball under control as he ran through the middle, he finished well past Welch to make it 4-1.
Theophanous was replaced by Gus Sow for the last five minutes in the visitors’ attack, with the game now beyond them.
Five additional minutes were signalled by the fourth official and another Town corner came in the second of them, which led to Martin heading clear.
After that, there was still time for the Mariners to get a fifth goal, as Brown stood a ball up to the far post and AMOND came in to head past Welch for his second of the game.
Town then saw out the remainder of the added time comfortably and will now look forward to Monday’s second round draw.
After that, they return to league action with a trip to Barrow on Tuesday