GRIMSBY Town won a home game for the first time under Marcus Bignot as they claimed a much-needed three points against Accrington Stanley at Blundell Park.
After an uncertain start, the Mariners grew into the game and took the lead through Tom Bolarinwa just after the half-hour.
Accrington looked for an equaliser and had plenty of the ball throughout but Town held firm at the back and made certain of their victory when Ashley Chambers struck to make it 2-0 in the closing stages.
After three consecutive league defeats, the win was exactly the late Christmas present the Mariners and their fans in the 5,782 crowd were looking for.
Town boss Bignot sprung a surprise by naming goalkeeper Dean Henderson in his starting XI as regular number one James McKeown dropped to the bench.
The Manchester United loanee’s inclusion was one of four changes to the side that lost 1-0 at Doncaster Rovers last time out, as Omar Bogle, Ben Davies and Chambers returned in place of Kayden Jackson, Zak Mills and James Berrett.
Henderson began in goal, with Davis, Shaun Pearson, Danny Collins and Danny Andrew forming the defence.
Bolarinwa, Luke Summerfield, Brandon Comley and Ashley Chambers were the midfielders, with Scott Vernon partnering Bogle in attack.
Jackson and McKeown were joined on the bench by Josh Gowling, Craig Disley, Dominic Vose, Andrew Boyce and Dan Jones.
Accrington made the trip to Cleethorpes looking to improve on a league position juist one place above the relegation zone.
Last season’s play-off semi-finalists named former Town midfielder Scott Brown in their starting line-up, while Romuald Boco was aiming to add to the six goals that had made him the club’s top scorer so far this campaign.
The Mariners’ first attack of note came on four minutes when a clever flick by Bogle opened up some space for Vernon. He played a cross-field pass to Bolarinwa, who beat his man on the right and sent over a cross which was cleared.
Accrington responded with a run down the right by winger John O’Sullivan but Andrew was able to stop him before he could get a cross into the penalty area.
Soon afterwards, defender Omar Beckles made a run forward and after his ball into the box was not cleared, a shot from striker Billy Kee was blocked.
A foul on Jordan Clark gave the visitors another opportunity to put pressure on the Town goal on 10 minutes but the resulting free kick went straight through to Henderson.
Clark hit a weak shot straight at Henderson five minutes later after a square ball by Summerfield was cut out as Stanley continued to have the better of the early exchanges.
And that continued when good build-up play by the away side led to a low shot from Clark being pushed away by Henderson for the game’s first corner.
Boco had his first chance of the afternoon on 23 minutes but Henderson got a strong hand to his 18-yard drive to turn it away for a corner.
Soon afterwards, Bolarinwa broke for the Mariners but could not create a shooting opportunity as the Stanley defence recovered. The ball came to Andrew and his cross was put out fort a corner, which did not lead to a chance in front of goal.
A better opportunity came with a Town free kick midway inside the Accrington half on 26 minutes. Andrew lifted it into the box and his ball was met by Vernon but the offside flag went up against the striker as he headed over the bar.
Another free kick, this time from Davies, was comfortably dealt with but after Stanley had been the better side, it was the Mariners who made the breakthrough on 32 minutes. BOLARINWA took the ball through the middle and after a slip by defender Zac Vyner left the way clear, the winger kept his composure to slot past visiting keeper Aaron Chapman.
Town immediately went in search of a second goal and it looked like they might have an opportunity when Comley won the ball in midfield and took it forward. But with Chambers in support, the QPR loanee instead held onto the ball for too long and by the time he did release it, the chance had gone.
A home penalty appeal came when Summerfield went down under a challenge inside the box after linking up well with Bolarinwa but referee Ross Joyce waved play on.
A foul on Bogle gave the hosts a free kick in a promising position on the right on 42 minutes but the ball into the box from Davies was headed clear.
Andrew did well to win a corner soon afterwards but again, it did not lead to a goalscoring opportunity, as the ball was cleared and Summerfield was booked for a foul on Clark in the process.
One additional minute was signalled to be played at the end of the half and with no further chances for either side before the half-time whistle, the Mariners retained their one-goal advantage at the break.
No changes were made before the restart and Accrington started the second half brightly, winning a corner after Town failed to clear their lines after a misplaced pass from Summerfield. The flag-kick was dealt with though, as Bogle cleared.
Bogle was booked for kicking the ball away after an offside decision had gone against him, before an Accrington free kick from inside the Town half was headed clear.
A Stanley corner on 53 minutes was cleared for a throw-in by Pearson and his namesake Matty Pearson’s throw was caught by the wind and flew straight out for a goal kick.
At the other end, a Bolarinwa run and cross from the right led to keeper Chapman claiming a catch at his far post.
Accrington looked the more composed in possession but were yet to seriously test Henderson in the Grimsby goal, with the Mariners still holding their advantage at the hour mark.
O’Sullivan was shown the yellow card for pulling Andrew back as he looked to break down the left, then a foul on Bogle on the opposite flank led to a Davies free kick, which was cleared.
Bogle was fouled again soon afterwards and after the free kick was cleared, Town kept possession and worked it back for Bolarinwa to cross for Vernon, whose header was saved by Chapman.
Accrington boss John Coleman made the first substitution and it was the ex-Town midfielder Brown who made way, as Seamus McCarten was sent on in his place.
Andrew was the next to be booked after he brought O’Sullivan down on the right edge of the Town box but the resulting free kick was too high and went out for a Grimsby throw-in.
A shot on the turn from Bogle near the edge of the box was deflected out for a corner on the left on 72 minutes and after it was initially played short, Pearson could not direct his header towards goal.
Henderson saved with his feet from substitute McCartan’s low shot from 20 yards, just after an attempt by O’Sullivan flew wide of his goal.
Matty Pearson was booked for a foul on Bolarinwa and before the free kick was taken, Disley replaced Comley in the Town midfield.
Jackson then came on for Bolarinwa after the winger picked up an injury, before a chance for Accrington came when Davies fouled McCartan in a central position, 25 yards from goal. Kee’s free kick took a deflection and looped over the bar for a corner.
Another Stanley corner came soon afterwards but this time, Kee’s free header went over the bar for a goal kick.
Terry Gornell came on for Beckles as the visitors opted for an extra attacker but soon afterwards, the Mariners put the result beyond doubt with a second goal. A good build-up eventually saw the ball reach CHAMBERS and he burst into the box before firing past Chapman and into the net.
Accrington responded with a volley from Clark but Henderson was equal to it, tipping the ball away for a corner.
Boyce replaced Davies as the game moved into five added minutes, with Accrington pressing for what would now just be a consolation goal.
But it was not to come as Henderson capped a promising debut with a clean sheet to put extra gloss on the result.
The Mariners’ festive programme of fixtures continues on New Year’s Eve, when Blackpool are the visitors to Blundell Park