GRIMSBY Town lost their last game in non-league football as FC Halifax Town lifted the FA Trophy at Wembley Stadium.
After the euphoria of securing a return to the Football League at the national stadium last week, the Mariners were unable to make it a double as Halifax claimed the spoils on non-league finals day.
One goal proved enough to win the game, with left-back Scott McManus’ 20-yard strike just after half-time ending up being the difference between the two sides.
Town showed plenty of effort throughout but did not seriously test keeper Sam Johnson enough to find a way back into the game.
And it meant Halifax were left to celebrate a successful end to an otherwise disappointing campaign, with the Mariners now moving on to plot an assault on League Two next season
Two changes were made to the Town starting XI from last week’s promotion final victory over Forest Green Rovers, with Shaun Pearson and Andy Monkhouse replacing Josh Gowling and Nathan Arnold.
James McKeown started in goal, with Richard Tait, Toto Nsiala, Pearson and Gregor Robertson forming the defence.
Craig Clay, Craig Disley, Jon Nolan and Monkhouse were the midfielders, with the front two of Padraig Amond and Omar Bogle remaining in place.
Gowling and Arnold were both named on the substitutes’ bench, along with Josh Venney, Jon-Paul Pittman and Danny East.
Halifax were making their first ever Wembley appearance and came into the game looking to end their season on a high after suffering relegation to the National League North.
Strikers Richard Peniket and Jordan Burrow would be out to score the goals for the Shaymen, with the likes of defender Hamza Bencherif aiming to keep the Mariners out at the other end.
Nolan was spoken to by referee Lee Mason after an early foul on Halifax captain Nicky Wroe, before Town were the first to register a shot when Bogle dragged a 25-yard effort wide of the far post on five minutes.
A foul by Disley on Wroe fave Halifax a free kick on the edge of the Grimsby penalty area soon afterwards but left-back McManus lifted it harmlessly over the bar.
A header by Clay back into his own box then presented Burrow with a chance to open the scoring but he could not take it, instead directing the ball wide of the near post for a goal kick.
Town won the first corner of the game on 11 minutes but the delivery to the near post was headed clear by McManus.
Burrow saw a shot blocked on the edge of the box a minute later, before Amond won another corner at the other end. Nolan played a low ball from it for Amond, whose shot was blocked for another flag-kick, which was cleared.
Town kept attacking and a chance was not long in coming but Amond could only head at keeper Sam Johnson from Tait’s right-wing cross.
Tait had Grimsby’s next chance after a good passing move on 24 minutes but his low shot from 20 yards went just wide of the target.
Peniket was denied by a good block from Disley at the other end soon afterwards and it proved to be the start of a short spell of Halifax pressure which ended after a corner from the right was headed wide.
A cross from Monkhouse towards the far post was headed out for a corner before Amond could connect with it but Nolan’s delivery was headed away from danger.
Midfielder Jake Hibbs was spoken to after a foul on Nolan but the resulting free kick had the same outcome, with the Halifax defence heading clear.
Tait won another corner after a clever back-heel by Bogle and this time, Johnson was called into action as he got down to keep Monkhouse’s header out.
A weak Halifax penalty shout came after a challenge by Nsiala inside his own box but the referee waved the claims away and play continued.
Hibbs set off on a driving run towards the Town penalty area three minutes before the break as he looked to spark the game into life but he was stopped in his tracks by Tait, who got a good foot in to win the ball.
Both teams had shown plenty of effort over the course of the first half but the game had lacked in quality and there had been very few genuine chances for either side.
And after one added minute was played with no change to that pattern of play, the game remained goalless at the interval.
No substitutions were made before the restart and Halifax were the first to attack in the second half, with Burrow hammering an effort over the bar from 20 yards.
Town’s response saw Bogle get into the box and pull the ball back for Nolan but he could only shoot at keeper Johnson.
And they were punished for that miss when Halifax opened the scoring on 48 minutes. Peniket drove into the box and pulled the ball back and after the Mariners failed to fully clear the ball, it fell for McMANUS to curl a shot into the far top corner from the edge of the box.
Town were straight back on the attack after the goal and they won a corner on the left but the ball from it was comfortably headed clear.
Nolan was booked for a foul on Wroe as Town were having to withstand sustained Halifax pressure, with the West Yorkshire side looking for a second goal.
Right-back James Bolton found some space to get to the edge of the town penalty area on the hour, although his low shot was blocked for a corner by Nsiala.
Halifax were on top and Town boss Paul Hiurst’s response was to send Arnold on in place of Clay, while Josh MacDonald was replaced by Sam Walker for the men in blue at the same time.
Town’s next attack saw a good ball played to Tait on the right but his cross was plucked out of the air by Johnson.
Bogle fired over the bar from outside the box, before Pittman replaced Monkhouse as Town switched to a 4-3-3 formation.
A spell of Grimsby possession soon afterwards resulted in an opening for Arnold, who cut inside before shooting wide of the near post.
That all happened with McManus down injured inside his own penalty area and a short stoppage came for the Halifax goalscorer to receive treatment before limping off to be replaced by Kingsley James.
Arnold forced a good save out of Johnson when he let fly from 15 yards, only for the keeper to make a block.
Peniket could have made it 2-0 at the other end with 16 minutes to go when he beat Nsiala then took advantage of a mistake in the Town defence but when he eventually shot, it was off-target.
Town were committing men forward and leaving spaces at the back and Nsiala had to concede a corner on 76 minutes, which was cleared.
Bolton fired a low cross which was stopped by McKeown as Halifax kept looking for the second goal which would almost certainly see the trophy go to Yorkshire.
After a spell of possession, a foul by Pittman gave Walker a chance to swing a free kick in from the right but his delivery was punched clear by McKeown.
East came on for Tait in Town’s last substitution, with the Mariners now pushing forward in search of an equaliser.
A shot from Pittman from distance was deflected out for a corner but it was well defended, as was Nolan’s return ball into the box from the left.
With five minutes to go, Halifax were retreating further and further back but Town were failing to cause significant problems for their defence.
Connor Hughes came on for Peniket before Town won a corner on the right with two minutes to go. Arnold’s ball found Pearson at the far post but the defender headed straight at the keeper.
Four added minutes were signalled by the fourth official and Halifax had a chance to make sure of their victory when Hughes went through on goal, only for Nsiala to get back and put in a great block to ensure the only damage was a corner.
A corner then came at the other end with two minutes of the additional time left but with McKeown up to join the attack, the ball from the flag was scrambled clear.
Bogle was booked for bringing Hughes down as Halifax counter-attacked, before Arnold had Town’s last chance with a solo run through the middle but could only shoot at Johnson.
And that proved to be the final significant action of the match as the referee’s whistle sparked Halifax celebrations.
For the Mariners, their main job was done last week and despite the disappointment of defeat, they will look forward to a summer which will end in a return to League Two